Friday, December 30, 2011

Thank You 2011!

December 30th, the day before New Year's Eve, seems like the perfect day to reflect on 2011. In fact I've been really looking forward to this post and having the time to finally dedicate time to writing it down. This blog post is going to be a bit more personal, as it is reflective of a year in my life's journey. It will allow you to know more about me, and thus, my personal philosophy that relates to who I am as a runner. 2011 was a really tough year. In ways, it was one of the hardest years I've had in a while. But at the same time, despite the challenges, it was one of my best years yet. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Job!

Today I started my first day of work with the Running Room. I'm currently at the new Cambie Street store and expect to be moving elsewhere after my first month, depending on company needs. It was such a great day, meeting the staff whom I'll be working with, and learning more about how things work there. It's going to be a steep learning curve for a bit, but I'm so excited to have even more of an excuse to research and sample products. It will allow me to advise customers and fellow runners better, as well as inform me and my passion for the sport.

So just wanted to say that I'm still here, despite it being a few days since I've written. We had a lovely Christmas in Victoria with our family there. I also got to squeeze in two awesome runs on the Galloping Goose trail there - so awesome. Now that I'm back, I'm allowing myself to get used to the routine again of working and running after work. This weekend I'll be blogging. I have written it down in my calendar a reminder to myself to do so. It's important that I give 2011 the tribute it deserves before I close that chapter of my life's book and move onto chapter 2012. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brrrr....It's Cold Outside! Perfect for a Run!

Today is December 21st. I don't know what the official winter solstice is this year, but it's normally roughly around today - the first day of winter. As a runner, this is good news. It means that the shortest of days is happening right now, and going forward, days are just going to get longer for a while. Yes, nothing like a few added minutes of daylight running moving forward, meaning better visibility and safety, and increased motivation to be out there. It also means though that it's going to remain cold outside for a while longer. And those of us here in Vancouver know that it is often it's coldest here after Christmas rather than before. I like the cold we have right now, and can certainly put up with a little colder yet. So I say, "Winter, you're here now? Bring it on!"

So I'm sitting on the couch this morning, snuggled up warm, sipping my cuppa joe, and looking ahead to today's 10km run I've planned. I see it's nice and clear outside and the rooftops are covered with a morning frost  - simply beautiful. Weather reports are saying it's currently 2 degrees and it's not going to get much warmer today, although the sun will be shining - yay! Admittedly, 2 degrees is actually kind of warm, as winter running conditions have been here a while. But I'm excited now that the official season is here. Winter is an awesome time to go running, I mean, you never overheat like in the summer. It can be some of the most comfortable and pleasant running of the year but it requires a bit of additional thought and precaution for that to be so.  For me, there are 3 major considerations for winter running: (1) Visibility and safety (2) Hydration (3) Staying warm. I'll talk a little about each, and will try to keep my rant short today (I'm itching to get outside!) 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You Know You're a Runner When...

Many of these are my own ideas, the silly things I've noticed about myself since embodying the life of a dedicated runner. But I've seen similar ideas from other runners online and discussed some of these with runners I know. So if you happen to have seen some of these ideas before, I confess, they are not purely my own ideas. But they are certainly true about me and things that automatically come to mind when I think of my quirks as a runner. We, the members of the running community, really do have a lot in common and are certainly a quirky bunch! Thought it might be fun to make my own list. So, in no particular order, you know you're a runner when:
  • You get excited over GU announcing new flavours and you rush to your nearest running store to see if they have it available to try (BTW, have you tried the new peanut butter flavour? It's delish!).
  • It's laundry day and the overwhelming majority of your dirty laundry is sweaty running gear.
  • You have a designated place in your home for displaying your finisher medals.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pre-Run Coffee. What's your take?

As I was enjoying my morning cuppa joe before heading out for my run I decided that I'd write a blog entry about it. I've mentioned on Facebook, Twitter, and DailyMile about my pre-run coffee and how it helps me, and I've had mixed reactions from those who follow my social media musings. So I figured it deserves some attention.

