Traveling in Toronto

“Why Toronto?”

I got that question a lot when talking about the bachelorette party I planned for my best friend of over 20 years. When thinking about a trip that would properly celebrate Kim, I wanted a destination that was as unique as her – someone who lived a year in Argentina (read about our adventures in Buenos Aires and Mendoza) and spent six weeks in India, among many other worldly travels.

Toronto was a short flight from Chicago, where the bride-to-be lives, and the more I researched it, the more sure I was that it would make for a great trip. The city definitely delivered!

The digs
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment that was in a great location just a few blocks from the waterfront and a short walk to the CN Tower (balcony view below). Like my previous Airbnb stays, it was nice to have a home base with more space to relax. I have a tendency to fall in love with everywhere I visit and it’s that much easier to imagine living somewhere when you’re staying in an apartment versus a hotel.

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The eats
Many of my favorite memories with Kim surround meals we’ve shared. This trip would prove to be no different as everything we ate was pretty much delicious, starting with a Nutella pastry from the Tim Horton’s across from our Airbnb. Other highlights included:

  • WVRST – Multiple friends recommended this restaurant, self-described as “sausage hall and other wonders.” I tried the kangaroo, which felt weird to order but tasted great. Realistically, though, we could have just had the duck fat fries with our various dipping sauces and been perfectly satisfied.
  • The Elm Tree – This was a super cute spot with a great wait staff and modern Mediterranean menu. My steak frites were delicious (are you picking up on my fry addiction yet?!) as was the burrata appetizer we split.
  • Afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton – I don’t drink tea but after enjoying my high tea experience in London, I was interested to see how this would compare. The treats were perfectly dainty and delicious and I ended up picking a tea I didn’t hate (read: I actually drank an entire cup).
  • Toula – Located 38 floors up in the Westin right on the waterfront, Toula offers a 360-degree view of Toronto. I made our reservation so that we would be there during sunset. While the tall buildings blocked our view of the sun, it was beautiful watching the sky morph from bright blue to shades of red, pink and purple. We also had a great view of the CN Tower lit up for Pride, which was that day. The food was also great but the service was a little slow.

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The things to do
The CN Tower dominates the skyline and is seemingly always in sight. We decided against going up though, partly to avoid wasting time in line and partly because we knew our dinner Sunday night would have a (somewhat) comparable view.

Instead, we ventured to the St. Lawrence Market and wandered our way through more than 100 booths. We settled on some meats and cheeses to take with us on our beach trip as well as some ice wine from Peller Estates for the apartment. The wine was pretty unique and had a syrupy texture that made me want to pour it over ice cream or a piece of cheesecake.

Sunday morning, we took the ferry to Hanlan’s Pointe on Toronto Island. And because it was a bachelorette party, it’s only appropriate that we ended up at a clothing optional beach (naked men – check!). It was much less crowded than what I imagine Centre Island would have been, at least based on the size of the ferry going that direction versus ours. The couple hours we spent out there were super relaxing and we got an awesome view of the cityscape on the ferry ride.

I also snuck in a three-mile run Saturday morning on the Waterfront Trail — my second time logging international miles!

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The nightlife
We arrived on Canada Day and posted up on the patio of Macho, just a block down from our place, to watch the fireworks. After that, we walked to King Street West where there are a ton of bars. The first spot we tried was only offering a $1,000 bottle service minimum. No thanks! Luckily our waiter earlier in the night recommended Early Mercy, which had a reasonable $10 cover and a decent enough DJ. A quick stop in Locals Only across the street rounded out our first night in the city.

The second night was devoted to Kim’s love of Latin dancing. My extensive research turned up El Rancho, a salsa club on College Street that ended up being the perfect spot. We danced for a solid four hours, spinning and sweating our way through salsa, bachata, merengue and reggaeton. It was seriously the best time ever and I loved watching my BFF in her happy place.

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After such a fun weekend, my response to the question is now “Why not Toronto?”

2016 Derby half recap: Fastest filly on the track

In my last post, I mentioned the marathon burnout was so real and I was enjoying focusing on crossfit for awhile. That continued through the 2016 Crossfit Open, during which I pushed myself really hard and hit multiple PRs.

