Runner Interview – Valerie Gonzales

Valerie Gonzales running in an Ironman Canada race along the shore of Skaha Lake, BC

Valerie Gonzales running in an Ironman Canada race along the shore of Skaha Lake, BC

You have to admire a runner who wins every race in the 2016 Vancouver Island Race Series that she entered! I’ve been impressed with Valerie each time I saw her at a series race and up on the podium at the end of the race, but especially when the announcer mentions that she broke the course record! And she is getting faster. She reports that she has been participating in the Island series for 10 years and this year some of her times were PBs. Maybe 70 is the new 50?

You also have to be in awe of someone who still participates in triathlons in her 70’s. Plus these are of the IRONMAN variety and that Valerie has done 21 of them – all over the world – since turning 57! Way to make me feel both inadequate and totally impressed at the same time! But it just goes to show that if you work hard enough at a sport, no matter what age you start, you can do it well and even excel!

I love Valerie’s realism. She runs to eat chocolate, not to lose weight. She loves sweets and desserts and does not plan to give them up! One of the best things about the Island Race series, she says, is that they serve food after the race! Running and eating are two of her favorite activities. Oh how I can relate! Reward yourself, I say!

She likes running outdoors, in any weather and doesn’t mind “getting lost” just to see where it takes her. She belongs to two clubs for both the coaching and the camaraderie: Mercury Rising in Victoria, and is coached for her Ironman races by Melissa Spooner from Endurance Health and Fitness, who was originally in Victoria, but now operates out of Vernon. Speaking of clubs, she suggests to aspiring runners start slow and to join a clinic or a club with trained leaders to reduce chances of injury and to build strength and ability. Excellent advice from someone who knows!

Enjoy this interview from a completely awesome, inspiring and badass runner/ironwoman and share it with others you’d like to inspire, plus leave a comment below if you’d like to share some of your experiences.

I love–and am humbled–by the fact that it is possible to keep getting better as I get older.

What is your running history?
I ran once in high school as part of a school-based physical ability assessment. I was the 2nd fastest female runner for my age and passed out 30 min later. My athletic ability was well-known to be hopelessly dismal so passing out was not necessarily a surprise to anyone. That single run began and ended my athletic career. At age 50, I decided to try triathlons and joined a “learn to run” clinic at a recreation centre; I also joined a Masters swim group and resurrected my 20 year-old bicycle. Although I am still working on the “learning the swim” part, I have come to love running.

I compete and I love the challenge of competing–regardless of my standing at the end of the race–because, first and foremost, I compete against myself.

Why do you run?
I compete and I love the challenge of competing–regardless of my standing at the end of the race–because, first and foremost, I compete against myself. I do not run on a treadmill, only outdoors, and in any type of weather because I love being out there, facing the elements, being part of the world around me, trying new routes and “getting lost” just to see where it takes me. Secondary benefits have included stress reduction, mental clarity, and much joy. Perhaps these experiences are fuelled by endorphins, and, if so, that is okay by me. I do not run to lose weight but rather so I can justify eating the things I like–such as chocolate!! I do not think I am particularly addicted to running because I only run 3x a week.

For aspiring runners: Start slow, run with a clinic or group with trained leaders to reduce chances of injury and to build strength and ability. Understand “why” you are running–internalize it and draw on it when the running gets tough, or a day is not going well and you do not want to get out the door. Identify what you love about running–some like the companionship–or competitiveness– of running with a group while others prefer to run on their own. Find your joy and go with it.

The last season of the Island Race Series… I… set 7 course records in 7 races, with 4 of my times being PBs over the 10 yrs I have run the series.

What was your last best/favorite race?
I do not have a favourite race because I love every race I have the privilege to run. Each race is special or challenging in unique ways. I have very fond memories of setting a PB at the 2010 Boston Marathon but sharing that weekend with my daughter was also a factor in why the race was so memorable. This last season of the Island Race Series will also be very special to me. I aged up to the 70-74 division, and set 7 course records in 7 races, with 4 of my times being PBs over the 10 yrs I have run the series. I love–and am humbled by–the fact that it is possible to keep getting better as I get older. I know that other women will come along and break every one of those records–and that excites me as well because it demonstrates that more older women are racing, and racing well, and still loving it.

