How to Train for your Last Race of the Year

As the year is coming to an end, you may have already completed all of the races you had set out to accomplish this year… Or some of you may be like me and still have a few on the docket before the year’s end.

Training for a race late in the year can have its challenges especially if you’ve been training for races since the beginning of the year.

My last official road race for 2018 will be the Malibu Half Marathon taking place on Sunday November 4th in none-other than gorgeous Malibu, California. I picked this race as my last of the season for several reasons. First, I knew that I would be able to have some stunning ocean views throughout the 21.1km course. Second, it would be a nice sunny break from the usually rainy Vancouver at that time of the year. Third, I love doing destination races, they’re my absolute favourite way to get to know different parts of the world. This year is the race’s 10th anniversary so I know it will be an extra special one!

The last half marathon that I did this year dates back to the end of June in Vancouver so it’s been a while since I’ve been running longer distances. I spent a lot of my summer running trails or hiking and not so much on the road so amping up with more distance right before the end of the year can sometimes be tricky.

This year, I was faced with a few health setbacks so the last thing I want to do leading up to the race on November 4th is get injured. So I’ve been extra careful to follow a little self-imposed training plan leading up to the Malibu Half Marathon.

Here are a few key tips leading up to your last race of the year:

1) Rest Days are necessary. Your body may be tired at this time of year, especially if you spent your summer being active. Therefore, it’s that much more important to prioritize proper rest days throughout the weeks leading up to the race. I usually give myself 1 full rest day a week and sometimes opt for a 2nd day where I’ll do lower impact activities such as climbing, yoga, swimming or just going for a walk. I also try to space out my runs so that I’m not running crazy distances back to back to give my body proper time to recover.

2) Cross-training. Some runners opt not to cross-train while preparing for a race but for me, this has become super crucial in developing more strength in my legs, upper body, core and has helped me become a better/faster runner. I tend to do 1-2 spin classes a week as well as 1-2 circuit HIIT classes a week with weights, props, etc. I’ve also loved swimming and climbing as a great strength workout.

3) Yoga/Stretching. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year with my health setbacks is the importance of stretching, foam rolling and attending yoga weekly. The folks over at Myodetox in Vancouver/Toronto and soon LA (new location opening up in West Hollywood next month!) have put together great guides for stretching particularly designed for runners. You can check out some of their articles online here. I’ve also been attending at least 1 yoga session a week to help with my flexibility and recovery. I often just opt for a restorative Yin Yoga, which works wonders. I also make sure to stretch and foam roll before and after my runs (almost always!).

4) Sleep. If you want your body to recover, you need to sleep. You can’t increase your mileage every week leading up to a race and not get some good sleep. Lately, I’ve started reading a lot more before going to bed. I find it’s the most relaxing thing to do. It also pretty much ensures I pass out and don’t wake up until the next morning. If you can, turn off your phone 30-60 mins before going to bed and focus on doing other things: mindfulness, reading, relaxing, etc. I’ve been using the new “Screen Time” function on my iPhone X to help limit the time I’m on my phone, especially in the evening.

5) Nutrition. I’ve been 100% vegan for almost two years now and eating plant-based has completed changed the way I feel while training. I no longer feel nauseous at night, no longer have stomach and digestion issues and also feel like I recover a lot faster from all of my workouts. Being plant-based doesn’t work for everyone but for me it’s been monumental in my training. I make certain to take a greens blend every morning that has a lot of the nutrients that I could potentially lack (magnesium, calcium, iodine, b12, zinc, etc.) by being plant-based. I’m not certain I whole heartedly believe in too much carb loading, but hearty meals before a race and drinking lots of water a week or so before a race, are super important.

Other than that, I’ve been trying to do a little more speed and interval work but still find myself struggling with hill repeats, which is what usually kills me during races. Luckily all the hiking and trail running I’ve been doing in recent months have helped but it’s always good to plan for at least one track or hill workout a week. That said, because I’m no pro athlete and still have to spend most of my days working, getting all that stuff in can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, so at the end of the day, I just try to listen to my body and do as much as I can to be the healthiest and strongest I can be.