That theme would carry over into my running as I ramped up training for the Derby half. This is by far the least amount of training I’ve ever done for a race. I don’t necessarily recommend it but luckily everything else I was doing kept me in decent enough shape that I was able to work up to 10 miles with relative ease. Based on the times I was posting, I thought I might have a PR performance in me, which was crazy to think about.

For the second year in a row, the Derby forecast called for rain. I was much more mentally prepared for it since I survived 13.1 miles of rain last year. And once you’re wet, you’re wet. There’s not much you can do but keep moving.

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I didn’t necessarily have a game plan for this race but I knew I would have to work really hard to maintain the pace needed to PR. My first mile was a lot slower than I intended, mainly due to dodging traffic and finding my lane as the field settled. I told myself I had 12 more miles to make up that time and not to freak out too early.

I was quickly reminded how awesome the crowd is in Louisville. They came out in huge numbers all throughout the course, despite the rain. It was amazing! Until it wasn’t… In mile 11, there was a huge group of guys cheering. As I passed them, one guy threw a football and it hit me in the head and knocked my hat off. He apparently thought it would be fun to play catch. With runners. In the middle of a race. In the pouring rain.

After screaming “what the fuck?!?” I grabbed my hat and took off. I was worried about how much time it would cost me since I was on track to PR. Once again I was telling myself to stay calm and just get refocused. I wasn’t about to let a dumbass ruin the hard work I had put in so far – and still had left to do.

Derby half 2016

This was the first race where I felt like I was actually racing. I pushed myself harder for longer than ever before. It was work. It hurt. There was no smiling during these race photos. And I wanted to stop so many times in those last few miles. But I pushed through and it paid off in a big way.

2:09:15

My time was 4:00 faster than last year on this course and about 2:00 faster than my previous best half. In some ways, I’m more proud of this race than the full marathon. Or at least proud in a different way given everything I faced that morning.

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What’s next?
I’m hoping to ride the runner’s high that came with this PR and maintain a better base than I did after the full. And I’ll continue crossfit, of course.

As far as races go, I need to figure out a new fall half to try. For the first time since I started running, I’m missing the Monumental. That race will always have a special meaning for me since it was the first half and full I did. It also feels like my home court race since I know the streets so well and I love the course.

What fall race should I sign up for? What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you during a race? Drop a note in the comments below!

 

**Also want to note I emailed the race director about the football incident and they were very responsive and are contacting the group. This is a great race overall and I’d hate for that one instance to deter anyone from signing up.

Rowing is the new running

Confession: I’ve only ran a couple time since that one thing happened in November. A bit of burnout is to be expected after four months of dedicated training. But it’s also been nice to shift my focus back to crossfit. So, here’s an update on what’s been going on since the marathon.

Row’d Royalty
Last year Crossfit Naptown participated in Row’d Royalty and placed first worldwide. They encouraged everyone to sign up this year to test their fitness and help defend our title (top four male and female scores count for the team). We did the first workout in class, a 2k row for time, and I finished in 7:51:10. I didn’t think much of it but later in the day they posted that I was one of the top four females (up to that point).

I’ve been going to crossfit for three years and while I’ve made a lot of #gainz, there’s still so much I can’t do. Placing that high on a workout felt pretty badass, especially since the top females in our gym include an Olympic rower and an Olympian-in-training (pictured with me below). I signed up that day and pushed myself hard through five more workouts.

Rowing with olympians

I don’t think any of my scores ended up being good enough to count for our team, but I had a ton of fun going after it. Overall, I placed 34th out of over 200 females in the tall division (5’6” and up). And our team placed first again!

Rowd Royalty final

Naptown Triple Crown
Last year’s Naptown Smackdown expanded into this year’s Naptown Triple Crown, with each day at a different location. Members could sign up for one day or multiple days and I chose all three.

Day 1 – Monon location
I started my day knocking out the final Row’d Royalty workout in the morning to give myself some recovery time before the evening’s events.

Event 1-2

I was first off the bike in my heat but struggled hardcore (again…) on the backward jumps. For the second event, I made a strategic decision to go for the row since it was scored separately from the shuttle runs. It paid off and I ended up winning the rowing portion of the event with 1321 meters! My score was actually good enough to place fifth among the guys. Such an awesome feeling!! On the flip side, my shuttle run score was super low. Overall, I placed 11th out of 18 for day one.