Coffee has a mixed reputation. It often seems like from moment to moment, the world view shifts on whether regularly consuming coffee is beneficial or harmful to one's health. I believe that with just about anything that is beneficial, it's only if it's consumed in moderation. When one goes over and above moderation, that's when it reaches the harmful category. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. So if you drink two small cups a day like me, then there's no harm. But those who have 4 or more - too much of a good thing. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My 2012 of No Resolutions, But 100% Commitment

It might sound odd that someone like me doesn't make New Year's Resolutions. It's that one day of year where many set goals for themselves and look ahead at the coming year and what they'd like to accomplish. I don't roll that way. It simply doesn't work for me.

Clearly, it's not that I'm not a goal-setter: quite the opposite, in fact. I guess it's that I make commitments to myself 365 days/year, and set goals that are realistic to those commitments. I have goals for 2012. What makes that different than a New Year's Resolution? I've declared these goals months ago - I'm not waiting until January 1st.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Want to Run With Zahida in 2012?

Do you have a fitness goal for 2012? Do you want to run a race and need some support getting there?

I'm just putting out feelers as I'd like to offer my services to one (or two) runners or aspiring runners in 2012. I would offer you personalized training advice, encouragement, but most importantly, be there to run with you, side-by-side, your pace, at a race of your choice in 2012*. I'll be there to help you pace to reach your goal time, offering you encouragement and high fives along the way. There would be no cost to you but I would want to blog about our experience together.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Boosting Your Strength as a Runner Through Hill Training

I have been brainstorming for a blog post on winter running, but have decided to put that off a bit longer. It is, afterall, not officially winter yet! One of my readers has asked me about boosting speed and strength, and so I thought I'd address those questions with this blog post. Before I do, I have to reiterate that I'm not an expert in the sense of having studied sports medicine or personal training. But I have done a lot of reading and, more importantly, a lot of running, and have learned a thing or two that makes me a bit more expert than I once used to be. I hope you'll find what I have to say helpful! And any of you with alternate or opinions, please feel free to chime in with comments and suggestions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Being An Athlete

So in my last post about my experience with the Fall Classic, I mentioned the post-race low feeling many experience, including myself. Running the Fall Classic certainly helped alleviate my own post-race gloom. But yet now, a week later, I am still feeling this odd sense of blah, looking ahead at my racing calendar and seeing that what's next isn't until April and May of 2012. Then I look at the calendar a little harder and realize that January 1st, 2012 I do actually have something planned. January 1st, 2012 is right around the corner too. It isn't a race, no, but it's the official start of my 18-week marathon training program: the most intense and most important training program I will have put myself through to date. That indeed is something to look forward to, and a great way to bring in the new year. In the meantime, I'm running for fun and building up my mileage so it isn't difficult to jump into full-on training mode.

So why isn't it feeling like enough?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Race Report: New Balance Fall Classic 10km Run, 2011

Today I ran my second race of 2011. I wasn't exactly planning on it, not before last weekend when I registered anyway. Somehow having only my one big race this year wasn't enough, especially since I'm planning on being part of at least 3 next year (but knowing me, it'll be more).

Monday, November 14, 2011


Spontaneity in life is important. It's something I'm not very good at; I appreciate my schedules, lists, and filled agenda book. I function well knowing what time something is going to happen on what day, and how much time each thing will have dedicated to it. But there's always been something so lovely about acting with spontaneity. I get excited at the unplanned.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dedicating a Run

Today was a beautiful day to run. This morning's run included pouring rain, a crisp autumn temperature, and plenty of colourful leaves covering the sidewalks and park trails. It was a perfect morning for a thoughtful 7km run, and a chance to remember those who fought for freedom in my own way. It was 40-somewhat minutes of silence, strategically timed so I could catch the Remembrance Day ceremonies to salute our veterans, here in North Vancouver.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Making Running Part of the Routine

This last two weeks, I've established for myself a new routine. Over the summer, it had been a lot easier to find time to fit 4 or 5 solid running days into a week. It wasn't just that I had more time on my hands, but climate and more daylight hours per day meant that there were more options during the day to find desirable running opportunities. If it wasn't possible during the day, an evening or pre-bedtime run could also be filled with sunshine (or sunset) and warmth. Now, things are a bit different. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

An Inspired Superhero?