Excited for next weekend’s race! Maybe I’ll see you there? If not, make sure to follow along on Instagram @melsays!

#RUN2EXPLORE – Paris

Two years ago this fall, I created a running series as I was traveling across Canada for the television show I was working on. Titled 13 Cities, 13 Runs (you can check it out here), this series was a fun way for me to share some of the discoveries that I made while exploring these cities by foot. I’ve always found running to be such a great means to explore a new city or city that you aren’t too familiar with. Whether running on the streets or on some of the local trails, it’s the cheapest and in my opinion, easiest way to really get a feel for a place when you travel.

So after some brainstorming and with all of the travels I’ve been doing and have coming up in the next couple of months, I’ve decided to revive this series. Now entitled #RUN2EXPLORE, this series will have as a goal to showcase some of the potential trails, routes, etc. that you could explore in one particular city.

I’m kicking-off this new series today with none other than: Paris!

There are lots of different types of routes to explore while in Paris. Though a very busy city, there are still tons of places where you can run uninterrupted around the different neighbourhoods, or “arrondissements” as they call it in Paris.

For this new series, I’ll be highlighting a few notable areas that are worth exploring via running. For Paris they are as follows:

1) Bois de Vincennes – Located adjacent of the 20th arrondissement and right at the Château de Vincennes Metro, this large park and castle is a lovely area to run around in. There are gardens, a lake, waterfalls, lots of trees and even a nudist area, for those who are interested. You can easily run up to 20kms around the park. An enjoyable segment to try out is the following: https://www.strava.com/segments/16329265

2) La Seine – This 777-kilometre-long river runs right through the heart of Paris. There are many of the city’s major attractions that can be seen by running along La Seine; everything from Le Louvre, to Notre Dame de Paris, to the Champs Elysées, Tuileries Garden, Trocadero and even the infamous Eiffel Tower! La Seine can easily be accessed by Metro, there are a handful of stops located just steps away from the river. The following is a worthy segment that runs past some of the city’s main tourist hotspots and that can easily be added to if interested: https://www.strava.com/segments/18330554

3) Versailles – One of the most beautiful areas of the greater Paris; from the gardens to the incredible Palace that dates back to 1682, when it was used as the principal royal residence of France under Louis XIV. You can easily run up to 15 kms around the palace, the Grand Canal, theatre, etc. A good starting point is the following segment: https://www.strava.com/segments/9795698

4) Parc de la Villette – This is my latest Parisian discovery. Located right by the Crimée, Porte de Pantin or even the Porte de la Villette Metro stop, the Parc de la Villette runs right along the canal. It’s home to the Philharmonie de Paris, La Géode movie theatre, the popular concert hall Le Zénith and many other gems. I ran a flat 10k through the park and along the canal. You can get inspired for your own run by looking at the following segment: https://www.strava.com/activities/1885813174

These are just some of the many areas of Paris to explore. It’s such a culturally and historically rich city with a wide variety of landscapes that there’s endless possibilities of segments to explore!

TIP: I definitely recommend prioritizing running through the parks or along the canals and waterways instead of running through the streets of the city as it can be quite hard to constantly dodge people, bikes, scooters, motorcycles, etc. and the sidewalks are usually quite narrow.

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Discovering The Great Trail with CLIF Bar

Last week, I joined Storm Chaser and Adventurer Ricky Forbes on an exciting mission around Vancouver to explore parts of The Great Trail in collaboration with CLIF Bar and KEEN Canada.

The Great Trail allows Canadians like you and I, to travel from coast to coast across this country’s beautiful and diverse 13 provinces and territories. To commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, 432 existing trails were connected across the country to create TGT. The trail now spans 24 000 kms and is the longest recreational trail in the world. CLIF Bar is proud to have funded nearly 150 km of TGT. You can explore the trail either by running, hiking, cycling, paddling, trail running cross-country skiing, snowmobiling or whatever activity you choose!

So when Ricky got to Vancouver, I packed a couple of CLIF snacks (have you tried the new CLIF Nut Butter Filled Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter? It’s my new go-to for hikes!), put on my KEEN boots and joined him to discover parts of TGT that is right in my backyard.

