2016: A Year in Review

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

2016, the year of some of my highest highs (Coysta) and lowest lows (November 8). I sure am glad this year is over. Let’s put this thing to bed.

Good Vibes Only

Yukon Blonde

Yukon Blonde

Wintersleep

Wintersleep

Drake

Drake

Whitebrow

Whitebrow

Ellie Goulding  Tragically Hip (no pics but they did happen)

WayHome Flags

WayHome!

WayHome 2016

Reading Rainbow

I got through 15 this year. Take that, Goodreads. In order from most to least favourite:

  1. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
  2. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
  3. My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem
  4. So Sad Today, Melissa Broder
  5. Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler
  6. Belgravia, Julian Fellowes
  7. The Nightengale, Kristin Hannah
  8. The Witches, Stacy Schiff

Honourable Mentions: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Tiny Beautiful Things, A Stolen Life, Bossy Pants, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, All My Puny Sorrows, Is it Evil Not to be Sure?

Heaps of memoirs and non-fiction with a few novels here and there to keep things light. Reading with the kindle makes things so much easier because I can hold it in one hand on the subway and a pole in the other so I don’t fall over. Not as easy to do with a book. The future is now, friends. I also discovered the timer at the bottom so I can see how many hours and minutes are left in each chapter/the whole book and that motivates me to finish things faster.

I Like Sports and I Don’t Care Who Knows

Jays, Raps, Argos, Team North America etc. etc.

Team North America

Is there anything better than October baseball?

Jays 2016

One Tough Mudder,

Tough Mudder

One O-Course,

Fit Factory O Course

One Ping Pong Tournament, Two Half-Marathons, Two Obstacle Courses,

The Young and the Restless

Four MEC races (the greatest deal of all time).

MEC Toronto

The fitfam is alive and well.

Tough Mudder

Costa Rica – The Best Week of my Life!

I graduated from university in 2010 and college in 2012. Then I sat down at a desk and didn’t move for four years. I was long overdue for a vacation and I finally got everything that I wanted and more. My sister Kay and I picked Costa Rica (which we have been affectionately calling Coysta since Kay spent a month there in high school) because it seemed like the perfect blend of the beach front/all-inclusive scene together with the hostel-dwelling/backpacker travelling experience.

Tamarindo Costa Rica

We escaped to Tamarindo for a whole lotta sun, sand, surf, and cervezas.

Maggie de Barra

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, we did spend the entire week reenacting Blue Crush at every possible moment. I left my heart in Tamarindo and I will need to go back sometime very soon to collect it. Everybody moves a little slower and everyone is happy and free! Nobody rushes, stray dogs are friendly, life is beautiful.

Tamarindo

Pura ♥ Vida

Philanthropy 

My proudest accomplishment this year is all of the wonderful charity activities we organized through work. We raised money for breast cancer, a Thanksgiving food drive, and we collected presents and gift cards for our adopted Syrian refugee family through the Holiday Angel Program at New Circles. I also managed to gather a table for the Hearts for Syria fundraising gala. And, we already have so many plans for next year – Bell Let’s Talk, Prom Dress Drive, Spring Cleaning Clothing Donations… It was a wonderful year and I was so touched by the incredible generosity of my coworkers.

Hearts for Syria

Election 2016

File under ‘worst experiences of my life’. If you were looking for a wake up call, this was it. I was living happily in a bubble, surrounded by people who act and think like me and it was a very rude awakening. The only thing to do now is move forward and keep fighting for the causes I love and support. We can’t fix everything. We can’t help everyone. We can pick one issue and throw ourselves into it. Scream from the tallest buildings. Write letters and emails. Show up. If you are an ally, make it known. Vote. Participate. Be an active citizen and protect the Canada we know and love. We can’t let this happen again and we cannot let it happen here.

Anything and Everything

December is always exhausting and I’m really looking forward to recalibrating and resting in January for a hot minute. 2016 was the best and the worst for so many reasons! The days are long but the years are short, so they say.

