Running to my happiness

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Running to my happiness

I’m known for what I use my body to do. Run fast. Or as I put it, run reasonably quick for long periods in mostly straight lines. I’ve always loved to run.  But I’ve always viewed it as a means to end. I love to run, but I am not always in love with it. Running was a means for me to separate myself from my sisters and their more dominant figure skating skills. It was a way for me to run away from my family when being one of seven kids in a small townhouse proved to be too much.  It was what I did to clear my head or deal with any form of upset. I literally could and would run away.  Running provided me opportunities in terms of scholarships for school, and later, sponsorships to represent our country.  What I took for granted until this past year, was how much running and moving my body was my form of mental health wellness.And it’s this realization, which hasspurred me to become an Ambassador for the SHOPPERSLOVE.YOU. Run for Women, in support of local mental health initiatives for women.

Last year I went septic.  Infection flooded through my body for eight days and when I came out of the hospital I was a physical and emotional wreck.

My physical body came back online relatively quickly.  And I could go on and on about the benefits of exercise for overall fitness and our waistlines, but if I am to be a “role model” for women and girls because of my sporting achievements, then I see my job as more. 

I remember being a teenager and my mother saying to me “you’re in a mood. Go for a run”.  As an adult, I’m thankful for her advice.  I’ve always known that I feel better after I run. And when I’ve not been able to run due to illness or injury, which still makes me moody, I feel better if I get out and move my body.  And it’s not all in my head!  Studies do show that aerobic exercise – like running – can be used to help treat mild to moderate depression.

Because I am so accustomed to using body movement to help keep me happy and balanced, I was better able to sense when things were still “off” after my hospital discharge.  Each month I’d have days where getting myself out the door for a run almost had me in tears. I have procrastinated runs before.  I have purposely not showered after a morning run to make sure I get out for my evening session.  Like I said, I’ve always loved running. I’m not always in love with it.

But what I experienced last summer was different. 

And because I know I struggled to be vocal about what I was feeling, let me be vocal here in the hopes of helping some of you.  It wasn’t just PMS; I wasn’t just moody because it was “that time of the month”.  My body was trying to signal to me that something was wrong.  I am a professional runner. I am used to pushing through discomfort.  I am overly pragmatic and am certainly not known for being all that emotional a person.  But there I was, once a month struggling.  Crying because my water bottle spilt on me in the car.  Everything hurt my feelings. I had zero coping skills.

Women are almost twice as likely as men to develop depression at some point in their lives.  That stat surprised me when I first read it, but I think I have a better understanding now.  The demands on our bodies coupled with the swings in our hormones monthly can affect us more than I would have thought possible. For a period of time I felt helpless and frustrated by the lack of understanding or awareness I was finding in the medical world.

I used the tools I had available – my love of research and my desire and need to move my body – to work towards figuring out what wasn’t right with me.  To be clear, a lot of things weren’t right with me. But nothing was wrong with me.  Dealing with mental health and wellness issues doesn’t mean we are broken.  There is nothing wrong with you.  I learned what was necessary to address my monthly drops in my mood – fixing my diet, removing the stresses that I could, and accepting that running serviced me more than a way to run away – and finally by this spring, started to feel like myself again.

I celebrated my one-year anniversary of the surgery that left me septic last week.  I was also hormonal.  A few months ago, that would have been a recipe for disaster. Instead, I spoke openly about what happened last year and got out the door for training as per usual.

I am grateful for my mother’s advice all those years ago. Building back my body took time. I couldn’t run immediately, so I started walking.  Then I began playing at the gym on different cardio machines and also signing up for different fitness classes at a Women’s Only Boutique in Toronto. Building my emotional and mental health back took a wee bit longer. But the more I moved my body the better I felt.  The more I got my sweat on with other women in the community, the more empowered I became. As my Mum would put it “the Brat was back”.

The more I move my body – the more I run, the better I realize that I don’t need to use running to run away from emotional upset.  I’m running towards my happiness.

I’m not a mental health expert. I’m not a doctor – though I’ve spent the better part of my post-Olympic life researching my health and mental wellness to the point that I feel like one.  I’m a lawyer. I’m a runner. I’m a woman.  And it is because of those titles that I am coming to a better understanding of my body and my emotional health.

Instead of running away from stress, anxiety, hormonal mood swings, or depression. Run towards your mental health.

On Saturday, June 9th, I’ll be running in the Toronto SHOPPERS LOVE.YOU. Run for Women, to help other women take the next step to recovery. Proceeds from the Toronto run will benefit women’s mental health initiatives at Women’s College Hospital.

If you sign up under the “LOVE. YOU. Ambassadors” team in any city, you’ll have a chance to win one $150 gift from Shoppers Drug Mart, or a pair of shoes ($175 value) from the Running Room!

Here’s how to join me and thousands of others across the country:

1. Select the city you live in

2. Answer whether or not you are an SDM employee

3. Copy/Paste “LOVE. YOU. Ambassadors” into the team search bar

4. Register for the 5k run/walk team, with your information

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I am most definitely a women and I enjoy it

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I am most definitely a women and I enjoy it

International Women’s Day 2018

I had a lot of time to think while climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro last week… I had even more time to think coming down.  Soon, I will collect those thoughts and put them into writing.  Today though, today isn’t about celebrating my successes or failures.  Today is about celebrating all women, all over the world, for all of their successes and, I believe anyways, their failures as well.  We learn about ourselves when we fail.  As women, we have a voice deep within that tells us failure is not an option, and so, when we slip and fall down, we figure it out and find a way to do it better. 

I’ve had some men ask what today is about or why we need a day to acknowledge women? The point of this blog isn’t to focus on the negative, but I’ll share a few screen shots of the things I’ve faced by being an outspoken advocate for women.  I sometimes wonder if the tolerance for such immature and ignorant statements would be less if they were racial slurs or homophobic in nature? I wonder why as women we are supposed to just tolerate it when websites like Let’s Run allow sexist and misogynist threads to remain active?

 

Regardless of the nature, especially now, we all need to check our ignorance, prejudice, and stupidity at the door and strive for a place where we are all safe.

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(Rant over… back to the positive).

During my climb I thought of all of the women that made that journey possible.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have witnessed firsthand the brutal strength, the endless compassion, the fierce protectiveness, and the gut wrenching failures of the women around me.  I shouldn’t be, but I am always surprised by the feeling of immense pride and admiration I feel when I see a fellow teammate, a friend, a sister, my mother, succeed where many would have thought trying again would be fruitless.

I’m not known for my soft side.  I tend to fall into the category of women that grew up thinking that being tender was a sign of weakness.  I know better now and I’m working on it in my adult life.  It has been through the acts of the fierce ladies around me that I have learned that there’s no weakness in being soft.

My brain floods with examples but there are a select few that I’ll share here. 

Kate Van Buskirk!! Talk about one of the strongest women I think I’ve ever met.  She never gives up. She never gave up.  And look at what she’s accomplishing now.  In my view, Kate has shown she has the athletic talent and dedication of any world class athlete on the track but it’s what she shows of her own private life that demonstrates what it means to be a strong woman.  Last Spring, without a flinch she came to my hospital room and helped me wash my hair.  She was the first person to pop into my mind that I could call and ask to come help me.  We might still giggle at the fact that she got to see my in all my naked glory (which included 30+ extra pounds of water weight), but behind those giggles I feel an enormous sense of gratitude.