We started off the day with an urban hike right in Stanley Park on the Seawall. It’s a great place to ride a bike, go for a run or even just a leisurely walk like we did. Along the way we saw some seals in the ocean, beautiful vistas of the North Shore mountains, the impressive Lions Gate Bridge and the legendary Siwash Rock.

We then continued our explorations on the North Shore, heading to the Cleveland Dam, which has been around since the 1950s and which holds a portion of Vancouver’s drinking water. There, you will find a multitude of canopied trails to venture off on that are part of the Coastal Rainforest. You’ll be surrounded by trees that are centuries old, soft green moss, ferns and picturesque views of the canyon. I still pinch myself thinking that I live in such a beautiful place!

Our day ended at Cypress Mountain, where we were able to catch the most magnificent sunset.

From Vancouver, it’s easy to keep heading north up to Whistler or head east towards Kelowna to explore more of TGT.

Though we only scratched the surface of TGT in a day, it’s awesome to think that this amazing trail really connects Canadians through their passion for the outdoors. We have such a wide variety of landscapes around the country, so it’s quite special to be able to see it all via one amazing multipurpose trail.

This adventure day with Ricky and CLIF Bar made me want to explore the ENTIRE trail… Maybe it’s something I will need to add onto my bucket list!

For more information on The Great Trail visit: www.clifbar.com/greattrail

To see where The Great Trail runs near you, go here: https://thegreattrail.ca/explore-the-map/

This post was written in collaboration with CLIF Bar but all opinions are my own. 

 

Why Sole Girls is Sole Awesome

Growing up, I always on the lookout for other like-minded girls and groups to join. I would have been thrilled to have been a part of a group like Sole Girls as a pre-teen and teenager.

Sole Girls is an amazing organization that via creative running games empowers girls ages 6 through 12. They provide them with tools to develop healthy ideas about body image, media, healthy living, peers and self-esteem. They offer weekly sessions, camps as well as workshops for these girls. They also organize events such as Sunday’s Sole Awesome 5K for the entire family, with funds directly going to some of their scholarship programs.

Sunday, I had the chance to partake in their Sole Awesome 5K thanks to MEC and got to meet some of the most incredible young girls. It was a fun morning filled with both running and also super fun activities like 3-Legged Races, on-course obstacles, dance parties, and more! Every kilometre of the run highlighted one of the Sole Programs’ core values, which are: Support, Open-Mindedness, Listening and Enthusiasm.

In addition to Sunday’s events, Sole Girls have lots of programs and initiatives planned for the summer including their Summer Camps, which start in July in and around Vancouver, North Vancouver, South Surrey, Langley and Calgary.

There is no doubt in my mind that if I would have been able to join a group like Sole Girls, when I was younger, that it would have been such a huge help for me after my parents’ divorce. It would have been such a great support system and would have without a doubt helped me with my self-esteem and maybe even help counter the eating disorder I had during my teens.

I was really inspired by all of the positivity that radiated from all the girls present at Sunday’s Sole Girls that I’ve decided to become a Soleteer, a volunteer with Sole Girls! If this is something that might interest you or to find out more about Sole Girls, go here.

A big thank you to MEC and Sole Girls for allowing me to be a part of Sunday’s Sole Awesome 5K, it was a truly memorable experience!

Photos by Scott & Pam McFarlane

5 Best Running Trails in Vancouver

There are so many incredible trails located in and around Vancouver. With that said, it was hard to pick only five but here are some of my go-to’s in the area.

1) North Shore Spirit Trail (North Vancouver) – If you’re looking for a multipurpose trail for road running with minimal elevation and that is not nearly as busy as all the trails in Vancouver, you must go for a run on the Spirit Trail. Created in collaboration with the City of North Vancouver and the local Squamish Nation First Nations community, this trail offers up a mix of city, park, mountain and ocean views. You can run from Lower Lonsdale all the way past Ambleside Park and well into West Vancouver.