My goals are to keep training and competing for as long as I can.

What is your next race?
My next race is an Ironman in southern Brazil on May 29th*. So, after swimming 4km, cycling 180km, I will run a marathon of 42.2km, hopefully completing the race under 14 hrs. My long time goals are to keep training and competing for as long as I can. Although I have medical challenges that will eventually end my athletic life, my plan is to keep swimming, biking and running until I cannot do so anymore.

What type of training do you do?
Given that I run only 3x times a week, I do not rack up many kms on a weekly basis. Distance covered increases as I prepare for each Ironman. Currently, a sample week might include an easy 30 min run on Monday, a 60-70 min interval run on Wed, a 20-30min transition run after my 2 bike rides, and a long run (2+ hrs on Sunday, typically right after a swim). I run anytime of the day but tend to run from late mornings to early evenings, rarely early in the morning. I do not trail run; I have a tendency to trip and break bones. The klutz I was as a kid has not changed over time!!

What kind of food philosophy do you follow?
I eat mostly healthy foods. I do not drink alcohol and I have never smoked. These are personal choices totally unrelated to my training or racing. I have a love of sweets and desserts and do not plan on giving them up. 🙂 I was a vegetarian for many years but when I started doing ironman races at 57, I could not stay healthy enough to sustain that option. I eat anything and everything but rarely fried or greasy food, and more poultry and fish than beef or lamb. Before a race, I have a good breakfast 2-3 hrs earlier and then have an energy gel shortly before the start of the race. Black coffee and water are also staples of my diet.

I have two people who continue to inspire me to carry on: my daughter and my coach.

Do you have a running hero/ role model?
There are no runners in my family although my brother was a surfer from early adolescence until his death from pancreatic cancer at age 49. I have no running heroes or role models but I have two people who continue to inspire me to carry on: my daughter and my coach.

Most of my holidays take place as part of racing internationally so, yes, I run when I am on holiday!

How do you relax, when you are not running?
I am an avid reader, mostly high-quality fiction and biographies. I garden whenever I can and am re-landscaping my garden at the moments and expanding my vegetable and berry garden. I am a dedicated Sudoku fan and start my day with coffee, porridge with yoghurt and fruit, the newspaper and a Sudoku. I love experimenting with new recipes. I do not blog, do facebook, twitter, etc. simply because I have no time in my day to do so! Most of my holidays take place as part of racing internationally so, yes, I run when I am on holiday!

Have you had any running setbacks?
Yep, there has been some stuff that set me back a bit (broken leg during a run, 2nd degree burns on the way to a race in Australia, a concussion from a bike crash) but I just deal with what I can and get philosophical about the stuff I can not prevent or make go away. Broken legs mend, burns heal even when it meant spending the 3 weeks on my back prior to an Ironman race in Cairns, Australia. Somehow I managed to complete that race, win my age-group and qualify for the world championship in Hawaii that year.

Her [coach’s] mantra–“less is more” is so incredibly right-on; her “suck-it-up, buttercup” is equally effective.

Do you have a coach?
Yes, when I decided to move from Olympic distance to ironman racing (2002) I hired a coach because I was then in my mid-fifties and I did not want to be responsible for devising my own training program. I did not know how endurance racing would impact my aging body. Hiring Melissa Spooner (3x IM champion) was the best decision I ever made–and she continues to coach me today. As noted below, she tailors my workouts to my still-crazy lifestyle, and my inevitably aging body. She has gotten me through every race I have ever entered and with admirable outcomes. I bow to her brilliance but I also embrace her life philosophy. Her mantra–“less is more” is so incredibly right-on; her “suck-it-up, buttercup” is equally effective. When I first hired Mel, she lived in Victoria. Now that she has moved away (now lives in Vernon) we communicate primarily by email, occasionally by phone, she sees me when she visits Victoria, and she sometimes comes to my races. After 14 yrs, she knows me well enough– sometimes better than I know myself.

