Hills are stupid but I am glad they were invented

This time next week I will be finished the 10k in Calgary. My Dad and I joke around about who is going to trip who, and who will sprint to the finish and elbow the other person into the boards for the finish.

Obviously it is going to be me. I will take no prisoners, just leave a bloody mess in my wake.

I will elbow my dad into the boards and sprint pass him so he has to buy breakfast.

We all know nothing ever goes as planned. The likelihood of me beating the crap out of my dad for the win is slim to none. However, a girl has to have dreams…

Today was my last long run before Calgary. I am officially on a taper. It’s not much of a taper seeing I am running 10k again next week, but I have a weekly total of 16k to get through this week instead of last weeks 23k before the weekend.

My run today through Millcreek ravine was fabulous. I had a decent pace for my LSD, kept it slow ran straight through to Connor’s Hill. This hill is becoming a thorn in my side. I am DETERMINED to run up the whole thing by the Edmonton Half Marathon if it KILLS me! Two weeks in a row, the halfway point does me in. I end up walking the rest. This is my new challenge. I WILL RUN UP THAT HILL BY MY BIRTHDAY or DIE TRYING.

Since I began hill training, the rolling coaster hills that use to scare me, now are barely noticed. It’s those steep mountain esc trails that really annoy me and have me sucking wind as if I am not very capable. Of course, that just isn’t true. When I first began running hills, I just couldn’t do it. I would plan my route to avoid hills. Now I plan my route for distance and scenery. Hills are apart of that. photo (21)

Dudley B. Menzies Bridge (LRT and pedestrian b...

Dudley B. Menzies Bridge (LRT and pedestrian bridge) over North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9k into my run today found me on the LRT Bridge Dudley B. Menzies crossing south towards the U of A over the North Saskatchewan River. This was the first time I felt scared. I was heading towards some dark forest and unknown trails. I stopped to ask some cyclers the best route to 109th Street. With all the detours and changes to the river loop, people were a little confused. I had a pretty good idea which way I should go, but it appeared to be straight up. I thanked the couple before I continued on my way and told them if they see me on the news because I was dead, my name was Robyn. Being able to identify my last known whereabouts seemed important at the time.

It was dark because the tree canopy had fully leafed out. It was  empty and lonely on that trail because no one uses it for good reason.

The reason no one uses that trail is because it goes STRAIGHT UP! The last time I climbed something that steep, I was mountain climbing in Jasper and had expected the steepness because I was ON A MOUNTAIN, not the prairies. JEEEZE!  The good news? My ass is going to look AWESOME by summer! The bad news? My pace dropped to 16min/km. Near the end I needed to stop and suck some wind into my lungs, finished off my water and took a deep breath while I mentally prepared for the stairs. I told myself at the top of these stairs I was home free. I would be 2 FLAT blocks from my finish line and car.


At the top of the stairs was another FREAKING HILL! OH COME ON! I was out of water and was fantasizing about eggs. I know, weird food cravings at 9.7 km.  But I wanted protein and lots of it at that point. My thighs were very disappointed in my choice of route and my calves were just plain ol’ angry.

As I reached my destination, I realized I had mentally conquered the most difficult ending to any trail I have ever taken. This will carry me far next week.

In Calgary should I come across some difficult parts of the route, I just need to think back to my past two weeks of training. Last week I ran 13km. This week I climbed hills from hell. Next week should be easy in comparison.

I am ready.

Roll on Calgary, I can’t wait!


Conversations with my former Coach, proof that everyone improves – even me


I had the pleasure today of sitting down with a woman I admire TREMENDOUSLY.  As my daughter says, “She’s the Bomb-Diggity!”

We were talking about how my running is going. Coach was there for me with support and extra courage when I walked my first half marathon. Today, she provided the same support. It was like walking into a cozy sweater. She asked me how things are going with my training.

Me: Well… I am slow.

Coach: That’s okay. Its faster now that you are running.

Me: HA! I run as fast as I can walk.

Coach: That’s okay, how are you finding hills?

That is when I had to think about how far I have come.