2) Lynn Loop (North Vancouver) – Is the perfect terrain for someone who is just getting into trail running. There’s very minimal elevation and the packed gravel make it easy on your feet. You also get the most gorgeous views of the forest and feeling completely immersed in nature. Plus if you’re feeling good after the loop, the trail connects to a handful of other trails, so there’s always the option of extending your run if you’d like.

3) Buntzen Lake (Port Moody) – Located just 30 mins from Vancouver, this lakeside trail offers something a little bit more challenging with uneven terrain, roots, rocks and some elevation. This trail is always super quiet and easy to access through their parking lot or even through Sasmat Lake and the Belcarra Regional Park (you can prolong your run really easily and add a ton more elevation to it if you follow the Sasmat Lake Loop, the Diez Vistas or Buntzen Ridge Trail).

4) Baden Powell Trail (North Vancouver) – Though a very popular trail, I’ve often found myself completely alone for most of my runs on the Baden Powell Trail. The Baden Powell Trail can take you either all the way up to Grouse Mountain or down to Deep Cove. There are definitely some more advanced portions like the switchbacks that make up the Pipeline Crossing but all the trails are clearly marked and beautiful.

5) Lighthouse Park (West Vancouver) – A shorter trail than most in the area as the longest distance you can run is a 6k loop. However, the views from Eagle Point or Shore Shine Point are magnificent. On a clear day you can see the Washington Mountains, the islands, Howe Sound, etc. plus you’re running around in a lush forest. The park tends to get crowded on the weekends or during the summer so plan accordingly if you don’t want to be surrounded by people the entire time.

Looking for more trail ideas? I love checking out the Vancouver Trails website or even just going on Strava and looking up popular routes in the area.

Celebrating the release of Tomb Raider with a Lara Croft-Inspired Trail Run

To celebrate the release of Tomb Raider movie this Friday, I recently went on a Lara Croft-inspired run with some friends out on the trails in Vancouver.

Trail running requires determination, strength and a sense of adventure, which are all characteristics that Lara Croft embodies. As I’ve seen with my running group RUN DISTRIKT these past couple of months, group runs are all about togetherness and support from the other runners out with you. When you hit elevation or difficult terrain, having others running by your side can be immensely helpful to keep you going. And that was the case when we met up on the North Shore to go on this cold and rainy run early in the morning last week. Together, we were able to reach the viewpoint just in time for sunrise. We documented our badass Tomb Raider-inspired run with the video below, which I hope you’ll enjoy!

Video shot by: @theoffners

I’m stoked to be giving away 3 pairs of passes for the new Tomb Raider movie on my Instagram – @melsays. The contest is open to residents of Canada (excluding Qc) and is open to anyone 19+. To enter, comment on my Instagram video by letting me know what inspires you! Winners will be announced on March 15th 2018 and contacted via DM on Instagram. #TombRaider #LaraCroft

For complete contest rules and please click here: bit.ly/2FtwnDY

Thank you to Michelle Moon and Sydney Prevost for being a part of the shoot.

This post was written in collaboration with Warner Brothers Canada but all opinions are my own.

Making Gut Health a Priority this Spring

With spring in the air, now is as good of a time as any to do a little health check. The gut is often referred to as the engine of the human body, so taking care of one’s gut can have a big impact on your overall health. Did you know that taking probiotics like Renew Lifes Ultimate Flora Critical Care 50 Billion can positively impact your digestion and gut health? It wasn’t until recently that I realized the importance of maintaining a healthy gut.

With my health being my top priority, I wanted to get more information on what a probiotic actually is and its overall benefits. So, I got in touch with an expert on the subject who explained the following.

The state of a person’s gut can influence health in many ways. With optimal digestive health, vitamin and nutrient absorption increases, which can result in more energy, reduced signs of aging and better health overall,” explains Naturopathic Doctor and Renew Life Canada Spokesperson, Dr. Sara Celik, ND. “Few are aware that the digestive system affects immunity, inflammation, and other critical functions in the body. From food allergies to headaches and skin problems to anxiety, the gut is a key player in leading a healthy lifestyle. A body without a healthy gut is like a car without a working engine.”

