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Race Roster Spring Run-Off

Natasha Wodak Claims Race Roster Spring Run Off 8k

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By Paul Gains

Natasha Wodak’s first race after surgery on her foot three months ago proved successful as the 35 year old Canadian Olympian handily won the Race Roster Spring Run-Off 8k in Toronto’s High Park.

More than 3,500 runners were led to the start line by piper Duncan McIntyre,  a tradition since the race’s inception 40 years ago, but Wodak was never challenged. This edition launched the 2017 Canada Running Series.

With a cold wind blowing across the hilly course, Wodak, the Canadian record holder at 10,000m on the track (31:41.59) and at 8km (25:28) on the roads, tucked in behind a few of the male runners early on until she dropped them one by one. She crossed the line with a smile while flashing ‘V’ for victory signs. Her winning time was 27:55.

Photo credit: Inge Johnson/Canada Running Series

“I figured I was capable of running about 27:45 to 28:00,” the Vancouver resident said afterwards. “I thought that would be really painful for me at this point. But I felt really strong and it felt more like a tempo run than anything, So I am really pleased with where I am at considering it has been such a short time since I have been back running since my surgery. It’s good. I am excited for the spring”

“Everybody told me it was super hilly but with the uphills come the nice down hills so it evens out. It was a beautiful course and I had lots of guys out there to talk to and complain about the hills and stuff. I thought it was a great course. Lots of fun.”

Wodak earned $1,500 for the victory which will come in especially handy since her contract with Asics ended following the Rio Olympics Games. Next on her schedule is the Vancouver Sun Run, a race she has won on two previous occasions. A fall marathon is also in the cards.

“I still have two weeks of training until the Sun Run so I can get in little bit better shape,” she continued. “This was a good opportunity to get back racing and hurt a bit. You can train all you want but races are only going to give you that certain hurt that you need. I am excited.”

Following the race the good natured athlete joined in with the children’s 800m race saying “Those kids run fast.”

Second place in the women’s division went to 45 year old Lioudmila Kortchaguina in 28:45. The Russian born master’s competitor represented Canada at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka and sports a best marathon time of 2:29:42

There was little surprise in the men’s race as Tristan Woodfine of Speed River Track Club crossed the finish line first as expected. But what the mass of spectators near the finish area could not have known was drama played out on the back end of the course during the first 2 kilometres. Woodfine had a technical issue.

Photo credit: Inge Johnson/Canada Running Series

“I was leading but my shoe came untied so I had to stop and pull over and retie,” he said with a laugh. “I was worried it would come off. A few of the guys passed me so I  then had to work hard to catch up again.

Woodfine led through the half way 4km point (12:08) with Sergio Raez Villanueva a couple of seconds behind.

“Probably around the 4km mark he actually caught up with me and we ran together from 6km until 7km then I put in a surge,” he revealed. “I could always hear him behind me. So I knew he was right there and it kept me honest.”

Woodfine’s winning time was 24:15 while Raez Villanueva was timed in 24:29. Kevin Tree took third in 24:59.

“I am very happy,” Woodfine said later. “It’s a hilly course, a tough course, so I wasn’t too concerned about a fast time. It was just go out and see where that leads me. It was a successful race. It was my first time here.”

Proceeds from the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8km go to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

The next race in the Canada Running Series will be the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal on April 23rd.

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Complete results and photos:

www.springrunoff.ca

 

Running for Team Colleen at the Race Roster Spring Run-Off

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By: Amy Friel 

For Jordan Milchman, signing up for the Race Roster Spring Run-Off was supposed to signify a long-awaited return to running after a year beset by injury.

Milchman, who completed his first-ever half-marathon two years ago at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, spent the better part of 2016 dealing with a persistent back injury. By January of this year, a newly-recovered Milchman started looking at goal races for 2017.

With its notoriously challenging course winding through the hills of High Park, the Race Roster Spring Run-Off looked to him like the perfect tune-up on the road to a spring return to the half-marathon distance.

“I’ve never done an 8K before,” Milchman explains. “So I thought, I’m automatically gonna set a personal best.” Excited by the prospect of racing again, he signed up.

Two days later, things changed, when Milchman’s colleague and longtime friend Colleen Liao was diagnosed with cancer.

Liao, who Milchman describes as “my coworker, my buddy, and one of the best people I know”, is no stranger to the disease. Four years earlier, shortly after Colleen and her husband Len learned that they were expecting their first child, Liao was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

“Colleen is a certified badass,” Milchman says of his friend, who underwent a lumpectomy at 12 weeks pregnant, followed by chemotherapy at 22 weeks.

Her body responded well to the treatment, with Liao receiving the much hoped-for “all clear” from her doctors shortly before the birth of her son, Chase. Newly cancer-free and relishing life as a new mom, Liao returned to work, where she and Milchman became fast friends, bonding over a shared irreverent sense of humour.

“We always found each other funny,” he recalls of their early days working together. “We laughed a lot.”

So when his friend learned early this year that her cancer had returned, Milchman decided to enter the Race Roster Spring Run-Off to support Liao.

Along with a few friends, Milchman switched his individual registration to a charity entry and began fundraising as the captain of “Team Colleen”. And though the team’s goals were modest at first, the response to their cause has been anything but.

“When we started out, our team goal was $3,000,” he recalls. “I think we hit that on the first day. A lot of people have been quite generous.”

Donations to Team Colleen benefit the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, a global leader in cancer research, and one of the largest comprehensive cancer treatment facilities in the world.

With less than two weeks until race day on Saturday, April 8th, Team Colleen has now raised more than $8,000 and counting towards their revised $10,000 goal. Looking over the list of individual donations, Milchman notes that much of it has come from fellow friends and colleagues who, like him, have been touched by Liao’s enduring tenacity and indomitable spirit in the face of what appear to be increasingly long odds.