What is your career/job?
When I started triathlon in my early 50s, I was working 80hrs a week as a university professor. My daughter was on her own by then and my family was just me. Still I do not know how I managed to train for triathlons. Once I starting doing ironman races, I hired a coach and just did what she told me to do. She was phenomenal in being able to build my training program around my crazy work schedule. With her guidance, I have completed 21 ironman races. She is also the one who encouraged me to do the Island Race Series. I resisted at first–until I discovered that they feed you at these races!!! Now I am hooked on them–I can run and eat– two of my favourite activities.

Do you listen to music when you run?
During training I often run with music–and love doing so but can run without music just as well. I have lots of favourite music but my playlist is not familiar to most people–I am a child of the 60s and folk music, world music, Adele, and a real mix of music from my daughter’s era make up my playlist.

Do you have anything else to add that you were not asked?
Do what you love, love what you do, embrace challenges as new goals to meet, understand the “why” for what you do.

*Unfortunately Valerie will not be competing in the Ironman race in southern Brazil this weekend! A month ago she was hit while on a training ride by a distracted cyclist who suddenly turned left right in front of her. Leaving her no time to stop to avoid a collision, the impact catapulted her out of her clip-in bike pedals, over her handlebars, and over her bike. She sustained a concussion that has not resolved, however, she still travelled to this destination and is enjoying herself despite not completing. Curse you distracted cyclists and drivers! I wish you a full and healthy recovery, Valerie.

I will be watching for Valerie in next year’s Island series and perhaps in other local races throughout the rest of the year. One last thought that Valerie left me with was that she loves the challenge of the endurance distance, which she says has been, on so many levels, a metaphor for her life. And the joy she has the privilege to experience is so life-affirming! A lovely note to end on and it should be so for everyone!

Posted in Cycling, Ironman, Life lessons, Runner Interview, Running, Swimming, Triathlon Tagged with: , , ,

Runner Interview – Edith Price

Edith Price levitates over the finish line of the 2016 Cedar 12K in first place in her age division (photo by West Coast Endurance)

Edith Price levitates over the finish line of the 2016 Cedar 12K in first place in her age division (photo by West Coast Endurance)

Being active is in my opinion the key to longevity and good health.

A New Brunswicker has taken the Vancouver Island Race Series by storm. Edith Price recently moved to Victoria to be closer to her daughter and to enjoy the warmer winters. She ran 6 of the 7 races in the 2016 Race Series and placed first in each race in her age division of 65-69, with a new course record in the Bazan Bay 5K.

As any keen runner would, Edith found a common connection with a local running club. It wasn’t long after moving to Victoria that she became a member of the Victoria Prairie Inn Harriers, who must be thrilled to have such a speedster on board – especially in the racing department. In addition, she wrote that the social aspect of running very much appeals to her and that the runners she met from Victoria and Salt Spring Island made her feel immediately welcome and part of the community.

Edith is a pretty dedicated runner, trying to go for a run at least 4 times per week. As we were doing the back and forth on this interview, there was one day that she was stuck in Halifax in the middle of a snow/ice storm, so there was no running that day. I sensed frustration. I expect she will not experience the same situation in future west coast winters.

We share a common love of the balance between yoga and running; or as Edith puts it, “Yoga… is the perfect antidote for running, it stretches and flexes muscles and complements the competitive mindset of racing”. I could not have said it better. In her efforts to try to stay injury free, which becomes all so critical as we get up there in age, she also bikes, golfs, walks, and respects rest days, between runs.

Keep on reading to find out more about this east coast transplant.

What is your running history?
I grew up in a small rural community in New Brunswick, it was a time when organized sport was rare however, in my 8th grade an enlightened principal had a track prepared and began a competitive process that involved other school districts. My first love however, was racquet sports such as badminton, squash and tennis. Running came back to me after my daughter was born (she’s 28) and it was a convenient way of staying fit, I could just open the door and run. Serious running began when I moved to Fredericton and met a group of women who were keen to train and compete in road races in the Maritimes. A friend convinced me to train for a marathon in Dublin in 2000. I loved the experience but found that marathon training was all consuming so I opted for the more manageable but no less challenging half marathon and have run several in the New England States and throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Running is multifaceted for me; it is not just about fitness, it has social and psychological components.