Although everyone responds differently to probiotics, she states that she’s seen the following five benefits in over a decade of using probiotics in her practice:

  1. Improved digestion and a reduction in IBS symptoms such as gas, bloating and constipation.
  2. Reduced cold and flu as a result of a stronger immune system.
  3. Better skin – probiotics may help with occasional break outs in some cases.
  4. Fewer food sensitivities as a result of improved gastrointestinal health.
  5. Less fatigue since improved digestion results in better absorption of vitamins from food.

The use of probiotics can be especially beneficial to women, as we are more prone to occasional constipation and digestive health issues than men are. It can also help women with chronic yeast infections and urinary tract infections better balance their good and bad bacteria. Renew Life’s line of probiotic supplements offers a variety of potency, multi-strain probiotic formulations to choose from and Renew Life has been focused on digestive health for over two decades. Dr. Sara says, “The potency or culture count refers to the total amount of live, ‘friendly’ bacterial cultures per dose. Since each person has unique needs, it’s important to select a probiotic supplement that best suits the individual. Since probiotics are alive, a delivery system such as enteric coating will ensure the bacteria arrive alive in the intestines where they are mostly needed,” adds Dr. Sara.

In addition to taking supplements, adding gut-friendly foods to your diet can also help deliver health benefits. Foods such as yogurt, fermented vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, and bananas are all great for your gut.

So, with that new knowledge, I’ll be doing a different kind of “cleaning” this Spring, focusing on my gut and making sure my digestive health is at the top of its game.

For more information on probiotic supplements or Renew Life, visit Renew Life Canada on Facebook here. Renew Life products can be found at your local grocery, drug and health food store.

This post was written in collaboration with Renew Life, but all opinions are my own.

What’s worth seeing at the VIMFF

Photo: Chris Christie

The Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF) kicks-off this Friday February 9th in Vancouver and will showcase some of the best mountain and adventure films as well as athletes, speakers and content creators. During the 9-day program, festivalgoers will be able to screen films, watch live multimedia presentations, photography exhibits, take part in workshops, seminars and more! The festival will be taking place in a variety of theatres around the city and will bring together the Canadian and international community of mountain and outdoor enthusiasts.

Some of this year’s speakers include David Suzuki, Jim Herrington, Parvaneh Kazemi, Cory Richards, Darcy Hennessey Turenne and more!

Can’t make it to all the screenings? Here are a few recommendations to help you plan your week.

In Constant Motion – Director: Cameron Sylvester

Saturday February 10th – 7:30pm at Centennial Theatre – Trail Running
An evening filled with presentations and films from trails around the world.
Speakers: Susan Hui, Rick Arikado & Suzanne Johnson, Laddie Hannam & Ann Taylor, Adam Campbell
Films: In Constant Motion (Canadian Premiere), Driven (World Premiere), Why I Run, Feel The Burn.

Surf the Line – Director: Jeremy Frey

Sunday February 11th – 2:30pm at Rio Theatre – Best of: Mountain Sports & Adventure
An afternoon showcasing international films on different sports and adventures.
Films: The Ario Dream (North American Premiere), Moment (World Premiere), The Worlds Highest Marathon, Freedom (World Premiere), This Way Up (North American Premiere), Surf The Line.

Directly Affected – Director: Zack Embree

Sunday February 11th – 7:30pm at Centennial Theatre – Uniting the Salish Sea
Moving beyond extreme energy and protecting our communities.
Speakers: David Suzuki, My Sea To Sky
Films: Directly Affected (World Premiere).

Where the Wild Things Play – Director: Krystle Wright

Thursday February 15th – 7:30pm at The Cinematheque – Women in Adventure
An evening where women from around the world will be sharing their stories about being in the outdoors.
Speakers: Kat Young, Natasha Drozdzenska & Ania Markiewicz
Films: Where the Wild Things Play, My Big White Thighs and Me (North American Premiere), Army (BC Premiere), Waters of the Greenstone.

Escape – Director: Anjali Nayar

Friday February 16th – 7:30pm at Rio Theatre – MEC Canadian Adventure Show 
An evening dedicated to pushing self-propelled adventure and exploration by Canadians.
Speakers: Steve Tersmette & Shawn Emmett, Lorraine Blancher & Robin Munshaw
Films: Escape, Strong The Wind Blows.

