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Boring Life Updates!

4 Mar

Well I try to be regular and post every Sunday but this week I have nothing to say. No insightful observations or hilarious musings. I’ve had a nasty chest cold this week and have been focusing on midterms and my training. I ran my first 30k yesterday and it was (as I’m sure anyone who has run the same distance can attest) terrible and amazing. It hurt in new ways that I didn’t know my body could hurt. I hobbled a bit this morning but once I got warmed up I didn’t feel too bad. One of the extensor tendons in my left foot got a bit upset at the overuse and is a little inflamed today. I’ve been icing it and trying to avoid fancy footwork (it’s so hard to do).

I ran the 30k at a molasses-like pace of 6:35/km on average. The grand total time was 3:19:20, which must seem terribly long for faster runners but it made me feel pretty good! My initial time goal when I started training for the marathon was a cushy and vague sub-5 hour time. However, after seeing that I can maintain around 6:30/km in training, I’m hoping I can push it for a sub-4:30 time. We shall see! At this point, as long as I cross the finish line, I’ll feel accomplished.

I also got brand new shoes. After the big deal I made after my last new pair, you’d expect a post. However, I got the exact same pair made by the same company in the same colour and size for the same price. They’re just whiter. Here’s a comparison shot:

No there is no shadow on the left pair. They're just that dirty.

The lighting is terrible because I took it at 5:30 in the morning before my run. I knew I was going to hit the trails in the rain so I took the photo before the whiteness could get mudded up.

They work fine, obviously. The tightness may have contributed to my angry tendon so I’ll make sure they’re a little looser for my speedwork tomorrow.

All in all, it was a very regular, end of February week. I hope you guys had a more exciting time of it!

Gu Review

19 Feb

So I love Gu. I heart their products so hard. And guys, no one is even paying me to say that (although, you know, you can if you want). I thought about my love for Gu at length during yesterday’s 28k. Well I alternated between thinking about Gu and being convinced that the noise the wind was making was actually murderers and/or ghosts. But my insanity can’t be that interesting for you, so back to Gu

I love their gels and their electrolyte drink mixes and I’m not ashamed of it. I know there are some fancier brands out there with all-organic ingredients and natural sweeteners but eff that I love Gu. Tried Clif Shots and they gave me the barfs. Gatorade and Powerade make my intestines cry. Powerbar Gels — that doesn’t even make sense. You can’t be a bar and a gel at the same time. Gu is where it’s at

My favourites in particular, and the products I am most familiar with, are the gels. As someone who generally tries to limit sugar, taking a shot of pure liquid carb gel is like committing adultery (also known as the most fun sin). But even I have to admit that not all Gu gels are made the same.

So I present to you, dear reader, a completely subjective and unscientific review of Gu gel flavours. I do not pretend to have any real understanding of how the gels make me not want to die during three-hour runs. I don’t care about their patented recipe or the carb mix or whatever. All I know is that some taste like heaven and some taste like balls.


First off, the winners:


Sublime happiness in portable packaging.

Chocolate Outrage:

My absolute go-to. I’ve bought several 24-pack boxes of these babies. I used to be able to knock out a whole pan of fudge in my better days; chocolate was my thing. After shaping things up food-choices-wise, I don’t get quite so much chocolate in my life. These taste like how I imagine Nutella would taste without the hazelnut. Or like Betty Crocker chocolate icing but better. Just pure chocolatey, sugary, goodness.


Mint Chocolate:

The obvious next step. Just as good as plain chocolate, but with mint. Like downing molten Peppermint Patties. Perfection.



Tastes how I think the specialty drinks at Starbucks and TimmyHo’s should taste.  Just thicker. Which makes it sound gross. But if you can’t get over the texture of a gel now you never will.


Vanilla Bean:

Like vanilla pudding. Enough said.


Peanut Butter:

Just found out yesterday that they’re introducing this flavour. Promptly went into convulsions of joy. Peanut butter is my ultimate, numero uno, favourite food in the world. Beating even chocolate. I know.


