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Mexico and STWM: On Balance

Well, this was certainly a different marathon.

For starters, I hopped off a plane and headed to straight to Toronto to get my cheer on for the thousands of people who ran the SWTM yesterday, meaning I left all this behind:

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Angela and I headed down the night before and stayed with a friend. Early this morning, we headed down town to meet up with these two crazies.

Claire and Danielle

We had a blast screaming ourselves hoarse for the runners. It is truly incredible what a cheer squad can do to running moral. It has been good for me to be on the sidelines cheering, rather than racing because you can appreciate the race in an entirely new way.

It was an incredible race this year and I was so excited to see some incredible PR’s from my friends.

Before diving back into the regular grind, I thought I would quickly mention my trip to Mexico! What I did, what I ate and most importantly, what I learned!

We stayed at a Club Intrawest resort in Zihautanejo, Mexico and it was stunning. An open concept, ocean view suite with a hammock. Who really needs anything more?

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I went with my family for a long over due vacation to spend some time together catching up and enjoying the sun.

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Since I have been dealing with stress fractures, I decided to take it easy in terms of working out and I did some hiking, exploring, ocean water swims and tried my hand at surfing. Other than that, it was a restful, relaxing week in terms of working out.

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I even caught my very first fish EVER. We went deep sea fishing in the Atlantic.

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In terms of food, Mexican cuisine is my all time favourite. I ate more guacamole in the past week than I think I have in my combined life experience leading up to the trip and I am totally ok with that.

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One my my highlights of the trip revolves around food. We ran into a local chef who invited us to his restaurant for dinner. Not only were we the only ones there, but he whipped up a gourmet Mexican dinner with ingredients he fetched from the market that morning right in front of us. Literally, one of the most exquisite food experiences I have ever had.

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I had SO much fresh seafood, including one of the fish I caught myself.

Perhaps, most importantly, I spent some time refocusing. A day and a half into my stay, I had just finished a massage on the beach and spent the afternoon reading on a chair by the water and I began feeling weak and a little out of it. I thought it was strange, but headed for dinner. In the end, I left dinner early and spent the next three days violently ill. When I finally resurfaced and established that I was not suffering from a foreign disease and it wasn’t food poisoning, I realized it was perhaps a wake up sign that as soon as my body switches from operating a million miles on hour on coffee, stress and adrenaline, it just CANNOT deal. Which is why I have set out a number of stress relieving practices for myself, including this blog.

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I love posting for you guys, I really do. I would do this even if you weren’t reading it. But when my computer charger cord died when I was on my last day of vacation and I wasn’t able to produce last Friday’s post, I didn’t freak out. I didn’t even write an extra one. I am embracing the idea that although I want to do everything I do well, I cannot do EVERYTHING. I love being a high energy person, but I need to focus on being balanced, not just always high performing. So I am putting it out there now – I am focusing on stressing less and allowing more time in my week for rest, down time and relaxation and I am asking you to hold me to it!

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So, I guess you could say that Mexico was a raging success and one heckuva vacation.

What is one thing you need to add into your week to make your life more balanced?

SHOP (12)

Athletes and Hyperthyroidism

Ok, this is a post I have been meaning to write for a long time. And since I am currently on vacation, I have all the time in the world to hammer it out. (I wrote these words before I was struck down with a nasty flu, but more on that later…)

I had mentioned in a prior post that I am an endurance athlete with hyperthyroidism and I have received a number of emails from you sharing that you have thyroid issues of some sort. It is one area for endurance athletes that is not widely researched and doesn’t have much background on. Any medical professional that I throw out the words “endurance athlete” and “Graves disease” to looks at me and says “Ohhhh, that’s tricky…”

You best believe it.

So backing up a bit. What exactly is hyperthyroidism? In a nutshell: Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body’s metabolism significantly, causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating, and nervousness or irritability.

Reread those symptoms and then think marathons. It just doesn’t stack up.

How long havScreen Shot 2014-10-14 at 11.14.18 PMe I had it? Well, in high school, I was a small mite of a thing, and during my final year of high school, I was dealing incorrectly with my youngest sister’s eating disorder and some big life changes so I started being controlling about food and exercise. It wasn’t until I went to the doctors and they saw I had lost 30 pounds in a month that they realized it was something actually medically wrong with me.

This photo was taken in 2007 right before I was diagnosed with what is called Graves Disease, which is a form of hyperthyroidism that is most common in young women.

So… lucky me.

Managing it has not been an easy task and there have been times when my training has been affected. I was given medication to treat the symptoms which include severe weight loss, enlarged thyroid, over heating, lack of sleep, hand tremors and more. I have needed to take blood tests every 3 months and report back to my endocrinologist to see how my levels are doing because the medication they put me on is not overly safe for long periods of time.

