Changing Flats… I’m on a roll

In early May, I was dreading changing my bike tire over from the trainer tire back to a regular road tire. I had never changed a tire fully on my own before, and the fact that it was the rear wheel was intimidating since it’s marginally more complicated than the front wheel.

Prior to that point, I had gotten exactly two flat tires in my past few of years of cycling. Both times were somehow mercifully within walking distance of an open bike shop. That was a mixed blessing, because this also meant that I’ve never had to learn to change a tire.

But I really wanted to get out and take advantage of being away from the big city this summer. I knew that meant some solo riding and I also knew that I’d need to be more self-sufficient if I got a flat out on my own. So, armed with some YouTube videos (linked at the end of this post), I sat down at an unhurried time and got to work.

In the end, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t that difficult! I used a tire lever to pry the trainer tire away from the rim, but when putting the old road tire on, I found I didn’t need tire levers at all. In fact, it was so much less intimidating than I expected that at first I thought I had done something terribly wrong! But I took the bike out for a quick spin and nothing exploded or fell apart so I gave myself a nice pat on the back and told myself this must mean I was Good At Changing Tires.

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Look at that tire, all tucked nicely in!

Of course, having decided that, the universe promptly decided to test my skills. The following week, I got a flat on my commuter bike in Toronto as I was heading to my soccer game. I didn’t have anything on me to repair it, but I was very lucky because I was about 20m away from a bike shop that still happened to be open!

The next week, as I was grabbing my bike from my friends’ balcony, I told them about how lucky I was to have had a flat so close to the bike shop. I gestured to my front wheel, and lo and behold… it was flat! I had ridden over some glass on the way in and must have had a slow bleed. Thankfully my friends are cyclists, and they had a patch kit handy. So I sat down in their living room and patched my tube and was all ready to show them how Good I Am At Changing Tires. Until I couldn’t get the tire back on. Oops. Needed tire levers and a bit of help for that one!

Finally, earlier this month, I was riding home at night from an outdoor shindig and I got a 3 inch long nail skewered right through my rear tire. Thankfully I didn’t crash, but I was so annoyed that I ripped the nail out and threw it in the trash, completely forgetting that I have a blog now and definitely should have saved it for a photo op. Alas. I’m learning. I had to TTC home the rest of the way (again – thankfully this happened right in front of a subway stop!). The next day I popped in a new tube and this time I was able to get the tire on with relative ease.

The upside to all of these flats is that I’m no longer intimidated by changing a tire! I still hope I don’t have to keep doing it quite so often, however…

And if anyone is wondering, here are a couple of the video resources I used to step me through the process:

A comprehensive step-by-step guide:

For just removing and replacing the rear wheel:

For putting on a tire without levers:

Supporting and loving

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Shared with me by Meaghan / words by Lora Mathis

 

I’ve been quiet here on the blog because I have been extremely saddened by the massacre in Orlando. I have new things I want to write about – my first extended ride on my road bike since my accident last year, trying out canoeing and stand up paddleboarding – but I’m not feeling up to it yet.

I’m overwhelmed by the layers of hatred and injustice surrounding this tragedy. The failure to address intersectionality – that the victims were primarily Latinx and LGBTQIA. The media shifting the narrative into Islamaphobia. The racism. How we aren’t talking about how toxic masculinity leads to violence. Wondering how survivors will access the care and support they need. The desperate need for gun control.

So what can I do?

First, listen, and check in with loved ones who are hurting. Remind them that I am here, and that I care. Understand that people need different things.

Love. I can love. Fight as hard as I can against the hopelessness. Believe in the good, in the power of love, in the potential for change.

And then, speak up. Demonstrate support. Engage. Discuss. Learn. My friends, particularly my friend Meaghan, have guided me in invaluable ways. Honour the emotional labour of those who educate you.

Finally, I decided to do some volunteer work. I’m getting involved in Pride events in my community. I’ll be volunteering at one of the performance spaces, and I have asked to volunteer at the Pride and Remembrance Run.

[On the subject of Pride, I thought this article about straight ally interaction and involvement with Pride events was very important.]

Many cities have Pride run/walk events to benefit community LGBTQIA groups. It is an easy way for runners to show support visibly through showing up, and financially through race registrations and donation fundraising.

You can support my friend Mandy’s fundraising efforts for Toronto’s Pride and Remembrance Run.