For more information on the VIMFF or for tickets, visit https://vimff.org/.

Vans Releases its First Ever Snowboard Film LANDLINE

On January 26th 2018, Vans will be releasing their first ever snowboard film called LANDLINE. Directed by Tanner Pendleton and shot almost entirely on Kodak 16mm film, the flick documents the Vans snowboard team as they travel around the world exploring new terrain and doing some of the best snowboarding tricks out there.

The film features Vans’ eclectic team roster including seasoned pros, new stars as well as pioneers of the sport. Everyone from Pat Moore to Arthur Longo to Jake Kuzyk all appear in the film. It not only showcases great snowboarding but also everything related to the snowboard culture.

One of the film’s star, Minnesota native Dan Liedahl shares his thoughts on being a part of Vans’ first ever snowboard film. “Team videos do happen but not all that often so I think that sets it apart a little, but more so I think the fact that it’s Vans first video they’ve ever done is what’s really doing it. It’s crazy to think that Vans has been around supporting snowboarding for so long and has never made a full length video so that’s a really exciting thing,” explains Dan.

As for his favourite part about being in this film, he says “my favourite part about all of it is that I got to hang with the crew the whole time. I love these guys and I love that I got to be there and see most of the tricks that were in the video happen. I like that I was there to help my friends set up the spots, get tricks, and then eat food afterward haha, that’s my favourite part about being in the video.”

The film has been premiering in a handful of cities around the globe and most recently in Vancouver. The official launch takes place on January 25th in Denver, Colorado and will feature some musical guests from the film’s soundtrack Dinosaur Jr. and a DJ set by Sonic Youth’s very own Thurston Moore.

While you await its release, you can get stoked by watching the trailer below!

The film will be available January 26th 2018 on iTunes and also on Vimeo on Demand.

Everything You Need to Know About the OTR Program

The Own the Run (OTR) program is back and better than ever. Whether you’re new to running or a seasoned vet, whether you’re planning to run your first half-marathon in 2018 or a 50k Ultra trail race, the program’s objective is to help local Vancouver runners attain their running goals.

By bringing together the city’s best health and wellness partners and practitioners, the program helps runners work on injury prevention, running efficiency and optimal performance all needed to crush this year’s running goals.

If you’ve been following my running journey these past 2 or so years, you know that I’ve unfortunately been plagued by a few injuries. At first it was my lower back, followed by a stress fracture in my right foot and my latest injury was spraining my left ankle while trail running six weeks ago. But I’m feeling more determined than ever to conquer new distances and set even bigger running goals for myself in 2018. Therefore, I’m extremely excited that an innovative program like OTR is available for runners like myself. My goal is to learn more ways on how to stay injury-free throughout the year and also push myself more than ever before.

This year’s program is a partnership between Myodetox and Vancouver Running Company, Mile 2 Marathon, MOVR plus Kokomo, who are all leaders in their respective wellness communities.

For those interested in partaking in OTR, the program is designed to begin at least 12-14 weeks prior to an upcoming race. The program includes the following:

  • Running Specific Therapy Screen (Duration 60 minutes)*
  • Individualized Exercise Program Development (Duration 60 minutes)*
  • Post Race Massage Therapy Session (Duration 45 minutes)*
  • Exercise Module developed by MOVR app
  • Training Program customized by Mile 2 Marathon (value $100-$200)
  • Full Access to M2M track workouts, and social runs at Vancouver Running Company
  • Membership to Flight Crew Premier 2018 (value $70-100)
  • Option of Nutrition consult at Kokomo
  • Exclusive Technical Running Shirt
  • Ciele Running Cap

All items indicated with an * are actually covered by extended health benefits, so a major plus.

Having access to such quality coaching and support is key to training properly and attaining the running goals that I’ve set out for myself. Furthermore, it’s incredibly inspiring to be surrounded by people who keep pushing the envelop in the health and running community. Excited to see what I can achieve this year!

For more info or to register for Own the Run program, go here.