Thursday, February 26, 2015

Saying Goodbye

I think every family has someone in it that is the pillar, the glue that holds it together.   In my family, that would be my Auntie Carol.   On Tuesday this week, we lost that pillar.  We knew it was coming, however it came much quicker than any of us had expected.  Two days later I'm still trying to process everything. 

My Aunt was the embodiment of class and grace.  She always looked fabulous and she was always the life of the party, no matter whose party it was.   If there was good music on (especially if it was Hot, Hot, Hot) Auntie Carol would be up and dancing.  No one was allowed to sit down and be a wallflower if she had anything to say about it.  She was the one out on the dance floor getting the party started, usually with a conga line, pulling all of us young 'uns out of our seats.  You couldn't say no to Auntie Carol, nor did you really want to.  Her enthusiasm was infectious.

She always took a keen interest in my athletic endeavors.  Her first battle with cancer inspired me to enter my first ever race - the CIBC Run for The Cure.  That race sealed the deal for me and running.  I was officially addicted.  When I went on to do my first Ironman, I raised funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, with her and my two grandmothers in my thoughts.  She was always so supportive and encouraging, always checking in to see how training was going.  

It's never easy losing someone you love, even if you know it's coming.   As G so aptly put it, we are getting to the stage in our lives where we're going to start losing people.  He's right.  Cancer has taken 3 people from my life in the last 6 months.  Two of them were my age.  It's sad but it's a fact of life.  I know Auntie Carol wouldn't want me to sit around crying - I've done a lot of that already - she'd want me to remember the good times.   It's easier said than done but I'm going to do my best.  My sister and I were chatting the other night and we both feel pretty lucky to have had someone like Auntie Carol in our lives. 


I'm not normally a betting woman but in this case I'll bet you anything that my Aunt is leading a conga line up to St. Peter's Gates.  Heaven's not going to know what hit it, but I can bet you it will be a much more lively place with her there.



R.I.P   Carol Kolb, December 2, 1945 - February 24th, 2015.    You will be missed.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter Blahs

I know I just went away, but man, that seems so darn long ago.  This past week back really wore me down.  Bone chilling temperatures, more snow and grey skies really took the wind out of my sails.  It's times like this when I wish we lived somewhere warmer, somewhere that didn't get snow.  Maybe one day.  But for now, I've got to suck it up and deal with it.

At least my first week back from holidays was a short week.  Usually that means it's a little nuts but thankfully that wasn't the case.  I was able to ease back into my work week without having to jump in with both feet.

I did the same thing with my workouts.  Normally I would have jumped right back into training but whatever I did to the back of my knee / calf over the holiday was still bothering me so I opted to not run for most of the week.  Riding was better.  There was still some pain but it wasn't too bad.  Apparently I've probably aggravated my Baker's Cyst because I hyper extended my knee while playing in the surf.  Awesome.  I had a massage on Friday and it seems to be better.  I've been icing it as well so that has helped.  I still managed to get a solid week of activity in.

Monday:  40 minute ride
Tuesday:  60 minutes of strength work
Wednesday:  2550m swim in the a.m. 50 minute trainer ride in the p.m.
Thursday:  60 minutes of strength work in a.m.  60 minute computrainer ride at RPM in the p.m.   Thursday nights at RPM are Time Trial nights so if you're looking for a little extra push in your training, this is for you.   I know some of you are thinking - why would you go and ride there when you have a computrainer in your basement?  Well, I'm learning how to use the Multi-Rider computrainer software that they have at RPM so I can eventually lead some of the Thursday night TT classes.  Yup, you read that correctly.  Mrs. "I get freaked out speaking to groups of people", is going to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers and lead them through a workout.  GULP.   But hey, if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you, right?


Friday:  2500m swim
Saturday:  5.5km slog in the snow.  I shouldn't have even bothered, it was so slippery.  But I did get some pretty pictures.



Sunday:  3200m swim, 1h 10 minute computrainer ride.   Which was fueled almost entirely by a huge coffee.

Total time:  8h 31m.  That should help get rid of the last couple of holiday lbs, ha ha. 