And the losers:

Anything fruit-related:

Strawberry-Banana, Lemon-Lime, Orange, Tri-Berry, Jet-Blackberry… all taste like dollar-store candy. Like something’s not quite right. Like somebody cloned the fruit in a laboratory and it turned out to be evil so they made carb gels out of them. I do not recommend these ones.


Gu Roctane:

I don’t dislike the idea of the Gu Roctane line; they call these products ‘race day gels’ and they’re supposed to give an extra boost with double the caffeine and other scientific crap like amino acids or whatever. It’s just that the flavours they came up with are terrible! The Vanilla-Orange tastes unholy, the Pineapple like the tears of leprechauns, and Blueberry Pomegranate? UGH. Island Nectar? What does that mean?



Never tried it. Can’t get over the idea of just plain sugar goo. I need some flavour to provide at least a sheen of reasonableness, like I’m not just dipping a soup spoon into the sugar bag and downing the mountain of calories that comes out.


So that’s my roundup of the Gu gel product line. It’s incomplete but I live in Canada and don’t get all the cool flavours okay? Jeez. You may have different thoughts but those are mine.

Disclaimer: You don’t need gels or electrolyte drinks or protein bars unless you’re running many kilometers a week. Don’t waste your money. When I first started running I would read all these articles about proper carbo-loading and electrolyte imbalances and get myself worked up about it. Truth is, you’re probably fine with a bit of carbs in your belly and a piece of fruit and some protein as a post-run snack. I personally only use gels if I’m running 12-15k+, and then only sparingly. So relax.

Do you have a favourite brand of energy gel? Do you even use them or prefer something less Frankenstein-like (raisins, homemade carb bars, something like that)? Any recommendations? Looking forward to hearing everyone’s opinion!

Bizarre Weather Patterns

12 Feb


Vancouver has a pretty short span of what I would define as ‘winter’, e.g. temperatures below zero Celsius, snow, a general feeling of hope and despair… And then around this time of the year things start to look up. I don’t expect to see any more snow (although one year it snowed during Spring Break in April and I managed to maintain a week-long tantrum) and I hope the day will soon come for which I do not absolutely have to wear a scarf. In fact, I was warm enough on my run yesterday to take off my jacket. AND GLOVES. Holy eff, I know.

What the end of winter brings is a span of five months where the weather is completely unpredictable. We see sunny warm temperatures of 12 C plus one day and then thundershowers the next.

This means madness on my runs. I bring to you a brief description of the bizarre weather patterns I have come across in the past three weeks of running:

Suspicious Winds

What is a suspicious wind you ask? It is a wind that seems out of place. Maybe you’ve been running wind-free for miles and suddenly your hat gets blown off your head. This has happened to me. Perhaps you were cold enough to don ear warmers and gloves during your run and all of a sudden an abnormally warm wind caresses your face. This has also happened to me. It felt like an invisible giant was breathing on my face. This immediately grossed me out. Then I imagined that it was Hagrid’s three-headed dog Fluffy breathing on my face and I felt simultaneously better and more grossed out (giant dog breath smelling worse than giant human breath, in my mind).

Ugh now I'm imagining this creep breathing on my face. Sometimes I wish my imagination would stop for a bit.


Noticeable Temperature Changes

I should specify: noticeable temperature changes that are unrelated to elevation. There’s a trailhead near my house where I often park my car. Rationally, I am aware that the trail is well shaded and doesn’t get much sun. But on a sunny morning, to enter into a dark, damp, cold cave of rainforest foliage feels very ominous. I also find pockets of cold in between two small hills, which again creeps me out. And sometimes, running higher up the mountain results in warmer temperatures and this goes against everything I know about mountains. And I like to think I know a fair bit.

Come join us little girl! We won't dismember you or anything, promise.


Surprise Floods

I don’t know about you, but when I head out to run under clear skies and haven’t seen a drop of rain in days, I do not expect to come across newly established lakes on my regular trails. Nor does my dog, who tends to observe any sort of water with distaste (which explains the smell). Then we both end up muddy and wet and utterly bewildered as to how we got that way. I try to blame the beavers but it makes me feel racist because they’re definitely a visible minority.