But the alternative is something called radio active iodine treatment or surgery to completely remove your thyroid. And there is NONE of that happening on my watch!

So what have I done to treat it? One of the most notable things I did was see a naturopath. I don’t believe every ailment can be healed with food, but it is always where I start. She put me on a few all natural supplements and upped my intake of iodine found naturally in seaweed. HELLLO seaweed salad!

 

I am pleased to report that I visited my endocrinologist for the first time in a long time and she informed me that my levels are perfect and I have reached a second remission. (I had another in university). There is a huge chance that it may never come back. This means no medication, but regular blood work.

What does this mean for my running?

Because I am predisposed to hyperthyroidism, my metabolism will always run high and which ends up giving me a ridiculous amount of energy to do things, but it also means I burn through my nutrients much faster than others. I operate on adrenaline much more that I should, which explains why the moment I try to relax on vacation, I come down with the flu. It also explains why I am predisposed to injuries like stress fractures because I need to have more everything than most athletes to keep my nutrition levels normal.

I often need to eat more than my peers in a race. Heck, it means I eat more than my peers in general. (I was once on a date with a guy who was in the gain stage of his body building and he was humiliated that I out ate him. I was humiliated that I out ate him without noticing.)

anigif_enhanced-buzz-16326-1368214681-9I need to supplement to make sure my vitamins are in check. It means my heart rate will always be higher than my athletic peers. It means I need to constantly acknowledge that I am not invincible. 

I guess what I am trying to say is that we all have our thing that is stopping us from being a perfect athlete. The year I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, I was told I couldn’t run a marathon because of the extra strain on my body, so I ran an ultramarathon instead. Limitations are a part of being human, but running has helped me to be too busy doing the things they told me I couldn’t do to mind. (I feel like this needs a disclaimer… There are some instances where you SHOULD NOT run when a medical professional tells you not to. This just wasn’t one of them. And, as always, I am not a doctor, this is just my personal experience with Graves Disease).

What is your “achilles heel” in running?

SHOP (11)

Final Week Before the Marathon

It’s my last marathon feature before Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon and I hope you all are deep in taper crazies.

I wanted to speak a little to the last week before the marathon. I did a feature on the final week in August, but I wanted to explore a little bit of the psychological side and a few things I learned from the last round.

  • One thing that you must must must keep in mind is that your work is done. Any running you do this week is to sharpen your legs for the race, but the training is over. I ran maybe three times total the final week before my marathon, with one sharpening run where I did a 2 KM tempo at marathon pace.
  • The day before, do as little as possible. As in, don’t even stand for too long. I personally spent the day in bed, watching movies and eating pancakes.
  • Carb load begins long before the night before. I have even heard it suggested that the bulk of the carb loading should be complete by 1 PM the day before the marathon and the night before, it is best to eat a normal sized dinner and get a good sleep.
  • I said it before, but it bears repeating - spend the time that you would spend training, in bed sleeping this week.
  • Spend some time thinking about what you are about to do, how much it will hurt and how much time you have put into preparing for it. I actually even picked a song the week before and would play it through, visualizing my marathon at my most difficult moments and imagining how I would react. This was the song I chose:

I truly do think it worked as my marathon went as smoothly as it could have. I was relaxed, happy and positive even when I was really hurting. Knowing I did all I could to prep myself nutritionally, physically and psychologically was a huge help to feeling confident on race day.

  • If you feel like you are eating too much, resting too much and sleeping too much the week before, you are probably doing it right. It is fine to get to the starting line well rested, a couple pounds heavier than you train at and alert. The extra weight is telling of well fuelled muscles that are holding water and glycogen – basically, it means they are ready to take you the distance!

Wishing everyone who is tapering a fantastic final week before the big race. For my Canadian friends, have a wonderful time celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving today.

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Taken from my Instagram. 

I have arrived safely in Mexico and am spending my days in the sun, playing in the waves, doing some intense open water swims in the ocean and eating ALL the Mexican food as it is my top favourite cuisine of life.

And doing a whole lot of this:

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What is your favourite way to relax during a taper?

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Mexico-Bound

Hey there, friends!

In my pre-vacation rush, I didn’t have much time to make a robust post for you today. I will be back with a regular post on Monday morning but today, I travelling to Mexico for some much needed R&R. I have packed my pool belt and am looking forward to doing some pool running in the ocean. :)

I am returning for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and I cannot wait to cheer on all the runners on the course!

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If you could head on a vacation anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

SHOP (9)

It’s Not Just You

“Nothing that just happened here has surprised me.”

I looked up blinking at my friend from the floor. I had asked if they wanted a drink and opened the fridge to have the first glass container come crashing out of the door and shattering across the kitchen floor.

Earlier that day, the tomato sauce from my vegetarian lasagna poured out into my purse, ruining my belongings.