This weekend marks the first race on my 2015 calendar - the Frosty 5km.  Normally I'd be running the half but my knee issues kept me from committing to any early season long distance events.  I don't really have any expectations for this race as I'm not really sure what my body is capable of right now.  I haven't been doing any real speed work so I'm thinking I'll probably be around the 22 minute mark for 5km.  Maybe faster if it's not too cold.  Who knows. 

I have several athletes racing this weekend too.  Nicole & Chris will be doing The Chilly Half so I'll be there to cheer them on after I finish my 5km and Christina is off to Phoenix to kick some butt.  I can't wait to see how everyone does! 

Anyone else getting ready for their first race of the season? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Where Did the Time Go? Happy Blogiversary!

In the FOUR (yes, four) years I've been writing this blog, this is the FIRST time I've actually "celebrated" my Blogiversary!  I don't have any crazy giveaway or anything planned, just a short little retrospective of my 4 years on the Interwebz.  

I started this blog to chronicle my journey to running a sub 1:40 half marathon just after turning 40.  I was coming out of a pretty dark period in my life and was just starting to get back into running in a big way.  It was originally called the 1:40 at 40.  I hit that goal (smashed it actually) and contemplated stopping the blog.  But people seemed to like it and I enjoy writing so, I figured the next logical step would be a rename.  That was how Blisters and Black Toenails came to be.

With the name change came a lot more traffic.  Obviously the title strikes a chord with most runners, ha ha.  Over the years I've written countless race recaps, gear reviews, some pieces on training and specific workouts as well as a few more introspective and dare I say, "artistic" pieces.  It's something I've come to really enjoy and it never feels like work, which is a good thing!  


The best part of all of this Blog business are the relationships I've built and the people I've met because of it.  If I hadn't opted to put myself out there, I can pretty much guarantee I wouldn't have met half the people I interact with now.  The internet has made this great big world of ours a much smaller place, easily connecting people with similar interests with the click of a mouse.  As much as people slag technology and the internet, I can honestly say that it's added a whole new dimension to my life.  If it wasn't for the internet, I know I wouldn't be coaching half the people I'm coaching.

Looking back over the last four years of my life,  I'm really proud of what I've accomplished.  When I started this blog, I never imagined that I'd be capable of doing some of the things that I've done (a marathon P.R at Boston that STILL has me gobsmacked).  I think writing this blog has definitely helped to keep me focused and motivated and as long as I continue to swim, bike & run, I will continue to write about it.

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my ramblings.  Here's hoping that one day our paths may cross in real life.  In the meantime, I'm going to go get myself a cupcake to celebrate!  







Thursday, February 19, 2015

Making a Difference with Some Pumped Up Kicks

I'm a shoe lover.  I'm also incredibly practical.  Except maybe when it comes to running shoes (but what runner is!?).  But my everyday shoes are all very similar.   I don't work in a typical business environment so I'm not required to wear a suit and heels every day (thank goodness, I think my feet would hate me and I'd probably also be broke given my love of nicely tailored things).  So I essentially live in some kind of flat, the occasional wedge sandal and boots.  Lots and lots of boots. 

A few weeks ago the folks at MADE (M4D3) contacted me about some shoes they were producing.  Of course I was intrigued!  MADE stands for Make A Difference Everyday.  I was immediately taken with their initiative.  MADE is a social enterprise that focuses on creating product with a purpose.  They partner with "impactful personalities, artists and aid organizations to raise funds and help create social change." 
From their press release:  Headquartered in New York, M4D3 products use the collective power of the community to create positive change in the world, directly supporting partner aid agencies and foundations, including Plan International USA. M4D3 footwear is manufactured by a global leader who produces over 55 million pairs of shoes annually for many well known international brands. M4D3 is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, established by President Bill Clinton to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.


This first collection is called The Plan and a portion of the proceeds go towards The Plan International: Because I am a Girl.    The awesome folks at MADE sent me two pairs of shoes to test out.   The Shanna Lace up and the Tessie slip on.  They are both incredibly comfortable and super cute.  I've been wearing the Shanna's around the house because, well, it's -1 million degrees out!  The shoes retail for $60 a pair. 