I'm still getting over this cold / flu / whatever it is that I came down with two days after my recent half marathon. Regardless of how it's made me feel low energy and kept me indoors more than I like (considering how my last 5 months have included 5 days of running per week), I'm feeling like a superhero. Feeling a slight bit of cabin fever, I got out and enjoyed the gloriously sunny autumn day we had today in Vancouver. I hiked the Grouse Grind this morning, and it was my slowest finish time of the season, needing 15 min extra than usual to reach the summit. I also had a big pile of kleenex with me, and I needed every single one of them (and then some, if I were to be honest). Disgusting. Regardless, I finished and felt amazing after. And knowing that I'm both recovering from a race where I got my PR and recovering from a cold / flu / something made me say to myself, "an extra 15 minutes is peanuts". I must indeed be a superhero.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rest, Recover, Set New Goals

Rest, recovery, and setting new goals have been the main themes of this week. I needed two days of rest to get over the soreness in my hips after race day, and then by the third day, I caught a cold which I'm still nursing today. So while I'm itching to get out and about, go hit the road for a run, or tackle the Grouse Grind, my body has told me firmly, "NO! Stay home!" I imagined this week as being one with two days rest, and then enjoying my last week off before I start a new job next Monday. So I imagined it wrong...big deal.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Race Report: GoodLife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon - Oct 9, 2011

Two days ago, I completed my third half marathon. You know how they say that the third time's a charm? Well, "they" (whoever they are) must be right.

Sunday, October 9th, 2011 was a wonderful day. I ran my third and best half marathon of my life. It was such a special accomplishment on so many levels. I've shared previously on this blog how this particular race was my first major race since losing 120lbs and re-claiming my health. But it's also my first major race in 7 years, and I was determined to prove to myself that I haven't lost a beat in that time - that at the age of 31, I am in fact now younger and fitter than I was at 24. And so, I proved just that - I beat my previous best finish time from 2003 by 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Checklist

Being that I'm Canadian-born and live in Vancouver, you'd think I'd be a little more excited about it being the first day of the NHL season. Don't get me wrong, the game is on in HD in our living room with the stereo on too, but I've got other things on my mind - that's right, race day.

I've made a list, and I've checked it more than twice, and tomorrow I'm going to start compiling all the things and stuff I need to haul along with me to Victoria for Sunday's half marathon, my first 21.1km race in over 7 years. The goal is to receive my 3rd finisher medal to display on the wall with my other two (pictured on the left) that have grown dusty with age. And of course, my hope is to also achieve my personal best finish time, given I've put so much heart, soul, and intellect into my training this time. Perhaps even to the point of obsession. What can I say - I believe in 100%.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Learn from setbacks. Celebrate milestones.

I was writing a journal entry the other day and came to a cool realization. Today, October 1st, 2011 is a milestone for me. I decided that when today came, I'd be sure to write a blog entry to remind myself of how far I've come. So here I am! One year ago today, on October 1st, 2010, I had surgery on both of my legs. My legs were wrapped tight in bandages for weeks to follow. I slowly got to remove bandages until I was bandage free by the end of November. Recovery was ongoing. At first, I joked that I had "mummy legs" as I was wrapped all the way from the groin down to the ankle on each leg. The cartoon on the left was my Facebook profile photo for a while, as it playfully depicted how I felt. Inside I felt antsy and determined to get out running again. It took a while before I was able to. I looked ahead knowing that 2011 had to be positive. All the work I put into regaining my health would pay off. The leg surgery was just the final step I needed to take to get there.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Time to Taper

Ok, so the picture on the left here has nothing to do with the topic of today's blog post. I just HAD to include it. Patti and I are a bit sad that my shoes wore out a month before race day, as it meant our feet wouldn't match at our upcoming race, the Victoria Half Marathon on Oct 9th. In response, Patti bought me a pair of socks to match hers, so we can wear them on race day and have matching feet afterall (well, ankles anyway). Very pleased to see toe socks made by Injinji specifically for runners, and made to be so darn adorable too. Without the friction of toes rubbing together sweatily, my toes are very happy and blister-free after today's 20km run.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A half marathon is not half a race

21.1km, or 13.1 miles. Whichever way you put it, it's a respectable distance. I kind of dislike the term "half marathon" to describe it. To be able to complete one, you have to be pretty darn fit. To complete it well (i.e., with both feet on the ground and a smile on your face), good dedicated training time has to be put into it. It requires discipline, knowledge, loads of time, and physical and emotional strength. For this reason, some people say jokingly that it's named wrong: the half marathon should be called a marathon, and the full marathon should be renamed a double marathon. That I disagree with, but I know that I have mixed feelings about the title "half marathon" as I'm now 24 days away from race day - the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cross Training

