Running For Autism: One Step At A Time

running for autism

Two days from now, I am running my annual half-marathon for kids with autism. You’d think that after doing ten half-marathons in the last six years, this would be old hat to me. I am familiar with the distance, and since this year is my seventh Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront race, I am familiar with the course. I know exactly where the hills are (not many, thank God, and none of them are exactly mountainous), I know where the halfway point is, and I know which sections of the course are more challenging for me.

The training, the period of Taper Madness and the race itself are supposed to get easier with each passing year, right?


This year, my family has faced some intense challenges. A series of unfortunate events culminated in my husband having just three weeks’ notice to vacate his business premises. This meant packing up and moving fifteen years’ worth of product, tools and heavy industrial-grade machinery. While this was going on, I landed a big contract for my own fledgling business that I couldn’t turn down. I was helping with the move during the day, working on my contract at night, and grabbing catnaps on the couch from time to time.

This left me no time for running. My half-marathon training called for intense speed work during the month of July. Instead, my training ground to a screeching halt, and I was only really able to get it going again halfway through August. By then, as much as I had tried to keep my work on an even keel, I had fallen so far behind that I was continuing to work late into the night. So although I was running again, I wasn’t running as much as I needed to.

Consequently, I am not as prepared for this race as I should be. I know I can complete the distance, but I do not expect it to be my finest hour. I don’t even have a goal time in mind. All I want to do is cross the finish line, get my finisher’s medal, and come home where I can sit on the couch and eat weird amounts of cheesecake. If I get a decent time – and I’m certainly not ruling that out – that will be a bonus.

My fundraising hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped either, for pretty much the same reasons. Asking people for donations makes me feel more than a little awkward at the best of times, and this year it has been particularly challenging. I haven’t had time or energy, and I have been operating in a fog of exhaustion and stress. I have fallen far short of the fundraising goal that I had set for myself.

But still – I have raised almost $300, and that money is going to make a huge difference to some kids with autism. It will provide art supplies, musical instruments, sports equipment or camp activities. It will give young people with autism opportunities and experience that might otherwise be out of reach for them. And I am more grateful than words can express to the people who have helped me reach that total.

I think, in spite of the circumstances, I have done all right. I feel excited about the upcoming race, and I feel proud to be doing my small part to make a difference to children and youth with autism.

It’s not too late to donate. If you would like to sponsor me, please click here. All funds go to the Geneva Centre for Autism, where they will be used to provide services for children and teens with autism.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


Sporting Life 10K: Lessons From A Tough Race

Sporting Life 10K - before the race

Sporting Life 10K Start Line

On Sunday, I ran my first race of 2015. It was the Sporting Life 10K, a massive event that takes over 25,000 runners down Toronto’s iconic Yonge Street. I was just a little bit apprehensive going into the race, because my training has been somewhat sporadic of late. I have been doing my weekly long runs, but the shorter mid-week runs have been on-again/off-again. I have done a little bit of speed training, but no hill training whatsoever. As for strength training – well, that hasn’t even been a gleam in my eye.

Still, I thought this race would be fairly easy. My weekly long runs have had me doing distances longer than 10K, and I figured that since the Sporting Life 10K is basically a downhill run, my lack of hill training wouldn’t matter. The race did in fact start very well, and the first 5K went quite quickly. As soon as I ran over the halfway timing mats, though, the wheels started to fall off, and I ran the second half about three minutes slower than the first. I finished with an official time of 1:07:02, which is nowhere close to my best time. In fact, it’s probably one of my worst.

My spirits were somewhat lifted yesterday morning when I checked my race stats and saw that I still managed to come in just a fraction ahead of the middle of the pack. I was comfortably in the top 50% of women, and in my category – women aged 45-49 – I was in the top third. I’m not under any illusion that I actually did well – I’ve run this same course almost seven minutes faster – but these stats do tell me that race conditions were difficult on Sunday.

For a start, it was a lot hotter than I thought it was going to be. I have a feeling many people were caught off-guard by this. Everyone has been training in mild temperatures: being hit with blazing sun on race day would affect the performance of most runners. Then there was the fact that there were so many people. Even allowing for the fact that runners were released in corrals 15 minutes apart, there were still thousands of runners in each corral. During the early stages of the race, and to extent later on, I was doing a great deal of ducking and weaving to get past people who were slower than me. It took a lot of energy and it made it very difficult for me to find any kind of rhythm.