They already have another collection in the works that is going to be designed by Mo'ne Davis, the 13 year old Little League superstar.   Last summer, 13-year-old Davis became the first girl in history to win a game at the Little League World Series. She is the youngest athlete to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was named SI's "Sportskid of the Year.”  Pretty darn amazing if you ask me.  Her collection will launch in a few months and I can't wait to see what it looks like. 

MADE is also engaging the public by asking "What's Your Cause"?  If there is a particular cause that you support, you can fill out this form and they will let you know when there is a collection available that supports your cause or something similar.  Pretty cool! 


I'm looking forward to seeing what other partnerships they come out with down the road!

What cause would you suggest?


Monday, February 16, 2015

Back to Reality

There's nothing quite like going from +30 to -30. Talk about being slapped back to reality, haha. We arrived home late on Saturday evening after a bit of a gong show trying to get out of Punta Cana. It rained hard in the morning causing flooding at the airport, which caused our bus to be late picking us up. Apparently everyone else was also in the same boat. When we arrived at the airport it was total chaos. Their computers were also down so the line ups were insane. They came back on shortly after we arrived but the damage was done. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 4:20 but we didn't finish checking in until 3:45 and we were some of the first few people in line for the flight! By the time everyone got through it was almost 5:00 pm. By 5:10 they were calling us to board. By 6:00 pm we were getting ready to take off. It was 10:00 when landed and I was home in bed by 11:30.
The week away was definitely nice and relaxing. The weather was mostly good. The early part of the week was nice and sunny and then the later part of the week gave us scattered showers and some clouds here and there. The resort itself was nice enough but we weren't wowed like we were when we stayed at La Perla in Playa del Carmen. Add to the fact that Gary's jacket got stolen out of our room and, well, let's just say we won't be going back there. Despite all that we still enjoyed ourselves and managed to get some activity in between lying on the beach and having cocktails.
We had a pretty full week of workouts, which, when you're lying around all day vs working, isn't necessarily a bad thing. This is how our week broke down.
Monday: We attempted to swim in one of the main pools. Gong show. It was being cleaned and it was such a slow pool that G and I threw in the towel after about 20 minutes. I think we got about 700m in. We then opted to go for a run. We did 5.6km on the main road just outside the resort.
Tuesday: weights in the a.m and I did a wicked little 5km beach run in the p.m. I think that was the undoing of my left leg. I started to develop pain behind my knee the next day.
Wednesday: I attempted to use one of the stationary bikes in the resort gym. That was an epic fail. I lasted 15 minutes as my feet kept popping out of the foot straps because they didn't stay closed. So I gave up. The water was actually quite calm on Wednesday so I did a short open water swim. A whole 560 meters. Peppered with a lot of floating around, haha.

Thursday: 30 minute weight workout followed by a 45 minute walk along the beach.
Friday: another great little off resort run of just over 7km. It was super hot and muggy out.
Saturday: 30 minute weight workout and then we left.
Sunday: 40 minutes on the bike in the basement.
Thankfully today is a holiday here so I'm still sitting around in my pjs. I think I'll get back on the bike again today and perhaps try to get a swim in at my gym. That means going outside in -23 degree temps. Not sure how keen I am about that haha.
How was your week of workouts? Has anyone braved the cold and taken their workouts outside?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love is All You Need: Friday Five

Happy Friday the 13th! I'm still sitting on a beach in the Dominican Republic, although this is our last full day (cue sad face). From what I've been reading, we're coming back to Toronto just in time to experience one of the coldest days ever. Awesome. Still at least we've had a week away in the sun and heat. I ran this morning in 28 degree temps with a humidex of about 33 and I loved every freaking second of it.
Since it's Friday I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta ladies for the Friday Five. This weeks theme? Five things you love about.....anything.
I don't know about you but sometimes I get so caught up in life that I don't take the time to appreciate just how lucky I am. Some things in life didn't go my way but I think those things just opened up other doors for myself and G. Spending this past week relaxing and not really thinking or worrying about anything has given me time to reflect on things. So without further ado, let's take a look at five things that I love.