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Day 2 – Delaware location

Event 3-5

The one rep max event was set up so only three people lifted at once, making it an “all eyes on you” atmosphere. I hit a 10# PR at 155#! If the second event looks brutal, that’s because it was. But it was a great example of how I’m capable of more than I think and how the competition atmosphere can push you harder. I did so much better than I thought I would, finishing in 12:09 (8th out of 22)!

The final event was one of my favorite styles: Barbell complex. We did the same rep scheme each round but went up in weight. My goal was to get as far in the 105# round as I could and I ended at 7 hang power cleans before the time cap. All in all a very successful day two with an overall placing of 7th out of 22!

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Day 3 – Capitol location

Event 6 - 8

The balance test was kind of hilarious to watch. Several people impressively made it all 3:00 on each leg but I stumbled at 1:31 (right) and 1:03 (left) – crushing my dream to be on Survivor. The second event was a shot at redemption for me. We did this WOD in class a week ago and I finished a minute over the time cap. This time I snuck in just under at 9:56! The final event was interesting since we had to see how far we could get through the workout in 2:00, then 5:00. I finished the day 15th out of 23.

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This weekend was the epitome of why I love my gym so much. It was awesome meeting members of the other locations and watching everyone kick ass and push themselves. Our community is the most supportive, encouraging group of people I’ve ever been around. And personally, I was super proud of surviving nine workouts over three days, and even winning one! It was equally exhausting and energizing. I’m so grateful for this place that challenges me to believe in myself, try harder, and be kind to others.

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So, what’s next?
I will have to start running again soon since I signed up for a couple shorter races and have the Derby half in April. Luckily half training isn’t as intense so I can hopefully keep up my consistent crossfit schedule of late. Also around the corner is the Crossfit Open which kicks off the 2016 Crossfit Games season!

What I read in 2015

Last year, I participated in the Read 26 Indy challenge and decided to make it an annual goal. Here’s what I ended up reading in 2015:

  1. The House at Riverton
  2. Audience
  3. Unbroken
  4. The Silkworm
  5. The Girl on the Train
  6. Wild
  7. The Maze Runner
  8. The Scorch Trials
  9. The Death Cure
  10. The Kill Order
  11. Purge: Rehab Diaries
  12. Heartburn
  13. All the Light We Cannot See
  14. Sprinkles
  15. Indy Writes Books
  16. Modern Romance
  17. What I Did While You Were Breeding
  18. London Holiday
  19. The Bell Jar
  20. Room
  21. Career of Evil
  22. Behind the Cloud
  23. Why Not Me
  24. Creativity, Inc.
  25. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
  26. Circling the Sun

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What was your favorite book this year? What should I get on my list for 2016?

My first full: Twenty six point two

There was a time just a few years ago when running for one minute without stopping was a big deal for me. On Saturday, Nov. 7, I ran for 4 hours, 51 minutes and 45 seconds (mostly) without stopping.

I was pretty calm heading into race day. I had a game plan to set out around an 11:30 pace and chip my way down from there. I thought if everything went amazingly perfect, I might be able to run close to an 11:00 average. I hit that for my 20 miler but those last 6.2 miles were such an unknown. I had no idea what to expect or how I would feel when I got there.

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It’s a little painful to start out so slow, especially when you have people flying by you in those first few miles. But it’s so important to run your own race, particularly when you are in it for the extreme long haul. I ended up going out a little faster than planned but stayed calm and didn’t push my pace too hard too early.

My first emotional moment of the day came in mile 7 when the half marathon splits and the full continues up Fall Creek Parkway. In the past, I always felt like it thinned out once I was alone with the half marathoners but that was nothing compared to how small the crowd was once it was just the full crazies.

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After the halfway point, I let myself pick up the pace but kept in mind how much farther I still had to go. I used the same mental strategy I have during my previous races. Rather than getting to 20 miles and then thinking about the distance I have left that I’ve never ran before, I got through the first 6.2 miles and then focused on the fact that I had already ran the distance that was left. During each remaining distance, I would think about my training run that was the same distance – how I felt, how I paced it, how I got through it. I don’t know if that makes sense or resonates with anyone reading this but for some reason it helps me so much more than thinking about it the other way around.

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I was really surprised how solid I felt when I finally did reach mile 21 and beyond. I continued to chug along. At that point, my goal was just to get to Meridian Street and hang on until the end. I did end up walking a little bit in the last mile – something I somewhat regret now but also realize it’s pretty awesome to not have walked until that point so I shouldn’t be that mad.