Just dropping in for a bit, 'kay?


Opposite Day

Now I’m aware that weathermen and weatherwomen are not psychic; they make educated guesses based on years of data about what the weather’s going to be like. I don’t trust the seven-day forecasts or even tomorrow’s. But I do rely on day-of predictions. I figure that by six am the weather guessers have figured their shit out and can confidently tell me what the next couple hours will be like at least. And so I dress accordingly. This usually works out fine, except for the days when Mama Nature decides to be a dick and just throw out the exact opposite of what I’m expecting. I’ll wear three layers and leave two and a half hidden behind trees and hope that I remember to pick them up on my way back. I’ll hook a pair of sunglasses onto my fuel belt and wish I’d brought a poncho instead.

Give me a break once in a while, Mama! I’m just trying to enjoy the great outdoors. Maybe next time I’ll stay home and leave all my electronics plugged in and not separate my recyclables and pour chemicals into the ground water. How would you like that? All I’m saying is that I can fight back. Keep it in mind.

No no no I take it back! I'm sorry!

Every Trip to the Running Store Ends Like This

5 Feb


Well I realize it’s been a while since you heard from me. I spent the week trying to think up hilarious thoughts about running and couldn’t come up with any, so I figured I wouldn’t subject you to anything terribly unfunny.

I also spent the week ramping up for midterms and worrying about odd pains in my legs that I was afraid would keep me from my training. Of course I was over-thinking things and the strange pains, which were muscular in nature but never affected the same part of my leg two days in a row, cleared up and I managed to knock off a 24k training run yesterday morning. I was hoping to beat my half-marathon PR in the process and missed by two minutes, which I was upset about until I realized that being able to comfortably run almost as fast as a PR on a training run is pretty damn good and that I shouldn’t be pushing myself too hard anyway. Didn’t I mention somewhere that I am slow and proud of it? Maybe somewhere near the top of this blog?

So I guess that’s one of my goals for the month; I want to focus on injury prevention and taking it easy on my long runs. They’re supposed to be long and slow right? Setting records is for race day only hopefully.

In other news… I went shopping! Thought I would share my spoils with you.

Please keep in mind that I went into The Running Room with the intent to purchase only a set of $10 reflective snap bands, and walked out having spent $80 on all this stuff.

The reflective bands I was guilted into purchasing by my kindly volunteer coordinator at the public library; apparently she passed me a couple times one morning and could see me fine when I was facing her but that I “emerged from the shadows like a criminal” when she came at me from the other way. Although I kind of like the image (I sometimes like to pretend I’m a badass art thief or something when running at night), I took her kindly scolding and went to get these bands:

They are also snap bands. The 90s child within me is so very pleased.


They cost $10. Made by Fuel Belt. Probably I now won’t die when running in the dark, so that’s nice.

And then I went ahead and bought two new pairs of socks:

Invisible people wearing socks. This is a scary concept.

There's more than one!


The first green pair is to replace a nearly identical yet pink set that I wore (and bled/sweated on) all summer and fall and were like my modest little companions. Not too flashy like my neon shoes or all advanced like my Nike+. Just a solid sidekick that helped me to avoid pus explosions from my feet. You’re welcome for that image by the way.

And then my mom lost one of them. And so I filed for emancipation. Not really, but this is why I’ve tried to avoid letting my mom do my laundry since I was 14. I appreciate the thought… but things tend to disappear.

And the second set… they’re thicker and I liked the thought of not losing feeling in my toes on early morning runs. Both are from Wigwam. About 90% of the reason I purchased these over another brand was because I like to say Wigwam. Wigwam.

And finally, the hot pink foam roller:

It really goes well with my parents' living room decor. as I'm sure you can imagine.


I mentioned a while ago that I was interested in foam rolling. But it sounded complicated. Then I saw the pink and the foam and it was $25 so I bought it. And let me tell you… it hurts so good. I’m in love. It made its debut yesterday after the 24k and so far so good! No mystery pains.