1. Coaching. If you had asked me 5 years ago if I'd end up coaching people, I would have laughed and said no way. I've always considered myself an introvert with a few extrovert tendencies but when you get me talking about triathlon and running, I turn into a different person. The passion I have for those sports far outweighs any shyness or awkwardness I may feel. Add to that the ability to use my knowledge to help people and it's like hitting the jackpot. I truly enjoy being able to help people realize their goals and their potential.

2. "G" - officially known as Gary. Also known as G-Man. We've been together for 13 years, married for almost 11. I don't know know where the time has gone. I do know there's no one else I'd rather spend my life with. He supports me and my crazy plans - and hatches some crazy plans of his own - almost always revolving around a race. Last years European adventure was his idea. As was our last European adventure when we raced in Switzerland. He likes to go big. I'm truly lucky to have a partner that enjoys racing and training as much as I do and is always up for a big adventure.

3. Racing: Had G and I actually been able to have kids I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be the athlete I am today. Our unsuccessful attempts at starting a family were what spurred me to change my diet and eventually the way I trained. That resulted in a 20lb weight loss and the gain of a whole bunch of speed. I started racing regularly to keep me motivated and eventually found that I loved it. I love the adrenaline, I love pushing myself outside my comfort zone and most of all I love the preparation. Setting a goal race and preparing for it. I know if we had kids, we wouldn't have raced in Europe. I wouldn't have gone back to Boston. I think racing really helped me deal with the fact that my body failed me in one of its most basic functions - reproduction- I raced the pain away and found something incredibly satisfying in the process. 

4. Our House & Neighbourhood: When we bought our house 13 years ago it was a tiny little story and a half that was built in 1935. It was cute and didn't need too much work which is why we jumped on it. We didn't want to have to deal with any renovations other than maybe some painting. The location was great, you could see Lake Ontario from the bottom of our driveway and the Martin Goodman trail ran just along the bottom of our street. The area itself still needed a fair bit of "work" in terms of restaurants and other amenities but over the last few years that has definitely improved. We love the area and our neighbours so much that instead of moving, we opted to rip down our old house and build a new one - exactly the way we wanted it. That was almost 4 years ago. We moved in Christmas Eve and I woke up Christmas Day in a brand new house. G turned to me that morning and said I was never going to get a Christmas present that good again,haha.

5. The Westside Crew: I don't really chat about my job on this blog much other than the fact that I sometimes work crazy hours or that it can be extremely stressful. For those of you that have wondered exactly what I do, let me fill you in. I'm a producer at a commercial photography studio - Westside Studio. I am the holder of the purse strings, the keeper of schedules and the budget master. Essentially what I do boils down to project management. I work in advertising and it's no secret that it's a bit of dirty cutthroat business. I don't like that part of the job but the fact that I work with some pretty amazing people makes it worthwhile. The Westside crew is like my second family. I've been there for almost 15 years. I find it difficult to imagine myself doing anything different. Other than maybe coaching haha.
Happy Early Valentines Day! I hope you spend it doing something you love! xo

Monday, February 9, 2015

Hola!

