Trail Running

Weekly Roundup: Photographing women in sports, Brigid Kosgei’s world record marathon and new blog content

WIRED talks the importance of photographing women in sports

Photo Credit:  Alana Paterson

Photo Credit: Alana Paterson

Although I’m discovering this article a few months late, it’s a good one! Wired Magazine takes a look at photographing female athletes with Canadian photographer Alana Paterson. The article explores the importance of portraying women in sports as a way to keep them involved and playing.

Check out the article here.

Run For The Toad 2019 & Sticks N’ Stones 2019 Blogs

I’ve been doing a bunch of racing recently, which means I’ve been writing about it too #writersgonnawrite.
Run For The Toad 2019 Race Review - Part I
Run For The Toad 2019 Race Review - Part II
My Inner Running Voice Is An Eight-Year-Old Having A Meltdown

Brigid Kosgei & The marathon world record you didn’t hear about this week

It’s been almost a week since Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour marathon barrier—but some seriously crazy running records were ALSO broken last weekend. Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei won the Chicago Marathon in 2 hours, 14 minutes and 4 seconds… and broke the world world record by doing it.

Kosgei smashed the previous record—set in 2003 by Paula Radcliffe—by 81 seconds.

"I wanted to be the second Kipchoge — the Kipchoge for women. I focused on that." - Brigid Kosgei to the New York Times

Read more about Kosgei’s record-breaking race.

My Inner Running Voice Is An Eight-Year-Old Having A Meltdown

This past weekend I ran the Happy Trails Racing Sticks N’ Stones 10K. I was happy to finally make it to one of HTR’s events after interviewing their Race Co-Ordinator, Heather Borsellino in June.

 
SticksNStonesRace2019_ChristieLake
 

Somewhere in the middle of the first loop of the course, I hear a kid running with his mom behind me. He’s on the verge of a full blown meltdown.

“But it’s muddy and SLIPPERYYYYYY!” He’s got perfect pitch.

I’m pulled into the conversation, imagining dragging my niece or maybe (scarily) my own children into future races.

The kid’s yelling is taking me out of my own head. I’m not thinking about my legs being tired—I’m thinking about his.

“You said it was a run but it’s a RACE AND I DON’T WANNA RACE!”

"It’s not a race, it’s a run bud. Some people just treat it like a run,” his mom says.

Still, this kid is upset. I can’t blame him. Five kilometres is actually a hundred years in Kid Time.

“It’s a RAAAACE!” He yells back accusingly.

“We’re almost back to the start bud! We’re almost finished. But we have to keep going!”

This was starting to sound familiar.

Many runners have an inner voice that tells them they can’t hack the tough stuff. Jill Angie of Not Your Average Runner calls it the “Inner Mean Girl.” A popular running quote talks about this too:

“The voice inside your head that says you can’t do this is a liar.”
— Unknown

I don’t have that inner mean girl or that negative voice. Sure, I have my fair share of anxieties and doubts BEFORE race day, but in the middle of a run, I’m locked in.

HOW-EV-ER I do spend time on those difficult runs talking to my own version of the negative runner’s voice which, it’s dawning on me, sounds like this kid—

“My legs HURT and it’s so MUDDY and I’M GONNA DIEEEE.”

Exactly like him, actually.

Turns out my negative inner running voice is just a scared and frustrated eight-year-old having a soft nuclear meltdown because he didn’t sign up for this shit (actually he did) and he’s tired and everyone is passing him and he’s pretty sure he’s gonna collapse before he makes it to the finish line. #Relatable

So I learned something new about fine-tuning my positive self talk when the mud kicks up and the run absolutely sucks.

P.S. I ended up heading out for my second loop of the course around the same time the kid and his mom were finishing their 5K. I was so thrilled I got to be there to cheer him across the finish line. He didn’t die, and neither did I.

