Swim workout

The training plan I’ve been following for the ultra called for a 70 min hilly run today, but since I’m tapering before the Harvest Half Marathon this Saturday, I swapped the run for a lower impact 70 min swim instead. I’m going to do an easy run tomorrow and then take Friday off to rest.

I am very much a creature of habit (says the girl who ate a tuna sandwich every day for lunch for all four years of high school) and when I find something that works for me, I tend to stick to it until I eventually get so tired of it I never want to do/see/taste it again. So this past spring when I started doing a specific swim workout that minimized the use of my legs – so I could still get some cardio training in for Boston without aggravating my groin – I continued doing that same workout every time I got in the pool. I’m starting to get tired of it though, and it’s also starting to feel too easy – signs that it’s time to switch things up.

I found the following workout on a half-Ironman training website, and I modified it by adding an extra 500 meters to make it an even 3 kilometers.

I write out my workout and then put the paper in a ziploc bag so it stays waterproof. That way I can keep it next to my flutter board and pull buoy at the edge of the pool!

I write out my workout and then put the paper in a ziploc bag so it stays waterproof. That way I can keep it next to my flutter board and pull buoy at the edge of the pool!

– 400 m warm-up

– 400 pull (freestyle)

– 100 kick (dolphin)

– 16 x 25m free with :10 recovery between intervals (Whoops…I see now I was supposed to sprint 1, swim the next easy, but I couldn’t read that through my fogged-up goggles. I sprinted all of them)

– 4 x 125m with :30 recovery (25 spring, 100 smooth)

– 4 x 75m pull (freestyle)

– 300m swim free

– 250m (10 laps) pull (freestyle)

– 300m swim (100 free, 100 back, 100 breast)

– 50m egg beater to cool down

Total: 120 lengths, 3000m

Followed by five minutes stretching in the water/chatting with the lifeguards and a couple other swimmers.

It was a tough workout! The fact that it was “Warm Water Wednesday” at the pool made it tougher, actually – the water was way too warm. Like, bath water warm. Two of my friends said they both felt a lot slower and more sluggish too because of the warm temps. It’s nice when you wake up at 6 a.m. to know you won’t be jumping into a freezing cold pool, but I’ve got to say I might actually prefer cold water to what it was today…I’m guessing it was at least 85 degrees!

And it’s eight hours since I got out of the pool and the deep goggle indentations etched around my eyes are just starting to fade…hope nobody notices at the press conference I’ve got to rush off to now! I’ll just hide behind the camera and click away – perks of being a reporter!


Fine-tuning the feet: a visit to the pedorthist

Today I had an appointment with a pedorthist (foot doctor) and physiotherapist. I’ve worn orthotics since my stress fractures in 2008, and they’ve been looking pretty beat up lately – not surprising when you think about all the miles they’ve been through in the past six years! Since I haven’t had any problems with my feet since, and I already wear a stability shoe, I was curious to ask the doctor if I actually still needed orthotics, and if I did, should I get new ones?


The short answer: if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Gillian doesn’t like to over-prescribe orthotics, but with the amount of running I do, she thinks it’s a good idea to keep using them. The more time we spend on our feet running, the more likely it is our form will suffer and that’s when orthotics kick in to make sure you’re not over-pronating or over-supinating (basically, so your foot doesn’t roll too much inwards or outwards to compensate).

A 5K may be a good distance to experiment running without the orthotics, but she thinks for longer distances, it’s best to keep them in. There’s also something to be said for not messing with what works – my orthotics have kept my feet happy for six years, after all!

They also don’t need to be replaced, just relined (part of the top lining is starting to peel away in places). If I wanted to, we could recast my foot and get new orthotics made, but again, Gillian thought I should stick with what is working for me. Recasting would create a slightly different orthotic and even a small difference could have a negative impact on my running. Anyway, we worked out that I’m going to drop off my orthotics in her mailbox (in addition to being a fabulous pedorthist, she’s also my parents’ neighbour!) after my ultra next month. Since I’ll be taking a good break from running right after the ultra, she’ll be able to take her time to reline the orthotics and there won’t be any rush to get them back to me. She doesn’t want to do anything with them now before the race just in case – we both know well that the saying “nothing new on race day!” also applies to the few weeks leading up to it!

In addition to orthotics talk, Gillian recorded me running and played it back in slow-mo so she could analyse my gait. This was both interesting and kind of embarrassing haha! It turns out my parents were spot-on when they told me I tend to do a “whip kick” with my right leg when I run. I DEFINITELY do and in slow-mo it’s even more noticeable. Also, since this was just an easy run down the sidewalk, it’s not like I’m only falling into this pattern at the tail end of a marathon when I’m exhausted and not paying attention to form. I’m telling myself that every great runner has a unique little tic they do when running, so I’m just following in Paula Radcliffe’s footsteps…haha, right.


Right leg about to whip around any moment now…

Apparently I DO have a really nice form though (she said I always make running look effortless when she sees me running past her house but I had to remind her that a) her house is right at the beginning of my run and b) it’s downhill so I really better be making it look effortless when I’m :30 seconds into my run and going down a hill to boot!) but there are some little niggles that could use finetuning so they don’t turn into bigger problems down the road. I need to concentrate on eradicating that weird whip kick motion – the best way to do this, according to Gillian, is to be diligent about track sessions where the focus is on intervals and that “sprinter’s form”, where the legs drive up parallel to the ground with each stride. Pretend like a string is pulling your knee up, she told me. This will keep my knee in alignment with my hips and not buckling inwards.