Happy Monday people! I'm currently sitting in a lounge chair looking at the Atlantic Ocean so I can't complain about my day. Apparently Toronto got hammered with snow yesterday. Thankfully we go out on Saturday before things got too bad. This happened the last time we went away in 2013. Ironically around the exact same time. Although last time I wasn't sick. Now I'm sitting here with a wad of Kleenex, blowing my nose every few minutes. Damn sinuses. Oh well, if I'm going to be sick I guess I'd rather be able to lie around outside in the sun than inside in the middle of a snow storm.
We flew out Saturday morning after about an hour or so delay. The flight was ok, thankfully I downloaded a movie to watch on the iPad or else I would have been stuck watching some randomw Jason Bateman movie that I'd never heard of. Sunwing needs to get out of the 90's and update their planes, haha. Anyway, by the time we got to the resort it was almost 5:00pm. We got a tour, checked in and made our way to dinner. I was going downhill fast so by 8:30 pm I was in bed asleep. Yeah I know how to live it up. I slept until 6:30 am the next day. Clearly I needed the sleep. We opted to hit the gym, which was pretty decent as far as resort gyms go. We then spent the rest of the day horizontal at the beach. Although I did spend the better part of an hour playing in the huge waves yesterday. Yes, I'm a 6 year old trapped in a 43 year olds body, haha.
I had said I was going to dial it back this past week and I did. I think I probably should have done even less as I think I was fighting this damn cold all week. Anyway, this is how last week went down.
Monday: slept in
Tuesday: 50 minute strength session followed by a wicked little 5km progression run on the mill.
Wednesday: 2600m swim in the am followed by a 50 minute ride in the pm
Thursday: 60 minutes of strength and mobility work followed by a 4.16km run on the mill again
Friday: 1850m swim
Saturday: travel day
Sunday: 45 minute strength workout + some playing in the surf.

Total time: 5 hours 46 minutes. I don't suspect this week will even come remotely close to that. We tried swimming in one of the pools here this morning and that was a bit of a joke. It's a very slow pool so it really felt like a struggle. We did manage to go out for a run, which was great. I'd love to try open water swimming but the water is way too rough. The undertow is quite strong and the red flag is out again at the beach. Hopefully tomorrow it will be calmer.
Stay safe and warm guys! I'll do my best to bring some sunshine and warmth back on Sunday!
Anyone else counting the days before they go away?



Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Five: Fitness Snapshots!

Happy FRIDAY!!!  One more sleep and then I'm on the BEACH.  

But I digress.

It's Friday Five time again and I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta Ladies.  This week's theme - Fitness Snapshots.   Less writing, more pictures - yay!


I try to work out between 5-6 days a week.  Since I am a triathlete, "doubles" are generally the norm for me, meaning I do a morning workout and an evening workout.  It's hard to fit all three sports into a week without having double days, ha ha.   I also have to fit in strength training and my physio exercises.   Whew.   So, here is my week in pictures.  I neglected to get a shot of me doing my physio work.  Difficult when my official photographer (a.k.a G) was away all week, ha ha.


Sunday, Monday & Wednesday I swim with a Masters group.  That's why the pool looks so packed...and this was a quiet day!


Tuesday's and Thursday's I usually hit the gym.   I also usually try to get a run in on Tuesday evenings but because it was so darn cold and snowy, I took it to the treadmill.   That run was a nice little progressive 5km that had be start at 8 min miles and end at 6:31 minute miles.  Holy sweatfest.


Wednesday night I opted to ride.  I usually aim to get on my bike at least twice a week.  On a good week, it's 4 times but that hasn't happened in a while.  I put in 50 minutes of good hard work on Wednesday while watching Bones.   Thank goodness for DVR's!


Thursday I was back at the gym doing more strength work.  I usually mix up my upper body routine.  Thursdays I tend to work a bit harder because I'm not getting up to swim the next day so I can do a bit more and lift a bit heavier without fear of having to try to make it through a swim with noodle arms, ha ha.

I do my physio work almost every day and of course, I don't happen to have a picture of that.  But, it was done! 

I think I'm going to account for speed packing as a workout as well.  I have to do that when I get home tonight since we're heading out to the airport for 7:00 am.  FUN!

How did you incorporate fitness into your week?  



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different....

Every once in a while I decide to do something that is completely outside my comfort zone.  It doesn't happen often but when it does, it's usually something that will involve a really good story when it's all said and done so this will be no exception.   I had actually been contemplating doing this when I got my mountain bike last year but the deal was sealed when the folks from the race approached me about being a race ambassador.


You read that right guys.  I'm going to be doing a BIKE race.  Not a regular bike race either.  An off road bike race.  I'm excited and scared all at the same time.  They have 3 distances, 20km, 40km and 70km.  I'm going to do the 40km.  G has done this race 3 times and I've gone to spectate each time.  It's in April so you never know what you're going to get weather wise.  It could be sunny and warm.  It could definitely rain.  Heck, it even snowed one year I was there.   One thing is for certain.  You're going to get dirty.  Period.  I have the photographic evidence to prove it. 




