Trust The Process

I know I’m not the only one who’s currently suffering from a case of the “February Training Blahs.” This cold, snow, slush, and windchill is never-ending and although the Around the Bay 30K is only 32 days away (eek!), it feels like we’ve been training for this race forever! I don’t know what I’d do without my Tribe Fitness crew who have been helping me keep pace on weekend long runs.

Dealing with my ongoing groin/adductor injury has also put a damper on my training this winter, with a particularly tough recovery after my 26K run two weeks ago. I was sore with every movement for 3 days after and to be honest, I was at my wit’s end and quite ready to give up. If I’m going to keep it real, I have been ready to give up a few times this winter, wondering why the hell I am doing this and what’s the point? After many chats with my Coach, I was left with two choices: continue with traditional training or switch things up and take a chance on a minimalist  training program. I went with option #2.

I don’t know if it’s because my mindset has changed or because I am actually dealing with less pain, but this week I have had two big breakthroughs in my training and I couldn’t be more pleased. I did my fastest interval on the bike (2 minutes at 40km/h) and my fastest interval on the run (30 seconds at 3:55/km)…ever. I don’t usually post my pace times on my blog or social media, because I think it can lead to unnecessary comparing and competition. The only person you should be competing against is yourself.  It took me a long time to realize this, but I am so much more at peace with myself now that I accept this. In 2015, I want to beat my times from 2014, not anyone else’s. But I’m posting these times because I want to remember them and remember this breakthrough as a result of all the sweat I have shed this winter.

I have been recording my training in the “Believe” training journal for the past 3 months and the quote that appears at the top of this week’s training log is this: “It’s amazing how the same pace in practice can feel so much harder than on race day. Stay confident. Trust the process.” It’s by pro runner Sara Hall and it couldn’t ring more true. For the past year, I have put the work of developing a training plan in the hands of my Coach and thus far he has helped me achieve a PB in every distance I’ve raced. While it may be a bit scary to be going in a different direction with my training, Coach says if I believe in the training and put in the work, the results will come. This week I have experienced two big breakthroughs and I don’t think that’s any coincidence. Once I made the decision to believe and “trust the process”, my body followed my mind and everything clicked.

As I was doing my interval run today, I felt a sense of calm and a renewed sense of purpose come over me. For a long time I’ve been anxious about my progress, wondering if I was making gains or just going through the motions. But now I know.  I know that 2015 is going to be a breakthrough year and I trust that my Coach will get me to the start line healthy, happy and ready to race. I know that every early morning swim, bike ride, and run is going to pay off on race day. I know that my body and mind are getting stronger and that my fastest times are still to come. And most importantly, I know that I am going to enjoy this ride, I’m going to have fun, and I’m going to kick some serious ass!

(Photo Credit: Tribe Fitness.)

5 Goals For 2015

After a catch-up session with my Coach last weekend, I wanted to put down in writing 5 goals for this year. I’ve been having a bit of trouble finding motivation to train lately and struggling to find my “why.” Why am I doing this? Seeing these goals in writing and sharing them with my Coach has helped me to bring some purpose and direction to my training, and I know that I’ll be able to look back on these throughout the year whenever I need a little push. Here they are:

1) Stop thinking that I need to lose weight. I don’t need to lose weight. My goal for 2015 is to become stronger, and as I start to build more muscle, I’ll start to see a stronger, fitter, tighter body. And although I may not see lower numbers on the scale, I know that a fit body looks different and performs better.

2) Get faster in the run. I especially want to see my 10K (52) and half-marathon (1:58) times go down this year. My A-goal in the half is would be 1:50, with 1:55 as my B-goal. My A-goal in the 10K would be a sub-50 minute, with 50 minutes as my B-goal. This is going to require a return to the track and/or the treadmill at my local Goodlife Fitness while the weather outside is less than optimal!

3) Have a healthier relationship with food. I will continue to eat a whole-foods diet with minimal processed sugar and refined carbohydrates. When I first went gluten-free, I ate a lot of processed gluten free foods. Today, I skip the gluten-free bread in favour of sweet potatoes and rarely eat gluten-free “treats” unless it’s a special occasion. When the occasion does call for a treat, I am going to savour and enjoy it and not feel bad about myself for indulging.

4) Get mentally stronger. If there’s one thing I learned last year, it’s that pain is a part of performance and if you want to achieve great things, you better be prepared to suffer. Many times my anxiety has prevented me from being comfortable with pain, but this year I am going to learn to embrace it and feel confident recognizing when a pain is normal and when pain is a warning to stop.

5) Stop comparing myself to other people. I know that everyone struggles with this, especially in the age of social media where everyone is posting their achievements and PBs! But this year I want to focus on achieving my OWN goals and work towards beating those, and not someone else’s PB. No one’s journey has been the same as mine and unless you’re a world record holder, there is always going to be someone faster than you.

What goals have you set for yourself this year?

I Am A Betty! Joining Team Betty Designs in 2015.

