Sheryl Jesin


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Race Recap – Half Marathon – The GoodLife Toronto Marathon

I did it! I finished my first half-marathon on Sunday in 2 hours and 36 minutes. This of course is a personal best for me (by default, since it is my first half) and I am proud of myself. It was long, hot and sunny and painful at times, especially near the end. I still can’t believe that I did it!

Race Preparation

As I learned during my prep for my 10k two weeks ago, a gluten free, dairy free and soy free diet works really well for me. I’ve been diligent about the diet for about 3 weeks now with no slip-ups and my stomach has been feeling great. As a bonus, my eczema is also almost completely gone! The week before the race was my taper so I only ran twice, two miles each time. I felt blah, tired and lazy all week – I really missed running! The day before the race I headed down to the Direct Energy Centre with my mom and Benjamin to pick up my race kit and visit the expo. The expo was fun – lots vendors, lots of samples of various protein drinks and bars. I stayed away from most of them but enjoyed the Gidi Yoyo chocolate and Sha Sha buckwheat snacks. We didn’t stay long at the expo as I wanted to rest my legs. I tried to eat a lot of carbs the day before, and drink a lot of water. I attempted to go to bed early, but of course it was very difficult to sleep.

The half-marathon began at 8:30 am. I woke at 5:40 am so I would have time to eat my pre-race breakfast, vegan overnight oats, and drink some Vega Electrolyte Hydrator. This breakfast works really well for me. My stomach felt good, and I felt full, but not stuffed after breakfast. I left the house just after 7 and I drove up to the start at Mel Lastman Square by myself (there was no way we were going to get the kids up and ready to go by 7am!). I got there quickly and parked on a side street. I ate one Vega Sport Endurance Gel about 30 mins before the race. Luckily I arrived in time to make a quick portopotty stop – the lines were long but went quickly. It was a lot warmer out that I expected. It was probably about 12 degrees at the start and quickly went up to 18 degrees. This doesn’t seem so hot, but the sun was blazing down and there was little shade. I had on my throwaway jacket, but discarded it before the race even started. I wore my Lululemon Swiftly Short Sleeve T, and my Lululemon Inspire Crops. I also had on a Nike running hat and sunglasses. And of course my trusty Mizuno Wave Elixirs. I was SOO thankful to have both my hat and sunglasses. Really needed them both!

Race Time

I lined up in my corral just before 8:30. The corrals weren’t organized very well. I situated myself somewhat near the back and before I knew it, it was time to start. I knew I had to start out slowly or there was no way I was going to finish. Here are my splits:

Mile 1 – 10:57

Mile 2 – 11:15

Mile 3 – 12:46

Mile 4 – 12:07

Mile 5 – 11:18

Mile 6 – 11:43

Mile 7 – 10:48

Mile 8 – 11:34

Mile 9 – 11:35

Mile 10 – 12:30

Mile 11 – 11:31

Mile 12 – 8:52

Mile 13 – 7:59

Mile 14 – 11:27

A few things to note about my splits. I’m happy that I was able to keep most of my miles faster than 12min/mile. I attribute the ones higher than 12 to either hills, or water stops where I walked a bit. I’m not sorry that I slowed down on hills or walked while drinking as it was important to get fluids in because I was HOT. As I mentioned before, it was really hot and sunny. It was the kind of day where it was cool and beautiful in the shade, and hot in the sun. 95% of the race was not shaded, and I really felt the sun beating down on me. After training through the winter, I wasn’t really prepared for the heat. Should I have worn shorts? It was warm enough, but I really like the support that the Inspire Crops give me. They hold my tummy and thighs in and prevent jiggling, and they are really lightweight. So I think they were a good choice. I was also glad that I applied sunscreen before I left the house in the morning.

I was so thrilled to see my parents around mile 5, Jake, my brother in law and my kids at mile 6 and at the finish line, and my brother at mile 7. Knowing that I would see them helped me push through and, they also snapped some great pics.

I was feeling good with no aches or pains until about mile 5. At mile 5, my left ankle started to hurt. This pain went away around mile 7. Mile 7 was beautiful, down Rosedale Valley Drive. Finally there was some shade and it was cool and breezy. Miles 8-10 were brutal. They were down Bayview and River Street. There was no shade. It was hot. There were no spectators. The scenery was ugly. My stomach started to rumble and I started to feel sick. Earlier that morning, I had received an inspirational tweet from my cousin who was also running the half marathon. She is an accomplished cyclist who races (and wins!) a lot, and she wrote:

It’s all in your head. Just tell your brain to push through and you will kick butt.

Her words helped me push through miles 8-10. I wasn’t going to give up because of a tummy ache, and some hot weather. I told my body that I had to keep going and I wasn’t going to stop. I willed that stomach ache away. By mile 11 we were in the downtown core and there was a breeze, some shade and I was feeling good again. I pushed pushed pushed through those final miles.