The 2016 Pride and Remembrance Run beneficiaries are:

ACT ’s Positive Youth Outreach Program (PYO )
ACT’s Positive Youth Outreach Program supports young people between the ages 16–29 who are living with or at increased risk for HIV. PYO supports participants in obtaining a happier, healthier life where they are engaged and active in their communities.

The 519’s “Not Alone…” Program
The 519’s “Not Alone – A Collective Response to Sexual Violence Within LGBTQ Communities” program will build trauma-informed services through a series of targeted support interventions for LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence.

Rainbow Railroad

Rainbow Railroad’s ongoing efforts provide financial assistance, information and other resources to enable at risk LGBT individuals to travel to safer countries where they can seek asylum. Proceeds from the year’s Run will directly help five asylum seekers find freedom from persecution.

Pride and Remembrance Foundation
The Pride and Remembrance Foundation is the charitable foundation responsible for the distribution of funds raised by the annual Pride and Remembrance Run. The Foundation’s mandate is to provide financial support to registered charities that benefit the LGBT community. The Foundation accepts applications for financial assistance from registered charities throughout the year.

 

Sending love and strength to you all.

Race Report: Toronto Women’s Half Marathon 2016

I’ve delayed writing this race report because I still feel unsettled. This was my return to racing after a year and a half. When I decided I was ready to run races again, I knew I wanted to do the Toronto Women’s Half. It was my first running race in 2014, and in 2015 I cheered for Steph. The race environment is friendly and positive, it’s well organized, there are free photos and a necklace finisher medal, and the course is mainly on the Don River Trail, which is my go-to running route.

Though my training wasn’t perfect, I felt prepared enough. I had essentially done the distance in training, so I was confident I could finish. My training goal had never been to get faster or run a PB – I wanted to finish and have fun.

When I picked up my race kit on Saturday, it was hot – unlike the weather we’d had in recent weeks. (For reference, it hailed 2 weeks prior.) The organizers sent an advisory email with recommendations for participants, and a warning that they may shorten the distance due to the weather.

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Like I said, very well organized. I liked that they emphasized that it would not be a day for a PB. Even though I knew that was not going to happen for me, it was a good mindset for setting expectations for myself and the race.

In the evening, the nerves hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t worried about anything specific, but rather had this general (and painful) sense of dread in my stomach and chest. I frantically gathered my race gear and post-race comforts to distract myself.

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I wrote out my race plan to stay focused.

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I texted with my sister, who lives in Virginia and was a bit dumfounded as to how temperatures in the low 80s qualified as “too hot.” I think I convinced her with the argument that nobody had been training in this weather, and the body needs time to acclimate.

I slept fairly well, had my normal breakfast, and re-read my race plan. Tim and I hopped in a cab and headed up to the park. Within a few minutes of arriving, I heard the announcement: the race would be shortened to a 12km.

My immediate reaction was frustration. Yes, it was going to be a hot and slow race, but I had trained for 21km, and I wanted to do 21km, damnit. Also, the shortest race I’ve ever done was a 15km. I’ve always been interested in going further rather than faster. I messaged Steph to tell her she didn’t need to come out, but was immediately shut down.

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Mandy sent me a text and proved the race organizers wrong – it would be a day for a PB!

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I tried to stay positive and focus on the fun. I really truly did. I did the goofy crowd warm up to “Uptown Funk.” I went over my race plan as I queued up in my corral. At 8:03am, it was run time!

Kilometers 1 – 2: Great! But I completely failed at my goal of taking it nice and slow at the beginning – 6:30/km turned into 5:49/kms. I rationalized with myself that it was okay to go faster, since it was a 12km. I mean, yes, but… 45 seconds faster? At the start of a hot race? Buddy.

Kilometer 3 – 5: I distinctly remember thinking that I was now so grateful that it would only be 12km. I think I could have run a very slow, unpleasant 21km, but it would have been ugly. My body was radiating heat and I was already dripping sweat. I took my first walk break (I like doing 20/1) and really had to convince myself to get moving again.

From a distance, I saw Steph in the banana costume, cheering people on. Oh how I love you, Steph. She didn’t see me until I was right next to her. I told her it was going okay, and that I was glad it wasn’t a half. She said she’d catch me after the turnaround.

Kilometer 6: Pottery Road turnaround. Was this the first water station? I think so. Things were foggy. For the first time, I took an extra cup of water to dump over my head. Turns out it’s pretty great, and not really cold when you’re a mobile furnace.

