I Did It! I’ve Registered For My First Full Marathon!

Set A Goal

 

It’s official! I’ve taken that first step towards checking off another bucket list item. I signed up for my first ever full marathon – The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon! :/

Not only will #STWM be my first full marathon, but I’m excited to announce that I will be a 2014 Ambassador, aka Digital Champion, for the race as well! Check out the rest of the 2014 Digital Champions.

One of the items on my bucket list is to complete a full marathon – 26.2 miles for the Americans or 42.2 kms for the Canadians. I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into but there is no backing out now. I initially wanted my first full marathon to be one of the Top 5, but after completing my first half marathon locally, I realized I wanted to complete the full marathon in my hometown. I’m a bit nervous and scared but I know that I will be alongside my friends, fellow runners and Digital Champions, and that I will have my family and friends waiting for me at the Finish Line.

The next four months will be tough and require lots of training, dedication and commitment. I’ve got a packed obstacle race calendar as well, so it’s safe to say my social life will be put on hold until the season is over. I can not wait to cross that finish line in October and feel the overwhelming joy of accomplishment, of being able to check off that bucket list item, and that all my training has been worth it. My legs and my body may hate me for what I am about to put it through, but one of my favourite saying goes “A sore body today, is a strong body tomorrow.”

 

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Where has Linda been?


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Wow. I haven’t been updating my blog or my progress lately. Life has been so busy these past 2 months. Today was my ‘rest day’ after a fun and hectic Spartan Race weekend. I thought I would update my whereabouts on my blog and post my race recaps; and coincidentally, my friend J.C. also reminded me that I have not been blogging much as he has not seen any updates. [Yes, you got your shout out ;) ]

April was the start of my 2014 race season and therefore there were many back to back races I was registered in. Aside from running, I was busy planning my BIG milestone birthday :) and my RACEcation in Washington, D.C. for the Nike Women’s Half.

May consisted of another half marathon, more races and another RACEcation to start my obstacle race season. In addition to it all, I have a busy full time job and April 30 was our second quarter end – so there were several overtime hours in May. :(

Now you can see, I’ve been a busy bee. :)

I don’t know how but I definitely give props to those frequent bloggers who blog every day and write their race reviews the day after. I applaud you! I will upload my pictures and write reviews of all the races I’ve done so far…slowly but surely. Better late than never right?

 

KeepBusy

 

 

You’re Tougher Than You Think

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This run was a tough run for me and it was the most challenging. I pushed myself but I also knew my body and when I’ve exerted my efforts. With every run or workout, I always push myself a little harder. Otherwise, you won’t get the results you want if you don’t consistently put in that extra effort every time.

It was a slow and steady 5k. I barely talked during the run, which for me is unusual especially if I’m running with someone. I wanted to concentrate on my breathing, on avoiding snowbanks and most importantly, on making sure I was able to finish the run standing upright and not feeling like I was going to pass out. During the run, I felt my breathing start to get heavy, my energy diminishing and I felt dehydrated. I barely even drink water for anything less than 10k. My calves were starting to hurt from running through all the unplowed snowed sidewalks. I ran at a slower than normal turtle pace and kept it consistent. I remember thinking and encouraging myself mid run “Finish strong”, “You’re tougher than you think”, “When did I become so tough?” By the end of the run, I felt so exhausted and dehydrated but super proud that I had finished my most challenging 5k run ever.

Some factors that could have contributed to my performance were:

TOWeather1. There was a snowstorm all day and the sidewalks were not shovelled, making it a difficult run in the snow.

2. Because of the snowstorm and wind chill warning, I was dressed the same as during my coldest run ever. I felt 10 lbs heavier during the run.

 

 

 

3. I was still sore from my intense bootcamp workout two days before

15secs pushup, 15secs shoulder press @ 16lbs x 10 reps.
15secs burpees, 400m run.
15secs boxjumps, 15secs squats @ 40lbs x 10 reps.
15secs jumping jacks, 400m run.
15secs wallballs @ 12lbs, 15secs bicep curls @ 16lbs x 10 reps.
15secs burpees, 400m run.
15secs tricep dips, 15 seconds tricep extensions @ 16lbs x 10 reps.
15secs jumping jacks, 400m run.