Even earlier in the day, after a nice sweat session on the bike, I showered and went to get dressed for the office, wearing a white top and realized I forgot my bra at home and needed to rock my black Nike sports bra under a white shirt all day because I sure wasn’t going the alternative route!

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Here’s the thing. I didn’t over react to any of it. Because right now I am in a stage where everything is just ok. I have spoken to a few other athlete friends and they all share the same sentiment – being in existence right now is hard. I have heard suggestions such as adrenal fatigue or over training, but truthfully, I think it is just a nasty case of the fall blues.

What do I mean? It has been a great summer! We have had a host of amazing races and sunshine and vacations and summer nights on the patio. Suddenly, and without proper warning, our summer has given way to a chilly fall where we are needing to bundle up and mentally prep for the winter that is headed our way.

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The days shorten which means less natural light and we are naturally outside less during prime sunshine hours. This means less vitamin D and more melatonin. That’s right, less light causes increased melatonin, which is a hormone excreted by the brain which regulates sleep.  No wonder we are having a hard go at things!

Here is what to do in order to beat through that feeling of being “just ok”.

1. Talk about it with a friend. The best thing I did was share it with a friend. The crazy thing is that I found almost every one I spoke to was feeling the same way, which is one of the main reasons I decided to write this post, because chances are, you are feeling it too.

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2. Listen to your body. If your body is not feeling an extra workout, don’t push it. Transition times are hard and you want a successful and healthy winter. Keep your workouts regular, but if you need to take an off day and relax, don’t feel guilty about doing so.

3. Get Outside. Go for runs, walks and hikes to make sure you are breathing deeply and soaking up natural light if you can.

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4. Know it will get better. We are endurance athletes. Pushing through “suck” is what we do. Know that it is just a season and you will adapt soon. But if you truly feel as if there is an underlying problem, make an appointment with your doctor. Depression is NOT just a “stage” and it is important to take it seriously.

5. Take some Vitamin D. Make sure you are armed with all you need in order to stay healthy and happy. I like to up my Vitamin D, magnesium and B vitamins when the cold weather hits in order to stay balanced.

How about you? How do you beat the fall blues?

SHOP (8)

How to Taper (And Not Lose Your Mind)

You guys are getting ANSTY! :)

I had a great chat with some of you this week on twitter and the topic was on tapering. Obviously, I am your spokesperson for resting now that I am off running for a while and I have been doing a LOT of chatting of what to do with yourself when you are not running and how to manage all the extra pent up energy that you have been accustomed to throwing into running this summer.

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I was chatting about the frustration I feel about being sidelined with a fellow athlete recently and she said something that resonated with me and I know you well enough, it probably will with you too:

When people first start running, the hardest part is training. You are grateful for the rest. As you develop and grow as an athlete and are type A as so many of us are, the rest becomes the most painful part of training because you don’t think you are DOING anything to further your sport.

I think that is the number one way that we need to change our views on rest. Resting is training. It is just as vital as those mile repeats on track day and when you are training, the higher the intensity and milage, the more vital it becomes.

Trust your training: You have spent months preparing for the upcoming races and now it is time to TRUST your training. You have put in the time so resting your muscles will only sharpen your potential on race day. If you have put in the work, you have nothing to worry about, but trying to make gains in the last three weeks will only harm you on race day. Your work is done.

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Make your taper gradual: I follow a formula that was made popular by Pete Pfizinger which suggests that at 3 weeks out, you run 80% of your normal marathon training, at two weeks, you run 60% and the final week, you are only running 1/3 of your regular volume including the marathon. 

I thought I would leave you with some of my fool proof tricks and tips for dealing with the “taper crazies” as I affectionally call them.

1. Focus your mental energy on consistent pacing. When you are running, chances are, you feel fresher than you have for months. Don’t be lulled into a false security and pick up the running pace – focus on regular and consistent splits.

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2. Spend time with family and friends. Chances are, those closest to you have made some big sacrifices to support you in your training journey. Take this extra time to spend time with them and thank them for being there. It also helps take your mind off pre-race nerves.

3. Ditch the scale. It is normal to be concerned about gaining weight before your marathon but I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s ok to be a up a couple pounds on race morning, especially if you have carb loaded properly. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and check your nerves at the door.

What are your tips for staying sane while tapering?

 

SHOP (7)

Goals for October

Well. It is incredible how much one month can change the focus on your goals! I am headed into a bit of a different October than I anticipated, but I wanted to set some goals for the month and see how I did on my goals in September.

1. Take up martial arts. B

I had a training session, but needed to abandon the sport until my stress fracture healed because suicide sprints and kicking directly where my fracture is was frowned on by my doctor. However, I have been working on my footwork and have practiced what I learned in sparring, so I have lots to build on when I return.

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2. Do a safe build for Scotiabank Marathon. F

LOL.