For her part, Liao has chosen to focus on spending time with her husband and three-year-old son since her rediagnosis, prioritizing her health, family, and happiness as much as possible.

“Colleen is a very strong person,” Milchman says. “She’s very positive, very upbeat. She knows what’s coming, but she just stays very positive.”

Her outlook has had a ripple effect. With friends, colleagues, and strangers alike throwing their support behind Team Colleen, donations in support of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre continue to pour in. It’s a momentum that Milchman hopes will continue right up to race day, and beyond.

“We have all been connected to cancer in one way or another,” he says. “We’re doing what we can to ensure we never have to encounter it again.”

To support Team Colleen and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, or to get involved with fundraising, visit their fundraising page.

Support Team Colleen: http://runcrs.co/2o7R9Ra 

Make a general donation to the event: http://runcrs.co/2nh6OsG 

We thank participants for raising money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and look forward to seeing you at the Race Roster Spring Run-Off on April 8th.

Registration is still open at http://springrunoff.ca

Preparing for your First Race

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With race day approaching fast, it can be daunting if it’s your first one.  There are so many tips and to-do lists all over the internet, but which ones are actually useful?  Sometimes the lists are so long, the race prep becomes scarier than the race itself!  Here are a few of our key preparation tips:

The week before the race:

Stop stressing. Races are meant to be fun. They’re great community events with an incredibly positive atmosphere for both runners and spectators.  Locals line the course and cheer you on; volunteers take time to ensure your race experience is top-notch; and you get to celebrate accomplishing your own goals amongst other like-minded people. Race day is an exciting time!  Even if it doesn’t pan out exactly as you had planned, soak in the experience and take what you’ve learned into the next race.

Cover the route beforehand. Course tours are a great way of familiarizing yourself with what to expect on race day.  Knowing what hills or tight turns there may be, will better prepare you and alleviate any unnecessary stress.  If nothing else, it’ll prevent you from getting lost!

Get off your feet. In the days before you race, try to stay off your feet as much as possible.  Doing additional training in the week before a race won’t make you more fit, in fact it can just make you more tired.  Relax, enjoy the taper knowing that the hard work is done!

Don’t carb load in one sitting.  The key to the carb-loading phenomenon is to gradually increase your carbohydrate intake in the few days before the race.  Lower training volumes and higher carb consumption allows the muscles to store more fuel to be utilized on race day.  Eating one massive bowl of pasta the night before a race won’t help your energy stores and can leave you feeling heavy and bloated.

Eat what works for you. If you have a particular meal that you eat the night before long runs, or big workouts, that’s the meal you should have the night before the race.  Trying anything new can put you at risk for GI distress during the race.

Pickup your bib the day before.  Your bib is one of your essentials for race day.  Head to the race expo/package pickup as soon as you can to make sure you have everything you need.  Pin it on whatever top you’ve decided on to be ready for race day morning.

Get ready the night before & stick to what you know. Lay out your gear and know where your necessities are.  Plan on wearing an outfit that you know doesn’t cause any irritation; prepare a race-day breakfast that you’ve had success with before; and don’t try out new shoes or race fuel on race day.  Stick to what you know!

Catch those zzz’s.  Pre-race nerves can leave people feeling anxious and can interrupt their sleep.  Rest east knowing that it’s actually the sleep you have two nights before a race that is the important one!

Race day:

Limit your fluid consumption. The days leading up to the race are when you should be hydrating, but race morning isn’t the time to be chugging back fluids.  Sip at water or electrolytes in the morning, but don’t go overboard.

Arrive early. Having picked up your race bib the day of two before the race means that all you have left to do is warmup, use the washroom, and gear check anything you need to.  There can be lines of people at the port-o-potties or gear check tents, so arrive with enough time to factor that in.  You don’t need to start your race with a sprint to the start line.

Carry the essentials.  Don’t forget to carry a piece of ID, write your information on the back of your bib, and bring your credit card or cash in case something goes wrong.  There are always plenty of volunteers and spectators along the race that will be able to help you, but you want to be overly prepared.  Just in case.

Bring a garbage bag. If it’s going to be a rainy day, garbage bags make for excellent throw away rain jackets.  They’ll keep your running attire dry and warm, and can be thrown to the side once the race begins.  Just make sure to go to the side of the road to toss your bag so you don’t hit anyone running behind/beside you.

Set a few goals.  Not every race is going to be spectacular, and it’s good to be prepared for that.  After the months of training, it’s great to set a few goals: an A goal that could be achieved on a perfect day; a B goal that is reasonable is the conditions or your body is feeling sub-par; and a C goal that has nothing to do with your finishing time.  That way, no matter what the day brings, there will be something positive to take away from it.

Start slow, and stay even. It’s easy to go off the start line like a bat out of hell, but it’s important to keep your adrenaline in check and start conservatively.  The first part of the race usually feels easy as your muscles are fresh and ready to go.  If you start too fast, the time you’ve “banked” can come back to bite you in the butt later in the race when the fatigue sets in.  Try and maintain an even pace, and if you’re feeling good, expend that remaining energy in the final stretch to the finish line.

Natasha Wodak To Run Race Roster Spring Run-Off

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By: Paul Gains

Over its four-decade history the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8km has seen world champions and record holders dueling with the nation’s best in a race which traditionally kicks off the racing season.

This year marks the 40th running of the prestigious event – the second with Race Roster as title sponsor – and Canadian Olympian Natasha Wodak is making her debut (Saturday April 8th).

Wodak is the Canadian 10,000m record holder (31:41.59) and represented Canada at the Rio Olympics finishing 22nd in the 10,000m. In addition, she holds the Canadian best performance at the 8km road distance (25:28).