BloodDonation4. I donated blood in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coldest Run Ever

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Let me clarify. This run was not just MY coldest run ever – because I’m sure everyone’s definition of COLD varies, depending on your geographic location. But this run was also THE coldest run ever! Okay, I know those of you who live in colder climates will disagree, but this was the coldest day in Toronto thus far.

I love setting goals and challenging myself so I thought “Hey, let’s go for a run in the coldest day of the year.” :) I wore all my baselayers and found some old windbreaker pants from the 1990′s ‘windbreaker tracksuit collection’. I couldn’t find the matching jackets but was thankful that I had saved the pants. I guess it helps to hoard your old clothes; you never know when you might need it or when it will come back in fashion again (if ever). I made sure all my skin was well covered. I thought about wearing my snowboarding goggles as well but since it was nighttime and my goggles were pink, I would not be able to see if I had worn them. I did however, wear my snowboarding mitts over top my running gloves. At this point, I would probably have been issued a ticket from the Fashion Police. Oh well, fashion had to take a back seat for this run and warmth would take the front. photo

After 20 minutes of getting ready and feeling 10 pounds heavier, I finally braved it out the door. It was a very slow run. I wasn’t feeling cold at all, I even started sweating. The snow mixed with the cold actually made my eyelashes freeze. About 10 minutes into my run, it was getting harder to blink and when I did blink, I could feel the icicles on my lashes. Guess I should have worn the goggles. :( It was a tough 7km during a wind chill warning. 

Recap of what I wore:

Bottom: 
Asics GT-2170
Smartwool socks 
Under Armour 3.0 baselayer pants
Lululemon winter running tights
Legwarmers (I forgot where I got them from)
Adidas trackpants

Top: 
Under Armour 3.0 baselayer top
Nike Hyperwarm hooded sweater
Nike Element winter running jacket

Accessories:
Lululemon brisk run neckscarf 
The Ugly Sweater Run toque
Lululemon brisk run mitts
Burton snowboarding mitts 

Oh and that white object I am holding in the picture is actually a block of ice. I found it towards the end of my run and decided to run home with it. It was good cross training! :)

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What was the coldest/hottest run you’ve ever ran?

Do you prefer running in the cold or heat?

Running: The Passion That Unites Us All

Runners Understand

I am honoured to return as a 2014 #TYS10K Digital Champion for Canada Running Series. This inspiring and motivating group of runners is what pushes me every single day to become a better, stronger and faster runner, athlete and person. I have learned so much from all of them since the inauguration of the Digital Champion program in 2013 and am honoured and thankful to know them all. If you ever get the opportunity to meet any of the Digital Champions, consider yourself lucky. I always do. Thank you my Digital Champions family.

Check out my #TYS10K blog post on the CRS page as well as posts from other Digital Champtions.

I’ve also copied my blog post below.

Running: The Passion That Unites Us All

TORONTO. February 19th 2014. Digital Champion Linda Nguyen is an avid runner and obstacle course racer. Her 2013 fitness achievements include completing 12 road races and 5 obstacle races with some notable achievements including having completed her first half marathon, running 25k (her longest race), completing Tough Mudder in a snow and hail storm and becoming a member of the Spartan Race Trifecta Tribe. 2014 will be a big year for Linda. She hopes to PB the Toronto Yonge Street 10k race, achieve two Trifecta medals and run her first full marathon in October at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon! Connect with Linda on Twitter @lindamnguyen and on her blog.

Running: The Passion That Unites Us All. By Linda Nguyen.TYS10K Linda Blog

If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, which I’m assuming you are, you would have heard the tagline “The Passion That Unites Us All” many times before. I think it is a wonderful slogan and it can be applied to many areas of our life.

There are many things in life which I am passionate about, but running is at the top of the list. When we have a passion for something, it becomes our hobby, our past-time, and an escape from our everyday routine. It can be something we enjoy doing by ourselves, a time to reflect on personal growth; or it can be something we share with others who have the same passion as us. If I am not running a race on the weekends, then I am training for one. If I am not participating in a race as a runner or volunteer, than I am there supporting my friends.

An important part of growing up is finding out what your passions are. Completing a half-marathon and a full marathon have always been on my bucket list. When I signed up with the North York Running Room half-marathon clinic in 2012, I was not registered for any races yet. I wanted to see how my long distance training would go before I committed myself to 21.1K. I was a short distance track runner during school so I knew the conversion would require a lot of training. It was at the training clinic that I began to like long distance running. I was blessed with amazing and dedicated coaches who shared their passion of teaching and running with us. I met all different levels of runners from newbies like myself to veterans to runners who were getting back into running.