 
SticksNStonesRace2019_Medal
SticksNStones2019_Finisher
 

Run For The Toad 2019 Race Review: First Toad, Last Toad #2

Here’s part II of my Run For The Toad race review, which has been split into two parts like the last movie in any Dystopian YA franchise. (Just call me Katniss Everrun.)

You can get caught up on part I here. Let’s get bizzay.

Going Solo

• Second loop was much more empty. Less people on the course. It made it harder not to focus on the tension in my calves from the hills, or focus on the pain in the balls of me feet whenever I jogged down a hill… And there were lots of hills.

• On the other hand, running in the woods alone was much more relaxing.

• I stopped at an aid station and snagged some gummy bears. I was too overwhelmed by choices to know what to eat. Couldn’t even tell you what else was there besides potato chips and pretzels.

• Somewhere during this time I started cursing my love of running. Sometimes out loud into the air. I was going to have to take a break from running. I was insane. Why did I LIKE this?

• I stoped to re-tie my shoes tightly—like tenser bandages to alleviate some of the discomfort in my feet.

Strength In Numbers

They might be fast as h*ck but ultra runners are SO nice. Every single one who passed me had words of encouragement. “It’s tough, you’re doing a great job!” “Nice work!”

• Closing in on the last 6.25km, an ultra runner scared me when he said “great job!” coming up from behind me. I hadn’t heard him, he was SO quiet. I startled and yelled—he apologized…while running. and high-fived me, still while running. Then he took off into the trees, like a speedy forest spirit in compression socks.

 
RunForTheToad2019_UltraRunners
 

• Somewhere in the last 5k I converged on the trail with Michelle, a woman in her late 50s or early 60s. We started to run and walk together, talking about the race, our running history, anything and everything to keep us moving forward.

• Turns out people are the secret ingredient. Maybe everyone else knew this but I’ve avoided running with other people for years until now and it was… awesome. Encouraging. Distracting. I wasn’t feeling any pain or how tired my legs were.

• Even the agony of Skeleton Hill was less painful with someone else there.

• We hit the 12K sign. Only 500m to go.

• Finally. FINALLY, we rounded the bend to see the finish line waiting. Spotted my boyfriend waiting.

• Then the finish line worked its magic. I stopped hurting. I stopped thinking.

• I think I yelled “OH SHIT” and powered across the finish line as much as I could manage with the rest of the energy I had.

POST-RACE & 25KM PIE

• I thanked Michelle for helping me through the end of the race and we high-fived.

• We collected medals and bottles of water, I couldn’t even pay attention to the Halloween candy or other offerings at the finish. My heart was pounding, my head was spinning. I was soaring. I had been nervous about the run, I hadn’t trained as intensely as I usually do… and I had still finished.

 
RunForTheToad2019_FinishersMedal
 

• Boyfriend came over. I either threw myself or collapsed into his arms and started to cry, a half dozen emotions bursting at that moment.

• Proud. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Drained. Invigorated. I was thriving with the intense life that only seems to overcome me on the heels of a race finish.

• While we were snapping finish line pics, someone yelled my name. The Mayors, Rachel and Nick, were on the far side of the finish line. They both gave me HUGE hugs. Pain once again disappeared.

• We talked about the race and I headed back to my car to change.

• Not before I laid on the grass and marvelled at all the things I was feeling in my body and also my feels.

• Went to get food (Shoutouts to Stone Crock in St. Jacob’s) and sat down in the sun at the picnic tables outside. I have never had a better bite of apple pie. Maybe it was the 25K or maybe it was just really good pie.

• I’m going to at least give some of it to the 25K.

Run For The Toad 2019 Race Review: First Toad, Last Toad #1

Run For The Toad 2019 is over for all the runners who ran it, for the volunteers who made it work and the spectators who watched it—it’s also over for good. This was the Toad’s last year, and I was lucky enough to take on the 25K distance as my first major trail race.

I only had a soft half-knowledge I was stepping onto the trails the likes of world record-breaking elite ultra runners and also Death himself but… We’ll get there. I just wanted a challenging Fall race, which is exactly what I got.