Most athletes turn up here to Toronto’s High Park wondering what kind of shape they have managed after the winter. Though she always delivers a stellar performance on the roads she too is approaching the race cautiously.

“I haven’t raced since September,” the 35 year-old admits. “I was looking for something a little less than a 10k and this race is part of the Canada Running Series. I like all of (race director) Alan Brookes’ events and I thought it would be a good start to my season. It’s something I have never done before and I always like going to Toronto.

“I had surgery on my right toe on December 23rd. I have really bad arthritis in my toe joints and it ended up fracturing the toe. There was a piece of bone fragment that had to be removed and then they shaved down the bone spur to increase the mobility in the toe joint.”

She believes that the toe issue lay at the cause of several injuries the past few years including plantar fasciitis and a couple of stress fractures. These prevented her from a lengthy block of uninterrupted training which begs the question: what could she accomplish fully fit?

Now, well recovered, Wodak has slowly increased her mileage with a berth at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London remaining the year’s top priority. She qualified with her performance in the Rio Olympics (31:53.14).

“I just want to get in a race, a hard effort under my belt, to start this season,” she says of the Race Roster Spring Run Off.  “I was going to open at (her hometown) the Vancouver Sun Run but I really want to do well at the Sun Run so I thought I need one race before it. I thought this is perfect, a race I haven’t done before.”

The reputation of the Race Roster Spring Run Off is well known to Wodak. The women’s outstanding course record of 25:50 was set in 1990 by Britain’s Jill Hunter (now Boltz) while the men’s record is held by Daniel Komen of Kenya, an equally remarkable 22:35.  Such is the calibre of some of these champions that three years later Komen was both world 5000m champion and world 5000m record holder.

The race was founded in 1978 as a means for RMP, the Canadian distributor of Brooks Shoes, to promote the brand while putting something back into the sport. Mike Dyon, himself a former national marathon champion, remembers the race’s inauguration well. As one of the principals of RMP Athletic Locker – along with his father Robert and brother Paul – he founded the race with the help of his club, Etobicoke Striders.

Dyon says they were pleased with how quickly the race grew into one of the biggest local races reaching 1,000 plus entries within the first few years. Held inside the park, it affords spectators many opportunities to see the race. He also fondly remembers his late father’s idea of giving out maple syrup to the top ten finishers. This has become a race tradition.

“He also came also up with the idea of having a bagpiper pipe everybody down to the starting area,” Dyon adds.

In 1981 the race became the first in Canada to offer prize money, helping turn the tide towards professionalism.

Former Canadian 1,500m record holder, Dave Reid, a club mate of the Dyon brothers, has attended and volunteered at all but one of the races. The athletic performances of the superstars like Komen, the US’s  Ed Eyestone, and 1995 world 10000m champion Sally Barsosio, are well etched on his mind.

In 1994 Barsosio, he remembers, had to be coaxed out of the Grenadier Restaurant where she was sheltering from the bitter cold. Even though she missed the start she went on to win the race. Three years later she was crowned world 10000m champion.  But his personal highlight was the 2003 edition held in the aftermath of a devastating ice storm.

“I get up Saturday morning, ice everywhere, and get to the park at 4:00 a.m.,” Reid remembers. “The main maintenance guy had actually pulled two massive plows and salters off the main streets. They were working like mad all throughout the night, right up till the 10:00 a.m. race time.

“At 8:00 a.m. the police wanted to cancel the event and I told them that it would be safe by race time. The workers salted and plowed the two huge hills about ten times and sure enough the race went off. I still can’t believe we pulled it off or that 1,400 runners showed up.”

That infamous Spring Hill Road has seen many a fine runner humbled. Organizers have capitalized on this with a ‘Kill the Hill Challenge’ whereby runners can compare their times up the 365 metre long climb. The prize, naturally, is a bottle of maple syrup.

This year, following the race all participants and their families and friends can head over to Henderson Brewing Company for a complimentary beer. The brewery is also providing a Grand Prize to the top fundraising team at the Race Roster Spring Run Off.

Another addition to the event is a free training run led by 2016 Canadian Olympian Genevieve Lalonde and Tribe Fitness this Saturday morning, March 18th.

And so Wodak is stepping into a race with illustrious history and charm relishing the opportunity. Like all Olympians she has extraordinary ambition for the upcoming year.

“Obviously the World Championships this summer,” she explains. “I already have the qualifying time. So that is awesome.  I would like to get fully healthy and run a fast 10k and hopefully a fall marathon.”

The Race Roster Spring Run Off will give her an indication of her progress towards these goals.

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To run with Natasha Wodak at the Race Roster Spring Run Off or for more information on the Training Run: http://canadarunningseries.com/race-roster-spring-run-off/

Conquer Hill Training with these Four Workouts

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Hill training is one of the pillars of any runner’s workout program.  Through the course of a season, the type of hill training can vary from short, explosive hills, to longer hill repeats, to runs on a hilly course depending on the purpose of the workout.

There are many benefits of including hill training into your running program, with the most obvious being added strength and power.  Running uphill requires increased muscle recruitment from our main movers which improves their muscle endurance and neuromuscular responsiveness.  Not only do hills benefit runners from a physiological standpoint, but they can help to improve form, posture, cadence and efficiency.  It’s difficult to run with poor form on hills as the uphill propulsion requires a runner to be on their toes, with a slight forward lean from the ankles, and a higher cadence to drive you up the hill.  The less time you spend on the ground, the quicker your feet move, and the faster you get up the hill!  Hills provide similar speed and strength benefits as track workouts without too much impact on the body.  This is essentially why a lot of programs have hills as an integral part of any off-season and start-of-season training.  It helps get the body into shape, increases speed and power, without the risk of injury.

So what types of workouts are there and what’s the best way to execute them?

