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:

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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?

May Kilometer Challenge

I am fortunate to work at an organization that places an emphasis on employee health and wellness. It’s truly built right into the core of the institute, which has a gym, squash court, change rooms, and showers in the actual building. Throughout the year, staff are encouraged to participate in various health and wellness challenges. In January we set goals for minutes of physical activity, and the team with members that met their personal goals and scored the highest average minutes per member was awarded a lunch at the bistro.

This month, we’ve been participating in a kilometer challenge. Participants sent in their personal goals for number of kilometers they hoped to walk, run, bike, or swim in the month of May, and then teams of roughly equal total goals were made based on those numbers.

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I started the month off by cycling around the city supporting my friend Casey as she ran her first marathon!

The one slightly odd thing about the challenge is that all kilometers count equally, no matter how they are traveled: swimming a kilometer counts just the same as cycling a kilometer. Of course, the former would take me at least half an hour, and the latter would take me around 2 and a half minutes, so there’s a bit of an advantage for the cyclists out there! As it turns out, one of the staff members does a lot of cycling, and he is his own one-person team. In 2015, he apparently covered 1300 kilometers in the month!

I decided to set my personal goal somewhat “low” in case I had a rough month for whatever reason. I really don’t like to miss out on goals I set for myself! I decided 6.4km/day was fair considering I usually walk around a kilometer and a half to and from work each day. An extra 5km/day seemed very doable, especially because I knew there would be some days when I would be running upwards of 15km.

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The team standings as of Week 4

I can have a bit of a competitive streak in me at times, and participating in this challenge this month has pushed me to walk, run, or bike a little bit more than I otherwise would have. There were evenings in early May, when it wasn’t very nice out yet, that I would hop on my bike trainer and watch some TV instead of watching TV at my desk. As the weather got nicer, I was inspired to change my trainer tire over (there’s a blog post about that coming soon!) so that I could take my bike outside and explore the city. Any excuse to get to and from a destination using my own two legs was motivation for me!

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My kilometer tracking spreadsheet

And how have I done with respect to my goal? Well, I reached the 200km mark about halfway through the challenge! Assuming my bike ride tonight goes as planned, my total will be 401 kilometers for the month. (And yes – I planned my bike ride distance so as to double my original goal.) Regardless of whether my team “wins” (it doesn’t look like we will, as we’re currently in third, and the one-man team has about 200kms on us!), it was a great challenge, lots of fun, and for me, a good motivator to get out and move!

 

 

Keeping the Pace

I run fairly regularly with a group called RunTOBeer. The name is fairly self explanatory – we run to beer! This is their description on facebook: “#RunTOBeer is an excuse to get together for a light workout, followed by a recovery drink or two at one of our city’s finest craft beer establishments! All levels of runners are welcome!” The group runs often end at a bar or event and the awesome organizers Dan and Tej arrange for the first pour on the house!

Recently in addition to 5km and 10km distances, the group has added 15km runs into the mix. However, with a range of runners at different speeds, the group can get quite stretched out over 15km, especially with stoplights thrown into the mix! One of the awesome things about RunTOBeer is the giant tunnel of high fives at the end: as people finish their run, they line up and high five all the runners coming in after them. It’s great fun, but it also means that finishing together is a bit more of a priority than starting together.

I’m a big fan of the 15km distance, and this weekend I volunteered to lead the “back of the pack” 15km group at a 6:30-6:45 min/km pace, ending at the Brewer’s Backyard at the Evergreen Brickworks. This meant starting a bit earlier than the other runners, since they would catch up to us eventually (the front of the RunTOBeer pack can be quite speedy with sub-5:00 min/km pacing!).

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Some RunTOBeer crew. Steph is 2nd from left. Organizer Dan is beside her in the red cap.

In the end most of the 15km runners started off together at about the same pacing. When we got to the 5km mark to meet the runners who were joining up for the 10km distance, my pace group picked up a few more runners and we started off early again. We had a good group going together, and over the run I got to chat with a range of people including some who were doing their longest distances ever (10km and 15km) as well as someone who has run incredible 80+ mile ultramarathons.  It was great fun.

I felt a bit bad because my watch kept jumping around with the pace. Sometimes it would read 9:00 min/km and sometimes it would read 3:50 min/km! It was difficult for me to tell what our pace actually was, and there were a few times where I definitely let the adrenaline get to me and pushed a bit faster than I should have. We ran into plenty of stoplights, though, so I think it evened out.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the pacing was how it made me feel as a runner. Because I felt responsible for getting everyone where they were going, and approximately in the time I said we would get there, I tried hard to keep myself consistent (even if I didn’t always succeed – definitely something I aim to improve upon in future runs). This meant, too, that I would truck on up hills, even when I might otherwise have stopped to walk. It was a nice way to push myself a little bit! I needed to keep things strong for the whole run – and so I ended up feeling strong the whole run.

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All the runners who made it to the Brewers Backyard!

And maybe, one day, I might look into pacing a race (very slowly)!

How I Accidentally Ran My Happiest Race

 

The longest I had run since my last marathon in October was 18km. So I knew, on Saturday, that the 25km I had signed up for was probably not going to happen. If it was sunny, I might not have switched to the 15km option (in other words, I might have been not-so-wise). However, a chilly wet day sealed the deal in favour of the smarter choice.

The race was the Seaton Soaker. It’s a trail race that has a slightly surreal overtone, for me, as it starts and finishes at my old high school. To say I wasn’t a runner back then would be an understatement: I loathed running. And yet, for the third year in a row now, I’ve come here to run around in the trails behind the school. A lot can change in 10+ years!

