Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon 2016

In pursuit of the sub-2hr half.

Sometimes I spend my weekends sleeping in late, and sometimes I wake up at 5:30am and do crazy things. On Sunday, May 1, 2016 I woke up at 5:30am and did something crazy.

I conquered the Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon.

Certificate of Completion | Paper

I had spent the last few weeks training pretty hard and I was so excited to tackle this run. The day before was beautiful and sunny and cool. The course was mostly downhill and I knew that with some beautiful weather, I could finish in under two hours. I woke up on Sunday hoping for another gorgeous day and I was very sad to see cold grey skies and pouring rain.

I ran alone this time, which was both comforting and a little unnerving. I really wanted to finish it in under two hours. My last half was finished in 2:04. I didn’t really plan or train for a certain time at the Scotiabank half. This time I had been preparing. I knew I needed to average about a 9-minute mile for the majority of the race to get under two hours.

I had a little bit of a plan. All the articles I read said to run the first mile a little slower than your average pace, so that’s what I did. After the first mile marker, I felt really good. It was nice running through the city and it felt comfortable. I was so surprised at how many people were running together, and all the people who were cheering on the sidelines with cute signs. Bless their little hearts, if I wasn’t running there would be no way to get me out of bed on a cold, wet day.

Goodlife Half | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I had made a plan to take an energy chew at mile 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. I checked my pace on my iPod every mile. And, I had a water belt so I could save some time bypassing the water stations. At mile 4, I checked my pace and was so surprised to hear I was only 35 minutes in! This was a perfect pace for me and I was so pumped. I was a little bit ahead of the 2:00 continuous Running Room Pace Bunny for most of the race, and every time their pack caught up to me I made sure to push through to get ahead.

I felt good all the way down Yonge Street, and down Rosedale Valley Road. I sprinted down the hills and took it easy when I felt like I needed to. My pace was good. I checked a few times and I had 5:30/km, 5:15/km, there was even one time I checked and it said 4:45/km. I couldn’t believe it. I was soaking wet, running through puddles, rain in my face, freezing cold and somehow I was on track.

Race Map | Paper Clips by Maggie de BarraTowards the end of Rosedale Valley Road, coming up to Bayview, I slowed down a little to rest. I knew that once we hit the downtown core I would need to pick up the pace and I was trying to conserve a little bit of energy. As we moved west through downtown I started speeding up a little. According to my iPod, around mile 12, I was at about 1:47, so in my mind, I had one mile left and 13 minutes to finish it. This seemed like it was almost too good to be true so I felt awesome. I was pushing even harder so that I could stay at a comparable time.

And then, the sad realization that my iPod was not calibrated correctly, as it announced that I had finished the race as I was rounding Bathurst. I had about another 1.5-2km to go. And my next mistake, not really studying the race map, because as I was coming up to Fort York, I was sprinting hoping to see a finish line any second. And then the Prince’s Gate, and still no finish line. So I was just going full out, I was in the zone and I just sprinted the whole rest of the way.

Goodlife Finish Line | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I jumped over the finish line with my hands in the air feeling triumphant and strong as a horse. I checked my iPod and it said 2:02. Two minutes faster than last time, two more minutes to go. I was really happy with my time. I know that if it was sunny and beautiful, I would have been a little quicker. I know I can finish in under two hours, I just don’t quite know how to get there.

After the race, I immediately felt freezing. I had checked my bag up by Mel Lastman Square and I was expecting it to be on the same truck or under a tent of some sort. I was super bummed out to see a parking lot full of soggy bags and a few pylons to direct us around. That would be my only complaint, they really needed tents for the bags. My stuff was soaked. My phone was okay, tucked in my coat pocket and wrapped up. My change of clothes was damp. I felt a little stupid because I had packed two plastic bags to put my wet stuff in, and if I knew the bags would be sitting out in the open, I would have put everything in the plastic bags.

The line for food was way too long and I just wanted to find my friends and get some coffee and be somewhere warm and dry. I did grab two bottles of the most delicious honey lemon water on the way out. That almost made up for the wet bags.

My post-race routine consists of brunch, a lot of coffee, an epsom salt bath, a pumice stone, foam rolling, and a long nap. The post-race nap is the most glorious thing in the whole world. I do these crazy things for the recommended naps afterwards.

And so, I have now had more than two weeks to recover and I am back in training for the 15k I have at the end of the month. There is no rest for the wicked.

Sub-2, I’m coming for you.

Ode to a Foam Roller

MEC Race One: The Winter Run 2016

MEC Race One 2016

You thought that it would be so fun, to go out for a winter run.
Pounding on the pavement, so out into the cold you went.
Racing bros and sisters, avoiding all the blisters.
Toenails turning black and blue, all the different rainbow hues.
But in your noble hustle, you tore a leg muscle.
A pack of have nots and the haves, and none of them can move their calves.
You’ve got some wonky ligaments, a flight of stairs will make you wince.
A pirate with his wooden pegs, limping on your shaky legs.
All the way to the gym, you cry out – a sacred hymn.
Grab the tube to knead it out, the knots are strong, you twist and shout.
Pressing through, you’re in the zone. Thank the god who made this foam.
Are these races worth the toll? You ask yourself, as you roll.
Every muscle, just as tight. Pain threshold rising like a kite.
Have I ever been this sore? Is it strange that I want more?
I’m an addict, need to use, as I lace up my running shoes.
On the road or at the gym, all I ever do is win.