1. Short, explosive sprints:

As these workouts are short and powerful, they are not a primary fitness-building workout, but are a great tool for working on form and efficiency.  There are two main purposes to these workouts.  They work on activating and improving neuromuscular system function which is the main communication between the brain and the muscles. By improving this system, the speed of signaling from the brain to the muscles increase and you’re able to recruit more muscle fibers to create more powerful movements.  Second, these hills enhance the heart’s maximal stroke volume, which is the amount of blood pumped out with every heartbeat.  The more blood pumped out in a single beat will decrease one’s heart rate, resulting in a more efficient heart.

During a workouts, the hills are a maximum of 30 seconds long, with a gradient of 5-15%. Using one’s anaerobic system, the athlete can focus on an efficient running technique with vigorous arm movements, high knee lift, with the hips kept high and forward to utilize our big muscles groups like the glutes, quads and hamstrings.

How to do it: Start with four or five reps of 50–100m (10–30 seconds) up a steep hill, then build up over a few sessions to eight to 12 reps. For recovery, walk back down the hill and wait until 2–3 minutes have passed.

2. Medium hills

Starting to get into hill repeats, medium hills take between 30-90 secs to run up.  They combine the benefits of the short, explosive hills as listed above, as well as stressing one’s muscular endurance and tolerance of lactic acid. Combining the anaerobic system of the short, steep hills, and the aerobic component of a longer duration interval will build up your blood lactate as you go up the hill; aka your legs start to burn and you have to keep going.

How to do it: Choose a grade of hill that still allows you to run near race pace, about 6-10%.  Similar to the short hills, form is key: a good knee drive; hips pushed forward; and the back is upright. Aim to increase the number of reps about 1-2 every time a medium hill workout is on the training schedule.  Using a slow jog to get to the bottom of the hill again is a big part of your recovery between intervals.  When you’re just starting out do about 8-10 repeats, and increase gradually each time you do the workout.

3. Long hills

The longest hill intervals are between 90 sec to 3 minutes long.  These sessions are best for people wanting to improve their hill running skills and improve their aerobic fitness and muscle strength.  Compared to strength training in the gym, hills are a functional way to increase the muscles capacity to withstand intensity while working the muscles necessary for running fast: muscles surround the hips, glutes and quads.  Most of your energy comes from aerobic sources, but there will still be a bit of lactic acid buildup in the legs, but it’ll feel more like muscle fatigue compared to the burning muscles the shorter intervals provide!

How to do it: Due to the broad spectrum of duration for these longer intervals, note that the further you’re going, the less intensity you can apply.  When starting out aim for 6-8 hill repeats lasting over 1 minute each, and build in a few more reps every time you repeat this workout.  It’s a great simulation of longer track intervals without the pounding.

4. Rolling hills

While hill intervals won’t necessarily make you a better runner on a hilly course, incorporating a hilly route for long runs/tempos will be useful.  Knowing what kind of course your goal race is going to be on will help you determine just how hilly your runs needs to be.  Doing longer efforts on a rolling course will allow you to maintain your pace while going up and down hills, as well as on a flat surface.  If you attack a hill too hard early into the race, you could tax your legs and suffer during the race before you expected.

How to do it: Try to maintain the same effort going up and down hills; you’ll naturally go faster on the downhill without increasing your effort. Not only that, but running downhill at a decent effort is great practice too. Hilly routes will work your muscles in both concentric and eccentric contractions and will prepare the body for the pounding of running downhill.

Robert Winslow and Rachel Hannah win 38th annual Race Roster Spring Run-Off 8k

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TORONTO. April 9th. Robert Winslow and Rachel Hannah cruised to comfortable victories at today’s 38th Annual Race Roster Spring Run Off 8K in High Park, in 24:42 and 27:51, respectively. It was race # 2 in the 2016 Canada Running Series, the country’s premier running circuit. Steeped in tradition as Toronto’s oldest continuously-held road race, the Spring Run Off is famous for its scenery, its challenging hills and weather, and its “Opening Day” position in the city’s running calendar. Today did not disappoint, with bright blue skies and a crisp -4 degrees for the almost 3,500 runners in the 8K, and the 5K and 800m Kids Run that followed.

This year’s main bill was a re-match between U of T Track Club’s Rachel Hannah and Vancouver’s Dayna Pidhoresky in the 8k. Hannah, who won the bronze medal in the Pan Am Games marathon in Toronto last July, and Pidhoresky raced together at the Houston Marathon in January, chasing the Canadian marathon standard for the Rio Olympics (2:29:50). They went through 25k with Dayna slightly ahead, 1:29:24 to 1:29:32, before she was forced to drop out with stomach problems. Rachel went onto set a new PB of 2:32:09, just shy of the standard. Today they again started out together, with Hannah just a step or two ahead:

Pan Am Games Bronze medallist Rachel Hannah, women's champion in 27:51.

Pan Am Games Bronze medallist Rachel Hannah, women’s champion in 27:51.

“I felt quite good, and comfortable throughout the race. It was really good to be out racing again,” said Rachel. “I tried to be pretty conservative the first kilometre or two. Felt really smooth. Then I started to pick it up a little bit. I felt good on the first hill (at 3k) and that gave me good confidence. I really got away from Dayna around 5k, 6k. I was feeling really strong and I didn’t want to save it ‘til that last hill!” By the time they crossed the line at the top of Spring Road hill the gap was 14 seconds. The ageless Lioudmila Kortchaguina was third in 28:35. The 44 year-old from Markham also claimed first Master’s honours. Part of the tradition of the Spring Run Off, Lioudmila was overall Women’s Champion in 2002 and 2003.

Although it was his first time racing Spring Run Off, Robert Winslow continued the strong Speed River Track Club tradition at the Spring Run Off. With teammate and defending champion Eric Gillis racing the Berlin Half-marathon last weekend as “proof of fitness” for Rio, the challenge fell to Winslow to uphold the Guelph club’s reputation – and he did so convincingly. It was the 27 year-old Winslow’s first podium finish with Canada Running Series and he couldn’t have been happier.