This is the part that kinda scares me.  I don't like having a bunch of people around me when I'm on my bike.  Guess I'm going to have to suck it up.

It's going to be very strange not having to swim or run afterwards, but I'm up for the challenge.   If you're in Southern Ontario and you want to do something completely different, I strongly suggest you check this race out.  As a spectator I found it seemed to be incredibly well organized and G absolutely loves it.   He missed it in 2013 as we were in Boston but now that they've changed the date and moved it to late April, I don't think he'll ever miss it again.

I'm excited because this is officially the second race in my 2015 race calendar.  It will also force me to make sure I am diligent about my cycling over the next several months.  Not having a goal race right now has left me a little at a loss but I'm hoping that changes soon.  It will all depend on my knees and how things progress.   I'm remaining hopeful! 

Have you ever done an off road race - either biking, running or triathlon? 


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tri Talk Tuesday: Training Plans

Happy Tuesday Gang!  Nothing is going to put me in a bad mood this week because in 4 days I'm getting on a plane, flipping Old Man Winter the bird, and going somewhere HOT.  WHEEEE.   But first, it's time for this month's edition of Tri Talk Tuesday.  I'm linking up with my co-hosts Courtney and Cynthia to talk about Training Plans.  I don't know about you but I LOVE planning workouts.  After taking my NCCP triathlon coaching certification a few weeks ago, I've been inspired to come up with some new workouts both for myself and my current roster of athletes.  I really enjoy sitting down for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and mapping out someones training plan and then fine tuning it.   One of the many things I enjoy about coaching for sure.



There are so many options when it comes to training plans and it can be very daunting when trying to pick something, unless of course you're hiring a coach.   There are a few things you need to consider when looking for a training plan.

1.  How much time can you realistically expect to devote to training?

2.  Your current level of fitness.  You have to be honest with yourself!

3.  Timing for your goal race.   How long do you have to prepare?

With the answers to these three questions, you are ready to start your search.

Now let's look at the pile of options.

Free Plans:

There are plenty of free plans on the interwebz that will get you to the finish line but they are generic.  They're not specifically tailored to you and your abilities.  Beginner Triathlete has several plans available online for free.   The big issue here is that they don't really take into account your schedule or current fitness level.  You'll have to figure out a lot of things on your own and if you're just starting out, that can be a little daunting.   Unless you're my husband who trained for his first Ironman using the Triathlete's Training Bible and a lot of guesswork.

Paid Pre-made Plans:

These are plans that may offer a bit more specificity in terms of your ability level and experience.  They are usually put together by a coach and offered up online for a one time fee.   Training Peaks and Garmin Connect both offer options like this as does Tri Fuel  They could be plans based on specific races or geared towards someone who is a strong runner but needs to work on their swimming and biking more.  These are a bit more custom than the free plans offered.  They still may not take into account your schedule so if you miss workouts, you may have to figure things out on your own unless you're able to email the coach to ask for direction.  With some of these plans, limited interaction may be available.

Custom Training Plans & Coaching:

This is the Rolls Royce of training plans.  Plans are created specifically for you by a coach.  They take into account your current fitness level, the amount of time you have available to train and they take the guesswork out of your workouts.  These plans usually involve initial testing sessions to determine where you're at fitness wise and then more testing along the way to see how you've progressed.  When I hired Ming last year, I did an FTP test a few weeks before we started my program.  He then tested me again 4 months later.   I'm sure had I been with him for the year, I would have had at least 2 more tests.  Your fitness level can change a lot over the course of a training cycle.  Having a coach also means that someone else is figuring out the hard stuff for you.  If you miss a few workouts, then you don't have to figure out which ones to do and which ones not to do.  Your coach will tell you. 

Of course, hiring a coach can be an expensive proposition.  There are tons of coaches and coaching services available with prices ranging anywhere from $100/month to $300/month depending on the coach.   Side note:  Both myself and my co-host Courtney are certified triathlon coaches.

How do you choose a training plan?  What are you training for this year?