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There are no words to describe the feeling of coming down the final turn from Capitol onto Washington. They changed up the finish line chute this year and it ended up being a little longer with more people cheering on each side. It was absolutely incredible and the second emotional moment of the day. I surprisingly had a lot of energy and gave a strong final kick to cross the finish line with the biggest smile plastered across my face.

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Final stats:

  • Weeks completed: 18 of 18
  • Number of runs / total miles: 68 / 444.2 (only missed 4 runs total)
  • Number of crossfit workouts: 30
  • Most interesting run: Race day, obvi
  • Race day stats: OH HEY NEGATIVE SPLITS!!!
    • 10k – 1:09:55.2 (11:15 average)
    • Half – 2:26:34.3 (11:11 average)
    • Finish – 4:51:45.5 (11:07 average)

The #runMelrun crew
I could write an equally long post just about the amazing people in my life who have supported me through this journey. I was inundated with messages wishing me luck the week of the race. I didn’t expect or ask anyone to be out there and was so overwhelmed by how many times I had friends and family on the course cheering me on. I wasn’t sure if I would want to see anyone – if things were going bad or I was too in my head – but every time it gave me a boost of energy. These people gave up time on a Saturday to hang out on random sidewalks around town to see me for a total of 30 seconds while chasing after this really dumb goal of running 26.2 miles. I am forever indebted to them.

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What’s next?
As with winters past, maintaining my base will be a big goal. I’m signed up for the Derby half again in April and may get some shorter races on the books between now and then (the inaugural Winter Warmup was fun earlier this year!). But I’m also excited to get back to crossfit and lifting heavy shit again.

The obvious question is whether I’ll ever do another full. I can’t say I’m itching to do one right away but now that I’ve done it, I know I can do it again. It’s no longer this big, scary, holy shit, impossible thing. And as much as I don’t want to say something like this is easy… overall everything went really well for me during training, on race day and in recovery.

And if I can run a marathon, anyone can! Seriously. I do have a freakishly self-driven personality but besides that, here’s a few things it’ll take to get there:

  1. Time. You can’t go from zero to 26.2. So you train for 18 weeks. You give up your Friday nights because you have to get up early to run Saturday morning. You run when you would rather sleep. You run when you would rather drink. You run for several hours and then you sleep and then you drink. Your time is dominated by your training.
  2. Mental toughness. You have to be able to push through the wall when your body wants to do nothing more than not run and it’s incredibly easy to just stop. You have to will yourself through those last miles and focus on how proud you will feel when you finish. You can and will finish but you only if you’re willing to go to a place that completely ignores logic and every instinct your body has to shut down and quit doing this crazy thing (running a ridiculous amount of miles).
  3. Patience. The saying “it’s a marathon not a sprint” is of course very literal in this case. You are never more in tune with your body than you are training for a marathon. You know exactly how your body feels at different paces. You go out extremely controlled and conserve your energy because you have a long way to go. It’s not easy but it will help you finish strong. And you have to be patient about trusting your training plan. Four months is a long time to work for one day of racing but again, you can’t go from zero to 26.2.

Follow my journey to my first full! Previous updates: Week oneWeek fiveWeek nine, Week thirteen, Week seventeen.

My first full: Week seventeen

Hello sweet, sweet taper time! There were some days I never thought I would make it here but I survived the highest volume weeks and have a slight reprieve leading up to race day.

Since my last update, I’ve tackled two major distances and overcome a hamstring injury that I was trying to downplay while freaking out that it might end my training.

My 18 miler fell on the day of the Back on My Feet Marathon Relay, which I did as a two-person team with a friend also training for the Monumental. Rather than take turns trading off 2.2 mile loops, we got 5 out of the way together before the race started and then ran our 6 respective laps consecutively. She’s speedier than me and I was a little worried that I had gone out too fast.

Once the race started, I let her take off and settled into my pace. With each lap, I ended up maintaining close to what we set out at and I felt really solid through the end. My final average pace ended up being 10:28 which was unreal. I was on a total runner’s high the rest of the day!

A couple days later, we were doing cartwheels in the gym (something I suck at and never do). I felt a pull in my right hamstring during one but it wasn’t immediately painful so I did the workout after that. The next day I knew something was wrong but I was afraid to miss my nine miler. It was horrible, naturally, so I skipped my run the day after that and went to see Sara at Myo-Fit to assess the damage and perform her torture techniques.