Blue

Did I accomplish any of my new year’s resos from last year? Nope. My only resolutions for this year: read more books and be a good person. Go on one trip – I’m thinking Bali or Bust

Blue Mountain

The Theme for 2017 is Bacchanal

*goes to Central America once*

*loves Soca music*

Let me preface this next bit by saying I have a minor in Greek and Roman studies so I know what I’m talking about.

The MVP for our Costa Rica trip was DJ Private Ryan, the DJ who creates the best gym podcasts. He creates mixes with top 40, Soca, hip hop, reggae and more and they are almost all over an hour long so they really go the distance (etc. etc.) during training. They are also great “getting ready” playlists and we always have one playing when we need something to pick us up a little bit. There are a bunch of songs on these playlists that I had never heard before, some are not popular on the Toronto stations and I had never heard them out and about in the city. I never paid any attention to these songs while we were listening to the podcasts before but I was absorbing them the whole time without realizing.

Cut to a scene on the beach in Coysta where Shakira and Enrique Iglesias are still hitmakers and they only play dance music – everywhere! Kay and I unexpectedly recognized all or most of the songs from DJ Private Ryan’s podcasts and it was such a sweet throwback to Goodlife exercise room sessions and bedroom dance parties.

There is a recurring theme in Soca music that reveres the idea of Bacchanal. I appreciate the way Soca artists use this word which refers to the celebrations of the followers of the ancient Roman god of wine, Bacchus. These festivals were called Bacchanalia and they were supposedly very scandalous and for heathens only – just like Tamarindo!

The modern interpretation of Bacchanal as it is used in Soca music is a little different. The ScotiaBank Toronto Carnival Lexicon describes Bacchanal as: uninhibited fun, laughter, and revelry. That sounds absolutely perfect to me and that is all I want for the next year.

#Bacchanal2017 – be there or be square!

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

2015: A Year in Review

The Year of the Rat Race.

So 2015 has come and gone. I have just transferred over everything into my new Moleskine agenda for next year and I think I am ready to go. But to go forwards, we must first look back!!

I will always remember 2015 as the year in motion. It seemed like there was always something new on the horizon and I was really moving at full-speed through each and every chapter. Time does fly when you’re having fun.

Who run the world?

My favourite memories of this year are running through the beautiful 6ix with my beautiful woes in our makeshift running crew. I signed up for three major races this year and it really pushed me to train hard all summer. Though my favourite part of race-training is carb loading. I was so happy with my experiences that I have signed up for 10 next year! Ten races including 2 half-marathons. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Scotiabank Waterfront Half-Marathon

Half-Marathon Stats

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

St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day

Canada Day

The SS JVT

Blue Jays!

Jays

Birthdays – 27!!

Birthday

Book Club

I got a Kindle this year and I just love it. I’ve read a bunch of good books this year:

#GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso – Review
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman – Review
The Children Act by Ian McEwan – Review
The Diary of Anais Nin by Anais Nin
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Review
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – Review
Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I’m looking forward to another year of great books. My only goal will be to get a solid 12 in next year. I’m sure I can manage it as my Goodreads profile is publicly shaming me for only getting to nine this year. I’d also like to get around to posting all my reviews and discussion questions.

New Year’s Resos

Well I did two big ones from a few years ago: I ran a half marathon and quit facebook (you’re welcome, 2013). I’ve been facebook-free for about a month now – emphasis on free. I have not had the urge to check it and I am greatly enjoying not being so connected to everyone all the time. I really wish I did this a long time ago.

My resos for 2016 in no particular order:

Run a sub-2 half – with the training schedule I have lined up for the next ten months, it should be no problem. I managed to get 2:04 in my first half so I only need to shave off 5-10 minutes.

Take a class – stay in school, kids. I’m not so particular but I have my eye on a conversational French and/or a business writing class.

Embrace Essentialism – probably my favourite book that I read this year. It confirms a way of life that I have been living for a while but I just didn’t know what to call. This book is more than just a pseudo-pop science lifestyle theory about trimming the fat. It’s not just about less is more, the undercurrent of Essentialism is less, but better. 

less but better!

  

My theme for 2016: less but better. Cheers to 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.

image

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!

imageimageimage
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.

image

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!