Kilometers 7 – 8: My math is getting pretty bad here as I am trying to figure out how to run a 12km. This is where tough feelings come into play. On the one hand, before the race started, the race director kept announcing that this would be a “fun run,” not a race. On the surface, I am on board. My goal is to have fun right? Fun run! But deep down, I’m stuck in the race mentality. So I’m trying to gauge my energy, which is super hard because I haven’t run in heat like this and I am definitely feeling it, and I’ve never done a race with a shorter distance. Initially I told myself to get the first 2km done, then think 10km for the rest, since I know what 10km feels like. Then somewhere along the line I switched to “finish half, then think about turning up the speed.” Okay, so was the halfway point at 6 or 7? And then there’s the other voice, the reasonable voice, telling me to not make a bad decision. Don’t push myself too hard, don’t worry about speeding up. This isn’t my half anymore. (But… but… but… racing!)

Kilometers 9-10: I’m slowing down. I’m feeling like crap. I’m getting random shivers. I take another walk break. Steph was biking along with me, being so encouraging and funny and wonderful. She asked if I wanted her to lay off, and I told her no, but I didn’t have the energy to talk back much. It’s like I was an iPhone that needed to go into airplane mode.

Kilometers 11-12: Who needs to think when your feet just go? I can do 2 kilometers. That’s less than 15 minutes. I can do this. Halfway up the hill out of the ravine, I walked. No shame in that game. From there, it was just imagining the finish line. In addition to water stations, this race boasts a station where they give out chocolate. I couldn’t even. I’m successful at picking my pace back up.

Kilometer 12.0 – 12.3: I was told this would be a 12km. LIES. I see the finish line. Oh, sweet finish line. I see Steph, Tim, Mandy, and Knox. I go as fast as I can, which still feels like I’m running through a wall of sand, or something equally uncomfortable.

I crossed the line, and a volunteer wrung out a wet cloth over the back of my neck. (Sidebar: Huge shout out to the volunteers. I tried to thank them all.) I’m feeling out of it as I walk over to meet everyone. The first thing I said to Tim was, “SHADE.” My brain was screaming at me to get out of the sun. My back was a gross sweaty mess from my hydration pack. I was getting the shivers again, and generally feeling inhuman. Tim had a nice cold Swell bottle of water. Delicious. I took off my shoes and slipped into flip flops (delicious), plopped down in the grass, and felt so grateful for my friends’ support, and became the heart eyes emoji looking at Knox.

 

Once I got home, it didn’t take long for the weird vibes and doubt to creep in. I had been telling Tim that I wanted a post-race pizza celebration. Did I even deserve it? I only ran 12k, not a half. Did I actually try my best? I certainly felt gassed, but how can you know? My goal was to have fun, but I don’t think I achieved that. I had also had an emotional build-up to running my first race after a year of injury, and the reality didn’t match up with my vision at all. And now it was over. I wanted to feel happy and grateful, and instead I felt frustrated and self-conscious. Did I do all of the things in my control to make it the best possible experience?

I’m doing a 10km race in a couple weeks with some girlfriends as a fun race. I don’t have a lot of emotional investment in it, so maybe this is another opportunity to try doing a race for fun. (You’d think I wouldn’t need to practice doing something for fun, but it seems like I do!) After the 10km, I have no concrete race plans until the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October. I think a lot of what I’m still feeling is a transition period into the start of marathon training, which will be the next 4+ months. It is exciting, but also daunting. I have a loose training plan worked out, but I still want to do some thinking about my goals for training and the race.

I’m feeling better after writing this. I’m reminded that no matter what happens on race day, it doesn’t take away from all the training you put in. It’s difficult to not have a racing mentality in a race, and that’s something I want to work on. And I know I need to be kinder to myself. I worked hard in tough conditions that were out of my control. I don’t know if I gave it everything I possibly had, but I know I was pretty close to 100%. That’s totally something worth celebrating.

Distance: 12.3km – Official Time: 01:15:19.7 – Average pace: 6:07/km

A week of many activities: bootcamp, kayaking, and more!

I’ve had a pretty busy week in terms of physical activity, so here is a quick recap to spare you many many blog posts!

Monday: To round off the May Kilometer Challenge, my coworker invited several of us at work to an outdoor bootcamp! She arranged with the instructor to have us visit the class for free, which was really amazing. The class is called “Hill Killers Outdoor Bootcamp” and boy, did it live up to its name.

