Author Archives: Tori

My dumbest running mistakes

I realized a year ago when I started training for my third Half Marathon that I’m really no newbie when it comes to running. Despite my lack of prowess or natural talent, I’ve been doing it a long time.

I’ve learned a few things along the way. The hard way. In the spirit of “if you can’t be a role model, then serve as a warning” here are the less-than-stellar moments of my running career:

  • Starting out too fast. Everyone says they won’t start out too fast, everyone does it. Everyone. At least once. Possibly every race. I don’t – not anymore. I’m joyously starting at the back of the pack, running negative splits (first half slower than the last) and passing people eventually. I still have to resist the urge to surge at the start line though. Having a Garmin GPS-enabled sport watch to tell your pace helps stick with my race strategy, I’m so grateful I got one for Christmas last month!
  • Undertraining. You’ve found Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon training plan on the Runner’s World web site? Go for it. Do. Not. Miss. Workouts. Leading up to my first and second Halfs, I only “half”-assed followed the plan I was on. Speed workouts? “Meh, that’s hard, I’ll do it next week.” Mid-week tempo runs? “Oh too bad I didn’t get up early enough, I’ll just do a 40-minute run then get to work.” Come race day I felt it. During my first Half Marathon, my SI joint seized after the first 5K. When people asked me how the run felt, I laughed it off: “Only the last 10 miles were painful.” They needn’t have been.
  • Underfueling. During my second Half Marathon, I carried nothing with me. I took some water at the stations, that was it. No gatorade, no energy gels. The first 10-15 K were fine, but the last part of the race was pure hell: I had simply run out of gas. I watched my friends down gummy bears and gels, and refused their offers to share. Then I watched them pull away from me at the 15K mark while I struggled to keep the pace. You simply can’t run for more than 2 hours without refueling along the way.
  • Changing your diet the night before a race. The day before I ran a 15K – my first – I decided I needed more fibre in my diet and ate two or three kiwi fruit with rye crackers for a before-bed snack. This was in the days before race directors’ S.O.P. was to rent port-a-potties and place them along the route. The “runner’s trots” threatened that whole race, most of which was through parkways and along a highway (believe me if I’d run past a house I would have knocked on a door and asked to use the bathroom). I actually finished (dead last) – dogged stubborn determination not to be humiliated by a DNF (Did Not Finish) got me there. I must have looked hilarious: running while trying to hold in a bowel movement.
  • Wearing brand-new shoe inserts for a 2+ hour run. OK I didn’t do this; my friend did while we were training for the marathon last year. She was excited when she showed up for our Saturday morning run through Vic West, across the Esquimalt Lagoon, up to Royal Roads University, winding our way back again to Spinnakers on the waterfront. “Look at these new inserts, I think they’ll help with my hip pain,” she said. “Um – have you tried them out yet on a shorter run?” I asked. “No, not yet,” she said as she slipped them into her shoes straight out of the package. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? We’re running an awfully long way today if they don’t work out.” I said. “I’ll be fine,” she said: famous last words. I saw the blister afterward and I can’t believe she finished the run. Dogged stubborn determination, right?

Running through time

Last post I fibbed just a little – by omission. I neglected to state my goal for running this year:

In 2010 I will run a Half Marathon in 2 hours or less.


My PB for that race is 2:12:24.

In 2003 I did the Queen City Half Marathon in 2:20:21; and in 2005 in 2:16:16

Don says I can do it, and I don’t think he’s just saying that because it’s His Duty As A Good Boyfriend to say things like that. He says it based on my performance at the Run Through Time on New Year’s Eve – a 5 K “fun run” at UVic.
Race day at RVM 2009I ran it in 28:04, which I think was a PB for me but I can only find results online for one other 5K I’ve done – the rest I did before the days if the interwebs and timing chips.

Apparently I ran the 34th Annual YMCA Regina Buffalothon 5K in 2005 in 29:17. I don’t remember running it at all, probably because I was training for the Half Marathon that year, or perhaps because I was crazy in love: earlier that month I had visited Victoria and decided I wanted to move here.

In any event, I decided on Dec 31 not to treat the race as a “fun run” but as a test/training run. I wanted to see how well I would do giving it some effort. Don did run it just for fun, having done his real workout earlier that day, so he stayed behind in he pack to run it with me.

I did better than I thought. I went out with my Garmin at the ready, but after a couple of kilometres I stopped looking at it and asked Don to keep us at a 5:45 per kilometre pace. I started out back of the pack and slow – about a 6:15 pace to start. I like to pass people at the beginning and I like to do negative splits (first half slower than the second, finishing strong).

The race is two laps around a circular drive at the University of Victoria. At the second lap I started to pick up speed and there it was again: the focus, the tunnel vision I get when I’m working hard and I’ve got the finish line in sight. I passed a whole lotta people. That’s when I asked Don to keep us on my goal pace.

About 1 K before the finish I made the mistake of asking him what pace we were on. I was working hard.

“I shouldn’t tell you,” he said.

“Tell me!” I gasped.

“4:31.” he said.

“Holy crap!” I said, still gasping.

“It’s OK – you’re doing fine. Breathe deeply. Don’t slow down your breathing, just fill up your lungs, use your diaphragm.”

I did back off that pace for the last couple of hundred metres. Don explained that I was probably running at my lactate threshold pace – a pace close to which most serious runners run every race.

“Even marathons?” I said.

“Yes, I’m running that way every marathon,” (he’s done 18 of them). “That’s why you do speed work, to get yourself used to going the distance at pace. You could have run the entire 5K at about a 5-minute pace, you just didn’t know it.”

Later we went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but I was so tired I had trouble staying up to ring in 2010. That’s life as a runner!

Last night we played around with paces and race distances on a handy calculator on the Prairie Inn Harriers web site. To run a 2-hour Half Marathon means holding a pace of 5:41 per kilometre for 21.1 kilometres.


I can do it.


Bear Mountain

Up up up. More up. And up again on wobbly month-out-from-the-marathon legs.

The downhills are almost as hard–too steep for joyful abandon.

Rain mists down in a constant frazzle, but after a while the moist layer is almost comforting.

It’s tougher than the marathon, some say. I say that’s stretching it.

But it is tough.

When can I sign up for next year?