Sasha Gollish!!  Here’s another women who’s strength on the track is only matched by the size of her heart off the track.  When I first moved to Toronto it was Sasha who invited me for family dinner so that I could have a sense of home.  She’s always been there to call on long drives or commiserate with when running and our bodies just aren’t blending as well as we’d like.  Sasha isn’t afraid to be a voice for her fellow female athletes, academic colleagues and anyone in between.  She introduced me to Fast and Female and I have loved seeing how whole heartedly she dedicates herself to the program.

Bethany McChesney-Janzen!! From climbing out of her window when we were teenagers to showing up at my doorstep in Toronto with a bike, rollerblades and a plan to get my mind off of missing World Champs last summer, Bethany has always been someone who’s strength I’ve admired.  In high school, our friendship was the first time I realized it was possible to be a fierce rival and a fierce friend with the same person. I’ve watched Bethany look at a cliff and without flinching start to climb it, and then the next moment be tending to her two little kids.  The world is not ready for the daughter Bethany is raising… I hope that by the time she is an adult WE have shaped the world differently.  Either way, women everywhere will be in good hands with Emerson ;P

Natasha Wodak!! Countless miles run together, run against each other, and spent cheering from the sidelines. I have had some of my highest and lowest moments with this lady.  I have watched her battle back from injury, heartache, life upset and more.  The fierceness we see when she refuses to give up a step in a race is the same fierceness I see her attack her friendships (and her affection for cats).

My Mum, sisters, and grandma!! I am fortunate to have amazing women who have come into my life... but I am forever grateful for the women who have been stuck with me since day one.  I may look adopted next to their incredibly blonde hair, but I know we are cut from the same cloth every time I watch them press on through the impossible to see success.

I have said previously that I will consider my career a success if I leave the sport better – not necessarily faster – but better for the next generation of girls. It wasn’t until I finished my climb that I realized my sport has left me better – and it has nothing to do with the miles that I have run.  I actually think running might have destroyed me last year if it wasn’t for the strength of the women I had around me.

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Think Up

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Think Up

The view from the top is pretty but …

I’ve been fortunate in my life and both my careers to have had the view from the top and the view from the bottom. I say fortunate because both views, despite being scary as shit, have their appeal. Look up from the bottom and you feel the thrill of how far you have yet to climb; look down from the top and you see how far you can fall.  So, which view is my preference?

I’m short. I’ve spent my entire life craning my neck, tilting my chin, rolling my eyes, to look up. It’s my normal. It’s comfortable. It’s the view I prefer. I’d pick the long hard climb to the fast free-fall any day.

Maybe that’s why I am fine now.  Despite the last year being less than ideal – personally and professionally – I am actually, for the first time in a long time, fine.  I’m not looking forward. I tried forcing that this year and the most movement I made was two steps back for every one step forward. I’m not looking down, because, to be frank, I’m pretty sure I’ve found a new bottom. 

I’m looking up.

I’ve always struggled with change of speed.  My coach has always thrown different pick-ups into workouts and long runs to try to teach my body to respond to pace changes mid-race.  Changing pace has been incredibly difficult for me this year.  I fought it.  I tried to push and force my body to recover, telling myself that I was perfectly fine after my spring stay-cation at St. Michael’s hospital. It’s been a hard lesson to learn that slowing life down has actually allowed me to speed up – maybe not in the form of fast miles yet, but certainly my health and recovery.

Speed “up” by slowing down.

“I’ve been here before”.  That’s been my mantra this fall and it is serving me much better than the other battle cries and rallies I’ve tried. I used “new bottom” because I am not where I was in 2012 when I hit bottom. Then I was jobless, homeless, not on the Olympic team and hopeless.

I am not where I was as recently as this spring when I was in hospital, fighting sepsis; celebrating if my pee was more urine than blood that day.  No. Now I am at a bottom where I have accepted that this is a new climb, but a familiar one.  That I still have ownership over my body, even if it’s a slightly different one.

“Up”. It is not a new concept for me. It was the cue word I used as a figure skater. “Think “up” when you jump instead of “don’t fall” - otherwise the last thing your brain is going to remember is “fall””. Advice almost as simple as #makeyourlegsgofast. I’d ride my edge, pick my toe into the ice, draw my weighted leg in while pivoting, pressing down into the ice while simultaneously drawing upon its force to catapult me into the air. And in those final few milliseconds think “up” as I snapped up, wrapping my arms and legs around each other, and I’d, for that split second of rotation, feel long. I felt tall.

Think “up” so you don’t fall. 

“Up. Up. Up. Can only go up from here”. Thanks Shania, but I politely beg to differ. Going up. Picking yourself up. It’s a choice.  It’s not a decision made by default. Despite finding bottom, you can always try your hand at digging further.  Plenty of people do. You can head forwards. Actively decide to slide backwards. It is all a choice. 

For 2018 I am choosing to think “up”.

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Where's the Beef?

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Where's the Beef?

Currently, I’m in. . . . .  My dreamland aka KENYA

My plan for 2017 is. . . .  To remember that this is supposed to be fun

Where’s my mind at? I feel. . . .   Overwhelmed

Do I worry if I’ll ever get faster? I think. . . . . it’s time to retire if I ever don’t contemplate whether I’ll run faster.

When I broke the Canadian marathon record, at 34K I felt. . . nervous I had pulled away from Krista too soon

At 36, it felt like. . . . I couldn’t look at my watch because of the forearm cramping that had started

Then right before I crossed the tape, I. . . . . realized I had pulled off something BIG

The first thing I did afterwards was. . .  look at Alan Brookes stunned

Happiness is. . . . hearing music in my head and not caring if it makes me dance in public

What I really like to do is. . . . laugh

What always makes me smile? The dumb things I do on a regular basis & the people who do them with me

I like talking to people at race expos but I’m actually kinda shy. What I do to get over that is. . . remember that after a certain age you no longer get to be shy and that those people took time out of their day to come meet me and it would be disrespectful of me not to give them my 100%.

What do I think about being a hero to young girls and other female athletes for some of my stances? I think. . . it makes me nervous. It’s a responsibility I do not take lightly.
I was  in grade three  when I first heard of Terry Fox. Being compared to him? I just think that’s. . . . ..putting me in a class I do not consider myself part of

My favourite part of training is. . . . Seeing what I can challenge my body to do next

Do I listen to music when I run? I didn’t used to, but I started to while training for New York Marathon because I couldn’t get the words of someone out of my head. 

The trick to getting through speed work is. . . . To focus on one interval at a time

I’ve been running since . . . . I was in elementary school.   I’ll quit when. . . . . I will never quit. I think there is more respect for the sport in retiring than quitting.

Currently I’m running. . . .   On grass and dirt only

The plan is to run the marathon in. . . . the Fall… and fast!

The half marathon in. . . NYC … and controlled

To do that I’ll have to. . . . . Trust that my fitness is coming along as planned

Age to a runner is. . . .  Just a number until it isn’t.

Who’s my main competition? Anyone and everyone I line up against

Even if I’m not running professionally, I’ll. . . . always run. I’m a runner, not a pro.

As a woman running alone I feel. . . .  blissfully ignorant until I read a story reminding me that I shouldn’t.

Have I ever smacked someone? No… but I’ll bump my fist on a car if they don’t check the intersection before rolling through a turn.

This is what I’m looking for in a partner: Patience & someone who is perfectly imperfect

This is what I can’t stand: Having my education thrown back in my face because I disagree with you

Is it essential that he’s a runner? Well, . . . . .  nope… but he better value hard work

I’ve had my heart broken before. But . . . .   All fractures heal

I’m most proud of. . . .  The growth of confidence and self-esteem the teachers saw in my niece after I came to speak to her school.