When we arrived, we just had to fill out a little waiver basically saying a doctor hadn’t told us we would die when doing exercise. Then we got down to it! I should mention that I rode my bike from Waterloo to Kitchener, where the class was (the park used to be a garbage dump!). It was only 8km away and I had to get some kilometers in! In retrospect, it might have been a better idea to start with fresh legs…

To start, we did a “warm up”, which consisted of: 50 jumping jacks, ladder agility, 10 push ups, more ladder agility, 10 more push ups, more ladder agility, 10 more push ups, kettlebell walking lunges for about 15m, pull-ups on the soccer posts, “prisoner crossovers” (I think that’s what they are called! Hands behind head, running sideways while crossing your feet over top of each other) to the next soccer posts, more pull ups, more prisoner crossovers…then repeat ALL OF THAT in reverse. Yikes.

I am not so great with coordination, and had never really done ladder agility drills or prisoner crossovers, so I needed explicit directions on what to do, which slowed me right down. I was one of the last to finish. The instructor had stressed at the start that we are not competing with anyone else, but I still felt a bit stressed to be one of the last ones done the warm up. Plus, it completely kicked my butt, as there was no rest between any of the sets.

The rest of the workout involved hill repeats on this GIANT, steep hill (I didn’t take a photo – oops! – but the following is from the Hill Killers Facebook page):

The hills were interspersed with more strength work, mostly on lower body and core. I was absolutely toasted at the end. Then I realized I still needed to drag my butt back home on my bike. Eeek.

So was it a great workout? Definitely. Would I do it again? I’m not sure. To be honest, I’m not convinced the bootcamp structure is right for me. I like more rest in between sets in my strength workouts, and I’m not convinced I can turn off the slight competitive streak in me (for better or for worse). Still, it was fun to try it out, especially with some friends.

Tuesday: I got out for my first real outdoor bike ride in Waterloo. I mapped out a 21km route that took me by a conservation area and through some “country roads” (compared to Toronto anyways). It was enjoyable, but it is definitely strange to be cycling in a city where motorists fully expect most cyclists to be on the sidewalk. The cycling infrastructure here, where it exists, is very hit and miss. I prefer to stick to the roads, but many of them are quite potholed here, and I feel a bit stressed about taking my space when I know motorists aren’t used to bikes on the road. Still, I know the best thing is to act predictably, signal my intentions, and keep my attention on my surroundings. I’ll have to do a bit of sleuthing to find some nice smooth routes.

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Country roads on my bike ride

Wednesday: A leisurely 5k run in honour of Global Running Day!

Thursday: On Thursday morning, Kevin and I headed up to Silent Lake Provincial Park for an extra-long weekend of camping with his parents. When we got there, one of the first things we did after setting up camp was take his parents’ kayaks out for a spin! I’ve been in a kayak a couple of times before, but it’s been a looong time. It was a lot of fun, and harder work than I was expecting. I felt a lot of it in my forearm, which I suspect means I was doing it wrong. Kevin’s dad mentioned a “push/pull” aspect to the paddling stroke, and I think I was more of a “pull/pull” kind of paddler. Still, neither of us tipped over, and we got up close and personal with a very lovely loon.

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That’s a paddlin’!

Friday: Kevin and I ran the Bonnie’s Pond trail, a 3km loop, plus 2km through the campground to get there. The trail was fun but somewhat poorly marked. We lost the blazons a couple of times, oops. Then we ended the run with a jump in the lake.

Saturday: To be honest, this one actually might get its own blog post. We did the 15km trail around Silent Lake and it was tough. It’s probably the most technical trail I’ve run on. Plus the mosquitoes were relentless. I was in a pretty rough place by the end of this. We also ended it with a swim in the lake. Later on in the day we went for another peaceful kayak at the golden hour.

Sunday: It was raining in the morning, so we just packed up camp and headed back to the city. However, the rain cleared up, and our early departure meant I was back in time to play soccer with my favourite Team Nice Friends. Unfortunately, one of our awesome teammates went down with a knee injury, and that took the wind out of our sails a bit. Wishing you a speedy recovery, Laura!