I learned a lot throughout the clinic. I learned that I was unprepared and the only thing I had right was my running shoes. I was able to try different fuels and gels during our Sunday long runs and even got to test run some new kicks. Needless to say, towards the end of the clinic, I had given in to the sport of running and all the cool (and at times pricey) accessories that went along with it to ‘enhance’ my experience. I had discovered a new passion and created new friendships while bonding over GPS watches, waterbelts the latest races we had registered for.

TYS10K Linda Blog 2

It wasn’t until one year later when I was asked to be a Digital Champion for the Toronto Yonge Street 10k that I united virtually with other runners that I had never met before. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect or what I was getting myself into. I’m thankful to Canada Running Series for the opportunity and for my increased passion for running. By race day, I had gained new friends; some who I still see often, some who I only see at races and some whom I have never gotten the opportunity to meet in person but still consider my ‘online friends’. I have learned so much within the past year and am fortunate and thankful to be a part of a wonderful, motivating and inspiring community of runners.

The passion and unity doesn’t stop within’ our immediate community. Through the power of social media, I have connected with a global community of runners and athletes . It has allowed me to learn from other athletes about training and nutrition; to learn about new and inaugural races both locally and internationally; to create bonds and friendships with people in different time zones and various parts of the world; and most importantantly, it has provided me with the inspiration, dedication and determination to be a better,
faster and stronger runner, athlete and person.

Whether you’re a passionate runner or you’re a new runner looking for some training tips or inspiration to start running, join a run group and join the conversation online. There are lots of runners, including the rest of our #TYS10K Digital Champions team that are more than willing to share our experiences and training with you. Just have a look around and you’ll see that the passion and inspiration is everywhere.

My First Blog, My First Post and My Disappointing First Half Marathon

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I completed my first half marathon on October 20th, 2013 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon #STWM. What started off as a great run ended in a series of cramps and injuries that led to my first ever disappointing race. Although the last 3k of the race was a struggle for me and I rather not reflect on my poor performance; I would like to share my experience, my thoughts, my feedback and my love and gratitude for the running community.   

Three days before the race, I pulled my right hamstring. I think it happened during my last training run on Wednesday night. I’ve never pulled a hamstring before. I posted to Twitter and immediately had some Twitter Followers (I like to call them Friends), give me great advice and provide reassurance that I would be still be able to run on Sunday.   


The weather was a bit chilly the morning of the run, but it was expected for October and especially in Toronto. I thought it was the perfect running weather. There was no rain predicted and although it was cool; once you start running, you warm up quickly. I had packed some warm clothes and a jacket for after the race. I packed my Vega Recovery Accelerator mix. I filled my water belt with water and some Vega Electrolyte Hydrators. I had my Honey Stinger Waffle and Chews and a Powerbar Gel as well. I was ready to give it my all. This was the fuel I used during the 25k RBC Run for the Kids race that I ran a month earlier. It worked really well and I felt great after the race and even the next day. I decided to stick to what worked well for me in the 25k race and was hoping for the same results for the half. 


Before the hamstring injury, my goal was to complete the half marathon in 2 hrs and 15 mins. The competitive side of me actually wanted to complete it in 2 hrs or less. :) After the injury, my goal changed to 2:15-2:30. I started off strong and running a pace of about 6:05/km. Once the initial traffic of runners dispersed a bit, I started running faster at a pace of 5:53/km. I passed the 10k mark in under 1 hr and figured I could run a negative split and accomplish my competitive goal before the hamstring injury. My right hamstring was starting to hurt a bit but I compensated it by running lighter on it and a bit more heavily on my left foot. My left knee then started hurting but I had such a runner’s high and was ecstatic I could finish in sub 2 hrs, that I ignored the pain. 


At the 18k mark was when I started feeling a cramping in my left calf. I had taken my gel and I also took the Gatorade at the water station. I started to drink all my Electrolytes hoping the cramping would go away. I had to slow down and could even feel my left toes starting to curl under. I knew I had to pull over to the side to stretch it out. I had never experienced that cramping before nor have I ever stopped running during a race! I ran the 25k RBC race and the 25k Spartan Beast Race and didn’t stop once during either of those races. It took so much effort and pushing aside my pride to stop because I really wanted to continue despite the cramping. I also knew that once I stopped, the pain would worsen. However, since I’ve never experienced it before, I didn’t want to experience something horrid at the finish line or worse, not even able to finish. I was so close; the thought of not finishing the race scared me. I’ve never DNF before.  