Why do you run?
I ran initially as it was a convenient and easy way to stay fit given that I worked full time and had a family. Going to classes or arranging court time for racquet sports became cumbersome. But as every runner knows the miles start to build up and I became addicted to pushing yourself just a bit further and a little bit harder. Running is multifaceted for me; it is not just about fitness, it has social and psychological components. When I feel stressed or overwhelmed by some impending decision I find a run will often bring clarity to my thinking. When I talk to people who want to start running I always recommend that they invest in good footwear to avoid any discomfort or injuries also I suggest that they start out slowly and do not worry about what someone else is doing. The important thing is to have fun and keep those legs moving forward.

What was your last best/favorite race?

I moved to Victoria in December 2015 and immediately registered for the first race in the Vancouver Island Series, winning in my age category motivated me to register for more. My last best race was the 5K at Bazan Bay, I broke a course record in my age group although, running a 5K is not my favourite distance, it is so intense and one has to give one’s all from the very start. I am not a particularly good strategist when I race and need more work on pacing and having an overall plan before the gun goes off.

I try to get out for a run at least 4 times per week.

What is your next race?
I just registered for the Oak Bay Half Marathon. When I came to Victoria my real estate agent suggested that I join the Prairie Inn Harriers Thursday Morning Gang. They convinced me to join them for Monday morning track work which was a first for me and something that I believe has made a difference to my outcomes. My plan for Oak Bay is to get some good distance runs in and work some hills and stay with the speed work on the track. I have been travelling from coast to coast finalizing my move so the plan has been compromised but I try to get out for a run at least 4 times per week.

What type of training do you do?
On average I try to get 25-30 miles (about 40-50K) in a week but as I said that has been compromised with travelling. I don’t feel that I need to do more. At my age it is best to let the joints and knees have some time to recoup and rest. I try for some track work or interval running; one long run and one race pace short run per week but I wouldn’t say that I am totally disciplined. I do what I can and hope to stay healthy, fit and uninjured. Most summers I try to get out and golf a few rounds per week. Yoga for me is the perfect antidote for running, it stretches and flexes muscles and complements the competitive mindset of racing.

What kind of food philosophy do you follow?
I do not have a particular food philosophy. I enjoy cooking and preparing meals from healthy, natural ingredients. I don’t like processed meats or overly salted and fatty foods so I think that I am just naturally drawn to fruit and vegetables. I do not restrict my diet apart from the preferences of my palate and love a glass of wine at the end of the day so I would say that I have a fairly relaxed approach to nutrition. Before a race, depending on the distance, I typically have a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana and a cup of coffee.

Do you have a running hero/ role model?
My running hero is a women I met running in NB, Eunice Phillips, she ran 31 marathons in 15 years, broke records in NB and represented the province internationally. She is a Hall of Famer but more than that she is a good friend who encouraged me as well as many others to run, to have fun and try their best. Injury took her off the marathon circuit but she still runs half marathons and wins. She has fought back from injuries and a cancer diagnosis and is still the most enthusiastic runner I know. She knows how to motivate and give support always with a smile and positive words. I would be happy if I could follow her example and pass on that love of running with its many social, emotional and physical benefits.

…it is important to have a variety of interests and it gives me something to think about on those long solo runs.

How do you relax, when you are not running?
When I am not running or golfing or going to yoga classes I like nothing more than spending time with a good book or taking pen in hand and getting my thoughts on paper. I have always written poetry and recently, began a course of study to try and improve that form of creative expression. I certainly feel that it is important to have a variety of interests and it gives me something to think about on those long solo runs.

I think that it is important to make what I call age related concessions.

Have you had any running setbacks?
Like every runner, especially those who have been running as long as I have, there have been a litany of injuries. Some minor setbacks; some more long term. Two years ago I developed a bone spur on my left heel and could not run for 8 months. I could go to Spin Classes but running and walking were limited to essential daily routines. It is so much more difficult to recover as you get older so I focus now on staying injury free by listening intensely to my body, slowing down when I have to and naturally, cross training on a bike or going to yoga classes. I think that it is important to make what I call age related concessions.