So without further ado, here’s my Run For The Toad race recap for the first—and last—time ever. P.S. It’s in two parts because Hollywood is doing it, so I am too. Part II is here!

The Scottish Play

The volunteer waiting at the drive into Pinehurst Conservation Area smiled at me.
“Good morning! You ready to run?” Lol probably not. “Well I guess I better be by now eh?”

• By that token, everyone was SO nice. Every volunteer. Every racer. The trail running community is a tougher, wilder, gentler more welcoming place. When people say trail running is fun, you can actually believe them.

• The sky was blue and I hate to say it, but the air was downright crisp. Also, there were bagpipes.

• Someone sang the American AND Canadian national anthem. There was something moving about hearing the entire crowd softly joining in with O Canada under their breath, misting in the cold.

 
RunForTheToad2019_OpeningCeremonies
 

• George and Peggy said some words. I don’t remember what they were exactly—brief and sweet and grateful.

• Then George helped to fire a cannon to kick off the kid’s 1k Toad Pal race. Yep. A cannon.

• Pre-race nerves (or 1.5 Tim Hortons coffees) started to kick in, so I started looking for people I know. And I found them—the mayors of Trail Running (@_the_vikings_) and my friend Sarah. They gave me hugs and pep talks and also introduced me to a bunch of people whose names I instantly forgot because my mind was bees.

• I also spotted the Grim Reaper from Around The Bay. I guess he felt responsible to show up since the End of the Toad was near.

The Race Begins

• The view from the start line:

 
RunForTheToad2019_StartLine
 

• We set off trotting in a pack. As the trail wove through the woods, the hills rolled and the path wove its way through the landscape.

• The forest was gorgeous with broad streaks of sun slipping through tree branches, pooling on a ground blanketed with soft pine needles. The course had its share of running through open fields and even parking lots, but I loved the bits in the forest best.

• We kept passing the Reaper on the course, listening to his words of encouragement—“Come on, I don’t have all day!” Occasionally he would dart past us in a flurry of black robes only to torment us further on down the trail.

• …I actually really love the Grim Reaper.

The Achilles Dilemma

• By 6.25km, the first half of the first loop, my left foot was starting to ache. (Context: felt this discomfort during marathon training last year. It’s not an actual injury…. yet.)

• I had to complete the loop before I could make any choice to stop or keep going. Was it stubborn to go on? Was it stupid to continue? The constant runner’s dilemma.

• The only way to stay calm was positive self talk. Focus on the first loop, don’t think too hard, just move. Keep moving at any cost.

Is That The Hill You’re Gonna Die On?

• We finally hit the infamous Skeleton Hill, which is close to the end of the loop on the course.

• I say infamous because oh yes I had NO IDEA THAT IT WAS A THING.

• I was so shocked I lost composure to not talk shit about absolutely anything. “What the hell is THAT?”

• The Grim Reaper was beside me. “Want to carry me up that?” he asked. I glanced at Death to my left. “You might have to take me this time.”

I glanced at Death to my left. “You might have to take me this time.”

 
RunForTheRoad2019-SkeletonHill
 

• We power-hiked up the hill, my calves cursing in all caps while a volunteer watched us, offering idle encouragement.

• There was a plastic Halloween skeleton at the top, crawling like I’m sure some of us wanted to. It’s the little touches, you know? #runnershumour

Double Or Nothing

• Close to the end of the first loop was when the first ultra runners started lapping us.

• They looked like they were barely sweating, gunning without hydration packs, powerful like the running equivalent of Monstars from Space Jam.

• Finally finished first loop and headed for the bathroom, trying to assess my left foot as I went.

• My foot felt okay so I headed out again to take on my second loop. I was going to cover my 25K even if it meant limping back into finish line at tent city.