I spent roughly $70 more than I meant to walking into that store. Why does everything in running stores have to be so cool? I want to try it all out, everything. All of the things!

So pretty much I bought stuff this week and ran around a bit and also went to school. I guess I had a typical February week. How depressing.

You Know You’re Training for a Marathon When:

25 Jan

So I wrote a little post the other day about what I saw on my 20k long run on Saturday morning. It wasn’t until today that I realized I ran (pretty much) a half marathon as a training run. I didn’t even think about the distance. I just busted it out like it wasn’t no thing. That’s when I decided that I’m officially like a runner or something. I ran a half without even wanting to brag about it! Well… until now.

The return of smug Obama.


It got me thinking about other aspects of my life that have changed since starting training. So here goes:

1. You run a half marathon as a training run and don’t think to brag about it. But uhm hey, do it please! So I’m not the only one.

2. You can’t go out on the weekends anymore and you’re cool with it. Friday’s out, you’ve got to load up on carbs and hit the hay early in order to get out at 5am for your weekend run. And by the time 5pm rolls around on Saturday, you’re dead on your feet. Maybe something to do with running around in circles for three hours? People ask you to come out but you’ve already made plans with another bowl of pasta and a couple episodes of Criminal Minds.

"Sorry guys! I've got to stay in and read this biography of Jeff Galloway!"


3. You do several loads of laundry a week consisting only of running gear. Your towels fall by the wayside (you don’t want your expensive Lulu tights to pill) as you do load after load of specialty shirts, snot-covered gloves, mud-splattered jackets, and socks with suspicious blood stains on them. By the way… no matter how often you clean them, those stains are there for keeps.

4. You’ve stopped trying new food in fear of what it’ll do to your digestive system. Someone at a party (mid-week of course, we’ve been over this) offers you a spicy Indian dish. You laugh and refuse. You don’t want to know what will happen during your 10k the next morning. Nothing good can come from that stuff jumping around in your intestines tomorrow. Trust. Me.

5. You’ve stopped feeling embarrassed about leaving the house with a head lamp on. You’ve got a run to do before heading to class/work/whatever and if that means strapping on a unicorn horn you’re a-okay.

6. People start asking you if you’re that girl they see every morning on the roads. You sheepishly nod and they invariably tell you you’re crazy. You’re used it by now. As a little small-town addition to this, I’ve been told that I cause quite a lot of discussion on the commuter buses that drive past me several times every run. I know all the drivers (very. small. town.) who then tell everyone my name, that I’m training for a marathon, and that “I’ve got a good head on my shoulders”. Booyah, thank you bus driver man.

7. You eat and eat and eat and god you’re always hungry. What more do you want from me body? I can only eat so much in one day!



8. You know exactly what you’re going to be doing at 6:45am on March 28th. Running of course, what else? You may be like me and have your schedule set until November.

9. You tire your dog out on runs, not the other way around. “Come ooooonnn Ruby just 3k left! We can do it!”

10. You consider a 10k run as a nice, easy, mid-week run. Then you think about when you first started running and a 10k seemed like an impossible feat. Then you feel amazing.


Have you noticed any big changes in your life after starting your training? Hopefully they’re all positive ones (or at least not too bad).

More Talk of Hills

16 Jan


Things are moving along training-wise. In addition to speedwork, I’ve added some hill training into my schedule. And, just like the speedwork sessions, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve done any work on hills.

My schedule this morning called for 4-5 hill repeats of 200m at a 5-10k pace. I decided on both 5 repeats and a 5k pace (about 6:00/km) because I had the day off yesterday and was feeling well-rested. I started out at my house and did a 2k warm-up before finding myself at the bottom of a little hill I like to call Vimy Ridge.

Ugh. War looks terrible.

It’s actually fairly tame, with a steady incline, and is around the 200m my schedule demanded. The unfortunate thing was that the skies decided to open up and dump a couple centimetres on me just as I started the repeats.

Literally, the snow started when I started the hills and then stopped the second I got home. And you know what sucks about snow? It’s very susceptible to wind. That stuff was all up in my face the entire time! No matter what direction I was facing. Wtf Nature. Try doing me a solid and choose one direction in which to assault me.