Standing up to bullies makes me feel. . . .   sad that it’s something I even need to do.

Being the first person in my family to attend university showed me. . .  hard work matters more than anything.

How is being in court like being at a race? They’re both. . . . Scary as hell. I often wonder if words will come out of my mouth when it is time to argue… much like I wonder if my body will move when the gun goes off.

If people talk about my looks I know. . . .  they know very little about running.  Last I checked, I was waddling around the track not walking the runway.

Someone says something about me online and doesn’t sign his (or her) name to it I feel. . . . that calling him/her a “troll” is unfair. Trolls are cute with jewels in their bellies and fun hair… he’s/she’s a bully and I have no time for bullies… and if you say you care about me and favourite that junk, then I have no time for you either.

No one ever heard of Jeff Adams before he started mentioning me . . .  That’s not true. He’s an advocate for his own causes and I respect him for that. I’ve always been told what people say about me is none of my business

My mentor is. . .  (are) my siblings

My hero is. . . My Mum.

If I could run with anybody, it would be. . .  Sophie Trudeau

I try to stay out of politics but I will voice my mind. I think. . . It is important to be vocal.  I do not set out to be provocative… but I’m happy to provoke discussion.

What I’ve learned about myself is I can take a hit and get back up again. I can do this because. . . .  I have never thought of another option.

Wearing the Canadian jersey in Rio with my family in the stands, I felt. . . .  Honoured to represent my country but more proud to be a Marchant.

What’s the beef w AVK in your article? “Where’s the beef” (only the older readers would get that reference). There’s no beef. The only way he works as a comparison in that piece is if you accept that I agree and believe that he is a good role model, advocate and feminist. There can’t be a double standard comparison in him being shirtless and still valued as a feminist role model and me half naked and therefore failing at it, if I believe he’s failing in any of his roles.

** Side note, look at the backlash from the Emma Watson Vanity Fair photo… Apparently feminism requires we WOMEN wear a shirt.

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Let's Talk

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Let's Talk

I’ve toyed with writing this. Stalled to post it.  It’s #BellLetsTalk day today, which seems like as good a day as any to share.  Maybe my words will help someone.  Maybe they’re just meant to help me.  That’s the beauty of words… there doesn’t have to be a singular purpose behind them. 

I describe myself as someone who cries like the mother in the movie “Love Actually”… fanning my eyes while taking a few deep breaths whenever tears start to form.  Growing up I didn’t have time to cry.  I was responsible for my younger siblings and to cry was to be weak and to be weak was to fail them. As an adult it rarely seems like there is an appropriate time for it.  It has given me a reputation of being tough… some friends even think nothing can hurt my feelings.  People I have loved have failed to give weight to the moments they have seen or made me cry.

I am analytical with my emotions.  Pragmatic with my caring.  It is how I have learned to cope with the highs and lows I’ve experienced so far. It’s why writing this is proving more difficult than I anticipated.

When I’ve deemed it necessary, I flip a switch from caring to not caring.  And once that switch is flipped I do not look back.  I’m a talented person.  This isn’t a talent I’m particularly proud of, but it is likely a reason why I have made it to the level I have in my professions. 

I am also a pro at shelfing things. Promising to deal with them later… knowing I’ll never provide myself the time to do so.  This has proven a useful tool during my professional careers when there is no room or time to process my feelings.  Olympic Appeals, online bullying, or even simple training weariness… toss those issues up on a shelf and get out for that run.

Coming off the high of the Olympics it was easier to throw myself back into training than to risk the post-Olympic slump that people had described.  I found it was a necessity when I had to deal with the emotional backlash of being around people who themselves were falling into the slump.

By early October though, I realized my shelf was full and things turned ugly.  So this time I buried them… only to end up with pneumonia… things do not stay buried long.  In my mind however, I didn’t have much a of a choice. NYCM was around the corner and I couldn’t afford the time to sort through and process my emotions.  I type this hearing “there’s no crying in baseball” in my head. 

By the time NYCM was done I was ill.  My burying techniques clearly were not up to snuff.  Instead of talking sincerely about it I made jokes and would send YouTube music clips to my friends and family about broken hearts.  Snark… my greatest defense mechanism.

By Christmas things seemed like they were getting better.  Just after Christmas I tied up some of the loose ends of my Fall and was looking forward to starting 2017 with what I believed to be an empty shelf.

On December 29th we lost my Dad. We weren’t close.  And that’s what people said to me when they learned of his passing.  “Sorry for your loss… I know you weren’t close”.  It stung.  Not because I doubted the sincerity of those who passed on their condolences, but because they were stating a reality that can never be fixed.

This is too big to place on my shelf.

When my Dad would come up in conversation – which was rare until recently – I would feel embarrassed, annoyed, frustrated, even disappointed.  Never anger or sadness really… until recently.

My Dad suffered from depression.  He never talked about it, but we all knew.  Anytime his behaviours were addressed he’d shoot the subject down.  He coped in a very different way from me.  I’m the master at shelfing things and putting my head down to forge forward. He found other synthetic ways to cope and ignored his overall health.

I flipped my switch.  I was 11.  You can’t help someone who refuses to help himself.  That’s the saying isn’t it?  I am ashamed to admit that at some point in time that is how I viewed him. Over the last 21 years I calloused over.  We all did.  We didn’t lose our love for him… it was how we coped.

Mental health is a taboo subject.  It seems this Fall I have found myself in the trenches of the taboo, so why stop now?

As an adult I understand depression and addiction are illnesses.  That understanding has made me try to be a better person when I see someone is struggling.  It has made me try to be better about vocalizing when I’m struggling… telling those around me that the stress of things is just too much that day (but not actually showing the emotion behind it).  Unfortunately, perhaps because of the tough girl persona I am known for, some people doubted the sincerity of my words.

My understanding didn’t help me soften towards my Dad.  When people now ask me how I am feeling my response has remained consistent. I am confused.  My analytical and pragmatic approach to things tells me that I should be feeling sad because that’s how normal people would feel… but that I wrote most of him off years ago and I shouldn’t be upset.  My athletic response is mad at him for putting me on an emotional roller coaster when I am supposed to be focused on training.  My anger grows when I remember that I never allowed him to have any impact on my training before. But then tears well up for no reason and I find myself trying not to “love actually” cry on a run.  It’s hard enough to breath at altitude… This is not helpful.

Recently a friend asked me if I thought my accomplishments stemmed from having someone like him as a father.  I still do not have an answer.  I do not believe I am who I am because of him.  I am not who I am in spite of him either.

There is a lot of guilt associated with mental illness and addiction… by those who suffer from it and by those of us who are trying to manage it.  My family and I are dealing with a lot of guilt.  We didn’t do a good enough job bringing things up and we have forever lost that opportunity.  We are trying to be better for each other now.  In just a few words, a short text from my sister last night, I learned I wasn’t the only one having a bad day.  I’m learning to never underestimate the power of talking.

My Dad and I both coped without talking. Differently, but we accomplished the same thing. I shelf my emotions and issues… he buried his in pills.  Neither are healthy approaches.  I get the chance to do better.

So today we talk.  But let us talk without restrictions or judgments. Let’s talk without doubting the sincerity of what is being said. For some, discussion comes easily... for others it is how you receive our words that will matter most to us.

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2016 You were Weird

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2016 You were Weird

2017 let’s see what you got.