So maybe I did OK in light of the conditions.

But still… I have come to expect more of myself. I am intending to run a 2:15:00 half-marathon in October, and I will not do it with the half-baked efforts that I have been putting into my training. I am a runner. It’s time for me to start acting like one.

Sunday’s race woke me up to some things that I have to change. Immediately.

1. I have to step up my training. I am not going to become a better runner if I’m not consistent about it. Yes, life is very stressful right now and yes, time is a big issue for me. But for several years now, I have been very low on my own priority list. It’s time for me to devote more time to my health. All it takes is a couple of hours on Sundays and an hour on four other days each week. If I cannot manage to carve out six hours a week for exercise, then I’m just making excuses.

2. I have to resume my oatmeal breakfasts. I need to fix my eating habits in general, but I’m not expecting myself to accomplish that overnight. What I can do overnight, though, is bring back one simple routine that was healthy not only for me, but for the rest of my family.

3. I have to get more sleep. I have reached the point where six hours counts as “a good night’s sleep”, and I am experiencing permanent bone-crushing exhaustion.

4. I have to get a sports bra that fits properly. The chafing that I go through after every run is excruciating. The longer or harder the run, the worse the chafing. On Sunday afternoon, the feeling of clothing against my skin was making me cry.

5. I need to make a proper display of my bib numbers and finisher’s medals. Seeing the distances that I have run and the bling that I have earned will keep me motivated and remind me of what I am capable of.

6. I have to regroup, reset and make a new plan. For the last few weeks, I have been scrambling to train for a half-marathon on May 24th. This is a hard thing to admit, but people, I’m not going to do it. I could do it. I know that I have the physical ability, at my current level of fitness, to complete the distance. But it will be with a lot of pain and anxiety, and I wouldn’t enjoy it. As soon as I feel dread rather than excitement about an upcoming race, it’s time for me to bow out. And so I have transferred my registration to another race in the series, and I am plotting out a new training plan that will take me to a fabulous half-marathon in October.

As I contemplate the races that I have coming up, and the new plans that I am making, I can already feel the excitement building in my gut. I can feel that once again, I am going to run for the love of running.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.



Training Roundup: Focusing On Speed


This week was a great week for training, one in which speed featured quite heavily. That might seem like a strange thing to say, considering that my week started on Sunday with a 20K run that was kind of slow and that made me feel a bit ill. I had run the 20K on virtually no sleep, in a state of terrible stress. The run itself wasn’t too bad, but it completely wiped me out. Still, I felt good for having done it.

On Monday I had a badly needed rest day. My legs felt OK, but I was exhausted to the core. In the afternoon I walked the mile or so to James’ school to pick him up, and it felt as if I was walking to the moon.

On Tuesday, I was scheduled for a tempo run. When our respite worker arrived and took charge of the kids, I laced up my shoes and hit the road. I ran 6K in about 36 minutes – well ahead of my goal pace. I was sweating profusely by the time I was done, and my bad ankle was aching a bit, but I felt good.

On Wednesday, I went to the gym for a go on the stationary bike followed by a weights workout. I realized that after just a few weeks of strength training, I was ready to graduate to heavier weights for some of the exercises. As I walked home from the gym, I felt that pleasant all-over ache that comes from a good workout.

On Thursday I didn’t do anything too intense – just a light run around the neighbourhood. On Friday I chose to rest instead of working out, because I had a race on Saturday morning.

On Saturday I went to the airport for the 5K Runway Run. A race report will be posted in a few days, but for now I will say that it was loads of fun.

The week was a success. The coming week will be focused more on distance than speed, and my Tuesday tempo runs will give way to the dreaded hill training sessions. Although my “A” race – the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon – does not include significant hills – the hill training does help immensely with speed and strength.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.



Training Roundup: Focusing On The Why

Why I Run

Why I Run

This has been an odd week for a variety of reasons. I attended a magazine and writer’s conference for most of the week, and that left me with very little time to do other things. But still, I was able to get some good training in.