Also, I may or may not have broken my iPod. I was trying to take a photo of the snow-covered hill but couldn’t figure out how to make it take photos rather than video. Then it stopped responding to all commands. I think that might have something to do with my snow-soaked gloves and that white stuff falling from the sky? Yeah maybe. It’s working well now (so far) so I’m not worried. You guys will just have to imagine the hill.

Feel free to picture something like this.

Thankfully I was otherwise prepared and had my heavy-duty gloves and everything. Still no ghetto snow-sneakers. The repeats themselves went well, and I even sprinted the last one, for the lulz. I had a quick 1k run home and ended with a total distance of 5k.

So far it’s been a great week. Excuse me while I ruin that by reminding myself that I have about 28 chapters of textbooks to read. Happy Monday everyone!

Pleased as a Peach

15 Jan

Winter has officially arrived. Snow is on the ground and seems like it might want to stick around. I was not aware that snow was in the forecast in any way, shape or form. Imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I stepped outside to start my LSD run to clear skies and green lawns only to have a snowplow pass me, lights flashing.

Not that kind of LSD guys. LSD = Long slow distance. Save the hallucinogens for after the run.

I was absolutely bewildered. Then it passed again, a few kilometers later, as I continued past snowless land. Finally, as I crested a particularly nasty hill, I arrived midtown to the valley between two mountains and encountered a couple inches of the stuff. And then it started hailing on me. The snow has been creeping towards my house ever since. Needless to say, I was not prepared for running in the snow. I haven’t made my ghetto snow sneakers yet (the general plan is too drive a handful of very short screws into the soles of my old pair) and I was wearing my light gloves instead of my heavy-duty pair. Thankfully there were few cars out in the snow at 7am on a Saturday, so I ran on the still-clear road rather than the mostly non-existent sidewalks. My water froze my throat closed I’m pretty sure. I only checked the thermometer when I got home (still freezing) only to find we were sitting at around -2 C, which may sound mild to you but we get MAYBE ten below-zero days a year and I do not adapt well to it.

Plus, I look about 100% less adorable than this puppy in the snow soooo...

Aside from the cold (or maybe because of it) I ran an exceptionally good 16k yesterday morning. I call it exceptional for two reasons: first, because I ran my first 16k several months ago at 7:21/km and brought yesterday’s run down to 6:41/km, without a single huff or puff along the way. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll have shaved another 40 seconds off and be even prouder of myself (oh wait not possible). Yes, yes, I am aware that this is a slow pace, but I’ve beaten myself and that’s what counts.

Second, this particular run included the dreaded Bowen Bay hill, that which I described in unflattering terms in this post. I was hoping I’d reach my turn-around point of 8k before the top of the hill so I wouldn’t have to run back up it. I was only at 7k, which meant running down the entire thing then running back up. I debated with myself, thinking I could add a quick 2k loop at my start-point and avoid the hill altogether. But 2012 is a year for challenging oneself, so I forced myself down the hill. Running down even took forever. I was cursing myself the entire way, knowing each step meant more hill to run up. When I got to the bottom, I gazed up at what I could see of the hill and cursed some more. Then I put my head down and ran.

And you know what? I breezed up that hill like it was nothing baby! I’ve avoided it since last summer and I can’t believe how much I’ve improved since then! I was actually surprised when I got to the top, certain there must be more hill to conquer. The run was pretty much down-hill (in a good way) from there. I felt like planting a flag or a headstone that read “Here lies Bowen Bay hill, also known as Margaret’s bitch”. Maybe next time.

My smugness level = approximately four smug Obamas.

In short, I’m feeling really great about my training. Although I’ve got some other not-so-nice things going on, my running is going great and that makes me feel good. I hope everyone else is doing so well with their training!