2011 I didn’t hill train or do speed work or even think about recovery. I walk every kilometer in the same slow pace. My goal was to cross the finish line.

It is still a goal to cross the finish line, but I have set a goal of faster recovery time. To achieve that goal I need to do hills and speed work, I need to fuel properly before, during and after a training run, and most importantly I need to accept that I am WAY FASTER than I use to walk a 14:30 min/km and worked my way up to 12:45 min/km. When I started running in January I was running (in snow) 13:35 min/km – see! I was a faster walker!! Now I run a steady pace at 11:04 min/km. On really great days when the stars align, I can run 10:30 min/km.

If I look at the my running logs, I can see marked improvement. Does it make me happy?


People keep saying, speed will come. I know. People say, you get the same medal for last place as you get for first place. I know. People keep telling me it isn’t a race – well it is – but it’s not. It’s like golf, the only real competitor you need to worry about is you.

I know.

I also know that if I keep doing what I am doing (LSD, Fartleks, Hills, Steady, Tempo) I will improve.

I have a fantastic support system for team runners and other runners in the community. We cheer for each other on facebook, twitter and dailymile – come join! Sometimes it is PAINFUL to post a super slow 8k (like today’s run – I have a million reasons why I was slow, but it doesn’t matter – they are just excuses) and I see someone post a 10k in 1:01:00. WOW! An hour! I am still hoping I can complete the Calgary 10km in 1:30:00, but realistically, I think I am looking at 1:55:00. I have to be okay with that.

The point to this race is to run with my Dad on his 65th birthday.

I am running farther than everyone else who will still be in bed on that Sunday Morning.

I am running faster than I ever have in my entire life.

I am down another 2 clothing sizes, the more weight that comes off, the faster I will be. That is the biggest part I need to remember.

I am carrying the weight equivalent of my 17 year old son on my back when I run. My friend who ran a 10k in an hour, just has to carry her water. She already is the ideal weight for her height and age. If she had to carry my son, she would be slower too.

This I need to remember.

I also need to remember to keep moving forward because there is NOTHING sweeter than the taste of achieving your goals.

Thanks Coach for teaching me that.





In addition to running the 10k in Calgary with my Dad, my other goal is to raise money for the Dream Team Make-A-Wish Project. I chose to run for the Dream Team project for several reasons, the team, the support, the coaching but the most important reason is to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Project. I have family and friends who have benefited from this amazing charity and it is time to give back. Our Team slogan is Because you can’t smile on the outside without feeling better on the inside. 

Please consider donating on my behalf, Robyn Engel Couture here DONATE. You enter any amount from $1 – infinity and beyond

I thank you, my team thanks you and some little kid who’s wish came true thanks you.

For more information about the Dream Team Project, please visit here.


Hills, I love to hate them – Thank goodness for coaches!

8503c2e33b94a0c20cb09c257b2689d5I achieved two major goals for myself this week. I ran my first 10km distance – training not a race – and demolished some hills my second time out. I feel pretty good! Well…my legs hate me but I am use to them thinking I am mean. Secretly, they love it.

In 2011 I began training for my first half marathon. I walked it, I trained to walk it and it was the hardest thing I had ever done physically. Part of it was my extreme weight and low fitness levels and part of it was the lack of support. People constantly kept telling me I had no idea what I signed up for. That was true, but neither did they. They had never participated in a half marathon either.

My plan was simple, join the Running Room‘s Learn to Walk a Half Marathon class, do what I was told to do and then cross the finish line! YAY ME!

It wasn’t that easy.

The first class we were to walk 4km. I remember thinking, I find this hard. How am I ever going walk 21.1 km? I finished the 4km in just over an hour.

A few weeks went by and we were scheduled to walk hills, it started with 3 x 400m. Ya right – no freaking way could I do that. So I didn’t. What I considered a hill back then, I consider a bump now. A hill to me is serious business and there is an actual elevation change. I trained for my first half marathon and never climbed a hill. Which is fine, kind of, because the Edmonton Canadian Derby Half Marathon course is FLAT – prairie flat. No hills, so why did I need to do them?