The past while, I've been running 5 times a week and following a training program which should allow me to complete my upcoming half marathon in about 2 hours. This is a bit of a big deal for me as the times I ran a half marathon in the past (the last one being in 2004...), I didn't really follow a program. I just ran when I felt like it, and for as long as I wanted, with no real attention to what kind of running I was doing. I'll get into kinds of running another time, but the point I'm trying to make here is that running 5 times a week is a lot more than I was previously used to, and it doesn't really allow me to do much else, workout wise. There are, after all, only 7 days in a week, and the other 2 days (Mondays and Fridays), I'm supposed to rest completely. That is, maybe go for a walk, but not do anything where I might break a sweat, to allow my body and muscles to recover from the stress of previous runs and be ready for the next set.

Running 5 times a week so far has been really beneficial. I think after a while of running a little here and there, I'd plateaued in my fitness level. I was fit and healthy, but not making significant improvements in anything anymore, as I wasn't challenging myself enough. Now I'm running all the time, and I'm forcing myself to do distances that I might not have necessarily chosen to do otherwise on a particular day. Putting it into my calendar that on this day I'm going to run this much and that day I'll run that much, makes it happen. I have no choice but to make time for it. I'm running when I feel like it, and when I'm not really feeling like it. They are in my appointment book and have to be kept. Now, as a result, certain distances feel effortless, longer distances don't seem so far out of reach, and I'm noticing a difference in how I feel and look, especially in my legs. So advice to anyone who says "I can't run past x distance"..... my answer is simple: run more often and then you can run further.

Ok, I need to confess that I lied a little. I've not exactly been running 5 times a week every week. Most weeks I've been hiking the Grouse Grind once or twice in place of one or two of the runs I'm supposed to be doing, so it all adds up to 5 workouts in the end. I never replace a long run (my Sunday runs), but often replace a short run I would have been doing on a Tuesday or Thursday with a hike up the Grind. I'm a little hesitant on how to classify the Grind though, in terms of my half marathon training. I'm inclined to call it cross training, but at the same time, I feel it's too related to running (even though I brisk walk, not run, but up a very steep mountain) and I think it simplifies things to just say, "I run 5 times a week" and not clarify the little white lie. What do you think? How would you classify it? What I do know is that hiking the Grind is a nice challenge, with great reward when you reach the top, and it makes my Wednesday hill repeat sessions feel like a piece of pie. It's clearly benefiting my leg muscles, but with way less impact than pounding the pavement running.

My understanding of true cross training is that you pick an activity that isn't running, that helps build your overall endurance. This will no doubt make you a better runner. The thing is though, that the best cross training is where you use a different set of muscles, so that your running muscles can heal and rest, but your cardiovascular system is still getting a workout. There's no direct benefit to your running muscles, but your overall fitness is still improving. A great example of cross training for running is swimming. It's a great cardio workout, that uses mainly your upper body (I'm referring to a freestyle / front crawl type swim). So it gets the heart-rate up, but allows your running muscles to rest and have a workout with zero impact. And like running, it's very meditative. I appreciate being hyper-aware of my breathing, my inner thoughts, and the strength in my arms.

They say that if you spend about the same amount of time swimming as you would have spent running, you'd get roughly the equivalent workout. I was supposed to run 7km this morning, but decided to swim laps for 40min instead. I didn't realize how much I missed the water! It's literally been months since I've been to the pool. All the added daylight we get in spring and summer just beckons me to be outdoors. The thing with swimming though is that it's so gentle on the joints, I wouldn't feel guilty about swimming on a rest day, because I tell ya, when you're addicted to running, rest days can be hard to cope with. And I gotta say, with all the running I've been doing, I had no idea how un-awful a feeling wearing a bathing suit was going to be today. I think I'll be back at the pool again soon. :-)

What's your favourite cross training activity?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Born to Run

Today I had an hour to kill whilst in downtown Vancouver. I decided to treat myself to an hour at Chapters bookstore. And naturally, I picked up a book! If I wasn't both ready for bed, and yet somehow compelled to blog, I'd likely be up all night reading. The book has already grabbed my attention, and I'm quite excited to sink my teeth into this read. I picked up a copy of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mmmm, carbs!