Do you have a coach?
I do not have a coach although, since I moved to Victoria I do meet up with a group on Monday morning and they have a volunteer coach who puts everyone through the paces. I find that there are good online training programs and with the support of friends who run I keep up a routine that involves the essential elements of training.

What is your career/job?
I am retired now so I have the time to run and train as I wish. I have not convinced any of my immediate family members to become runners; one prefers golfing and the other is a adamant sports climber and that is fine with me. Being active is in my opinion the key to longevity and good health.

Do you listen to music when you run?
I rarely listen to music when I run preferring the early morning sounds of a city awakening however, occasionally when I have a long run and I am alone I do enjoy a mixed tape my daughter made for me with tunes ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Vivaldi, it all makes for a welcome distraction when the body is balking at the endurance element of training.

Both my sister and I credit the ability to complete such challenges to our years of running and staying fit.

Do you have anything else to add that you were not asked?
Three years ago my sister and I walked the Coast to Coast Path in northern England, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, through the Lake District and across the Yorkshire Moors; 192 miles in 12 days. Both my sister and I credit the ability to complete such challenges to our years of running and staying fit. This year we are headed to Ireland to celebrate her 70th birthday by walking the Wicklow Way from Dublin, just one of the benefits of staying fit as you age.

Welcome to the West Coast, Edith and specifically to Vancouver Island. I hope to meet you in person some day and to hopefully enjoy a nice leisurely run in one of our communities, soon. I can see that we have so much in common. In addition, you are an inspiration to other women runners who want to keep on running, well past their 50s and into their 60s. Keep on running! And keep on walking those fabulous trails with your equally impressive sister!

Posted in Cross training, Life lessons, Racing, Runner Interview, Running, Yoga Tagged with: , ,

Runner Interview – Yana Hempler

Yana Track Running (Photo by Ian Simpson)

Yana Track Running (Photo by Ian Simpson)

When you love and trust the process, progress will be inevitable.

I’ve run several races with Yana, but we’ve never formally met. Still, the Vancouver Island running community is small enough and if you run enough races, you soon get to know who’s who.  After seeing her in a few races, I not only became familiar with Yana’s running prowess on the road, but being a running nerd, gravitating to running blogs, websites, magazines, etc., and I eventually found Yana’s website.  Once I did, I read through it enthusiastically and submitted my email address so I could subscribe to future posts and receive her document Strength Training for Runners (still available… go get it!). Yana is generous with her knowledge and delights in sharing, motivating and inspiring with her blog and numerous magazine articles.

Yana is not only a fabulous runner, winning or most often placing in the top 5 of just about any race she enters (not always the case, which is nice to know, for those who aspire to be there), but she is also fitness model and has competed in the body builder arena as well. Only in her mid 20’s, she has accomplished so much, including becoming a certified personal trainer and a running coach; completing a bachelor of commerce degree with complimentary courses in health, wellness, and nutrition; running the Boston Marathon (after qualifying multiple times in both Vancouver and in Victoria); writing a book and often running to raise money for various charities.

Immigrating from Russia when she was 11, it was a tough journey, with language, culture, and fitness barriers, yet she has managed to excel in all these areas.  Did I mention that Yana was inspirational?  Oh, yeah, she is that!  Just read the testimonials from her many clients.  And you can see her confidence in the Shaw TV interview before she headed to Boston earlier this year.  Plus there was Yana’s generosity again during that interview providing lots of running and fitness tips for both the audience and to interviewer, James Green.  To find out more about Yana keep reading.

What is your running history?
Up until about the age of 11, I hated running. I would always end up getting very tired very quickly, not to mention getting side stitches every time I tried to run in gym class. I was pretty much the slowest kid in my gym class in Russia. When I came to Canada in grade 5, it was Track & Field day and I dreaded the fact that I had to participate. However, after trying it, I realized that I was actually not as bad as I thought.

Then, I didn’t run at all until Grade 7. The only reason I started running in Grade 7 was because I got cut from the volleyball and basketball team, so I figured that if I want to get “points” for extra-curricular activities, then I should join the running team. Needless to say, I wasn’t very good in grades 7 and 8, often finishing towards the back of the pack, but I began to enjoy it. For some unknown reason, I developed a passion for running in Grade 9 and made it to Zone Championships. Then, got really good in grades 10 and 11, winning the Zone Championship in the 1500m and 3000m in Northern Alberta, where I used to live. That’s when I got to represent my school at provincials and enjoyed the experience.