I stopped a little after 18k and found a wall to stretch out my calf. Once I stopped, I began to wobble and could feel the pain immediately; my right calf was starting to hurt as well. I remember looking at my Garmin and saw the time of 1:50. I knew there was no way I could finish in sub 2 hrs now and tears started forming in my eyes when I saw the hundreds of runners pass me as I stood there stretching. This was not a sight I was used to seeing, being on the sidelines watching others run pass me; I felt defeated. My ego was bruised. I felt like I let myself down, I let my Charity down and worst of all, I let my family, friends and colleagues who have sponsored me, down as well. This was not my proudest moment. 

After about 5 minutes of stretching, I started to walk and decided to run lightly. I had this vision of me sprinting the last 3k to the finish and my time would be just over my goal of 2:05. In reality, my legs could barely run. I stopped about 3 other times to stretch. A little past the 19k mark, I walked past a lady that was limping; she looked like she was in so much pain. I asked her if she was okay, she said yes and that she might have pulled something. She stopped on the side and I kept walking. I then had to stop to stretch and I saw her approaching, she saw me and it was her turn to ask if I was okay. I told her my calves were cramping up. She continued on past me as I continued stretching against the fence. Close to the 20k mark, I caught up to her again and she was still limping. There were more spectators along the side now and they were shouting her name, (Joyce), to keep pushing. I was behind her and it felt great to have random strangers shouting out your name and telling you to keep going. I caught up to her, tapped her on the shoulder and told her we were almost there and to hang in there. I saw her struggling and told her I would walk the rest of the way with her. She told me to keep on walking. I remember looking at my watch and noticed it was past 2:10. This would not be one of my best races and I no longer had a goal time. It was no longer about my time. I wanted to motivate Joyce to the finish line. We lightly ran a bit until Joyce said she couldn’t and had to stop. I stopped with her and told her that she could finish and that I was going to cross the line with her. She asked me if this was my first half marathon and when I told her it was, she said I was doing really well and looked great. This wasn’t her first. We started walking and limping again and the cheers, support and motivation from the crowd was phenomenal. It definitely pushed us along to the finish line. As we neared the finish, Joyce had both her hands up and told me to put my hands up as well. I did and she held my hand. It was such an emotional moment. Here was this stranger and I holding hands as we crossed the finish line of what turned out to be my most difficult race ever. I could barely walk and stopped right after the finish, leaning forward to stretch my calves. Joyce turned to me and said “I just wanted to thank you so much. You are so strong and definitely pushed and motivated me to the finish. I couldn’t have done it without you.” This brought tears to my eyes. I thanked her and told her she did really well. Joyce told me to keep walking to get our medals. I had totally forgotten about that finisher’s medal at the end and I also forgot to stop my watch to track my time. This was the point that I realized, it was no longer about my race, but Joyce’s race. I was so happy to have been a part of her accomplishment and special day. I did stop my watch and saw a time of over 2:18. The tears started flowing again. Not because of the pain I was in but because I was still a bit disappointed with myself. Disappointed that I could have ran a better race and beaten my goal of sub 2 hrs for my first half marathon. It was a bittersweet moment; disappointed in my race but glad to have motivated Joyce on hers.   