We are almost a full week into the New Year and I am still trying to process what all happened last year. Controversies, running peaks and valleys, new friendships, failed relationships, bridges built, bridges burned, love gained and loved ones lost. Usually by now I have assessed the good, the bad and the ugly and have set out my plans, goals, and challenges for the next 12 months. 12 months… note I didn’t say “season” or “training cycle”.  There is more to life than qualifying periods and race times.

Record holder, Olympian, national champion, feminist, role model… titles, accolades and labels that others use to identify me. Yes, I have used the same terms too… but in reality, in my day to day life, that’s not how I necessarily self-identify.

I was told once that I am a good runner. A good writer.  And a good beer drinker. By someone who claimed they knew me deeply.  I think that description is medium at best. Besides, I am an excellent beer drinker, a hard worker, a thesaurus and spell check user.

If someone asked me to describe myself or rank the titles that I deem important, my actual list would be quite different. My justification for certain things I have done or accomplished would be vastly different than the assumptions (good or bad) others have made.

I am a sister. Little and big. And it is probably the role I identify deepest with. 

I am an aunt.  And all that matters to me in this world is the legacy I leave behind for them… not you.

I am a friend. 

I am a university and law school grad.  The first in my family to go to university.

I am a lawyer.  I’ve loved the law for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it’s because of my stubbornly naïve belief that everyone is equal under the law.  I’ve learned this is true in theory… not necessarily true in practice.

I am a nerd.

I am a runner. Not a pro or an elite. Not a record holder. Not an Olympian.  Just a runner.  I was running long before anyone knew of me and I’ll be running (I hope) long after I am forgotten.

I am an advocate.  I will argue for you, myself, an altruistic cause, or a self-serving cause with the same ferocity.  But just because I argue against you doesn’t mean I do not respect you.

I am opinionated. I am open minded. The two are NOT mutually exclusive.

I am an athlete.  I suck at skilled sports. My coordination is terrible on a good day.  Team sports intimidate me. But I love moving my body. I love putting in hard work and the feeling of pain and exhaustion that comes after a hard session.  I hate being bad at something but love learning how to be better.

I am a hater of all double standards.

I am a huge fan of happy mediums.

I am a sarcastic jerk… but hilarious in my own mind.

I am pragmatic with my caring.

I am not afraid to be wrong... and I’m sure that happens more often than not.

I am not nice but I try hard to never be mean.  And if I am, I apologize full-heartedly and genuinely.

I am a shit disturber… but usually only after you have disturbed my shit.

I am not your role model. I never asked to be.  I do not intend to be abrasive or ungrateful in stating that… but it is the truth. 

I am not perfect.  I love that we all are perfectly imperfect.

I was asked by iRun if I’d like to write a “Q & A” column.  Not just about running; I am not a running expert.  I am not a life expert either.  But, like many of us, I have experienced times when my passion – running- and my life have worked together and times when they have worked against each other.  Although I am uncertain of how this will all go, I am usually someone who says “yes” to these types of opportunities... you never know when you will learn something new or what an interaction can do to help shape your next 12 months.

 “Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
Wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off
Painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than it's worth”

So here you go folks. Send in your questions about training, racing, work/life balance etc.  I do not pretend or promise to have all of the answers, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Questions bring discussion and I believe discussion is healthy.

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"Half Naked & Almost Famous"

Feminist in Front of the Camera: Lanni Marchant Deconstructs Gender

While the skill and talent of elite athletes is appreciated, there’s still a double standard for female athletes at the top of their game. Lanni Marchant writes candidly about the perception of women in sport and how she deals with those who seem to say female athletes can’t be feminine and taken seriously.

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I learned something unpleasant when I was asked to speak to the Canadian government about women in sport. My arguments, well received by government officials, were dismissed by some because I didn’t wear enough clothing when I became the fastest Canadian woman to ever run a marathon

Can’t I be feminine, including sexy, and be an advocate? Above I mimicked the cover from the March 2009 iRun, featuring Adam van Koeverden half naked—sorry, shirtless, fondling his runners.

Did van Koeverdan have to think about whether his picture was too sexy? Did he worry that it would undermine his role as a strong athlete, an advocate, or a feminist? I can’t answer that. But I know I have to and that’s BS.

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Apparently female bodies are more sexual than males, so my shot isn’t on this issue’s cover. A man showing skin is OK. My picture is not appropriate for the “future is female” edition; the aim of which is to speak out against the double standards women face. I’m not shirtless—I’m half naked.

We chose a different “look” for my cover–powerful, not playful–because being too playful might mean I’m not taken seriously. Being playful may even come across as flirty or sexy and not send the right message. But what is that message? The “future is female” but please be careful not to be too feminine. Be strong, but please do not be too confident. Be a role model, but cover up.

Be you…but not really.

During the cover shoot we paused because—according to the men in the room—the images were becoming too sexual. I was fully clothed. Was kicking my legs out on a chair too lighthearted to depict a powerful woman?  Was me standing with my hand on my hip too simple to convey strong? Was me staring at the camera too sexy?

It’s easier to set Canadian records than to take a stupid photograph.

 

Sex and skin sells (see: March 2009, van Kayak). Does my advocacy no longer mean as much if you think I’m sexy? If I’m sexy, does that make me a sell-out? Does a guy have to think these same thoughts or is his sexiness powerful and masculine?

Male athletes receive unwanted attention for how they look with their shirts off. Are they told to shut up if they complain? Would a male face backlash if he said, See me as an athlete? Or would people agree that—no matter how many magazine shoots he’s done half naked—he’s an athlete and should be appreciated as such?

Women deserve—and I demand—the same latitudes.

When a man is asked to take his shirt off, does he think: Can I be a role model if I’m shirtless?

Are my messages worth less in less clothes?

Does Mr. Kayak’ssexy cover mean he’s no longer a good feminist? Sorry Adam, your intentions might be pure but we have stricter standards. Feminism requires that you wear a shirt.

I deal with these thoughts daily. I’ll receive backlash for writing this. Cowards online will tell me what I’m supposed to do with my body and male friends will man-splain why I’m wrong and how they too share in this experience. They might have received cat calls. Try being a 13-year-old girl knowing it’s going to happen for the rest of your life.

I argued with iRun about the cover, and I lost. But I demand to write this. This conversation is important.

I am an athlete. I am an advocate. I am a woman. I have to be me.

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Still Beating Like a Hammer

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Still Beating Like a Hammer

I have been toying with this blog post for a while now.  Trying to decide how exactly I wanted to describe and express my Olympic experience… the journey before and the emotions after. 

The basic gist of my Olympics included having an amazing set up rooming with Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Melissa Bishop, Phylicia George, Angela Whyte, Nicole Sifuentes, Jess O’Connell & Maria Bernard.  Having the majority of my roommates come in with previous Olympic experience helped calm me. 

The Olympics were an opportunity for me to foster relationships… with my sport, my teammates, and the bears that I’ve poked.  It was a chance for me to fall in love… with the marathon again.

I wish I could say my Olympic prep went off without a hitch and training for it was the dream of all dreams.  The reality was far from that… it was ugly.  Sickness in April.  Junk Iron all Spring.  A jenky left leg that has been a growing pain in my “not so runner sized” ass since 2012.  Emotional stressors.  And finally, the #doubledouble debacle.  (What can I say? Sometimes I tend to rock the boat).

Those who know me well know that I do not download music.  Instead, I travel around through my gypsy life with a stack of old CDs in a beat up silver case held together by a rubber-band.  When I packed up my car… my life… my home and made my way out to Arizona in January I made sure to run back into the house and grab my music stack.  When I left AZ and spent two months in Vancouver, much to Natasha’s dislike, I came with my amazing music selection.  When life took an unexpected turn and I packed up and returned home to London, Ontario for my final Rio training block, the musical stylings of Lanni came with me.  My soundtrack to the Olympics.  We are talking nothing much newer than 2010… other than a Wiz Khalifa and Miley Cyrus CD my roommate burnt for me…  a lot of mixed CDs that my siblings were looking to toss that I rescued, a few I burnt back in high school. 