Robert Winslow

Robert Winslow upholds Speed River winning tradition, 24:42.

“I cruised through the first couple of K, then hit the first hill around 3k, and that’s when things started to open up. I opened the gap more on the big downhill at 5k, then just tried to maintain ‘til I got to the last hill as I knew it was going to be a tough one. I just tried to work that last hill hard – it’s easier to do when you know the Finish is right there. I’ve been getting some good workouts in with Eric and Reid [Coolsaet] and the rest of the Speed River gang. I was hungry to get going today and get some good racing in.”

A new, up and coming CRS star, 19 year-old Ehab El-Sandali of Toronto West Athletics, took second in 25:12, holding off Paris’ Josh Bolton (25:20). Ehab is the current Canadian Junior Cross Country Champion, and represented Canada at the Pan Am XC Championships in Caracas, Venezuela last month.

Canadian Running and Runner’s World magazine sport-science columnist Alex Hutchinson took the Men’s Master’s title in 27:22.

The accompanying 5K was won by Miles Avalos in 16:20 and Jenni Dwyer in 20:09.

The Kings and Queens of The Hill.

The Kings and Queens of The Hill.

One of the highlights of the morning was a new “Kill The Hill Challenge” (#killthehill) that timed all participants up the final 365 metres of the infamous Spring Road hill. Invited, elite athletes were timed but not eligible for “King and Queen of The Hill” awards. The titles, complete with cloaks, crowns and tiaras, PowerBar and maple syrup prizing, went to Luka Senk (79.7 seconds) and Pascale Gendron (1:34.9) in the 8k; to Avalos (79.0) and Dwyer (1:40.2) in the 5k. Interestingly, both runners-up in the 8k posted the best elite times, with Ehab El-Sandali “killing the hill” in 73.0 and Dayna Pidhoresky in 1:34.

Despite the chilly temperatures there was a festive, “Opening Day” atmosphere. It was a day of family fitness, fundraising and fun in Toronto’s grandest park. More than $55,000 was raised for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. Councillor Sarah Doucette flipped pancakes in support of High Park Nature Centre. And she was joined by MP Arif Virani and MPP Cheri DiNovo to help hand out awards. Councillor Mike Layton let his feet do the talking, running the 8k and “killing the hill” in 2:36.

Complete results for the 8k and 5k, including the Kill The Hill Challenge at http://www.canadarunningseries.com/springrunoff/csroRESULT.htm

Next races in the Canada Running Series are Banque Scotia 21k et 5k de Montréal, April 24th; and Toronto Waterfront 10k, June 25th. http://www.canadarunningseries.com/crs/index.htm

A Running Start: Why Your First Race Matters. By Amy Friel

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Amy Friel (@AmyFrii) is a Toronto-based freelance writer, two-time marathoner, and unabashed running geek. As a Digital Champion for the 2015 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Amy had a taste of the city’s vibrant running community – and hasn’t been able to stop writing about it since. Her work has been featured in iRun magazine, the Globe and Mail, as well as on her blog thelongslowdistance.com

A Running Start: Why Your First Race Matters. 

Here’s something nobody told me when I was younger: the moments that change your life don’t happen all at once. They happen in stages, in bits and pieces, in tiny shifts so imperceptible that often you never know the significance of these moments until they’ve long passed.

On September 22nd 2012, at the behest of an enthusiastic runner friend of mine, I ran the Oasis ZooRun 10K. I didn’t know it at the time, but that first race four years ago would change my life forever.

As races go, it’s a far cry from my most impressive time. But even after running my Boston Qualifier last fall, this first race remains my proudest. I struggled just to finish – but finish I did, thanks, in no small part, to the help and support of my friend and pacer, Chris.

That first race, tough as it was, gave me the confidence to push towards increasingly ambitious goals, both on and off the roads. It taught me about my own ability to persevere through the tough stuff. More than that, it taught me about the tremendous value of friendship and camaraderie in times of struggle. Without Chris, I would never have made it to the finish line. Without Chris, I doubt I would have had the guts to start.

Running might appear to be a straightforward pastime, but from the outside looking in, the sport can be daunting. Taking on your first road race takes dedication, perseverance, and above all, courage – qualities that are difficult to call upon in the best of times, and even more so when you’re going it alone.

So when Toronto-based runner, cyclist, and yogi Heather Gardner founded Tribe Fitness in 2013, she aimed to make the process just a little bit easier. Pairing novice runners up with seasoned running mentors, Tribe established a popular and highly successful Learn To Run program. This year, the Tribe newbies have their sights set on the upcoming Race Roster Spring Run-Off in High Park – for most of them, their first-ever road race.

Lisa O'Donoghue Tribe

“It is a compete anomaly for me,” says Lisa O’Donoghue, who began running with the group in January of this year. “I generally hate exercise, and I’ve never done any sport consistently.”

A newcomer to the city, Lisa moved to Toronto in August of last year from County Kerry, Ireland. She had been toying with the idea of beginning to run when the Tribe group whizzed past her one evening last December. Drawn in by their cheerful, social vibe, she decided to give it a try, and quickly found herself in the heart of the city’s tight-knit running scene.

“It gives a completely different sense of community than any place that I’ve lived previously,” she says. “All the people that I’ve met, I’ve really, really liked. I think it’s such a nice, salt-of-the-earth, genuine group of people.”

This warm sense of community is also what drew Violeta Hernandez to Tribe’s Learn To Run program this winter. Violeta was a track runner in high school, but had since stopped competing. Now a busy mother of two young children, she felt the need to make a change.