• Tried to fuel with half an Endurance Tap packet and some beef jerky. I chewed and moved at the same time. There wasn’t time to stop now—I headed back out into the woods, carrying my hopes of finish (or just surviving) with me.

Check out Part II here!

Run For The Toad training log #4: The magic of the week of

For me, closing in on the starting line of any race causes nerves, but there’s something about “the week of” that feels transformative and magic .

Suddenly, everything I’ve been chasing is terrifyingly and tantalizingly close.

Long training hours turn into short runs that shake the dust, but there’s no pushing for more distance. Whatever work I could do to prepare myself out on the trail or road has been done. I can only eat well, get enough sleep, prep my kit and be patient. I can sit with my anxiety and my flighty excitement.

I can once again lace myself into the shoes of the protagonist. Envision the start, the struggle, the finish line. “The week of” gives me time to reflect on the work.

Race week is also magic because any joy of running that I lost during sometimes gruelling training starts to return.

I feel a buoyant and exciting propulsion towards the finish I forgot I was craving. It’s easy to get lost in the middle of months of work and forget what you were pushing for in the first place.

”The week of” sharpens everything into focus. It brings the goal back in sight. Race day is coming, it will happen and then it will be over—and there’s literally nothing to do but go along for the ride.

You can’t guess how many minutes your race day experience will go on for—how many steps are in that mason jar guessing game?—but it won’t be anywhere near as many as the hours you poured into getting ready. You might as well try to enjoy every moment of build you can… And every second of the actual day.

Because for all the struggle and suffering you put into it—when it’s over, glowing with victory, wrapped in your foil blanket like a sweaty burrito, with a medal around your neck and a banana in hand… You’ll start to miss training and racing. It’s just that instantaneous, the way the feeling of joy comes and goes once the race is over.

Cue melancholy and longing music.

So this week is a time to prepare and think about stuff before the pre-race joy and the post-race blues. To go a little out of your mind as you prepare for your battle. To brace yourself and breathe deep and recognize that even getting to this point is a huge accomplishment.

The week of is an energizing chance to look back on what went wrong, what went right, and what goals or hopes wait on the other side of the race… AKA what race you’ll be signing up for next… AKA the thing you promised yourself you probably wouldn’t do but now you’re almost most definitely doing.

Run For The Toad 2019—I’m ready for you…. and whatever impulsive, soul-saving decisions come to me in the week that follows.

Run For The Toad training log #3: Let’s get first aid training!

During a recent long run, I was on my way back towards my car to complete my 18kms when two cyclists passed me going uphill.

As I watched one of them struggle up the incline, I noticed a huge tear in the back of his skin-tight cycling shirt, and the deep red scrape underneath it.

This dude had definitely bitten the dust, hard. So hard, in fact, it didn’t look real.

He looked like the Hollywood version of someone who had crashed their bike—like there was a team of special effects and makeup artists crouched somewhere in the bushes, waiting to be called in for touch ups. That doesn’t look painful enough. Can we make it more painful?

“James,” Mr. I-Ate-It called out to the rider ahead of him. “James!” And James slowed down to a stop until they were paused, side by side. I was still churning my way up the incline behind them, closing in just enough to hear this gem:

“The bone in my finger is poking through the skin.” Oh okay.

I was completely useless.

If I had had a role in this production it would have been Woman In Background Of Scene Gaping Silently In Horror And Disgust. I really need to update the First Aid training I took in my Grade 6 babysitting course.

James mumbled something back to him—which I didn’t hear over the alarms ringing in my ears—and the two swung back onto their bikes and continued up the hill, albeit at a slower pace. No place to go but forward, I guess.

Now I’m maybe more horrified than ever at the prospect of biking on the trails. There are times where I almost faceplant at low, low speeds.  At a high velocity? On wheels? No thank you.  

As I rounded the bend, I locked eyes with the father of a small family of three who were coming from the other direction.

Judging from the expression on his face, he had heard about the bone-out-of-skin situation too and, just like me, he wasn’t ever going to be able to unhear it.