Throw in a disc and I am instantly 17 again driving with my sis Randi and friend Bethany to Port Stanley Beach.  A Tragically Hip CD that I titled “God’s Band” in the hopes of convincing my southern friends to like them. Pop in another and it’s driving to my late night law classes at Michigan State belting out some Kings of Leon.  There is one though that I can’t tie to a particular time… one that seems relevant to the last 4 years.  “Let’s break up”… a mix CD my older sister gave me and one that I am not embarrassed to say has been played a time or two-hundred during the end of a relationship (don’t worry… this isn’t a break-up blog… I already did one of those).    It has been the soundtrack to countless drives up and down I-75 between Chattanooga and London, Ontario.  The disc most regularly left in my car’s cd player.  The cause of a lot of bad car dancing… worse singing.  It’s scratched.  It skips. It’s perfectly imperfect.

It opens up with Metric’s “Help, I’m Alive” and leads into “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”. It also has gems like “Bulletproff” “Magnetic Baby” and Madonna’s “Revolver” and “I’m not Sorry”… I heart Madonna… and I’m so not sorry.

It’s the opening song that I have worn out… its chorus and verses often stuck in my head on training runs.  The song that was running through my mind on the start line of both races.

“If I stumble… they’re going to eat me alive”

Everyone wanted to weigh in on the double.  Everyone had their expectations and opinions.  If I pulled it off, would it be good enough?  If I failed?  “They’re going to eat me alive”.  Do not be upset or confused here.  I loved the support I received and will forever be amazed by the way the Canadian and running community at large stood up and took up for me… wanting to see me run both events in Rio. ‘preciate ya.  But with the attention came pressure.  Suddenly everyone was weighing in on my personal goals and aspirations.  My intentions and abilities celebrated by most, questioned by some. 

For some reason it was not until I stood on the start line of the Women’s 10,000m that I realized there was no turning back.  I trembled… time to find out if I would be eaten alive. 

“Help I’m alive. My heart keeps beating like a hammer”

Like most races, once the gun went off my mind turned to the task at hand and the nerves melted away.  Unlike the track races earlier in the season, I felt in control in this race.  The pace was on a runaway train. We had a few trip-ups… but I never gave up.  I fought for every step. That’s what I do.  If the concern was whether I would put in an “A” effort knowing there was something bigger and tougher to come in 46 hours, those thoughts were for the jaded… the faint of heart. I have never been attracted to easy.  I crossed the finish line with nothing more of myself to give.

“Hard to be soft. Tough to be Tender”

Being in professional sport… having a professional career outside of sport… being a woman doing both… it does not allow for much time to do much of anything other than present myself as tough… as hard.  Looks can be deceiving.  Miles and miles run have hardened my body… hours and hours of work have toughened my mind.  Both requirements to get to the Olympic level in sport. Necessities for parts of my life but not allowed to harden me to life.

“If you’re still alive… my regrets are few.  If my life is mine. What shouldn’t I do?”

My expectations and reality were quite different during those 46 hours.  I thought I was going to be emotionally and physically drained.  I thought I might feel dread.  I thought the fear of stumbling was going to hit.  Instead I was amped.  In the place of fear was confidence.  I was not bothered by the doubts of others… the inconsiderate thoughts of those who were too stubborn to truly try to know me.  I was going to work.  And I’m good at what I do.

Running that marathon was one of the best experiences in my life.  There were parts that were tough.  Patches here and there where my head trumped my heart… other parts where I was running with pure heart.  I can be analytical about most things.  Overly pragmatic apparently.  But when I think of that race it isn’t the splits or tactics I remember… I remember running with a calm I haven’t felt before.  I remember the excitement of knowing you were watching.

“I get wherever I’m going. I get whatever I need”

Relationships end.  It happens.  Usually you see it coming… other times you feel a little blindsided and confused. My relationship with the Olympics started out rocky back in 2012.  We got over our initial falling out, apologized and actually forgave. We faced a few more bumps and grew together the last four years.  I have come to view my road to Rio as a well-rounded and full relationship.  It was ugly at times. It was hard.  It was worth it. 

As I find myself in the final weeks prep for New York City marathon, I once again find myself with my busted CD case and stack of CDs.  I find myself listening to “let’s break up” slightly unsure of which ended relationship it’s helping me run through.

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But I'm a Marathoner

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But I'm a Marathoner

I kept saying I would write about my races last season.  After each race I would make a mental note to put the experience into writing,  but then it would already be time for my next race and I would decide that it would be best to write a recap of a few races… an overview of the season so far… a mid-season update… and then my season was over.  Hurrah! I can write about the entire year!  And now I am mid-way through my 2016 season, and I have yet to write about any of my races.

So here we are.  Less than 90 days out from the Rio Olympics.  Before I can summarize my 2015 season of racing I have to first drop a “holy crap! I’m going to the Olympics”!  Flash back 4 years ago and I was likely a little drunk and crashing with some law school friends deciding what to do about my Olympic appeal and my sudden state of homelessness and unemployment.  Beer.  Dancing.  That’s what I did… mostly.  I also found myself sobering up doing 400s on the track and hammering out long runs with my buddy Jaime heckling me from his bike.  I was fortunate to have some really great friends at Michigan State who helped kick start an online campaign to get me to the Olympics, reminded me that I did in fact like being a lawyer, and offered to go for more than a few liquid lunches… all of which gave me the space and time I needed and I appreciate that they never once asked me why the hell I was still sleeping on their couch.  We all know the story.  The Olympic appeal campaign didn’t succeed, I broke my ankle soon after, I stabbed myself with a safety pin at World Champs 2013 and came back to break the Canadian Marathon Record that Fall. 

Since 2012 the goal has been Rio.  Specifically, the marathon.  Everything had been geared towards running an Olympic qualifier sometime in 2015 and to demonstrate fitness Spring 2016 to punch my ticket early and avoid any of the drama (read politics) of my 2012 season.  Then that fat foot thing happened and suddenly it seemed as though everything would be derailed.  And then “BOOM” (yep, I’ll jump on the “boom” bandwagon) everything suddenly was on a new track (excuse the pun).

2015 opened up with the NYC half marathon, the Modo 8k in Vancouver for fun and then the Stanford Invitational 10,000m.  NYC half went well, but was not anything I was overly thrilled about.  The 8k was a solid workout effort that I followed up with 3k, 2k, 1k with Dayna Pidhoresky.  I had hoped that the Stanford race would have a bunch of girls chasing the World standard of 32:00… what I got was Flannigan and an Ethiopian going low 31 min pace and me running a solo 32:11.  I was happy with the PB but was worried that I was not going to be able to put together an event to qualify for World Champs.  A week or so later I learned that my 32:11 might not be good enough for Worlds 2015 but it was good enough for the Olympics! Rio standard had been set at 32:15… I had done it! I had made the Olympics!!?? Wait… what? The 10,000m?  But I’m a marathoner.