I will tell you why I SHOULD have done them, recovery.

Training on hills and doing Fartleks makes you faster, stronger but more importantly, it shows your body that you can do more than it thinks it can.

I had no business walking a half marathon in 2011. I was not fit enough – yet I did…barely. My goal then was to cross the finish line.

This year in 2013 I have two half marathons scheduled. I am running the Canadian Derby half and I am heading to Florida for the WDW Marathon weekend. This time I have a different goal. I am aiming for a finish time and I am determine to have a better recovery time. Meaning – I don’t want to feel like death after the half. I know I will be tired and sore, but my fitness level needs to be raised from the last time I did this so I feel better. My plan is working. After I ran 10k on Sunday, I felt fabulous. The first time I walked a 10k I needed a nap. Not this time. I kept active and did stuff for the rest of the day. I didn’t feel tired, in fact I felt the opposite, I felt ENERGIZED.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not dissing walking. The reason I want to run is because walking takes a REALLY LONG TIME! Walkers go the same distance but tend not to be as fast – although they are still faster than me running but that is another story. So when a half-marathon walker finishes in 3:30 and runner can do it in 2:30… or something like that. My point being, walkers are as fit as runners. They just use different muscles.

Part of my strategy to recover quicker and get faster is

  1. Hill Repeats
  2. Fartleks
  3. Nutrition before, during and after the run
  4. Core strengthening – I have a six pack under here somewhere! I swear I do!
  5. Building up the hamstring and glutes for more power

Wednesdays are Hill Repeats! My first session didn’t go so great. I was to do 3x400m. Well, Edmonton has two types of hills steep get your heart rate going NOW type hills and laugh hysterically and question the incline type of bump. Most southside runners favour Emily Murphy Hill. Not the one out of the parking lot but the one that leads to the U of A. It’s officially called Emily Murphy Park Road. It is PACKED on Wednesdays. Why? Well, most people follow John Stanton‘s training methods because he is from here, he is a famous learn to run guy in Canada and well, people are sheep. We like being told what to do  and when. Training is no different. I don’t like to think about what I need to do, I just want to look on my calendar and know what’s next. Stanton has Wednesdays as Hill or Fartlek days. So everyone goes to Murphy Hill. The Running Room club goes at 6 on Wednesdays, so I go earlier because my schedule is flexible.

My first session had me excited and raring to go, so I ran up the hill – made it halfway, felt like my heart might explode so I walked the rest of the way, and ran back down. I ran up again, this time didn’t make it half way and walked the rest. I did that one more time and felt like a failure, defeated and slug like.

This week, I reached out for advice. I belong to the WDW Radio Running Team. We fundraise for Make A Wish, but more importantly we are a very supportive team. I have yet to run with them, yet I feel like a team member. They are truly terrific! There are a couple of coaches on that team Brian writes this blog and Joe writes this blog. I asked them each the same question :

Question: when running hills and you can’t make it all the way up, is it better to walk the rest of the way or turn around and start again? I’m running on an fairly steep incline for about 600 meters.

I got two different answers addressing different aspects of running. I love those guys! Brian suggested I slow my pace because walking uses different muscles than running. He added a ton more information, but it pertains to me and my fitness level. Joe gave me tips for mental toughness. This guy is the most focused guy on the planet when it comes to goals. He suggested I pick a target and don’t stop until I get there. That worked best for me. Often I could run past that target. I used a combination of both coaching methods and did 6x100m. It was all I could do without my heart exploding. I am a mom, so it’s important I don’t die until my kids move out. Listening to my body is important but it is also important to push it beyond what it thinks it is capable of. I did that yesterday. I kicked it! I did better that I thought I could and finished on a high note. That was the other bit of advice Joe gave me. He said:

Your muscles remember the last they do. So you want to finish a workout by hitting a target that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment, not a defeat.

Actually, it has to do with brain memory and habits – you can read more about that kind of stuff in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg or some Dr. Bruce Perry research. At any rate, Joe’s suggestion resonated with me and by slowing my pace as Brian suggested, I finished on a high.