I got injured in Grade 12 (2008) and had to take a few years off running, which was a very sad experience for me. I felt like something was missing from my life even though I knew that one day I would be re-united with my love for running. I spent nearly 3 years taking personal training courses in order to learn what I needed to do in order to rehab myself so that I could run again. I started running again probably in 2011, but nothing too fast, as I ran 10k in 1:30. Then, in 2012, I ran the TC10k in 43:35 and that sparked my interest to run more seriously again, knowing that I successfully rehabilitated myself. I started to run again because I wanted to prove to myself that I’m able to bounce back, improve and come back stronger and faster than before my injury. The injury taught me a lot and most importantly, it made me better at my job, giving me a purpose in life.

I run because I genuinely love it.

Why do you run?
I run because I genuinely love it. It allows me to clear my head, come up with creative business ideas, stay fit and compete in a sport that I’m passionate about.
My biggest piece of advice to aspiring runners is to do it only to enjoy it, first and foremost. Not every race will be a personal best and you can’t keep on dwelling on it. Take your time to develop a solid aerobic bace, do your stretches and strength training exercises alongside your running, learn proper form and do your best. When you love and trust the process, progress will be inevitable.

What was your last best/favorite race?
My best race was the Comox Half Marathon in 2015. I felt great during the entire race and I genuinely had fun. Not once did I worry about my time and it just so happened that it was my best time (1:28:15) and I came in 3rd out of all the women. I would say that my favorite distance is the Half Marathon. It’s just perfect.
For a completely different reason, I also enjoyed the Boston Marathon in 2015. It gave me a big sense of accomplishment when I finished it. It’s one of those races that I’ve been wanting to do since I first saw it on TV when I was 15. It was a race that had to be experienced because it’s a memory that will stay with me for a lifetime.

My ultimate goal for next year is to get personal bests in the 10k and half marathon.

What is your next race?
My next big race is the Puerto Rico Half Marathon in March 2016. My plan is to enjoy the race and to shoot for a personal best. However, the number one thing would be to have fun. I hope to finish under 1:28, but we will see how I feel on race day and how I will respond to the heat. My ultimate goal for next year is to get personal bests in the 10k and half marathon.

I believe in a balanced, integrated running program.

What type of training do you do?
My training program includes a lot of variety. In addition to running between 60-85km a week, I do weight training, hill repeats, core stability training, and speed work. My cross training is usually done in the weightroom or on the elliptical. The majority of my runs are easy runs because I found that if I make my easy days as easy as possible and my hard days as hard as possible then I will be able to recover properly between the workouts, thus minimizing the risk of injury. I believe in a balanced, integrated running program.

Before a race, I definitely love my carbs.

What kind of food philosophy do you follow?
Moderation is the key. I don’t obsess over food or the contents and I occasionally allow myself to enjoy junk food or a drink. I encourage everyone to not view food as an enemy, but rather as something to be enjoyed. Before a race, I definitely love my carbs.

Do you have a running hero/ role model?
My running role model is Lanni Marchant. She is very dedicated and she made Canada proud. I’m the only runner in my family though.

…whenever I travel anywhere in the world, I try to plan the trip around a race in some wonderful place.

How do you relax, when you are not running?
When I’m not running, I’m usually reading about it or writing about it on my blog  I also enjoy visiting the Float House, hanging out with friends, traveling to races abroad and going to the gym. I don’t go on holidays for the sake of going on holidays. In general, whenever I travel anywhere in the world, I try to plan the trip around a race in some wonderful place.