On Sunday last week, I went out for an 18K run. I didn’t know how it would go, because I wasn’t able to do my long run the previous week. I feared that I might be a little rusty. It went well, though. I completed the distance in just over two hours – a very satisfactory pace. What made it even better was that it took me just four hours or so to recover. That afternoon, I was in the backyard with the lawnmower and just a tiny bit of stiffness.

I rested on Monday, even though I didn’t feel as if I needed to. Things caught up with me on Tuesday, though. I woke up with my bad ankle feeling – well, bad. I was supposed to do a tempo run, but I decided that an extra day of rest might be a good idea.

It turned out to be a good call: on Wednesday I felt fine. So fine, in fact, that I did my 6K tempo run as well as a full weights workout. Afterwards, I felt that pleasant all-over ache that you get after a good workout.

I didn’t have time for a proper workout again during the week, but I did manage to squeeze in a ten-minute run and a few weights on Friday afternoon. So although I didn’t get in all of my workouts, I count this week as a success.

The training was almost secondary to the other aspect of my running, though: the fundraising. I am, after all, doing this for my son George and other kids with autism. This week, I got to reflect on this as my fundraising page got hit with its first donation. I am aiming to raise $1000 this year – a lofty goal in these hard times. That money, if I can raise it, will go a long way to helping children and youth with autism. It can get them art and music supplies, sports equipment, summer camps and job training, iPads and all kinds of other things that can help in their cognitive and sensory development. This is all stuff that can really change the lives of some of these kids.

Sometimes, when I am on my long runs, I feel as if I don’t have it in me to take another step. I am exhausted and sore, and I just want to stop.

But then I think about George, who is going to live with autism 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of his life. He is brave and determined in the face of his challenges, and he is chock-full of love and sweetness.

If he can live with autism every single day while he brings such richness to my life, surely I can find the same strength and determination to run for a couple of hours at a time.

To sponsor me in this year’s Run for Autism, please click here. All proceeds go to the Geneva Centre for Autism.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


Training Roundup: Adaptation


The trouble with drawing up a training schedule is that I feel obligated to follow it. This is, under normal circumstances, not a bad thing. The schedule holds me accountable and keeps me on track. If I stick with the program, I can be reasonably confident that I will meet whatever goal I have set out to accomplish.

The trouble starts when something happens that forces me to deviate from the schedule. Changes in plans make me feel vaguely anxious, and if I don’t get to do a run that I’ve been mentally gearing myself up for, it’s a little disruptive to my psyche. But we all know that life is that thing that happens while we’re making other plans, and sometimes we just have to roll with whatever life throws at us.

Not that life has thrown me anything major in the last week. In fact, I knew going into the week that my training schedule would have be adjusted. I volunteered at the Toronto Women’s Half-Marathon on Sunday, and I didn’t want to go for a long run on top of that. I was on my feet for the whole morning, and in any case, I wanted to hang out with my family instead.

Plan B was to go for a long run on Monday afternoon instead. I really needed two hours to complete the distance, and due to a series of unforeseen issues that had to be taken care of right away, by the time I set out I only had an hour available to me. That turned out to be plenty: it was very hot on Monday afternoon, and because my body has not yet acclimatised to the warmer weather, there is no way I would have been able to pull off 18K. I did about 9K, and that just about killed me. Before I had done the first kilometre, I knew I was in trouble. During the run, there were a couple of unscheduled walking breaks, plus one lean-against-a-tree-and-cry break.

On Tuesday I had a rest day. I had planned to rest, but I wouldn’t have had a choice anyway. Monday’s run had the effect of completely draining me of energy. I was exhausted beyond belief, to the extent that I worried about whether Wednesday’s run would happen.

On Wednesday morning, I saw the kids off to school and then, with trepidation, I put on my running shoes. I was supposed to do a 5K tempo run, and I really didn’t know if I had it in me. I needn’t have worried: I had a fabulous run. I did 5K in just under 30 minutes, and I felt great.

Thursday was another rest day, but not an intentional one. I had some errands to run, and I met a friend for lunch, and time just ran away from me. I didn’t mind. I hadn’t seen my friend for a year, and it was great to catch up. As much as I love running, sometimes other things are more important.