*mic drop*

MEC Race One 2016

Nike Women’s 15k Toronto

Runnin’ through the 6ix with 13,000 of my closest woes.

On Sunday, I came, saw, and conquered the Nike Women’s 15k on the Toronto Islands. Somehow, I managed to completely avoid the rain during the actual run and it was really beautiful! The whole course was so amazing, including a whole stretch by the Billy Bishop Airport with a gorgeous view of that Toronto skyline I love. Nike put on a great show and really took care of us. They had DJs, drumlines, and a gospel choir (!) scattered along the run, and lots of spectators cheering us along.

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There were so many photographers along the route so lots of opportunities to grab that elusive white-whale perfect insta but… it’s hard to run and smile! I was trying to focus on my plan: 1-5k set a strong but steady pace and clear away from slower runners in my wave. 5-10k keep quick pace and settle in to push back when I hit the wall… usually around 9km. 10-12k recovery mode with deep breaths and prepping for the final  push. 13-15k double the pace at the boardwalk and sprint the last km. I probably passed about 100 people in the last stretch. I finished strong and leaped over the finish line in triumph! I still feel like a million bucks!

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During my training I averaged a comfortable 10-minute mile, so I was aiming to finish the course between 1:30 to 1:45 — and I finished in 1:33! I am really pleased with this time. This has been a great experience and really good practice for… the Scotiabank Waterfront Half-Marathon in October! My goal will be to finish the half in under 2hrs! These mountains aren’t going to climb themselves. See you on the finish line!

What Does it Feel Like to be 26.5?

Half-Birthday Reflections: Twenty-Six and a Half.

Sometimes I think back to where I was six months ago. I am so pleasantly surprised [+ relieved + so thankful] when I compare it with where I am now. Life is a funny adventure.

I’m closer to 27 than 25. I keep drinking up my days like cold water on a hot day. Collecting life experiences. At this very second I am simulaneously the oldest I’ve ever been and the youngest I’ll ever be again.

Sometimes I think about where I’ll be six months from now. I can’t help but feel excited [+ anxious + thrilled + eager]. It feels like butterflies. I’m very excited to see where the next six months will take me. It’s nice to be on an upswing, a good run. One of those rollercoasters that’s only going up.

I’m training for the Nike Women’s 15k (my named was just picked!!), and I’m signing up for French lessons, and I’m going to the Blue Jays Home Opener next week. Everything just seems to keep going my way. It’s a good feeling.

The 100 Mile March

How to quantify your goals and measure your success.

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In like a lion, indeed. Here we are in March, I can hardly believe it. I have turned into one of those people who are genuinely shocked on the first of every month. As if it doesn’t happen 12 times every year. We’ve had a very cold and bitter winter. I’m battling a cold and there are blackouts all across the city due to freezing rain and exploding generators. I’m ready for the days to get a little longer, and for the sun to shine a little brighter.

I love experiments. Tweaking little things to modify results. Challenges like going to the gym 20 days in one month (hard – near impossible), drinking 4L of water a day (doable), meditating before bed (easy and pleasant), and giving up caffeine after noon (still adjusting). I’m always trying to find the best/easiest/fastest/most productive way to be and do. I have found that having something to work towards, a goal or number, makes the journey so much easier and satisfying to accomplish. And so, I present to you: The 100 Mile March.

My goal for March is to clock in 100 miles of running, which is roughly two marathons or 4 half marathons. It equates to around 3.2 miles per day, or a nice 5km. There is no real reason to do it, except why not? I remember a few years ago when someone asked me what my hobbies were… I had recently moved back to Toronto after university, and many of my friends were either abroad or still in Ottawa. I found college to be very easy for the most part and I had very little homework, so when I wasn’t in school or working, I was at the gym. That was my hobby. The person asked if I was training for something… I wasn’t. I just liked to run. I remember feeling that my answer seemed inadequate. Why do something just for the fun of it? Why waste the time and energy if you are not trying to achieve something?

One of my New Year’s resolutions in 2013 was to double my long run from 6 to 12 miles. I found along the way that a half marathon is 13.1 miles, so that became my goal. Each week I would tack on another mile and in just a few weeks, I had chipped away and passed 13.1 miles. It was a tangible goal with a clear plan. I loved seeing 13.1 displayed on the screen and I felt accomplished and proud. My mistake was that I didn’t plan for what was to come next. The logical move would be to either continue adding to the distance, or try to improve the speed. But I didn’t do either. I passed 13.1 and that was that. Back to the regular everyday grind.

I think 100 miles is both a realistic and challenging goal. Maybe a little aggressive, but why not aim high? I am young, willing, and able enough. I can do it, I’m sure, but it won’t be easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it.

I have printed out a table, 10 x 10 squares, to colour in as I go and to help me keep track of my progress. Now if only I wasn’t sick as a dog with this cold, I could be out there right now. I, along with every single person on the GO and TTC, seem to be fighting the same cold that just will not quit.

Paper Clips | by Maggie de Barra Nike Women's 15k Toronto

This 100 Mile March is good practice for the Nike Women’s 15k on June 14, 2015 on the Toronto Islands. A 15k race is a nice buffer between a beginner’s 5k and a half marathon (21k). To register, you first have to enter a raffle on March 9, 2015 and a random draw will be held to choose spots.

I can’t wait for the warm weather to sweep in so I can take my 100m from the treadmill to the park!

If you register and are chosen for the Nike Women’s 15k, let me know! And if you are brave enough to tackle the 100 Mile March with me, I want to know your progress!

See you at the finish line. On your marks, get set, GO!