“The last couple years have been hectic,” she explains. “I needed an escape. It was a pretty dark time in my life. So I sat down with my Dad and was like, something has to change.”

JP and VioletaVioleta is close with her father, JP Hernandez, perhaps best known as the Dark Knight Runner – the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon’s resident Batman. JP has been deeply involved in the Toronto running community for some time now. So when he introduced his daughter to the Learn To Run group, Violeta immediately felt like one of the tribe.

“It feels like a family,” she says. “One week I was sick, I wasn’t able to make it to Tribe, and I had just met this lady, literally two weeks ago. She noticed that I wasn’t there that day, and she gave my dad soup to bring to me and the kids. It was just really touching, that someone thought about me.”

For Lisa, too, the Learn To Run group has offered so much more than just a training regimen. “It’s that accountability thing,” she explains. “Because if I don’t show up, people will miss me.”

Confident in their training, and eager for the challenge, both Violeta and Lisa have opted for the longer 8K Spring Run-Off course. “I know that I’ve done the training, so I’m not that worried about my ability,” Lisa explains. “I have minor trepidation about the hill at the end, but apart from that, I’m actually quite excited.”

For my part, “minor trepidation” feels like a bit of an understatement. Perhaps I’ve spent a little too much time swapping war stories with my fellow Torontonian runners, but that final climb up Spring Hill Road has been growing steadily steeper in my mind’s eye as race day draws nearer. Can I do this? Am I ready? Whose idea was this, anyway?

(Oh right. Mine.)

In the face of any new challenge, it’s easy to count yourself out. It takes courage to bet on yourself, on your own strength and ability, especially in the face of an uncertain outcome. Which is precisely why groups like Tribe are so important. Because sometimes we need a little help from those around us before we can see just how strong and capable we truly are.

I wasn’t prepared to bet on myself in my first race four years ago. But my friend Chris was. He helped me to believe that I belonged there, and that despite all my doubts, I was, in fact, a runner.

It may not have been my fastest race, but it’s the race that changed my life forever. Even if I didn’t know it at the time.

Join Amy, Lisa and Violeta at the Race Roster Spring Run-Off this Saturday April 9th! Walk-up registrations are still available. Click here for more info. 

All photo credits: Tribe Fitness.

Hill Seeker: How Struggle Makes You Strong. By Amy Friel

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Amy Friel (@AmyFrii) is a Toronto-based freelance writer, two-time marathoner, and unabashed running geek. As a Digital Champion for the 2015 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Amy had a taste of the city’s vibrant running community – and hasn’t been able to stop writing about it since. Her work has been featured in iRun magazine, the Globe and Mail, as well as on her blog thelongslowdistance.com

Hill Seeker: How Struggle Makes You Strong. 

If you ever run along Avenue Road, you’re probably familiar with that steep climb going northbound through Summerhill, just before you hit St. Clair. The rest of the route is a gentle rise, but here, the grade grows markedly steeper, towering over you like this impossible task. Even on my best days, this hill challenges me.

In my now four years living in Toronto, this hill has been a fixture in my training for countless races, in blistering hot summers, and polar vortex winters, and everything in between. Regardless of distance or pace, it invariably represents the most difficult portion of my run, and in the four years that I’ve been dragging myself to the top, it’s come to represent a good many other things as well.

It’s been dead-end jobs, and fights with friends, student stress, and impossible goals. It’s been breakups, breakdowns, injuries, and illnesses. It’s been, by turns, both a glaring reminder of my own limitations, and a triumphant means of redefining them.

Conquering this hill time and again has emboldened me, teaching me to be unafraid in the face of challenge. It’s turned me into a hill-seeker.

Conventional wisdom holds that favourable circumstances foster favourable outcomes. As a runner, I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself praying to the racing gods for flat courses, low winds, or mild weather. And while it’s true that circumstance plays a pivotal role in determining performance – whether we’re talking about athletics, academics, or professional success – it’s also worth noting that, counter intuitive though it might seem, there is also tremendous value to be found in the experience of struggle.

We’re accustomed to thinking of adversity as something to be avoided, something that inevitably leaves us worse off than we might otherwise have been. But a growing body of psychological research into the phenomenon of desirable difficulty suggests that, in certain circumstances, setbacks can trigger a valuable process called compensation learning.

Unlike capitalization learning, which is focused on improving upon our strengths and talents, compensation learning requires that we confront our weaknesses and shortcomings. Not every athlete is able to adapt this way – it is, after all, a difficult and often disheartening process. But those who can often wind up better off than they would have otherwise been, because the skills they hone out of necessity are inevitably more powerful than those that come easily.

FB_IMG_1438740166517For distance runner Josh Bolton, the concept of learning through struggle is anything but abstract. A relative newcomer to the road racing scene, Bolton has quickly built an impressive running resume, racing to a breakthrough fifth-place finish in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon last October, as well as back-to-back wins on the road this spring at the Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8-miler and Bay City Music Hall 5K. And with his sights set on the notoriously hilly Race Roster Spring Run-Off this April, Bolton looks poised for yet another powerhouse performance.

But it hasn’t always been smooth-sailing for the Paris, Ontario native. A runner for the University of Windsor, Bolton’s collegiate career was dogged by a painful condition known as Haglund’s deformity. The injury derailed his first two years of competition almost entirely, finally resolving after surgery to his Achilles tendon. Bolton was advised against any racing or speed work for the better part of a year following the surgery. So instead, he ran long.

“I focused a lot more on the mileage aspect of running,” Bolton recalls. “When I spent like eight months doing that, I came back a stronger runner than I ever was.”

Adversity, whether it’s a steep uphill climb or a near-catastrophic injury, has a curious and profound effect on those who manage to struggle through it. They slow down, and take their time with the process. They try new tactics. They address their blind-spots, and invest more resources on the task at hand.