3. Have one free week night a week. B

It was hard to slow down this month and although I truly think I could have accomplished it if I hadn’t had such a busy month at work, I just moved my busy training schedule to a busy work schedule. Regardless, I did take some time throughout the month to slow down so it all balances out!

4. Check in with my hyperthyroidism. A++

Yeah buddy! This is one area that I absolutely aced and I have a post next week to chat all about it. Some exciting news in my list of recent medical failures, so I am looking forward to chatting!

5. Celebrate! A++

I had lots to celebrate this month as many people in my life had birthdays and big life events. It kind of ties into number three, but it was awesome to take the time to make sure the important people in my life felt loved and celebrated.

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6. BONUS. Play squash once a week. A

I played baseball for one of the nights, but I have been working on the movements of squash, while not moving around too much because of my stress fractures.

Because I was racing headlong into a racing season and that all is changed, here are my new goals for October:

1. Cheer on my runner friends at Scotiabank! Even though I am not on the race course, it will be incredible to be out cheering and celebrating the incredible race performances that everyone who is running it will bring. I can’t wait to see you all there!

2. Perfect my swim stroke. Being the Type A human I am, I merely moved my 10 + hours of training on the road indoors to the pool! I have joined a local Masters swim group and I am at the pool 4-5 times a week doing pool drills and pool running. I am basically a fish at this point but I have so much to learn in terms of proper form.

3. Take a vacation. Next weekend, I am giving up on regular schedules and cooling weather and heading to Zihuatanejo in Mexico to eat some of my favourite foods, spend time in the ocean and explore the local area. I have a fascination with Mexico and I am so stoked to spend some time there. Although I can’t do any running, I will be doing lots of swimming and hiking.

4. Support the Adventure Science trek. You may recall my 100 Miles of Wild trek with Adventure Science…they are on a new expedition this month to Madagascar! Because I am staying here this time, I am using my PR skills and handing all base communications for the trek. It is so much fun to work with some of the best explorers and adventurers in the world and I am looking forward to learning lots! 

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5. Complete my blog redesign. I have had a blog redesign in the works for many months now and I am hoping to have it fully rolled out by the end of October. There are a lot of moving parts, but I am looking forward to getting everything running smoothly!

How about you? What are your goals for October?

What are some things you are proud of from September?

 

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Chase the Coyote and Rumble

Thank you all so much for your support on Monday’s post. It has not been fun being injured, but I have tried to make the most of it and have been working hard at perfecting my swim stroke!

I wanted to talk about last weekend for a second. It was the first race that I had been to since my injury that I wished I was racing, which showed me I was a bit psychologically burnt out. But as I drove up to Mono Cliffs for the Chase the Coyote race on Saturday, playing my music with the windows down and looking at the fall leaves, I WANTED TO RUN.

Thank fully, I had a group of trail runner friends on site to make sure I didn’t strap on a pair of the New Balance shoes they were testing on site and ruin everything. Instead, I cheered the other runners and took a look at some of the shallower trails.

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A bit about the race: Any male who can run the 14.4KM Challenge course in under 60 minutes and any female who can run the Challenge course in under 70 minutes will receive a commemorative “I beat the Coyote Challenge” award.
The challenge course is as hard and varied as the race director could make it and the 5.7 KM sprint course was an easier variation with stunning views.

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My take: I will be back and ready to challenge that Coyote. I had full intention of beating him this year, but it just gave me a chance to take a look at the course for next year. The atmosphere was fun: pizza, a ton of prizes and some of the most fun people on earth.
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It was my friend, Krysten’s first time at a trail race and she managed to snag a podium finish! You can check out her review here.
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It was an awesome race with a fabulous group of people. The trails were begging to be run (and that isn’t just through my “not currently running” goggles…it was confirmed by others who raced it). Everything was extremely well organized
Another portion of the race was spent near the Rumble booth.

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I have been in love with this product ever since I saw it on Season 8 of the Dragon’s Den. It is a super shake that is packed with protein, seeds, fruits and vegetables. I think perhaps the craziest part is that it still tastes like a milk shake. It comes in Vanilla Maple and Dutch Cocoa and it took me a while of test tasting to figure out that my favourite flavour was the Cocoa. It was that close.

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Because I am constantly on the go, this is absolutely perfect for me. I am currently drinking one right after my morning swim each day which helps kill my hunger. I don’t know about you, but swimming makes me much hungrier than any other form of cardio! Rumble contains 20 g of protein, 8 g of fibre, 400 mg of calcium (to keep stress fractures away in the future!) and 3 servings of vegetables. It is a total winner in my books, which is why I was excited to come aboard as their ambassador.

In other, other news, check out my recent post for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Because we both turned a quarter century this year, I thought it was only right to share 25 reasons why you should run STWM.

What was the last race that you ran? Make me jealous and tell me all about it!