Betty Designs 1*PLEASE DO NOT EMAIL ME FOR A BETTY DESIGNS CODE. I DO NOT HAVE ONE TO GIVE YOU. If you haven’t heard of Betty Designs, you have now! I have been following this brand and drooling over their kick-ass designs for the past year, so when they opened up applications for their ambassador program, I was all over it! I spent hours on my application, reading it over and over, and having my journalist boyfriend edit it to make sure it was just right. When I sent it in, I wasn’t sure whether I would make the team or not as I knew there would be some tough competition! When I received an email last week with the subject line “Congratulations You’re A Betty for 2015!” I was so excited!

I cannot wait to rock this beautiful and badass running and triathlon gear in 2015 at all my races. I will also have an ambassador discount code, so if anyone is interested in buying some Betty gear, let me know. What I love most about Betty Designs is that it is SO different from everything else that’s out there. Their gear is bold and feminine, while celebrating endurance and toughness in sport. In the words of Betty Designs founder Kristin Mayer: “I launched Betty Designs in the fall of 2010 in order to bring something different to women’s triathlon and cycling clothing. I wanted to marry my love for fashion + surf culture into bold, edgy designs for the endurance athlete.”

In celebration of my acceptance to Team Betty 2015, I wanted to share a few excerpts from my application to show you what being a Betty means to me and in the hopes of inspiring other women runners and triathletes who are on a journey similar to mine.

I am a Betty because being a runner and a triathlete has helped me heal the body-shame and self-consciousness that I carried as a child and teen. It has truly made me believe that I AM BEAUTIFUL and that being an athlete is beautiful. For most of my life I have struggled with my weight. From being a chubby kid to a yo-yo dieting teenager, I was never at peace with my body. As I struggled with anxiety during my early 20s, my weight ballooned to 220 pounds and I became very unhealthy. The first steps I took as a runner were also my first steps towards health and I am proud to say that I now truly love my body. There’s no better feeling than knowing you can head out for a run in a sports bra and shorts and look damn good while you do it! I love Betty Designs because it is the perfect representation of strong and sexy, allowing women to look good while crushing their goals!

Betty Designs 2

I am a Betty because I believe that the empowerment of women through sports is one of the most impactful ways that we can influence young women today to grow into strong, confident women.  Today, I know that I can do anything I set my mind to because I am achieving goals, such as training for a marathon and completing a triathlon, that weren’t even on my radar 5 years ago. There is nothing more empowering than spending the mornings in the pool or on a long run with a group of women who are working towards ambitious goals. They inspire me to be accountable and step up my own training to be the very best I can be!  I always say that if I could have felt the confidence and self-love that I do now, 5 years ago, my life would have been completely different and I don’t believe I would have suffered with anxiety and depression as much as I did. I think as active women, it is our obligation to give back to other women and girls and show them that they can be powerful and strong and can do anything they set their minds to.

I am a Betty because I am committed to an active lifestyle and have many running and triathlon goals that I plan to achieve over the next 10, 20, 30 years and beyond and I want to inspire other women along the way! The online social media community has been an invaluable source of information and motivation to me over the past few years and I have had such an amazing time sharing my training journey through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my blog. My online community are my training partners, even those I have never met in person, because we motivate each other, keep each other accountable, support each other through rough training patches, and most importantly, celebrate the achievement of our goals!

Please head over to the Betty Designs site and check out their awesome gear so you can swim, bike and run in style in 2015! And if you’d like a discount code, let me know!

5 Reasons My Tribe Rocks

Tonight my running/triathlon/brunching crew, Tribe Fitness, will celebrate their 1 year anniversary! I really can’t wait to see what’s in store, but an event that starts with a glow run is guaranteed to be awesome. I owe a lot of my success and growth over this past season to the amazing athletes I am privileged to train with at Tribe. From early morning long runs through the heat of the summer to even earlier morning swim sessions in the pool, training with Tribe has been the most FUN I have ever had and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

On the day of Tribe’s 1 year anniversary, I wanted to share a few reasons why Tribe Fitness has rocked my world this year and why I think YOU should #JoinTheTribe!

Tribe Love

#1) We laugh through it all. If there’s one thing this crew knows how to do, it’s have FUN! And if you’re not having fun doing something, what’s the point? From the Ugly Holiday Sweater Run (next one is coming up!), Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Scavenger Hunt, and our end-of-season Tribe Night at the Ballpark, this crew knows how to work hard and play hard. Want to join us? Our annual Ugly Holiday Sweater Dash is taking place this year on December 10th!

#2) Impossible becomes possible. My belief in what I am capable of has grown 500% since joining Tribe. Can I run faster than I could before? Yes. Can I run longer than I could before? Yes. Can I complete a race in a sport completely new to me like Triathlon? Yes! Training for a race, whether it be a 10K or a marathon, is easier when you’re training with a group. When you see people who are like yourself, reaching big goals and doing awesome things, those goals suddenly become achievable for you too.

#3) Training partners turn into friends. I love the people I train with. They’re not just my running buddies, they’re my friends! Sometimes we go out for Froyo and sometimes we have long Facebook conversations about how much we love nachos. We text each other to stay connected even when we’re not training and if we’re not participating in a race, you better believe that we are on the sidelines cheering our asses off! I find that the older you get, the harder it is to make new friends, but joining Tribe has expanded my social circle to include all kinds of amazing people.