Next up came the Toronto Yonge Street 10k, Payton Jordon Invite, Ottawa 10k/National Championships, and Calgary Half marathon/National Championships.  Flying into Toronto I had the confidence that I had broken 32 minutes on that course before (2013) and had the goal of doing it again.  Thanks to a fast pace set by Tarah Korir off the start, I came in with a 31:48.  Two weeks later I was toeing the line with my teammate Natasha Wodak to chase a sub 32. We both did it… Natasha a tid bit quicker than me ;P getting the Canadian record in 31:41 and I came across in 31:46.  Maybe it was because most of our Canadian distance crew was there cheering, maybe it was because I was able to share the experience with Natasha… but it wasn’t until that race that it really set in that I had an Olympic standard (and the World champs monkey off my back).  Don’t ask me why, but the original plan was to run World standard in the 10,000m then jump back up to the marathon for Pan Ams and then maybe try to run the 10,000m again at Worlds… Why I was signing up for such torture? Perhaps because I was still thinking “but I’m a marathoner”.  Then Ottawa 10k happened.  Damn, I like consistency… I ran 31:49.  Natasha and I lined up and stuck on the Kenyans as long as we could.  We raced like we belonged up there with those girls and my brain caught up with my body and I realized… “hey, but maaaaaybe I’m also a 10,000m runner”.  I met with my coach that week and we changed the plan to do Pan Ams 10,000m, Worlds 10,000m and then shoot for a Fall marathon to try and knock out standard there too (cuz to quote my coach “I just think doubling at Rio would be really cool”).  At the end of the week I was boarding a flight to Calgary for the Canadian half marathon champs and had a new game plan.

June was pretty much a training month with a small 5k on the roads in California (I will always regret being too afraid to head down to Portland to run that 5 on the track) and the Scotia Bank Vancouver Half at the end of the month. 

I entered the Canadian track champs to run the 5,000m mainly to get more experience racing on the track, but also to test out racing in spikes.  I finished second to Nicole Sifuentes’ awesome kick while wearing a pair of “spikes” that were basically flats with small pins… baby stepping that whole spike thing.

I spent most of July second guessing my decision to run the 10,000m at Pan Am Games in Toronto… everyone in the country knew me as a marathon runner and I couldn’t help but feel like I was letting some people down.  That identity crises was silenced when I stepped into the stadium to race.  Holy heck that atmosphere was amazing.  The air was charged with the excitement from the crowd as Natasha and I did our last few strides before the gun went off.  It was hard to contain my nerves and excitement during the first few laps of the race… I kept wanting to get caught up with the crowd, knowing my family was in the stands watching… cheering… seeing what it actually is that I “do”… but I managed to stay calm and stick to the race plan from my coach – DO NOT LEAD until you’re in the last 2k... which meant slowing the race down to a 90s lap because I refused to take the lead when one of the Mexicans tried to relinquish it.  With 1k to go I took the lead and finally allowed myself to feed off the crowd’s energy and just run.  That last kilometer was probably the most fun I have ever had with racing.  I finished with the bronze, a new found love of the track and having run my first ever 10,000m in spikes!

 

Then came World Champs in China.  Training leading up to it went decently well until I arrived at the prep camp in South Korea.  It was humid (as we expected) but it was more the availability of places to run (or lack there of) that was problematic.  Yes, I was now a 10,000m runner… but I am mileage based and a 500m gravel loop or a 2k out and back rubber path left me feeling stale and flat heading into China.  Walking into the Birds Nest in Beijing initially made me really nervous, but it was a different feeling than walking onto the track in front of the “home crowd” in Toronto.  I was able to calm myself thinking about lawyering of all things.  Unlike walking into court when I know everyone in there will be looking at me, watching me, waiting to hear what arguments I have ready to present (me waiting to know if words will actually come out of my mouth when I open it), walking out onto that track I had 24 other women there that the crowd was watching… all of us with our own goals, fears and expectations.  The race went out slow.  The middle stayed slow.  And the finish was who can run the fastest 2k… I might be a 10,000m runner now… but I’m not yet a kicker.  I finished 18th and disappointed.  A few days later I looked at my splits and felt a bit better about the race… especially after I realized I was only 5-7 seconds out of my top 15 goal.  In my mind, that’s a lot better than the safety pin incident of Worlds 2013.

And finally, cuz why not? I tacked on an extra 7ish weeks of training to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (after a week of elephant riding, scuba diving, and loads of treadmill running in Thailand).  I decided that I would head back to Flagstaff for a brief training stint.  I figured it would be difficult to be motivated and excited to run by myself in Chattanooga.  Just before heading out to Flag I went down to Atlanta for Music Midtown… which meant I had to do a 15k time trial on a track in the middle of the day.  Ok, so I didn’t have to… but I wanted to see X-Ambassadors play, so I watched them and then went next door to the track for my workout.  It was hot and a bit monotonous, but I did have live music to listen to and I killed the workout.  

I lined up in Toronto with the A goal of Olympic Standard (2:29:50) and the B goal of breaking my own record (2:28:00).  I crossed with 2:28:09… ouch.  Coming around the final bend to see the clock click over my record time stung for a minute… but I knew about 5k out that my left calf, having started cramping between 25k and 30k, was not going to let me press the pace.  I know from experience (safety pin) that pressing my calf can lead to me losing chunks and chunks of time and I decided over the last few kilometers to stick to the A goal and worry about my record some other day.  Still though 9 seconds in a marathon is nothing and it sucked. Until I realized that now I’ll have something to chase after Rio… that breaking my own record with a 7 week build might make me feel less enchanted about running or trying to lower it again later… not breaking my record reminded me that marathons are hard. My record is hard… and I need to respect both if I ever want to call myself a marathoner again.

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Still Hungry

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Still Hungry

So yes. I am crazy. I don’t even like cross-country and yet I requested my coach consider letting me run Nationals Cross Country in Kingston since there is no Chiba Ekiden this year.  As many saw, he initially thought my request was the equivalent to a drunken mis-dial… but no, it was a sober (albeit slightly out of character) idea.

I had initially thought STWM would be how I closed out my season… in terms of “competitive” racing it was.  I am not lining up in Kingston with any big goals or aspirations.  I will be lining up simply to run as well as I can off of a month of transition training (aka running only when the weather suits me, when the term “workout” is used to include anything harder than a jog, and when strength training includes moving boxes for my brother and picking up my nephew and forcing him to dance with me). 

2015 has been a big year.  What started out as a big fat foot turned into a big year of strong racing.  Yep. You read that right.  A big fat foot.  Early into my training block in Kenya I had some discomfort in my foot towards the end of a Sunday long run.  Nothing actually painful, but more like a wrinkle had formed in my shoe tongue or sock and was pressing on the top of my foot.  I got back to my room and saw that the shoe and sock were fine. My foot however, had started to swell and it was the beginning of the fatness that I felt pushing into the top of my shoe.  By breakfast the next day I had no bones in my foot!  I took three days off and pool ran.  By the fourth day the swelling had come down a bit, but it wasn’t completely gone (it is now November and it still hasn’t completely dissipated). 

My coach, the physio I had tracked down in Kenya, and I decided that as long as it was pain free I could start running on it, but we’d back off the mileage just to be on the safe side.  This meant not going for the Rio qualifier in Rotterdam.  Blerg… there goes the plan of knocking off standard early and relieving some pressure.  Or so I thought.

I returned from Kenya fit and started into my racing season. I hopscotched across North America racing in the United New York City Half Marathon, the Modo 8k in Vancouver, the Stanford 10,000m, the Toronto Yonge Street 10k, the Payton Jordon 10,000m at Stanford, the Ottawa 10k National Championships, the Calgary Half Marathon National Championships, the Scotia Bank Vancouver Half, the 5,000m track championships in Edmonton, the 10,000m at Pan Am Games in Toronto, the 10,000m at World Champs in China, and finally the STWM National Championships in Toronto. (I promise I have mini race reports that will be posted shortly).