Have you had any running setbacks?
Yes, back in 2008, I was injured. I had plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, patellofemoral syndrome, hip pain and low back pain more or less all at once. Not only did it make running impossible, but it made the rest of working out difficult as well. I took 2 years off exercise and decided to take personal training courses so that I could learn what was wrong with me and how to fix it. I was in university at the time, so I didn’t have any money to see a physiotherapist or any other professional that would have been able to help me with my injuries. However, figuring it out myself allowed me to not only come back stronger and faster than before but also help other people avoid going through what I went through. As a result of my past experience and education, I’m able to prevent this from happening again because I learned how to train properly without overdoing it. Not only that, but I’ve also learned how to choose proper running shoes, proper running form, what my injury threshold is, how to create muscle balance around the joints and when to back off. All of the aforementioned decrease my likelihood of re-injuring myself.

What is your career/job?
I’m a self-employed personal trainer and running coach. I feel like I must make training a priority in order to inspire my clients. Often times, I will run with my clients to help encourage them. I truly feel blessed to have created myself a job that allows me to live out my passion.


At the next race that we are both run, I will be sure to seek out Yana for a face-to-face meet-up and to share running stories. Despite our age difference, we apparently have a lot in common as we both like to inspire and motivate people to get up and move.  So get your gear on…

Yana runs her business out of Studio 4 Athletics in Victoria, but you can contact and follow her on many of her social media sites:






Posted in Cross training, Marathon, Runner Interview, Running

Review: LIKE THE WIND magazine

Like The Wind Magazine Covers

Like The Wind Magazine Covers

“It’s about why we run, not how we run”

I love this tag line on the cover of issue #6 of LIKE THE WIND magazine. This is so different from talk of paces, warm-up exercises or gear. A friend recently sent me a link to the magazine website with the  note: “Sounds like something made for you!!” JW, you know me so well! I’d never heard of it, but I was inspired enough after I scoured their website to order the latest two issues (#5 and #6), plus a free supplement from them.

The issues are amazing! First you notice that the paper is thick. Really substantially thick, on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (this link is to the UK branch, but there are other FSCs worldwide), i.e. from responsible sources. Given the thickness of the paper and the over all, non-magazine feel I would say that the issues are more like paperback books rather than flimsy magazine issues.  Meaning that they will sit on the bookshelf for a lot longer than most other running magazines.

The next thing you notice is the lack of advertising. But, wait there is some, inside the front cover, but they look just like the articles in the rest of the issue, i.e. with a great photo, sometimes with the addition of a story or just a phrase with the sponsor name. WOW so different from other running magazines that I read. Although, I confess, that I do read those other magazines for the ads too.

Now the content… stories, sometimes poems, one, two or three pages, with lots of white (or coloured) space around the text and always a photo or an illustration with each article. In fact, if it weren’t for the stories about running, it might be considered an art magazine.  The photos are always to my liking, it seems, but some of the drawings, not so much: what do they say… art is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve selected a few of the illustrations that I like from those 2 issues and included them in a little slide show*.

The stories are as diverse as tales about someone’s first race or someone’s 10th ultra; about trail, road and track running. There are stories about pain, sorrow, joy and delight in each issue. A wee bit of everything that a runner would want to read about.  I especially like the photo essays (more photos, less words, but always a narrative to go with the photos).

I think that most of the illustrators are runners too, which makes each issue so juicy – like you want to curl up with your cat or near the fire (I’m in winter mode) and dream about your next race, your next travel adventure or just live vicariously through others.  The magazine is published in the UK, but the stories and illustrations are from around the world.

*I apologize and ask for forgiveness in advance for not asking for permission to share these illustrations here. I deliberately did not photograph them for further reproduction. I just want to get the word out about this awesome magazine! The magazine launched in February 2014 and is published quarterly. Go to their website for more information on cost and subscriptions.

Posted in Books, Life lessons, Review, Running

On your feet

Comfy shoe options

Comfy shoe options

Do your feet hurt? If you are in a running training program, especially a half or a full marathon program, you are on your feet a lot! This can go on for months. And it can be hard on your legs, but especially hard on your feet. Your feet really do take a beating!

At the moment I have sore feet (see flip-flip photo above), but I have been trying hard to mitigate the situation. If you’ve been following me on Facebook (here or here) or Instagram, you will see that I was “running” for the Canadian Federal Election. I vowed to run everyday of the election period with the goal of encouraging people to become aware of the big issues and to ultimately vote on Election Day. I ran for all 79 days: from Aug 2 to Oct 19. And probably to no one’s surprise, I’ll keep running ’cause I love it.