I know I need work to reach my hill targets, but practice makes perfect. Difficult doesn’t make me quit, it makes me work harder. I will get there and you will be able to hear me yell and scream with excitement when I do because celebrating is now part of my success ritual. Fist pumps for everyone! Woohoo!

The rest of this week’s training requires an easy 6k today (that makes me laugh, remember when I was afraid of the 5k?), 10km on Saturday and I am volunteering for the Police Half Marathon on Sunday. I am a road marshal over at McKinnon Ravine and 142 street so if you run by say HEY! I think it is important to give back to the running community. I appreciate them and volunteering shows it.

Here is a great video on the benefits of hills. Take a look, this Doctor guy is great! and as always, Happy Running!

Hills Get Stronger!



Self talk can make you or break you.

As I headed out for my run today, I had to small goals in mind. 1) run past the creek to the south side of suburbia and 2) No walk brakes except for my warm up and cool down.

I like to run without noise in my head but on cold days its hard. The thoughts that keep coming back to me are negative abusive ones. I would NEVER say things to another human being that I say to myself! So Why am I abusing myself? I call my self names, berate me, shame me and self-sabotage myself. Why? Human Nature?

Today I decided to make an effort to turn that self talk around. I stopped myself from the name calling and started using positive talk. It started having some really good side effects, like head up, smiling, feeling good and steady breathing. Once I got to the creek I had run farther than ever before without stopping AND without knee pain. Both huge gains in my book! But then that negative self-talk started again.


As I was running down the steep incline I was really worried about falling and screwing up all the progress my knee has made over the past 2.5 years (NEVER EVER TEAR YOU MCL Seriously! Get a different injury) I began talking myself through it, warning myself to watch my footing. It was really icy. Once I made it to the bridge I relaxed a bit. It surprised me how tense I became. I could hear the water moving under the ice – Spring? HAHAHA no… that won’t happen for another couple of months.1058

I kept running as I began the incline on the other side. I had it in my head I would run 2.5k south and 2.5 back north, with no stopping and treat myself to a steamy hot shower, because did I mention how cold it was? Well, I made it halfway up the hill before the negative self-talk started again. “You are so slow, walkers are passing you. Run your race pace. Who are we kidding THIS IS the race pace.”  I made it to the top without stopping and ran a bit further but the knee was burning so I walked it off for about a minute.

Huge disappointment engulfed me.

I thought about my dad and figured I would have to let him run ahead of me during the 10k. He doesn’t want to be last. No problem there, as long as I am in the race he will never be last. I looked at my Garmin and I had run without stopping until this past minute. I decided to run to my turn-around point and head back through the creek. When I hit the other side of the creek I ran focusing on one step at a time. Then the burn came back. I stopped and walked it off. Frustration was going to be my pal today. Clearly hills are bothersome to my knee. That means I need to go back to the resistant band and beef up some of my exercises that I have been lazy with. I need that pain free strength to stay for the long term. By the time I reached the top of the hill and the path leveled out, I started to run again. The lungs felt great and on the level path my knees didn’t complain.

Yet all I could think about was I only met one of my goals today. I couldn’t even let myself be happy for me. Usually I celebrate my small successes by fist pumping or telling my self ‘well done!”  But today all I could think was “your race pace needs work.”

The bottom line is I have OVER 3 months until my race. I know I need to get some more miles in, but perhaps I will avoid the creek for a while. Inclines are fine but steep inclines are a problem. I will give it another shot tomorrow and turn right at the creek and run along side it. That way I can likely meet my two goals and cheer. I am hoping by spring my knee will be able to withstand some hill repeats (not that I am excited about those but I need it to get faster) I don’t want to disappoint my dad. I don’t mean to make him sound like an ogre because he isn’t. My dad is awesome, but I know the pace he runs at and I want to keep up with him, not the other way around. So I suppose I don’t want to disappoint myself.

The solution? Rain, Shine, or blizzard I have to run. Luckily, I want to run.


Canadian Graffiti on my bench “Conformity Happiness” – I’ll get the happiness thing figured out.1059