Today – Friday – was an odd day. I was scheduled for an easy 5K run followed by a weights workout, but I spent most of the day helping to set up for a local ribfest that’s happening this weekend. I was on my feet, walking a great deal, carrying heavy things. By the time I got to the gym late this afternoon, I was quite tired. I got onto the treadmill and set the speed to a brisk pace – definitely too fast to qualify as an “easy” run. By the time I had run 4K, I was done. I felt that if I tried to continue, I would end up on one of those YouTube videos featuring people falling off treadmills. I didn’t feel too bad about docking a kilometre from my run, because I covered several kilometres walking around at the ribfest this morning.

After I stepped off the treadmill, I headed to the weights area, and actually got in a full strength training session. When I was finished, my muscles were quivering. I feel that I have earned tomorrow’s rest day, and on Sunday I will be ready to tackle 18K.

My mileage this week was lower than I would have liked, and I only got in one strength training session instead of two, but I feel that the week was moderately successful. On days when it would have been easier to make excuses and not do anything, I found ways to get in some miles. I feel good about that.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: rick. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Training Roundup: On The Road Again


Lake Ontario in all of its springtime glory

One of my training run views

Last week my Achilles tendon was bothering me, and in an astonishing and rare display of responsibility, I decided to rest. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was feeling fine and I was armed with a brand spanking new training schedule that I had drawn up during my time of sitting out.

The schedule began with a 16K run, and I wasn’t really sure how that would go. My previous long run had been a half-marathon that had left me feeling utterly wiped out. The 16K run went well, though. It was a gorgeous day for running, and I enjoyed every second of it.

Monday was a rest day. There are people who embark on running streaks, which involves a commitment to run at least a mile every day. I am not one of those people. I need my day of rest after my long runs.

On Tuesday I did my first speed training run in this cycle. It wasn’t a long run but it was pretty quick: 5K in just under half an hour. I was stressed to the eyeballs on Tuesday, and a fast run was just what I needed. At the end of it, I felt a lot better, even though my arms were inexplicably sore.

Wednesday was something of a milestone day for me. For the first time in about a year I did a good solid strength training session. I started off with a ride on the stationary bike, which is not my favourite cardio activity, but I’m acting on the assumption that cycling is an acquired taste. After the bike ride, I went to the weights area and worked muscles that I’d forgotten I even have. I even did some dreaded planks.

Now, on Thursday of the first week of my training schedule, I am already having to make some adjustments. The reason is a good one,  though, so I don’t feel too bad. This coming Sunday, my morning will be taken up with race volunteer duties at the Toronto Women’s Half-Marathon. I am excited about the opportunity to give back to the running community.

It wouldn’t be fair to my family, though, to spend the morning volunteering at a race and then to spend the afternoon running myself. Presumably my children like me and would like to spend time with me. So today I’m going to rest. Tomorrow I will do the 5K easy run that I would have done today, and on Saturday I will do another weight training session. On Sunday I will cheer on the half-marathon participants, and on Monday I will do 18K. I will adjust next week’s schedule accordingly, and then I will be back on track.

I’m feeling good about my training. I know  that there will be rough weeks when I wonder how on earth I can go on, but for now, I feel strong and confident. If I stick with the program, I will be a better and stronger runner by the time I do my 30K in August. And I if I continue on track after that, the personal best I am aiming for in the Scotia half-marathon will be in the bag.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


Training Roundup: Conquering Achilles


George with my Scotia 2013 finisher's medal

George with my Scotia 2013 finisher’s medal. He’s the reason I run.

With the Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon eleven days in the past, my period of sitting on the couch doing sweet eff-all post-race recovery is over. I had a harder time than usual with my recovery, because I wasn’t in top form on the day, and all of the downhill running killed my quads. For four days, I couldn’t walk down stairs without whining like a little girl.

I finally laced up my running shoes again on Tuesday. In a rare departure from the norm, I was actually in the mood for the treadmill at the gym. Tuesday was a rough day – it was the first anniversary of the death of Fran, one of my best friends – and I went through the day in a state of emotional upheaval. I needed the noise and busy-ness of the gym.

I hammered out a fast 5K or so on the treadmill, and it felt surprisingly good, physically and mentally. The exercise helped clear my head, and doing a fast workout with high leg turnover loosened up my muscles. I was back in the groove – or so I thought.