Another thing to focus on is running form drills – As and Bs, as well as strides running with your arms over your head so you’re really forced to concentrate on leading with your hips. Good running means pushing forwards with your pelvic area rather than sitting back a bit, which is what your body naturally wants to do. Another way to work on this is to strengthen your glutes and core. What I really came away with today is just how connected everything in the body is – if you have a weakness in your hips, it may reveal itself in your knees, or problems with your feet will eventually manifest themselves in your upper legs.

Gillian also gave me some rehab exercises to do as often as possible – single leg squats (in front of a mirror so you can make sure your knee is in alignment and straight over your foot), balancing on one foot and making sure the big toe of the foot on the ground is straight (this is SO hard!!), calf raises (again, making sure your toes are pointing out straight and your knees are in alignment with toes and heels) and reverse lunges with a forward knee drive.

ice bath

See how my toes point in? Not good. I need to strengthen the

muscle along the inside of my foot so I can pull my big toes out straight (does that make sense?)

OK, I think that was just about everything she told me today. I’m excited to fine-tune my running form and work on correcting those little tics so they don’t become a bigger problem. I want to stress that Gillian said EVERY runner has their own unique running form, and there’s not necessarily a “perfect” way to run, so don’t freak out if you too have a unique tic. I may never be able to fully get rid of the goofy whip kick, and that’s OK, but working to dial it down as much as possible will make me a more efficient runner and be less likely to lead to injury.

Anyone else notice a random little tic you do while running – have you been able to correct it? Any other orthotic-users out there?



Triple digits and what I’ve been training for

Whew! The last two weeks have seen my longest mileage weeks – 102 km and 110 km, respectively. It’s been a long, gradual build-up this summer. I took a month off running following the Boston Marathon to ensure my groin injury had completely healed, and then starting in June I steadily started increasing my distances. 110 km will be my max for this training cycle – I really have no desire to do more than that, not to mention it’s almost time to start tapering for my next big race. I know 110 km/week is nothing compared to elites and ultrarunners, but I think it’s about the max I can handle, both physically and mentally. It’s definitely the most running I’ve ever done in my life, and it’s been interesting to see how my body has handled it and how my perception of what constitutes a “long run” has totally shifted! But running (and running properly, which means stretching, foam rolling, cross-training/strength-training and lots of rest) takes a lot of time, and there are other things I like to (or have to) focus on!


Scene from today’s run – I’ve loved seeing the crops change along with

the seasons. One of the perks of living in the country!

Anyway, why have I been upping my mileage to over 100 k/week? Well, to see if I could do it, partly. But also in the back of my mind ever since finishing Boston I’ve been toying with the idea of running an ultra. I KNOW, I KNOW. (to the three of you reading this who are thinking, “You said you’d never do an ultra!”) Yep, I totally said that. I also said I’d probably only run a few marathons in my life (Boston and the Great Wall Marathon which is my dream marathon one day), and well, I’m thinking I’ll probably run a few more than that – there are just so many amazing races in gorgeous, unique locations I’d love to experience! Never say never, I guess.

I wasn’t sure how training would go this summer coming off an injury, so I didn’t really tell anyone my idea and I definitely didn’t register. But having completed four runs of 20+ miles, I’m feeling (knock on wood) pretty confident that I can maybe actually do this. So last night I registered for the 50K Run for the Toad ultramarathon in Paris, Ont. on Oct. 4!

There are a couple reasons why I’m doing this. Mostly I want to see if I can do it. It also sounds like fun, and even though I don’t believe “longer is better”, I am the type of runner who has done better at longer distances rather than shorter races that require more speed, so I’m curious to see how I might do. It’s also what I would consider a “baby ultra” (ie. NOT a 50 miler or 100 km/100 miler) but I have to put this out there…one day I would LOVE to run the historic Comrades race in South Africa (and it’s 90 km). But we’ll see how this one goes first haha! I was also really hoping to run it with Kelly, but unfortunately she’s had to reassess after getting pretty badly injured (not that that stopped her from making it through three incredibly tough days of the RunWaterloo Endurun challenge!), so it looks like we won’t be getting to do it together this year, anyway.

So that’s my next big race, although I do have a half-marathon coming up next Saturday that I’m really looking forward to. Mostly because Krista DuChene will be there (the race raises money for the Kenyan Kids Foundation, a charity she is involved in) and I find her so inspiring! I’ll probably be running this more as a training run, because I’m not sure how fresh my legs will be feeling after today’s long run. But I plan to take the next two days off running and just do some light easy sessions Wed/Thurs, then rest on Friday before Saturday’s race.

Oh – one more thing! I definitely think I’ve got my nutrition dialed in for long runs. Two caffeinated Gu’s at mile 12 and mile 18, chased with water, seems to work wonders in giving me a huge energy boost. Two weeks ago I ran 26.6 miles and honestly felt like I could have kept going, and the same thing happened on today’s run except I actually took a third Gu at mile 22. I may be waiting a little too long before my first Gu so I think I’ll try taking one early (like mile 5) at next weekend’s half. Anyway, it’s crazy what a shot of caffeine can do! I tried drinking coffee for the first time before a long run a few weeks ago, but I just couldn’t handle the taste. I actually REALLY like the sweetness overload of Gu’s haha…especially the vanilla bean. Tastes like cake batter!