Despite my fat foot I knocked out an early Rio qualifying mark at the first Stanford meet running 32:11 (32:15 standard) and then knocked out a bigger mark running 31:46 at Payton Jordon with my friend and teammate Natasha Wodak getting the national record in 31:41.  I “ended” my season getting that tricky marathon standard.  After finishing 2014 I was still hungry. I had run some strong races, but none of them left me feeling satiated.  I thought I was full after this year… but with Rio just around the corner, I am already chomping at the bit.

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Putting Together the Pieces

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Putting Together the Pieces

Everything this year has been about building a program, training and recovery wise, that is sustainable and that I will be able to use next year as I prepare for the Olympics in Rio… iron out those kinks so-to-speak.  Changing events from the marathon to the 10,000m meant putting together a new puzzle and making sure each puzzle piece fits.

So here I am, training in South Korea before heading over to Beijing, China for the IAAF Track and Field World Championships.  I have continued my season jet-setting across Canada and the USA for training camps and races… lots of races… and am happy to say I sit here less than two weeks out from the Championships with a body that has held up and is ready to go.  I am happy to have found a recovery routine that keeps my body happy and put together (even when I am racing national championships on back to back weekends in cities located across the country from each other)... it has proven to be one of the most important pieces.

It has been a busy but successful season so far with two national titles (10k Road Race Championships & Half Marathon Championships) and a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games (10,000m), and I am not done yet. 

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Recovery on the Road

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Recovery on the Road

 

The season is off and running (pun intended) and so begins my tour of training camps and race locations. I packed up my training gear, some street clothes, and my recovery pump at the start of January and have been on the road since. From Chattanooga, to Ottawa, to Kenya, to Montreal, to Ottawa, to New York, to Vancouver, to San Francisco, and now in Flagstaff... it’s been a busy last four months and it will not be letting up anytime soon.


I opened up my season in New York with the United New York Road Runner’s half marathon on a tough course and in some windy conditions. The following weekend I raced the Modo 8k in Vancouver and then had two very wet and cold weeks of training. I headed to California for the true test of my early season fitness at the Stanford Invitational where I raced the 10,000m on the track. The field wasn’t what I hoped for so I ended up running the entire race solo. I came away with an 18 second personal best, running 32:11, which puts me very close to the World Championship standard of 32:00. So here I am… back at altitude here in Flagstaff hoping to find 12 more seconds when I head back to California for the Payton Jordon track meet.

Packing for months of travel, training and racing is not fun… planning and locating massage and treatment options proved to be a bit of a hassle in some locations, so I found I was really reliant on my RecoveryBoots to keep me going through heavy training loads and hard workouts. I found them especially helpful when I needed my hands free to work from the comfort of the living room and to eat some fried chicken and waffles post-race.

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Sprints versus Distance - Training and Fitness Magazine

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Sprints versus Distance - Training and Fitness Magazine

Comparing distance running to sprints can sometimes be thought of as coming apples to oranges; on one end of the spectrum, you have a runner putting in tons of miles and, on the other, the runner’s mileage is minimal and their training is primarily speed and power based. So which route is better? Which will best help you reach your goals? The answer is simple… both.

Before I discuss sprinters and long-distance runners, it is necessary to note that there are longer sprint events and shorter to mid-distance events where there is heavy overlap in training. Longer sprint events include the 400m, while middle-distance events include the 800 m, 1500 m, mile-long, and possibly the 3000m dashes. Typically, anything under 400 m is considered a true “sprint” event, and anything over 3000 m is a true “distance” event… though, I often find the 5,000 m to feel more like a sprint!

As I am not a sprinter (maybe in my next life I’ll be fortunate enough to have some foot speed!), I recruited a practicing sprinter to help me understand that there is more to sprinting than flying down the track for 100 m, practicing blocks starts, and lifting crazy heavy weights. Yes, those activities comprise a large part of their training, but there are also phases that involve running some basic mileage (20-30 minute runs), stadium stairs, hill repeats, and longer intervals up to 600 m.

As a marathon runner, I am often asked for some tips on running faster. Often times, the advice is sought out with the added comment, “I have already been upping my mileage.” My response… add in some speed work! As a distance runner, I still hit up the track for some speedier sessions (keeping in mind that “speed” is a relative term depending on your distance discipline), run hills, and perform plyometric and strength sessions at the gym.

Have you noticed the overlap between the two types of running? In my training, a perfect example of overlap would be the Brazilian workouts my coach has me perform. The workout starts with a core exercise (abs, pushups, super-mans, lunges), followed by a “sprint” of 100 m and a running/form drill at the opposite end. I do this routine ten times (e.g. core, sprint, drill, sprint, core etc.), and then I get 90 seconds to jog before I start into some longer intervals (400s, 600-800s, and 200s). All of this is considered one set, and I will repeat the entire thing four to five times. In the end, I have run four kilometers of “sprints” and just under four miles of longer intervals. As my season progresses, the intervals will lengthen, and eventually the entire workout is replaced with more marathon-specific intervals.

At the end of the day, it is important to note that although a sprinter’s “mileage” is typically less than that of a distance runner, and my “speed” sessions are going to be significantly slower than a sprinter’s, there are elements of both worlds that are necessary to keep progressing down the road (or track!) to your ultimate goals.

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Clearing Hurdles - Training & Fitness Magazine

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Clearing Hurdles - Training & Fitness Magazine

So, you’ve decided to take up running. You have your new running shoes, a few sets of running clothes, a learn-to-run program, and so much enthusiasm that you cannot control the ear-to-ear grin plastered across your face. Your first few runs go off without a hitch. You may even start to wonder why people complain about running, or why it took you so long to get off the couch (or out of the weight room!) and hit the roads; that is, until you run smack into a hurdle. Whether you clip your foot on it, or trip and fall flat on your face, running into a hurdle can delay or derail you from getting to the finish line of your running goals.

Before I pass along some tips on how to avoid the hurdles, or how to run over them without disrupting your stride, let me first say that smacking into hurdles is part of running. Whether you are new to the sport, a longtime weekend warrior, or a pro, we all hit hurdles from time to time. It is how you recover that matters most.

You’ve hit a hurdle. Now what? Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you get back to running and clearing those pesky obstacles.

 

HURDLE 1: INJURY

It does not matter if you are newbie or an old pro, running injuries happen. Most of the time they are overuse injuries (which can be annoying), but are often obstacles that you can bounce back from smarter and stronger. When injury strikes, you need to first take time off. This is often one of the hardest things to do, especially if you are still in your grinning-like-a-running-fool phase. But take it from someone who has learned the hard way (several times over)- taking a day or two to let something settle down is a lot better than missing a month or two of training because it gets out of hand. If rest does not clear up your little niggle, then it’s time to seek out someone who can give it a quick gander and help you decide a course of treatment. If you have access to a sports doctor, pay them a visit but, if not, look into your local running clubs and running shoe stores; often times, they offer injury clinics or work closely with physiotherapists, massage, chiropractors, or other experts who can offer you relief and help you decipher what happened and how it can be avoided in the future.