Another thing to note – according to my GPS, I ran 14 miles and crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 36 mins, but a half marathon measures in at 13.1 miles. I really tried not to weave this time but I still inadvertently added 0.9 miles to my race. Oh well! I am thrilled that I ran mile 12 in 8:52 and mile 13 in 7:59. I really gave it my all in those last two miles, as I tried to make it in before 2 hours and 30 minutes. However, once I got to 13 miles I unexpectedly still had one mile to go. That last mile was BRUTAL. I couldn’t wait to see that finish line. My legs felt like they were going to break off and when I finally saw the finish I was absolutely thrilled.

This was taken right near the finish line. Why do I look so happy? I’m in a lot of pain

As for race nutrition and hydration – I ate a Vega Sport Endurance Gel at mile 5 and mile 10. I drank a full cup of water at every aid station (and also poured one down my shirt or on my head!). I had my Amphipod Hydration Belt on and I filled one bottle with water, and 2 with Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator. They gave out Gatorade along the way, but there was no way I was drinking that nasty stuff! I drank my electrolyte drink intermittently throughout the race. This worked for me, as I had practiced drinking and eating on my long runs. It is so important to practice race fuelling and hydration to figure out what works best for you!

I could barely walk when I was done the race. My legs felt like lead blocks. They were so stiff and it was hard to lift them. I got my medal, picked up a banana and called Jake. I was not impressed with the post-race party. It was in a parking lot, there was a fence around it and there was a lot of confusion because the 5k was starting at noon. So there were a lot of runners milling about aimlessly and I couldn’t even find water. Jake and the boys weren’t allowed in the party (or were they? I’m not sure. There was someone guarding a small entrance into the fenced in area and they didn’t allow them in). I was exhausted and didn’t feel like hanging around and couldn’t wait to get home.

I earned that finisher’s medal!

However, the only thing harder than running a half-marathon, is taking care of small kids after running a half-marathon. It’s not like I could go home and have a nap or sit on the couch for the rest of the day. The kitchen counter needed to be wiped, the kids needed to be fed and diapers needed to be changed. That is life as a mom and of course I’m so grateful for my wonderful kids, but next time after a half I will employ the help of babysitters or perhaps grandparents.

If you had asked me immediately after the race if I would do another one, I would have said NO WAY. I’m already changing my mind. I’m slowly forgetting the pain of the last 3 miles and already plotting my next few races.

Final Thoughts

A half marathon is hard. Perhaps this is obvious. (Perhaps if you run 100 mile ultramarathons, a half marathon is easy…I guess it is all relative.) A half marathon requires dedicated training, knowledge of your body and fuel requirements. You feel like crap after a half marathon. My whole body ached Sunday and I had a splitting headache. I forgot about my ankle pain because that was nothing in comparison to the pain in my hip flexors. I could barely roll over in bed Sunday night. I felt better Monday, and feel almost back to normal today. I really didn’t expect it to hurt so much.

My mom asked me after the race – what is the point of running a half marathon? I think she just didn’t like to see me in pain, which is understandable. The point is I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something hard. And why not do it? I run because I can. I’m thankful that I have the health and the ability and the time to run. I saw this quote yesterday, and it sums up the way I feel about running:

Don’t ask me why I run. Ask yourself why you don’t.

I love that Dylan watches me race. He brought in my medals and a cow bell from the race to school for show and tell. I’ve already decided that I’m going to do the Oasis Zoo Run in September. It is a 10k through the Toronto Zoo. There is a 1k race for kids and Dylan wants to do it. I’m so thrilled!

I’m already plotting my next half marathon. I know I can go faster! I have been bit by the long distance running bug. The pain of a race is fleeting, but the memories of pushing my body and my mind will last forever. Perhaps there is even a full marathon in my future…


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Half-Marathon Training – Weeks 7, 8, 9, 10

Half-marathon training has been progressing nicely, even though I haven’t been very good at blogging about it!

I’ve switched from running 4 days a week to running either 3 or 4 days a week, depending on how I’m feeling.   I find that my legs really need that extra day off running to rest and recover.   In lieu of the 4th run, I’ve been cross-training with either Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred DVD, or a workout from my Nike Training Club App.

Here’s what I’ve done the last 4 weeks:

Week 7 – 2 miles, 9 miles, 4 miles

Week 8 – 3 miles, 4 miles, 4 miles, 2 miles

Week 9 – 2 miles, 10 miles, 4 miles

Week 10 – 3 miles, 11 miles, 2 miles (planned), 6 miles (planned – Yonge St. 10k)

As you can see, my long run has progressed to 11 miles.  I ran the 11 miles today.  I don’t want to say it was easy, because it wasn’t, but it was definitely manageable.  I find the long runs to be empowering, and they give me a sense of accomplishment.   When I’m feeling stressed during my daily activities (kids won’t go to bed, kitchen is a disaster after dinner) I often think back to my run and think that if I can run 9, or 10, or 11 miles then I can certainly get the kids to bed or clean up the kitchen!!