I woke up yesterday morning with pain in my left Achilles tendon. It eased up throughout the morning, but when I tried to walk from my house to the bus stop down the road, I discovered that all I was capable of was a hobble. As I went about my business for the afternoon, things loosened up and I felt OK, but from time to time I’d feel that Achilles tendon nagging at me.

I came home and iced it, and resolved to rest for at least two days. The last thing I want, as I head into the next phase of my training, is a torn Achilles tendon. The next phase of my training is going to be very intensive as I work on both speed and mileage, and I need to be in the best form possible. I don’t have time to be messing around with injuries, so I’d rather just rest up properly now instead of letting things get worse.

While I’m resting, I will be planning out the training schedule that will get me from here to my Big Race of the season: the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon on October 19th. My calendar this year includes a distance that I have not attempted before – 30K – but my ultimate goal is to get a personal best time at the Scotiabank half-marathon. That is my autism run, my opportunity to do my small part in making the world a better place for my son and other kids with autism. All of the other races throughout the summer are training runs to prepare me for the big event. It is on October 19th that I really want to shine.

So here I sit, with ice wrapped around my ankle and a calendar in front of me, figuring out a schedule that will help me go further and faster.  I will also be searching for ways to fuel my body better, and that quest will include a mission to find a healthy cheesecake recipe. Because – you know – cheesecake.

What are your health and fitness goals for the summer? If you’re a runner, what is your “A” race this season? And do you have any healthy cheesecake recipes?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.



5 Surprising Things I Have Learned Since I Started Running

2012-06-02 13.25.55

1. Rest days are important. I used to think that in order to get better and faster, and in order to prove that I was a “real” runner, I had to run every day. If a training schedule called for a rest day, what it really meant was that I was running for maybe a mile instead of five or six miles. What I’ve discovered, though, is that the right balance of rest days and active days is crucial to my success as a runner. Not only do the rest days help prevent injury, they actually make me stronger, both physically and mentally. Enforced rests due to illness, injury or circumstance usually have a surprisingly good effect.

2. Kids are better runners than adults. Over the years, I have read many books written by runners, coaches and various kinds of doctors, all advising on the best ways to run. It’s not a simple case of putting one foot in front of another, they say. You have to think about what part of your foot is striking the ground, how long your stride is, what your posture looks like, what your arms are doing. I heed all of this advice, and I still have periodic struggles with my form. Then I look at my eight-year-old, who runs for his school’s track and cross-country teams. When he runs, he looks truly magical. He has perfect form and graceful fluidity that I can only envy. Adults are always trying to improve on nature, sometimes to their detriment. Kids, on the other hand, move the way human beings are designed to move.

3. Heel striking is not a bad thing. Most serious runners have heard all about how landing on your heels is a Bad Thing. It creates more impact, and therefore more injuries, and it is a grossly inefficient way of running. I bought into this so much that I went out and bought a pair of Newtons running shoes in order to “teach” myself the art of midsole striking. Six months of excruciating calf pain later, I gave it up as a bad idea. I realized that we are all different, that not everyone is meant to be a midsole striker. A few months later, I read this article which suggests that for some of us, heel striking is actually a more efficient way of running.

4. There is no hard and fast rule regarding fueling. When I started training for my first half-marathon, I spent a lot of time researching all kinds of things, including nutrition and long-run fueling. The gist of what I read was as follows. For runs of thirty minutes or less, you can get by without taking water with you. Between thirty and ninety minutes, you should bring water, but you don’t really need anything else. If you’re out for longer than ninety minutes, you’ll need an energy drink of some kind, and for anything beyond two hours, a gel might be needed. I tried to follow this formula for a while, and it didn’t work at all. For a start, I need water on every single run. I have high hydration needs, and I need at least a sip of water for every ten minutes of activity. Secondly, I need an energy drink for runs lasting longer than an hour, and that is all I need in addition to water. I never take gels. Ever. Not only do they have no noticeable effect on my performance, they have the consistency of snot and make me feel ill.