In the face of his long recovery, Bolton was no exception.

“In essence, I actually think it was almost like a good thing,” he says. “It kind of made me reflect and get back to the basics of running, instead of always trying to push and work on the speed.”

For the best of us, an uphill battle can be demoralizing. But for a rare few, like Bolton, struggle and adversity even their darkest forms can be galvanizing. The conventional negative view of setbacks rests, in part, on the assumption that there’s only one response to adversity. But there isn’t – there are two.

IMG_5724For Lauren Simmons, shrinking from a challenge in the face of hardship has never been her style. Simmons is the daughter of an accomplished marathoner; her father competed in both the Boston and New York City Marathons. She took to running in college while living in Montreal, as a means to keep fit and explore the city’s nearby mountain trails. For her, distance running seemed a natural fit.

Even as a newcomer to the sport, Simmons never shied away from tackling more challenging routes. “Hills have kind of always been a part of my running,” she explains. So when she moved back to Toronto after college, the annual Spring Run-Off course, with its infamously tough climbs through the hills of High Park, was a welcome challenge.

“It’s hilly, that’s the first thing anyone will tell you,” Simmons, now a veteran of the course, explains when I ask what to expect. “And because it’s a little earlier – it’s not in May, it’s the beginning of April – you have to have been running at least a little bit in winter. So it’s not just your fair-weather runners – it’s people who’ve committed to doing some training in winter. It’s a little bit of a different breed of runner.”

The challenging course took on a deeper personal meaning for her in 2007, when Simmons’ father was diagnosed with prostate and bladder cancer; he later passed away. Ever resilient in the face of adversity, she resolved to turn her running into a fundraising endeavour to benefit the Princess Margaret Hospital, where her father received treatment.

Since then, Simmons has completed the Spring Run-Off course more than a half-dozen times, along with events like the Ride to Conquer Cancer, each time fundraising in her father’s memory.

In the face of personal tragedy, Simmons made a rather striking choice. She chose not to shrink from the challenge before her, and more to that, she chose to embrace an even greater challenge in the process. The choice to continue to run, and to fundraise in her father’s memory, speaks to an unconquerable spirit, to a bold celebration of human tenacity. It speaks to the heart of a distance runner.

Running is, at its core, about finding meaning in life’s uphill battles. Sometimes it allows us to overcome obstacles. Sometimes it simply allows us to cope with what we cannot overcome.

There’s a hill in High Park that’s been waiting, all winter, for Josh Bolton, for Lauren Simmons, for thousands of other runners… and for me. The toughest and most unforgiving part of the race, it will doubtless represent something different to each and every runner. But for all of us, our drive to “kill the hill” is more than just a physical challenge. It’s an affirmation of what this sport continues to teach me, in big and small ways, every day:

The things that make you struggle are the things that make you strong.

Join us April 9th in High Park for the Race Roster Spring Run-Off. To register visit: http://springrunofftoronto.com 

Dayna Pidhoresky Returns To Race Roster Spring Run Off 8k by Paul Gains

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TORONTO March 15th 2016 Dayna Pidhoresky returns to Toronto’s High Park April 9th for the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8k confident and feeling stronger than the start of any previous season.

This is a race she won in 2011, the same year she was crowned the overall Canada Running Series champion, and one in which she placed third in both 2012 and 2013. Those races seem a long time ago.

rs_ves10k14_print-95

Photo Credit: Rob Shaer

The 29 year old native of Tecumseh, Ontario is now living in Vancouver and like many athletes has her sights set on achieving the Olympic marathon qualifying standard this spring in Ottawa.

Earlier this year, after a superb buildup, she started the Houston Marathon with confidence only to succumb to stomach problems during the race. Several times she had to stop and finally abandoned at 25km. Despite the stops she had been on Olympic standard pace.

Confident that the buildup to Houston left her in her best aerobic condition ever, she looks ahead to the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8k as a suitable test of her training which she confirms is continuing to go well.

“This will be my fourth time running this 8k race, presuming it’s the same course,” she declares. “I just remember it being hilly and that last hill….. I feel now I am living in Vancouver, which is much hillier than Windsor, maybe I am going to feel more prepared for this race. In the past I have just not been the best hill runner.”

In November 2013 she and her boyfriend/coach Josh Seifarth left their home in Windsor, Ontario and moved to Vancouver in search of more fitting training climate. Upon arrival she joined Richard Lee’s BC Endurance Project and earned the bronze medal at the Canadian Cross Country Championships.  But after six months she decided the change in training programs wasn’t suitable.

“I just found it wasn’t working for me,” Pidhoresky reveals. “I am working with Josh who is now my husband. That had worked for me in the past.  The workouts that he gave me, I thought, were a better fit for me.  So I went back with him. Obviously, I knew he would take me back.”

She laughs at her last statement. But working with a spouse can test a relationship no matter the chosen field. There have been occasions, she admits, where they have had a conflict over training.

“It happens if I am very frustrated,” she says. “He is very easy going which is necessary I think, and I am not. Sometimes I will panic if something is not going well, and maybe sort of go on and on about it. Sometimes he can sort of put me in my place (laughs). There have definitely been moments of tension during workouts but it’s not something that carries over into our life outside of running.”

After her move out west she encountered several injuries including a fracture of her sacrum. And she developed an ongoing problem with her shins.

“I have only had two fractures in my life but I have been really prone to shin inflammation which hurts, I think, just as much as a stress fracture,” she explains.  “It is a little more frustrating because it can sort of linger longer than if it was an actual stress fracture.

“So that is something I really have to stay on top of. It’s sort of a muscle – tendon issue I have been getting a lot of physio and massage. I have two guys that I work with on that, which seems to be helping and keeping me running.”