In any case, to set the stage, here is a rundown of race morning: Kevin and I woke at 6am with the intention of being on the road by 6:45. Kevin, who had been training more purposefully for the 25km, had an 8am start for his race, and we would have to do kit pickup before that. As readers will quickly learn, I am not particularly a morning person, and it will come as no surprise to those who know me that we were a little late in getting out (particularly as I forgot both my coffee and my water bottle and had to run back to the apartment twice to retrieve them). On the drive there, Kevin realized he had forgotten his GPS watch…oops!

When I made the decision to switch to the 15km distance, I briefly thought about trying to beat my previous time on the 15km course from 2014, but I realized that it was unlikely to happen that day. Not only was there was the rain and mud, I was also battling a pretty raging head cold. So, giving up on any particular time goal, I offered Kevin my GPS watch.

When we arrived, I was pleased to discover that switching distances was straightforward. We picked up our kits and Kevin hurried out to make his start. The 15km didn’t start until 8:30, so I had some time to hit the bathroom and have a wardrobe crisis. What do you wear when it’s 8C and raining and you’ll be running for around two hours? I was in shorts and a tee, but looking around at all the other runners in their tights and shells and long sleeves had me second-guessing. I did what I always do in these situations, and texted my dear friend Mandy, who was also signed up for the 15km. After texting not only about what to wear, but also informing her of how many poops I had taken that morning (hey! it’s important!), I made my way to the starting line.

I decided I would try to track the race with RunKeeper on my phone, as I’m not sure I’ve ever run a race that I didn’t track with GPS. But when I opened the app, it informed me that I was actually down by the waterfront… in Whitby… Well, there went that idea. I would truly be running this one tech-free.

A couple of minutes before the start, I saw Mandy, and ran over to give her a hug. Seaton is a special race for Mandy as well — it was her first ultramarathon! Now, not only is Mandy a badass ultra runner, but she recently did another pretty incredible thing and grew a little human inside of her, who she brought into the world six months ago. Since then she’s been getting out with the jogging stroller, and her goal was to run about half of the race and hike the rest when she needed to.

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Mandy and I are frequent run partners. We even did 30km of my first marathon together! She’s been a constant presence as I’ve progressed in my running, but this was the first race that we had started together in a fair while. So when the race began, we just naturally fell into step, chatting as the pack set out.

The initial 2-3km of the course goes down a field, out by the side of a road, and then onto a narrow section of single track made narrower by the presence of a beaver dam this year.  The going was fairly slow to start because of the lack of passing room and the muddy footing.  That was fine by both of us, since I’d thrown my time goals out and Mandy just wanted to run as much as she was able. Pace wasn’t an issue. Still, when we got to one of the first hills, the track widened and we began passing people as we hiked up.

From then on it was mostly just the two of us, occasionally being passed, or encountering lead runners coming back in the other direction, but mostly remarkably quiet considering the number of participants out in the trails. We stopped for water at the aid stations and we walked/hiked up the larger hills. But mostly we just ran.

We ran and we talked and we marvelled at how much easier it all felt when we were running side by side. In no time we were at the halfway mark. I felt good. I checked in with  Mandy – she felt good, too. We decided to keep going on together, as long as we felt good!

On the way back, we turned a corner, and Mandy said, “I see flashes!” Considering the rain that had been off and on throughout the race, my immediate thought was, “lightning?” “No,” she said. “A photographer!” We have photos from the marathon that we ran together, looking like total goofballs. They’re some of both of our favourite race photos, because we just look like we’re having the best time, and we were. So we struck a couple of poses as we ran by!

And then, just like that, it was time for the river crossing. The water was lower than I expected, and although it was cold, it was fun! After the crossing, the finish is only about 2km away. We realized we were going to run the whole thing together, and I got a huge burst of tingly endorphins. I was bursting with happiness and pride for Mandy; she hadn’t expected to run the whole thing, yet here she was, doing just that, like a boss. And here I was, happy and thankful that this is a thing that I get to do, that this is a thing that my body can do, even if I’d filled an entire pocket pack of Kleenex with my snot (sorry if that sounds gross, but imagine how much grosser it felt!).

The 2km to the finish breezed by, although we were both getting a bit tired (I turned my foot on a root, and Mandy took a little tumble, but we’re both OK!). We crested the last hill before the field where the finish line stood. Together, we crossed the finish line smiling. Despite having run many races together, this was the first time that we crossed at the same time. Our amazing friend Emily was there to capture some truly fantastic photos of us (thanks, Emily!).

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Kevin also had a remarkable race – he finished the 25km course in a blistering 2:08, shaving 20 minutes off his time from last year and placing 9th in his age group (if he’d run with that time last year, he’d have placed 2nd!). I guess he really did need that watch more than me! Hah!

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And that’s it! Afterwards, Mandy told me that we ran a negative split – she had checked the time at the halfway point. I think that might have been another first for both of us!

I’m grateful to have friends like Mandy to run with. I’m proud of her for exceeding her expectations. She has never stopped being an inspiration to me, not even for a second. I’m also grateful to be able to go out and run for a couple hours on trails. And I’m surprised to find myself grateful to have run without my watch or RunKeeper, but completely letting go of the compulsion to track allowed me to revel in the pure joy of it all.

 

Introduction

Hi! This is sweatyandhungry. We’re also sweaty and hungry. Sometimes we’re clean and full, but it’s a rare occasion.

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This blog is a space for us to explore our sweaty and hungry thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Feel free to check out our About page to learn more about why we’re blogging and who we are. We look forward to getting to know you, too! Leave us comments and love! We’re pretty fond of love.