I took my 14 miler that Saturday slow and everything was fine. But on my next run, I went out a little faster, felt really good and, like a dumbass, pushed my pace super hard in the last mile. With one tenth of a mile left, I felt the hamstring pull again. This time it was immediately painful and I seriously worried I might have ended my season.

That was the start of my highest volume week. The week leading up to the big 20 miler. The week I didn’t think I could afford to miss any miles. I decided to run the 10 miler (also horrible) but skip the 5 miler to give myself two days of rest before the big 2-0.

Luckily my gamble paid off and my 20 mile run went amazingly well. I was in a really positive place mentally. My leg was cooperating with no major issues. My pacing was smart (11:00 average!). It was a huge confidence boost that I might actually do this thing on November 7. I know those last 6.2 miles can be killer but I’m going to get through them and cross that finish line.

Some stats to date:

  • Weeks completed: 16 of 18
  • Number of runs / total miles: 60 / 388
  • Number of crossfit workouts: 27
  • Most interesting run: I randomly busted out a 9:47 average pace on one of my nine milers. I think that’s the fastest pace I’ve maintained for a longer distance and would have been on track for a half marathon PR (had it been during a race and had I been able to maintain it for four more miles of course).

Seen on my runs

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Follow my journey to my first full! Previous updates: Week oneWeek five, Week nine, Week thirteen

My first full: Week thirteen

So, a lot has happened since my last training update!

I started a new job earlier this month and it’s been really exciting. But anytime you go through a life change, there’s always a chance it might impact your training. I did miss a run for the first time this season during my first week. It was only a 4 miler which realistically shouldn’t have too much of an effect given how many total miles I’m logging.

I also ran farther than I ever have before (15 miles)…and one upped that distance the next week (16 miles). I was pretty calm heading out for the 15 miler and felt really good. I didn’t know what to expect for the pace but ended up right at 11:00 average, which I was super pumped about.

My 16 miler was a true test of mental endurance, despite churning out an 11:02 average pace for the day. My alarm went off at 6 a.m. and it was thundering and lightning hardcore. I went back to sleep for an hour and it was still raining heavy but seemed like the thunder and lightning had stopped. Out on the Monon, there was no one around, it was pretty dark still and the lightning and thunder came back. Got 2.5 miles out then turned around and came back in feeling defeated.

The thing about running is the only thing really keeping you from doing it is you. Sure, there are legitimate excuses like an injury that will sideline you. But weather is just a mental game you have to conquer. You can run in the cold. You can run in the heat. You can run in the rain. You may even be able to run in lightning and thunder… but I just didn’t feel confident or safe out there. Would a “better” runner have stayed out? Maybe. But a race that was going on downtown that morning got black flagged so I was probably smart to stop.

It also bummed me out because it meant my 16 wouldn’t be continuous. I finished the remaining 11 later in the day (in sunny, clear weather!) but worried it wouldn’t count since I split the miles. One of the goals of these long runs is to get your body used to being out there for an extended time. If that time is split over two runs in one day, is the same effect achieved? I don’t know why I care so much about this when in reality I still ran farther than I’ve ever ran in one day. So I’m saying it counts!

Some stats to date:

  • Weeks completed: 12 of 18
  • Number of runs / total miles: 46 / 260
  • Number of crossfit workouts: 21
  • Most interesting run: While in Louisville for a wedding, my 4 miler took me over the river and through two states via the Big Four Bridge. First time running across a state line!

See on my runs:

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The homestretch(ish)

Two more major long runs stand between me and taper time. This weekend I’ll do 18 miles as part of the Back on My Feet Marathon Relay and two weeks after that will be the epic double double digit 20 miler. My mid-week runs will peak with a 10 miler that same week.

It’s really weird to be spending so much time in double digit distances this past month and not feel super intimated about it. I am tired and hungry a lot. And I do have super sexy chafing blisters on my underboobs and collar bones, along with calluses on my feet. But overall I’m feeling really good and oddly confident that this thing might actually happen. Obviously the 20 miler will be a huge test and give me an idea of what pace I think I can shoot for during the real deal in November.

Follow my journey to my first full! Previous updates: Week oneWeek five, Week nine.