5. There is a huge mental component to running. I’ve always known this, of course. The surprise is the extent to which it is true. It has been suggested that running is 10% physical and 90% mental. I’m not sure that I agree with that – the physical foundation has to be in place, and it has to be maintained. But for someone running a distance that they have actually trained for (in other words, that they are physically ready for), mental strength does play an enormous role. I have this pattern when I run half-marathons, of moving along just fine until I hit the 18K mark. As soon as I see that 18K marker, it’s as if a switch goes off in my brain – a switch that says, “Hey, you’ve just run 18K. You should be absolutely knackered.” And my body willingly obliges by suddenly feeling exhausted. The pace that I’ve maintained so nicely goes to hell, my legs turn to Jello and my breathing goes all weird and creepy. I struggle along in a terrible state for 2K, and then, as I enter the final kilometre, it all turns around again. A burst of energy hits me out of nowhere, and I sail through the last kilometre. In general, I am a mediocre, middle-of-the-pack runner, but I have a phenomenal finish line kick, and I am sure that it comes from my mind.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


An Athlete’s Lesson In Self-Talk


It looks pretty, but it's not great to run in!

It looks pretty, but it’s not great to run in!

I have been struggling a great deal with my running lately. I had such high hopes, at the beginning of this year, that I would be able to stick to the training schedule I had set for myself – a schedule that was demanding but certainly within my capability.

I tell myself that the main reason for my struggling of late has been the weather, and it is true that Mother Nature has not been on my side. Temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius, snow and ice have combined to make running conditions very difficult. I have gotten around it to an extent by going to the gym and running on the treadmill. Like most runners, I intensely dislike the treadmill, but it is better than nothing.

Still, I have to be honest with myself and ask the question: to what extent have I been using the weather as an excuse? Yes, it’s been hard and I am sick to death of the treadmill. To my credit, I have not missed any of my speed training sessions. But I have missed two of my long runs, in two consecutive weeks. On both occasions, I had the opportunity to make up the run the following day, and I didn’t. Out of the four days – two Sundays and two Mondays – I can only claim prohibitively bad weather on one of them.

The truth is that in recent weeks, I have been walloped with depression. Along with depression comes low self-esteem and inevitably, negative self-talk. I’ve been telling myself that I’m just not good at anything, and I’ve been fulfilling my own words. This negativity has touched every area of my life, without me even realising it.

I got a bit of a wake-up call yesterday. I decided that, snow be damned, I was going out for my long run. I was quite excited as I dug out my winter running gear and put it on: it felt good to be doing something positive instead of making excuses.

Before I’d even run a block, I knew I was in trouble. My breathing was laboured and I was struggling to find any kind of rhythm. To be fair, the conditions weren’t great. It was snowing, and the ground felt all sludgy. Telling myself that this was just a part of winter running in Canada, I trudged on gamely.

I managed about three kilometres before giving up. I kept slipping in the snow, and I just didn’t feel that I was in good enough shape to last for 18K. Bailing on the run was the right thing to do from a safety point of view. If I had continued, there was an excellent chance that I would have turned an ankle. Knowing that didn’t make me feel better, though. I felt that I was failing as a runner.

As I spent the afternoon brooding over how hard it had been for me to run those three kilometres, I thought of how poor my diet has been lately. I have been doing what I usually do when depressed: eating very little, and eating absolute junk on the occasions when I do eat. It’s no wonder that running has been such a challenge, that yesterday’s short distance proved to be too much for me. I haven’t exactly been fueling my body properly.

These thoughts were swilling around my head throughout the afternoon. I told myself that of course nutrition has been a problem. I’m a person who has been going through depression, and I have a messed-up relationship with food at the best of times.

You’re an athlete, piped up a little voice in my head, out of nowhere. Eat like one.

Well. That shut the negative part of me up. It derailed a train of thought that badly needed to be derailed. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that little voice, the one that has confidence in what I can do. That little voice, in addition to reminding me that I am, in fact, an athlete, made me realise just how unkind I’ve been to myself lately.

In a sudden flurry of activity, I attacked my fridge, throwing out junk and old leftovers, getting rid of vegetables that I had bought and let go bad. And then, armed with a shopping list containing healthy foods, I corralled my family and dragged them to the grocery store with me.

Last night I cooked a healthy meal with a touch of carbo-loading. I ate it and went to bed feeling better than I have in ages. When I woke up this morning, I had peanut butter toast instead of breakfasting solely on endless cups of coffee. And then, once I had packed the kids and the husband off to school and work, I went for a run.