The long runs are also draining.  I find I am energized and have a runner’s high after a 3 or 4 mile run, but after 11 miles, I’m tired.  And it doesn’t really matter that I’m tired.  It’s not like I can put my legs up for the rest of the day or have a nap – I still have my kids to chase after, groceries to buy and dinner to make.  Oh and I’m not complaining.  I chose to run the half-marathon and I’m still glad that I’m training for it and doing it.   I’m just saying it’s draining.   Because it is!  I have new found respect for every athlete that is also a mom.

While the long runs are tiring, I’m grateful that I can do them.  I often run through a beautiful cemetery near our house.  Here’s one of the stunning views I experience on my runs:

There is something very humbling about being able to run through a cemetery.  I’ve witnessed a truck digging a grave a few times, and I’ve also run by a few funerals.   There’s nothing like being reminded of death to make you think about life, and what you want to make of it!  As Steve Jobs so eloquently said in his 2005 Standford commencement address, “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent.”

So I will end with that deep thought.  Goodnight!


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Another race

So I decided to register for another race.  In two weeks I will be running my first 10k along with my brother-in-law, my running partner in crime.  We signed up for the Yonge St. 10k.   It promises to be a big, fun, downhill race down Yonge St.  My first race, the Yorkville 5k Run, had about 500 runners, and this one has 15,000….quite a difference…I’m excited and a bit scared too!

We figured this would be a nice way to ease into our half-marathon on May 6th.   Plus the starting line is just a few blocks from my house.   How could I resist?

I don’t plan on “racing” the 10k, as I don’t want to get injured close to the half-marathon.  I plan on taking it slow and easy, with the goal of having fun and just finishing.

Readers, any of you out there planning on running the Yonge St. 1ok?


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Today’s long run

I woke up this morning feeling a bit blah. My stomach was feeling off and I couldn’t tell if I was getting a cold or not. I contemplated postponing my planned 9 mile long run as my half marathon training schedule allows for some flexibility. A step-back week is coming up next week and I thought about swapping it with this week’s schedule, so that I would only have to run 4 miles today.

I hemmed and hawed and then I decided to bring along fluids and food so that I could complete my 9 miles. I also gave myself an “out” – if I felt horrible at 4 miles I would stop.

I ran two miles on a trail near our house, and then headed back. After those 4 miles I had some water mixed with Vega Sport’s Electrolyte Hydrator and a date. I was feeling strong and decided to go for it and finish my 9 miles.

The last 3 miles were not easy, and the last mile was HARD. I probably looked at my iPhone about 10 times during that final mile to see if I was done yet! My legs felt heavy and achy and slow, but I completed those 9 miles!

I now know that if I wait until the perfect day, I will never run! There is always an excuse why I shouldn’t run – my stomach hurts, I’m tired, Benjamin seems cranky, the laundry needs folding, I don’t have enough time before I have to pick up Dylan from school, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, it’s too cold out, it’s raining, it’s too hot out. I can go on and on….

So instead of waiting for a perfect day for my long run, I took today’s imperfect conditions and did my best with how I was feeling! I finished my 9 miles tired and achy, but also feeling strong and confident! (I should add that my stomach was fine during the run and the cold has not yet shown up!) There is no guarantee that on race day I will be feeling amazing, and now I know I can run 9 miles with a weird stomach and an itchy throat. The 13.1 miles that I will be running in my half marathon seems a lot more approachable after today’s run.


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Half Marathon Training Weeks 5 and 6

Week 6 of my half marathon training is now over…meaning that I am half way there with just a short 6 weeks to go until the big day.

My runs for weeks 5 and 6 were as follows:

Week 5 – 3 miles, 7 miles, 2 miles and 3 miles

Week 6 – 2 miles, 8 miles, 2 miles and 3.5 miles (one of those 2s was supposed to be a 3 but somehow I got confused…oh well!)

I’m not going to lie – the long runs felt LONG.  7 miles was hard, and 8 was even harder.  Before I go on a long run, I am always excited about the challenge, but it can also seem really daunting.   More than a few times during the long runs the negative talk in my head was a bit out of control.  It went something like this:  Why did I think I could run a half marathon?  This was a terrible idea.  Anything more than 10k is just stupid.  My legs are tired.  I’m hot.  I’m thirsty.  I can’t do this.  Why did I think that I could do this with two little kids at home?  I am the world’s slowest runner.  I’m not a real runner.