When we got to the volunteers with the medals, Joyce was in front of me. She stepped aside and told the volunteer to put the medal on me first – that I deserved it more. I was so touched by this. The volunteer saw my tears and asked if I was in pain, I said I was just happy to have finished. Joyce thanked me again and we parted ways after we received our medals; she had to go look for her husband. I took a few cups of Gatorade and stood by the fence to stretch out my calves and drink my water. A former colleague of mine, who also ran the half marathon, saw me and approached me. She asked how I did and then asked if I need a paramedic; I guess you could tell I was in a lot of pain. She had to look for her friend who also ran and told me not to move, that she would be back to check on me.
As I stood there stretching, a volunteer in a Medic bib approached me and asked if I was okay. She gave me water and told me to keep stretching. Then another volunteer Medic saw me and he gave me two bananas. He said he was going to call for someone. At this point, my calves really started cramping up more. Two more Medics came and they said they were going to lay me down on the ground while they stretched me out. One was holding my head up while the other stretched out my calves. I started shivering and my quads and hamstrings started seizing up as well. The Medic girl said I was too cold and I needed to go to the Medic tent to warm up because I was seizing up all over. Some volunteers brought a wheelchair and they lifted me on it while the girl wrapped the heat sheet around my legs.
I spent 45 mins in the Medic tent as a nice gentleman worked on my legs, trying to massage out all the tight spots. I was in so much pain because once my calves were better, my hamstrings would tighten up, then my quads and then my calves would tighten up again; it was an endless circle of cramps. My Medic personnel did an amazing job and was able to put up with my screaming and squirming. He massaged all my cramped parts until I felt better and had no more cramps. Thankfully I ran with my phone and had my phone on me to call my friend who was also running the half marathon. Before the race started, we agreed on a meet-up spot at the Friends and Family Zone once we were finished. He was waiting for me and when I called to tell him I was in the Medic tent, he went to get my bag from bag check to bring it to me. He arrived just as my cramps finally started to all go away and I was lying there covered in blankets. My Medic personnel stayed with me until my friend arrived and to make sure I was okay to get up and walk. Once I had my bag, I immediately put on my extra pants, sweater and jacket. It was a good thing I brought warm clothes to put over, I definitely needed them. I thanked my Medic Savior and we left the tent to walk to the finish area and took our professional post race photos. I normally take a few post race photos; but for some reason I didn’t bother to take any that day. I was sore, exhausted and hungry. Perhaps I also did not want many photos and memories from a race that I felt was my worst race ever.   

You should also know that I had signed up to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in 2012 as well. Two weeks before the race, I fractured my right ankle and had to miss out on it. I showed up to cheer on my friends and watched them finish. Being a part of the crowd was an amazing experience and I knew I wanted to sign up for it again; not just for redemption but also for being a part of a dynamic event filled with so much love and support from people you don’t even know or will ever know. It brought communities together and runners from all over the world.

This motivated me even more to sign up to run the half marathon in 2013. I was able to see how organized the race was from start to finish, from a runners perspective. The race expo was excellent. There were guest speakers and Elite Athletes, plenty of vendors to shop and sample from and there was barely a wait to pick up your race kit. Our race kit included your typical bib number and chip timing, a technical race souvenir shirt, some goodies to sample and other race promotional material, all packaged into a convenient reusable drawstring bag. I love the bag because it was functional to wear instead of holding a plastic bag, which allowed both hands to freely browse and try on merchandise. :) The course was a fairly flat and scenic route equipped with adequate water stations, bands along the way and spectators cheering everywhere, I don’t think there was any point in the race where there were no spectators or that I felt alone. There were spectators with signs and some even dressed in costumes to cheer us on. The route ran through some of Toronto’s diverse and multicultural neighborhoods and along the Lakeshore, which made for some lovely views and photo ops. The volunteers were awesome and provided water, gels and words of encouragement and cheers. I was also impressed at how organized the finish line was. There were spectators lined on both sides of the road towards the last 500 metres of the race. I am so grateful for them. They shouted our names and screamed words of encouragement to myself and Joyce as we wobbled slowly on the left side towards the finish line. Words such as “Keep going Linda, you can do it!” “You’re almost there, give it all you’ve got” “Finish strong” “Congratulations, we’re proud of you and we don’t even know you” Those words will forever be etched in my heart and I would like to thank these spectators, whoever they are. You helped me stay standing and crossed that finish line.

This is one of my favourite races and CRS always does an amazing job making sure logistics are met and that every runner has a safe and fun run. The Medic tent was right at the finish and there were tons of Medics and volunteers on hand to watch out for people like myself. I spent most of my time after the race in the tent so I didn’t get to eat any of the post race food, other than my banana from previous and did score a yogurt on the way back to the car. CRS never fails to deliver, going above and beyond expectations. I have only the deepest gratitude to the race organizers and the Medic staff who were on hand to assist me (and every injured runner) immediately after the race. Thank you!      

Race Recap

Pros: Excellent race expo and race kit. Beautiful scenic flat route, amazing volunteers and bands along the course, lots of spectators, adequate water and gel stations, Medics readily available after the race. Adequate post race food. 

Cons: None that I can think of 

Would I run it again: Definitely! In fact, I plan to come back and run my first FULL marathon at STWM! :)

My Charity: Right To Play Canada

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