Some days I ran over 20K (sometimes for 3 plus hours) but other “rest” days I just covered 1 or 2K. I did have some ulterior motives: I was training for the GoodLife Fitness 8K race in Victoria on Oct 11 and for the Cowichan Autumn Classic Half Marathon in Duncan on Oct 25, (with wine tasting from Zanata Vineyards – more on that in another post, I’m sure). Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that I went on a 4 day hike of the Juan de Fuca Trail in September with my son, which was 6-8 hours each day, with a heavy backpack, up and down ravines and over and under logs and roots and rocks (it was awesome). All of which, to say the least, meant a lot of time on my feet!

As a result, I have blisters, one blue toe, some calluses, and general foot soreness. I have therefore found myself not walking around in barefeet, like I have been doing most of the summer. Fortunately, with the cooler weather I do not look quite so silly walking around in big fluffy slippers in the house or in nice spongy Sanuk flip-flops on the occasional warm day. I also bought myself some Sketcher shoes with memory foam in the bottom with a wide toe area… best runner friend, ever! On rainy days, my nice-soft-inner-sole Hunter boots are my friends. Now walking around when I’m not running is not so painful (see photo). But during the runs, I use some new much thicker socks or I double up on thinner socks.

Luckily, I have none of the most common foot problems: plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma (I actually did have this, but the following exercises completely cured it), achilles tendinitis (had this once, too), or metatarsalgia. If you suspect that you are affected by any of these painful conditions, I encourage you read about them, at the links provided, and check with a health professional if further help is required. Many of the problems listed above can be prevented or mitigated with some good foot stretching and strengthening exercises.

The number one way to prevent many of these conditions is proper running shoe fit. Get thee to a running store to buy a good pair of running shoes that really feel good on your feet, help with support, and are wide enough or narrow enough for you your tender tootsies. Do this before you start on a running program or at some point during a program if you start to feel feet or any leg discomfort creeping in. I definitely favour a nicely padded-foot shoe (Saucony Triumph), which works for me both on trails and on paved roads.

Here are some specific foot exercises to strengthen your feet and help prevent some of these painful conditions from even starting. Choose one or more to implement regularly – daily is good – and they will help keep your feet healthy and happy. In no particular order:

  • Toe Pick-ups: I found this great foot exercise at Runner’s World. It made me laugh just watching it, but it is so good for your feet. If you don’t have dice, use small rocks.
  • Toe Curls: Another one, also from Runner’s World: toe curls. Use one of those great little “Find Your Strong” towels from Saucony to do this, for both inspiration and exercise.
  • Cat and Cow yoga poses: When you are doing pronate yoga moves try to place your feet in a flexion position rather than with the top of your foot or your instep on the mat. These will really stretch the bottom of your foot.
  • Planks are not only good for your core, but doing planks (full, upright or from your knees) with your feet flexed also help your feet.
  • Walking your dog is not about walking Rover and so much more than down dog. This video shows you how to strengthening multiple body parts, specifically the toes.
  • Sitting back on your heels with your feet flexed and your toes tucked under is one very simple and fabulous foot stretch.
  • Juicy yoga poses for feet: There are also lots of additional yoga moves that specifically target feet, including these more advanced ones.
  • Whole leg strengthening (too many videos and websites to chose from here) – ankles, calves, shins, quads, hamstrings and glutes – this is kinetic strength, can help greatly in foot injury prevention and overall running improvement.
  • Walk around with barefeet or just with socks if you can (weather and terrain dependent) between runs or at least wear shoes with less support, e.g. flipflops, to help strengthen the midfoot.
  • During your run try to shorten your stride and increase your cadence. This will lessen the load on your feet with each foot strike.

Try some of all of the above foot strengthening exercises to help prevent foot injuries. Do them daily. Do them while you are watching TV. Do them with your kids or cats or dogs. Do them indoor or outdoors. So many options!

However, every once in awhile, perhaps following a big race, treat yourself to a pedicure or a foot massage. You so deserve it and so do your feet.

Posted in Cross training, Feet, Life lessons, Racing, Running, Yoga Tagged with: , , , , ,