I enjoyed being so active all week, but it was also a lot! So today has been deemed a well-deserved rest day. 🙂

 

Global Running Day 2016

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Happy Global Running Day! Per the organization’s website: Global Running Day is a day for people around the world to celebrate the joys of running. Participation is easy—just pledge to take part in some type of running activity on June 1, 2016. It can be a solo lap around the block, a long run with friends, or even a game of tag with your kids. The key is to share your passion for the sport and inspire others to get moving.

To celebrate the day, we each made sure to get out for a run today (despite both having some tired legs!). Megan did a slow, easy 8km in the morning. Steph headed out on her lunch break for a leisurely 5k.

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In honour of Global Running Day, Steph contributed this word of the day (which she absolutely does not snicker at every time she reads it) to her co-workers’ office whiteboard.

In the spirit of sharing our passion for the sport, here are some reasons why we love running!

Megan

  1. It has strengthened friendships and given me kinship with strangers. I love waves, smiles, and nods shared by runners. It’s a great way to practice loving kindness.

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    Early days of running with Kevin and Steph!

  2. It gets me outdoors and allows me to explore and experience the world in a special way. I have so much fun as a run tourist.

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    Exploring the Trans Canada Trail.

  3. LEG MUSCLES. I love building strength in my quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
  4. I am able to set and achieve goals. I have proven my inner critical voice wrong.

    Like that one time I ran a MARATHON.

    Like that one time I ran a MARATHON.

  5. I am able to learn from setbacks, unexpected changes, and failure to achieve goals.
  6. It deepens my understanding of my body and encourages me to listen to it.
  7. ENDORPHINS. Feeling dopeyhappyloveytired.

    Giddy after running a sub-2 hour half.

    Giddy after running a sub-2 hour half.

  8. Races give me a thrill. Anticipation. Adrenaline. The support, the cheers. And what I’m about to say is super cheesy, but I call it “the triumph of the human spirit.” Finish line joy makes me weepy just thinking about it.
  9. It’s a source of gratitude. Running is a privilege. Bodies are amazing.
  10. It is fun. I do this for fun!

    From my run this morning, surrounded by wildflowers.

    From my run this morning, surrounded by wildflowers.

Steph

  1. It feels good.
    Running makes me feel good. This wasn’t always the case; when I was younger, I hated running. It was overwhelming: my legs would burn, my lungs felt like they would explode, I could taste blood in my mouth. But a few years ago, after easing into running with Couch to 5k, I realized that I could run and it didn’t have to feel like death. All I needed was some training!I like the way I feel during a run: free and alive! I like the way I often feel after a run: full of endorphins and a happy kind of tired and satisfied. I also like the way running makes me feel about myself: empowered and capable and strong.

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    Feeling good during a race!

  2. Self-improvement.
    I’m a fan of setting goals. I like the sense of accomplishment that comes when I achieve them. Setting goals (race goals, cumulative distance goals, etc.) is a big motivator for me. The flip-side to this, of course, is that I don’t like it when those goals are not achieved. This is a bit of a struggle (and I’m finding the solution is that sometimes goals don’t have to be number-oriented!), but it’s still one of the things I love about running.
  3. It gets me outside.
    There are few things as nice as a good run on a sunny day with a breeze! Running gets me outside and has been a great way for me to explore different neighbourhoods in my cities and while traveling.

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    My run today took me through this lovely little cemetery.

     

  4. It’s a great way to socialize.
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    Shot by Mandy. From our very first run and brunch!

    For many people, running is a very personal and individual activity. It’s definitely like that sometimes for me as well, but I also find running to be a great way to socialize. Megan, Mandy and I are fond of “run and brunch”, where we would do a run together on a Saturday or Sunday morning and rotate through having brunch at each other’s houses. It’s such a great way to catch up and hang out while getting some physical activity in. Also, running can be pretty gross, and I find talking about things like butt chafing really brings people closer together.More recently, since I’ve been working in a different city during the weekdays, I have found running with some of the groups around here a nice way to meet some new people and familiarize myself with some good routes.

  5. The swag.
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    My race bling occupies the right half of the hooks. (The left half is Kevin’s race bling.)

    Maybe it’s because I wasn’t super athletic when I was younger, but I get such a kick out of all the race medals I’ve received over the past five years or so. They’re all hanging on a coat rack that hangs from my bedroom door and it makes a tremendously satisfying clangle when I open and close the door. Juvenile? Maybe, but I still love it.

 

Did you go for a run on Global Running Day? What are some of the reasons you love to run?