Tribe Night at the Ballpark

#4) The Cycle of Inspiration never ends. No matter where you are in your training journey or how long you’ve been running for, there will always be days when you’re going to need a little inspiration! The people of Tribe Fitness are a never-ending source of inspiration with members completing Ironman triathlons, marathons, obstacle races and most importantly, lots of very first races ever! In Tribe, not only will you find inspiration, but you will become a source of inspiration to everyone around you as you push yourself to achieve goals you never thought possible before! This year I had so many people to look up to and learn from as I completed my first triathlon and I hope to be a source of inspiration for those new Tribe members who are taking on their first triathlon next year!

#5) bRUNch. Admit it, sometimes the only thing that keeps us going through a particularly tough long run is the promise of bacon and eggs after it’s all over. Every Saturday after our Tribe long runs, we go for brunch! From the Thompson Diner to Fresh, What A Bagel to Fuel+, we have run and eaten our way across the city. Not only is brunch delicious, it’s also a great way to relax and get to know your fellow runners better! Just last weekend we dined at Le Neuf Cafe, a lovely little French spot off of Spadina with delicious omelets and mouth-watering French toast. #yum

Have I convinced you that the Tribe rocks? Learn more about the awesome Tribe Fitness community on Facebook and Twitter and I hope to see you out at a run soon!

Tribe Triathlon IronGirl

Running My Own Race

Azy Jenna RunningThis picture represents pure running bliss. It was taken at the 2011 Beaches Jazz Run as my sister and I are about to complete a 20K run. I had been out at a Bachelorette party the night before and was running on 4 hours of sleep and a mild hangover, but this race was one of the best I have ever run.  I look really freakin’ happy in this picture, don’t I?

Having been off running right now for 1 month and 11 days, I’ve had far too much time to think about the philosophy of running and how my personality and sense of self has been shaped by the sport. If I look back on my relationship with running the past year, I can see a lot of struggle, a lot of fear, and a lot of pain. I can also see triumph and joy, but those positive feelings were largely overshadowed by the negative ones. I never expected that being a runner was easy, but I also didn’t expect it would be so hard. I ran through everything, pushing myself, because I thought all my problems were in my head and that I would be weak if I stopped. But if I look back, it makes perfect sense that my body would turn against me because I wasn’t listening to it. All those post-run dizzy spells and panic attacks weren’t just in my head, they were real, physical symptoms that I wrongly ignored. On Monday February 10th, my body forced me to stop, but I should have stopped and listened a long time ago.

When I first started running 4 years ago, it was fun! I often ran with my sister and we had no concern with our time or pace. We ran through along the Azy Jenna running yesLisgar Trail by our house in Mississauga and we chatted along the way, signing up for a few races a year and having a great time. My fondest race memories to this day are of the finish lines I’ve crossed with my sister. Running was a common interest and challenge that brought us together. When I look back on my race times from 2010 – 2012, they were the fastest times I’ve ever run. No, I wasn’t getting up at 6am 5 days a week and I wasn’t following a strict training program. I was just running for joy and loving every minute of it.

Things took a turn in late 2012 when I was facing a lot of work-related stress and my anxiety returned with a vengeance. This when I started to get run-induced panic attacks which would often force me to cut runs short and head home crying. I didn’t stop running because everyone told me that running would help ease my anxiety and get rid of a lot of the nervous energy I was carrying, but unfortunately it did the opposite. Instead of slowing down, I signed up for more races, dreamed of getting faster (even though I was actually getting slower), and tried to ignore what was going on inside my head.

Looking back, what I probably needed during this time was a break from running. It wasn’t making me feel good anymore and instead of forcing myself to keep going, I should have stopped. Just looking at my proposed race schedule for this spring makes me cringe a bit. From March 30th – May 25th I had myself running 2 half marathons, one 30K race, and my first full marathon. With the mental and physical state I was training in, this was just a set-up for disaster somewhere along the line. Making it to that May marathon probably never would have happened. I’m not saying that this schedule isn’t right for anybody, it just wasn’t right at all for me and I was being very naïve and ignorant of a whole bunch of warnings signs that I should have noticed.

Having said all this, I actually can’t wait to get back into running, it’s just going to be a little bit different this time.  I am hopeful that my allergy tests on March 31st will shed some light on what happened and that I will get the green light to lace up the beautiful new, neon pair of Asics I bought from Black Toe Running. My running goal for the immediate future is going to be simple: fall in love with running again. I’m not going to tie myself down to a strict training schedule, I’m not signing up for any marathons (maybe just a half), and my focus will be less on speed and distance and more on moving in a way that makes me feel good.

I hope I am lucky enough to have many years of running ahead of me. Whether they are fast years or slow years doesn’t matter much to me now. What matters is that running brings me the same joy it did 4 years ago when it was just me and my sister running along the Lisgar Trail, chatting and laughing and loving every minute of it.

Azy Jenna Running 20K