Nothing like one (yes, just ONE) of Cam's home-brewed beers as an evening treat as a reward for an awesome 14km run today. Did I mention that one of the reasons why I love running is that I love pasta (dinner last night) and beer? Mmmmm, carbs!

And yes, that IS a Vancouver Canucks beer glass!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Happiness is Also Found in the Simple Things

I blogged before about the reasons I run. It's one of those things that makes you feel so good on so many levels. The greatest joys can be reached from conquering a challenge, meeting or surpassing a goal, or making the finish line at a race you've been working toward. But there are small rewards along the way too that can be overlooked. I try my best not to overlook them. The last few days have brought me joy from some of the little things connected to running. Here are some of them:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy Feet

Naturally we depend on our feet the most when we run. The poor things have to endure all kinds of stress during a run, with the weight of our bodies pounding down on them with every step. It's super important that we treat our feet well and go over and above to keep them happy, especially if we're running regularly. Many people who suffer from foot pain or joint pain elsewhere on their bodies due to running experience the discomfort because of their footwear. Either they're not wearing the right shoes, or the shoes have been used too much and thus passed their "best before" date. There's all kinds of info out there on how to select the right shoes, and staff at most specialty running stores will be able to offer valuable advice. I'm not an expert, and my knowledge may be severely flawed, but here's what I've been doing to keep my feet happy.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Running fuel

I always find it funny to use the term "running fuel" or to say that I'm "fueling up" before a run. Maybe it makes me feel tough, or like a machine. It implies that I can run fast, hard, and for a long time, and all I need to perform is some food. I like the image. There are days where I do feel like a machine. My legs carry me where I need them to; I don't have to think much about it, but simply enjoy the experience.

I'm curious what your go-to running fuels are....and I'm talking about what you eat/drink before, during, and for recovery. I've been testing out a few things and finding what works for me. I also have been reading tips from various sources including Runner's World magazine, #Runchat, and various runners I'm following on Twitter. I've experimented with some of the tips to try to find what works best for me. It's a work in progress, but I've found a lot of things that work well for me. 

Getting Started

Nobody is born a marathon runner. But anyone could be born capable of running a marathon. Unless there is a physical limitation to prevent this (although there are the inspiring few who overcome even this), with determination, training, and nutrition, you (and yes, I mean YOU) can achieve your running goal.

So how did I start? In my previous post, I mentioned how I once loathed running. In high school PE class when we had to run laps around the field, I'd be gasping for air after the first ~400m lap, if I was actually lucky enough to complete the lap. I hated my teacher for forcing us to run and though only negative thoughts about how I couldn't and would never be able to run.

My journey, in photos

Again, this is not a weight-loss blog. But it's obvious that health and fitness go hand-in-hand. And I thought that showing photos of my journey will allow you to get a better sense of where my life has taken me in terms of health, and why I started this blog. This is especially for those of you who don't know me at all, and also for those of you who have known me just a little while.

This is me as an overweight teen, well over 200lbs, and hardly motivated to change that. Running was the single activity from P.E. class that I loathed more than anything, because I couldn't even do one 400m lap at the track

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why do I run?

The first post of my new blogging journey, here we go! While out today, running up my 4th hill repeat with the hot sun beating on me, my heart pounding in my chest, sweat dripping down the back of my neck, feeling the burn in my quads, my thoughts to myself revolved around two questions: (1) Why do I run? and (2) Why am I not writing about why I run?

I'll get into item #1 momentarily, but clearly item #2 is the reason behind this blog. I love writing, and I certainly have a LOT to say on the topic of running. While I'm not an expert at running, I'm no beginner either. My long journey as a woman who has struggled with health, weight management, and all the insecurities that come with it has led me here down the path of becoming an athlete. I'm proud of my accomplishments, I've established strategies that work for me, and I have my sights set on a future of being fit for life. This blog is primarily a chance for me to document my journey, and doing so for me to hold ME accountable to myself. But I chose a blog format because I thought that in writing my thoughts down publicly, perhaps readers may better understand me, they may relate to my journey and maybe even find wisdom in my words that can help them in their own health and fitness goals.