It was hard going. For about ninety percent of the time, I was running on snowy sidewalks and streets that hadn’t been shoveled or plowed. In addition to running, I had to work hard to keep my balance, and I had to push off from a slippery, slushy surface. I worked muscles that I didn’t even know I had, and the last couple of kilometres were excruciatingly difficult.

But I did it. I finished 18K.

Because I am an athlete.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


Around The Bay 30K: Training Week 1

runningshoes Monday

Today was supposed to be a rest day, but I figured that since the weather forecast was calling for minus a gazillion degrees on Tuesday, I would run on Monday anyway. With the roads being impossible to run on, I gritted my teeth and headed for the gym for what was supposed to be a 6K tempo run. I only managed 5K: I had not run for an entire month, and I was getting over a cold. I wasn’t all broke up about the lost kilometre. In the grand scheme of things it’s really not going to matter. What’s more important is that I ran.

What I was supposed to do: Rest
What I did: 5K in 30:21
How I felt: Like I’d been kicked in the rear-end by a pissed-off buffalo



Today Environment Canada warned that anyone going outside could start to feel the effects of hypothermia within ten minutes. We didn’t even send the kids to school, partly because the school buses were canceled. Fortunately I did today’s run yesterday – not only was it impossible to run outside, it wasn’t even possible to navigate the icy roads in order to get to the gym.

What I was supposed to do: 6K tempo run
What I did: Rest
How I felt: Cold – even the central heating wasn’t enough to ward off the chill



I hate days like this. Things were more normal – the kids went to school and we ventured out of the house – but all of this staying indoors because of the weather has thrown off my schedule. Being holed up in the house has made me run short of groceries and fall behind on errands, so I didn’t have time to go to the gym today. Boo-hiss.

What I was supposed to do: Stationary bike and weights
What I did: Sweet eff-all. At least where exercise is concerned
How I felt: Guilty. Probably a throwback to my Catholic school education.



I was frantically busy today. My son’s birthday party is on Saturday, and as usual I have left everything to the 99th hour. By now I was supposed to have everything purchased and the cake made and ready for icing. I haven’t bought a single thing, including the cake ingredients. But my training runs are not going to do themselves, so I forced myself to include a trip to the gym in my jam-packed day. Another run on the treadmill – there is still too much ice to be safe, and I am kind of partial to having all of my bones intact.

What I was supposed to do: 5K easy run
What I did: 5K run on the treadmill – quite an intense one
How I felt: Much better, although my calf muscles felt appropriately tight after the workout.



Today’s trip to the gym wasn’t going to happen, not with this birthday party tomorrow. I made the cake, assembled gift bags, organized prizes, bought a pinata. I told myself that I would find time for my workout, but that was never a realistic prospect.

What I was supposed to do: Treadmill warmup and weights
What I did: Nothing exercise-related, unless you count running around like a chicken without a head.
How I felt: A little panicky. Missing workouts does that to me.



Designated rest day today, although since I missed yesterday’s workout, that doesn’t really mean anything. Hosting a tribe of hyperactive eight-year-olds feels like the most exhausting workout in the world, though. It was a bloody marvelous day that I will write about later in the week.

What I was supposed to do: Rest
What I did: I didn’t exercise, but I definitely didn’t rest
How I felt: Exhausted



Yesterday was a lot warmer. The temperature managed to claw its way up to plus seven degrees Celsius. I had high hopes that this would thaw the ice enough to allow an outdoor run, but that wasn’t to be. A lot of the ice did melt, but there was so much to begin with that there are still sheets of it all over the place. If anything, an outdoor run is even more impossible: now I would be combining skating with puddle jumping – not a good combination. I had no choice but to head to the gym again, and to grit my teeth for 14K on the treadmill. That is a long time to spend on a lab rat machine, and I came very close to giving up several times after I hit the 10K mark. But by breaking it up into tiny little chunks, I got through it. This was an excellent test of my mental strength.

What I was supposed to do: 14K
What I did: 14.37K in ninety minutes
How I felt: The fact that I actually saw this run through to completion made me feel awesome. So Week One is in the bag. I missed a couple of workouts but I got in all of my scheduled runs. Hopefully Week Two will see some outdoor action.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.