Tales of Toes

8 Jan

I had an absolutely ridiculous amount of time off for the holidays this year, nearly a month. I am not good with free time. I can handle about a day/ day and a half of not working or not going to school before I go mental. I hate just sitting around wasting time. This holiday was no exception. I’d get my run out of the way early in the morning and then have a huge gaping day of free time in front of me that I had no idea what to do with. This may sound appealing to many of you but I am the sort of person who needs to be doing something productive.

So I got some things done. Worked out some financial/government things that had been hanging over my head. Completed my application to my dream school with fingers crossed (UBC Sauder reps, if you’re reading this… choose me!). Finally got around to focusing on speedwork. And, most important, painted my nails. I painted them right up.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be worthy of a story, but having enough time to paint my nails and not have them get messed up when I have to do something productive was pretty exciting for me.

Also, this:

Happy Feet! Get it? HAPPY FEET.

Just kidding. I was going to attach a photo of the nightmare I found on my right big toenail. And then I decided I liked having people read my posts and didn’t want to scare anyone away.

I’ll put it this way: when I took the old nail polish off my toes, I originally thought I’d painted my big toe black and then covered it with the bright blue I thought I was removing. Nope! That would have been stupid! Turns out I jammed my toe somehow and it’s just black! Doesn’t hurt at all and hasn’t hurt in my recent memory, so I’m forced to assumed it happened on a long run somewhere along the way and the runner’s high allowed me to ignore it.

Either that or I’m just utterly insensitive to odd pains in my feet anymore. On second thought, this seems more likely. I’m sure I’ve just convinced a lot of you to take up running with these mental pictures! You’re welcome!

That’s my fun running story of the week. In terms of training, I’m just working on building up mileage and trying to get a better handle on pre-run meals because I’ve been losing steam a little more mid-run than I’m used to. I’ve started taking Gu’s with me for the long runs and trying to load up on more carbs the night before. Hopefully I’ll start seeing improvements soon! Any tips would be appreciated.

And hey, it’s the second week of January already! Good luck to everyone with resolutions! Sticking with it is the hardest part. Also, I’ve been thinking about getting into foam-rolling because of a tight hamstring. Any thoughts?

Happy trails everyone!

That Wonderful Feeling…

4 Jan

When you give in to the fact that you’re not going to finish your run as anything but soaked to the bone. Acceptance is usually precipitated by one shoe finally landing in one unavoidable puddle and soaking up enough water to create a mini swamp in there, complete with tadpoles. After that, you’ve free to run through all the puddles, through the damp bushes, and under the drooping branches and love it like a six-year-old with new rainboots.

In other news, it rained today on my 5k.

I Love the Smell of Speedwork in the Morning

3 Jan

My first run of 2012 (yesterday) also happened to be the first time I’ve incorporated speed training into my schedule in a long, long time. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it! I usually settle into an extremely easy pace of about 6:45/km and stick with it for the entirety of my run. But the schedule called for fartleks and I could do nothing but obey. The training program I worked from to create my schedule was pretty open about the speed training; they gave a distance and only stipulated that the first and last kilometers were for easy warm-up and cool-down. Other than that, I had free rein. I decided on an easy repetitive interval of 30 seconds at level 8ish speed and 1:30 at regular easy pace, which for me is between 6:30/km and 6:50.

Thankfully I’ve held on to my ability to mark time fairly well, because trying to check my watch in the light of my headlight proved pretty challenging. I settled into the intervals very easily and I just loved the entire run! I’d forgotten what it feels like to be out of breath while running! I only huff and puff when running some hills at my easy pace, which I guess is why they call it easy. Having to work a little harder to breathe was actually kind of refreshing! It’s a lot easier to zone out of the present when running easy, and I actually enjoyed being able to only focus on getting enough air and feeling the cold morning around me.

In fact, I think I actually sped up as the workout progressed, making my speed bursts faster and longer and my recovery pace settled at something more like 6:20/km. I probably should have stuck with my original pacing, because I’ve got a tight hamstring that acts up when I push too hard, but it felt right in the moment so I’m happy.

I guess what I’m saying here is that I had a very good first run for 2012. I think this is a good omen. I’m looking forward to working in more fartlek training in the coming months. Hope everyone else started off the year with a bang as well!