However, as the miles passed, I tried to silence the negative talk.   I also tried to break  the run down into manageable chunks.  I just concentrated on completing one mile at a time, because I know I can run one mile easily!   After mile 7 of my 8 miler I was very hot and very tired (summer arrived very early this week in Toronto), but I know I only had 1 mile left and 1 mile is easy peasy!  I pushed through that last mile and was thrilled and very proud of myself when I was done.

Signs of spring, as seen on my run

Life’s daily tasks, just like running, can seem very overwhelming with so many things to do!  Sometimes just getting myself and the kids up and ready in the morning so we can take Dylan to school seems nearly impossible!  There are so many little things to do – make the beds, throw in a load of laundry, get Benjamin dressed, make breakfast, clean up, get the kids in the car etc.  Each task on itself isn’t that hard, but all of them together can seem like too much.  So I try to conquer each distinct task at a time, and that helps me get through the morning rush.   So, lessons learned running also apply to my life – just like I tackle long runs one mile at a time, I know I also have to complete things at home one task at time, and eventually everything will get done!


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Half-Marathon Training – Week 4

Can’t believe I am four weeks into my training already.  8 weeks left to go!

This was a step-back week, so my long run was only 4 miles.  In addition to the long run, I ran 2 miles, 3 miles and 3 miles.

I’ve decided to pick up the speed a bit too.  I’ve been running slowly because that’s what I’m used to, and I keep thinking I am a slow runner.   This week I’ve realized that I am actually quite capable of running faster, so I will continue to push myself!  I snuck in a run this Wednesday because Benjamin was with my mom at a playgroup.  I dropped him off at 9:45, was home and in my running gear by 10, ran a fast 5k (fast for me) in 30 mins, showered in 2 mins, mixed up a quick Vega protein shake, and was out the door again to pick him up for 11!  Phew!  Just made it in the nick of time – it’s amazing how having a limited amount of time to run really motivated me to go fast!

The weather has been warming up and one of my 3 milers was done on a warm and sunny day, in 10 degree Celsius weather.  Believe it or not, I actually felt too hot!  I was wearing running tights and a thin long sleeve pullover but I think I could have worn shorts and been ok.  I will be prepared for the next nice day!

My long solo run yesterday almost didn’t happen as Dylan has been sick all weekend with a fever.  But my lovely husband watched the kids and I snuck out for a run just before dinner.   I usually like to run in the morning, but with kids you take these opportunities as they come, even if it means half of my run was done in the dark!!

I really want to get a real double jogging stroller so I can run with both kids…I can’t decide which one to buy though!  I’ve been thinking of buying a Chariot that can also be a bike trailer.  Something like this:

Any suggestions readers??


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Half-Marathon Training – Weeks 2 and 3

So I’m already 3 weeks into my half marathon training…just 9 weeks left until the big day!  It is hard to believe that in just over 2 months I will be running the longest distance I have ever run  – 13.1 miles.  Up until now, the longest I’ve gone is 10k or about 6 miles, so I will be doubling that distance plus a bit.  Yikes!!

I managed to get in all of my planned runs in weeks 2 and 3.

Week 2 had me running 2 miles, 3 miles, 3 miles and 5 miles.

Week 3 had me running 2 miles, 3 miles, 3 miles and 6 miles.

I did the 6 miler today.   It was a fairly mild but windy day in Toronto today, and somehow I had the bright idea of running the 6 miles on my parents’ treadmill.   This turned out to be a very bad idea.  2 miles in I was bored out of my mind and also too hot!  I’ve really gotten used to the cold running temps and running in room temperature with no breeze did not feel nice at all.

So after 2 miles I bundled up and headed outside to finish up the final 4 miles.  Much much much better!  Part of the reason I love running so much is that it gives me a chance to get outside in the winter, when I normally would be inside.

Week 4 will be a step back week where my long run is only 4 miles.   This will give my body a chance to rest up a bit before the next week, where I will be attempting 7 miles – my longest distance to date.  I really enjoy the challenge of the long runs.  I know that I need to work on my speed because I am SO SLOW (12 minute miles??!!) but for now I don’t want to get injured, so slow it is!

Related to injuries, I’m never quite sure when my running shoes are worn out.  I find they tend to last me around 4-6 months and towards the last few weeks of their life, I start to get weird aches and pains.  For the last 2 weeks I’ve been feeling a twinge of a pain in my left ankle after a run and I wasn’t sure if it was because I have been running a lot, or because my shoes are worn out.

I’ve been wearing my current pair since September, so I decided to treat myself to some new shoes this week.  I stopped by my local Running Room  and purchased a pair of Mizuno Wave Elixir 7s.   Tried them out today on my 6 mile run and they were amazing!!!

They are really light weight but still provide support for over pronators, such as myself.  It also doesn’t hurt that they are purple with a fun tiger print pattern that is a bit 80s but kinda cool!   My ankle is feeling good, so it appears that my new shoes were actually a need, rather than just a want.

Have you purchased any fun new running gear lately?