Josh works full time at Forerunners, the Vancouver running store owned and operated by former Canadian international Peter Butler.  She works the occasional shift but, since their recent move to a new apartment, she has been busy painting and decorating between her two a day training sessions. She is also an avid reader of books based on true stories.  Adrift the biographical story of Steven Callahan’s 76 days lost at sea is her current read.

And, when her husband comes home in the evening he is treated to a fine meal, cooking being another of her passions.

“I am (an enthusiastic chef). But sometimes I don’t feel like I have enough energy. I really do like to cook I try out new things,” she admits. “We experiment.”

“My ‘go to’ dinner, if we had company, would be Vietnamese rice paper rolls with veggies, shrimp, tofu, avocado, and nori paired with a peanut or Sriracha dipping sauce.”

Pidhoresky was delighted to hear about the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8k’s ‘Kill the Hill Challenge’ where runners can compare the time it takes them to crest the final hill with those achieved by the elite runners.

“We actually live on top of a hill so every run I do down on the beaches and Spanish Banks I am always running up hill,” she explains. “So I feel I am naturally incorporating more hills. I probably won’t do anything specific as far as workouts for hills just rely on the strength I have gained by running them.

“In the past I have done a lot of hill workouts so (I’d advise others) to include hill sprints in your workouts or even tacking them on at the end of an easy run. I found that was helpful for me just to help with turnover, sort of working on your form running up hills. So I would usually find a steep hill and maybe do 6-8 hill repeats, a 100m hill repeat at a decent grade.

“Also I do a longer hill, maybe 300-500 metres, sort of a sprint up, then an easy jog down, and repeat. That definitely helps with strength. That I have done in the past,   usually at the beginning of the buildup, when I haven’t started doing any timed intervals yet.”

Pidhoresky is unclear as to who will be her major competition since many athletes are holding their cards close to their chests. But she will want to ensure her Olympic dream is on schedule. And that augurs well for a good race.

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For more information and to register:

http://www.canadarunningseries.com/springrunoff/

Tribe’s ‘Learn to Run’ Program Can Help You Rock the Race Roster Spring Run-Off!

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TORONTO February 7th 2016. CRS Community Leader Heather Gardner is a marathon runner, indoor cycling coach, yoga teacher, and triathlete. Running highlights for Heather include racing her first marathon in NYC in 2010, racing her first 70.3 Ironman in Muskoka in 2014, and the Canada Running Series ZooRun every year because it’s such a fun race! Heather is the founder of Tribe Fitness, a Toronto fitness community sweating for social good, and enjoys supporting runners, yogis and cyclists of every level set and rock their fitness goals. Connect with Heather on Twitter, Instagram, and on her blog.

Tribe’s ‘Learn to Run’ Program Can Help You Rock the Race Roster Spring Run-Off! By Heather Gardner. 

Through the Tribe “My First Race: Learn to Run” mentoring program I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and running with over a hundred new or returning runners. Folks who literally got off the couch to run, those returning after having a baby, and those looking to connect with family through fitness.

As we begin our third “My First Race: Learn to Run” program I wanted to share the story of an amazing and inspirational woman, Ljiljana Stanojevic, a fierce mother who not only met her goal of racing Spring Run-Off as part of our training program, but went on, with the motivation of her daughter, to race a 15km road race and a half marathon during 2015. Ljiljana has a drive and energy that is truly contagious and you can’t help but be inspired when you sweat with this gal. Please enjoy this “My First Race: Learn to Run” story as told by Ljiljana.

When I joined the ‘My First Race: Learn to Run’ program I couldn’t run. I thought it would be easy to start running, but all my previous attempts had failed and I ended up with sore muscles and an injury. During a weekly yoga class held by Tribe Fitness at MEC Toronto, I heard about the “Learn to Run” program with Canada Running Series and signed up without too much hope that I would ever be able to run – was I ever wrong!

IMG_2043My first day of training was interesting. I was nervous and I thought that all the other participants would run with ease while I fell behind. Thankfully, all of the Tribe mentors were so encouraging, patient and supportive, explaining what to expect and the difficulties that everyone faces when beginning to run. We were all given a training schedule provided by Tribe. During this first session we ran for 1 minute, walked for 2 minutes, and repeated that for a specified amount of time. During the week we were told to run two times on our own as part of the program and once a week we would meet and run with Tribe. The running time would increase and the walking time would decrease every week.

A draw to this free program is that we were teamed up with experienced run mentors from Tribe. We would connect through email and in person at the weekly runs. My mentor, Jenna, was amazing. She helped me by providing valuable advice and sharing her own experiences. She understood the difficulties that I had and followed up with my training through emails. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be running today.

IMG_2042What I loved most about the ‘Learn to Run’ program is that Tribe is like a family. They care and help each other and always welcome new members. I felt very comfortable during my training and later on during the runs with Tribe. Tribe’s founder Heather Gardner invited various experts to come during the training sessions to talk to us about proper clothing, running shoes, nutrition, etc. which was very helpful. We learned more than just running, we became part of a community.

The goal race was the Canada Running Series Spring Run-Off. Everyone knows it finishes with a giant hill in the final 500m before the finish line. During the Spring Run-Off, killing that hill would have been impossible without the Tribe cheer squad standing at the bottom cheering everyone on. You get an energy boost when you see a bunch of people yelling words of encouragement, holding signs, dancing, and telling you that you can conquer the hill.

One thing I would tell a new runner would be that you can do it! It’s an amazing program. Your mentor and all the Tribe members will be there to help you all the way. You will not regret it. Trust me, you are going to Kill that Hill!

The 2016 Tribe Fitness “Learn to Run” Program in preparation for the Race Roster Spring Run-Off 8k begins this Tuesday February 9th and there are still spots available! If you’d like more information or to sign up, you can find all the details here. Be sure to connect with Tribe Fitness and Canada Running Series on Twitter if you have any questions.