 

HURDLE 2: BURNOUT

Last week you were willing to get up at the crack of dawn, sneak in a run during lunch, or even put in a few clicks after a full day of work, and now you can barely talk yourself into an easy jog on a beautiful day. What happened? When did running become work? When those moments of dread set in, it is important to stop and take note of a few things. Firstly, running is supposed to be fun and add something to your life. There is enough going on already -why add an additional strain on the day? Secondly, no one said you have to follow your training plan one-hundred percent of the time. Life happens, and sometimes it is worth the mental break to skip a run and grab a burger and a pint with a friend. And finally, check out local running groups or call up a friend and see if you can motivate each other to keep on training. There are quite a few coffee (or beer) running groups, and running with your debit card in your pocket to the bank and back is a perfect way to trick yourself into running when you really don’t want to. Keeping things balanced is the best way to avoid running burnout and help keep you moving towards the finish line. It is important to allow yourself to have ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and super fit and pleasantly plump phases. By allowing yourself periods of time where you only put on your running shoes once or twice a week when you really feel so inclined, you will help keep a handle on the love-hate relationship that often accompanies a training program.

 

HURDLE 3: TIME MANAGEMENT

Starting any exercise program can be difficult when you are already wearing a million different hats and feel like you struggle to have ten minutes to yourself. That’s the great thing about running… you don’t have to make an extra trip out to do it!  You can head out your door and get your sweat on while en route. When first entering into a running program, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated when you think about how you are going to fit training into your schedule. Here’s a plan of attack that can be helpful. Set aside 20-30 min a few times a week that you are going to get outside and run. Now, if you’re a beginner, you will not be running for that full length of time, but go ahead and block it out. It’s important to pick three non-consecutive days each week and maintain that schedule; if you miss a week, it is going to feel like you are starting out all over again. Remember that you can be flexible too;  if you plan Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, but the office Christmas party is Friday night and you know waking up Saturday to run is likely going to be a no-go, then get your bum out the door Friday before the party. The trick is to get used to the frequency of your runs before worrying about adding in length or workouts. Blocking out training times like you would an “appointment” will help make sure you are getting out the door.

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, running is a fantastic way to build your cardiovascular endurance and overall athleticism. Once you can clear the hurdles that often arise when starting a new running program, you’ll be reveling in your running regime in no time at all!

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Meet The Team - Training and Fitness Magazine

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Meet The Team - Training and Fitness Magazine

I grew up the middle of 7 children (5 girls and 2 boys) in London, Ontario, Canada as a figure skater.  I was a varsity cross-country and track athlete at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where, after a frustrating freshman cross country season, I won my first conference championship in the Steeplechase, and went on to win several more titles in the 5,000m, 10,000m, and in cross country. In 2007, after representing the Mocs for 4 seasons, I graduated from UTC with an economics pre law degree. I attended law school at the University of Ottawa and Michigan State University, graduating in May 2011 with two law degrees.  It was during my last year of law school that I was drawn to the marathon and discovered the importance of having a healthy body image and a balanced life.

I am now the Canadian record holder in the Marathon (2:28) and half-marathon (1:10:47), and have represented Canada at the 2014 Common Wealth Games, the 2013 World Championships, and the Chiba Ekiden Relays (2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).  My roles as a criminal defense attorney in Tennessee, and now Canada’s fastest female marathon, and half-marathon runner, make for an amazing “double life” that I take great pride in.

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Giving Thanks

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Giving Thanks

It’s football season, so I’m going to start with a quote from John Madden –

“Always have class, and be humble.”

I… prefer ice cream with my humble pie


Nobody likes to get beat… but I’d rather be beaten running hard, than win easy, and Rachel Hannah definitely made me run hard at the 10k champs.  I knew going into the race that I was going to have some stiff competition to defend my title from last year. For the first time in as long as I can remember we had 5 girls line up with times under 34 min.

After CWG, when my coach and I put together my training plan for STWM we decided that I’d have to train through the 10k champs and hope that I would have enough pep in my step to perform well.  It’s a hard pill to swallow… head into a championship race knowing you’re not going to taper and you are nowhere near peaking… it’s even harder to swallow when you know how strong the field is going to be and that a lil’ taper might make all the difference.  I came away from the Zoo with the silver, a 36 sec PB on the course, and a solid 22 miler the following day… can’t complain about that.

We are now less than a week away from STWM and I’m excited to be in my taper! I think my roommate is probably more pleased… means I am no longer procrastinating my morning shower to justify getting out the door for my second run.  Much like last year, I am trying not to get too nervous or think too much about the race itself. I’m sure that once I arrive in Toronto and I’ll have plenty of time to think about the race – hard not to when everyone is going to be asking me my goals and race plan.  I know my training has gone well leading into the 10k champs, and since then (aside from the week or so that I was sick with a chest bug) which makes me excited to see how this whole race thing pans out on Sunday.

I’ll be at the expo Friday and Saturday and will be sticking around Toronto for a few days post-race for some running and non-running related activities. (I’ll let ya know when those expo times will be later this week.)

For now, all that’s left for me to do this week is eat some turkey dinner, and respect the taper.

This last year has been full of amazing experiences, accomplishments, lessons, and miles (so many miles!) Looking back on it all, I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to do it all again next week in Toronto.  October 19th is coming… and I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

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Summer Season Recap

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Summer Season Recap

Ok, so before I get into STWM talk let’s chat about the season post-Boston until now.  As I mentioned last blog (you know, that thing I wrote several months ago) Boston was always planned to be “part” of my season… not the be all, end all of it.  My training after Boston went really well, and since I had not hit the mark with my Stanford 10,000m I knew that if asked, I would run the marathon at Common Wealth Games.  That meant rolling over into another build.  My coach and I looked at my racing options for the Spring/Summer and realized there’d be a lot of em… two 10ks and two half marathons to be exact.  The first plan of action was to decide which (if any) of those races would be an “A” effort, and which I would train through.  The second plan was to decide what sorta mileage I’d hit in my build for CWG.  For Boston I had my highest mileage of any marathon build so far. I was holding 110-115 miles a week on average and though I felt really strong, I really didn’t feel like it made me any more prepared for the race distance. It was a fairly easy conclusion that with the added strength sessions with Dameian I would cut my mileage back to 90-100 miles a week. (I actually intend to blog more about the tortures of Dameian… stay tuned).

The Races

Ottawa Race Weekend 10k: This race was only about six weeks after Boston and about 4 weeks into workouts with Dameian and intervals on my trusty hills and loop down here in Chattanooga.  As much as I wanted to blast away the time I ran last year (32:46), I knew within the first few km that the leg turnover was not there and that I’d be running for top Canadian spot against Rachel Hannah.  Rachel caught me just after the 5k split and had pulled away from me by 7k.  Much like last year I had to come back and turn it on the last km or so to take top Canadian. It was a fun rust buster and I was happy that I had some finishing “kick”.

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Calgary Half Marathon:  After Ottawa I flew out the following weekend to Calgary to speak at their race expo and test out the course that will serve as next year’s Canadian half marathon championships. Not a bad idea, especially since Ottawa will serve as the 2015 10k Championships… how’s that for a double whammy.  The goal for this race was to wear Gladyss the Garmin and keep the pace very controlled until the final 5k where I could pick it up.  I loved spending time in Calgary, got “white-hatted” and really enjoyed the course.

That weekend my lil’ nephew Rowen was born, so I got to run with a little bit of extra bounce in my step.

New York Mini 10: After a weekend off of racing, I headed to New York to try my hand at another 10k.  “Lanni Marchant to race legendary women’s only NYC 10K” This was my first time at this event and I think it is now one of my favourites!  It was such a fun weekend hanging out with all the ladies, running and racing around Central Park and I even managed to come away with a slightly faster time than Ottawa on a hillier course.

Vancouver Half Marathon: Vancouver and I have a love-hate relationship. This year I wanted to go back for the win, but knew I had to do so with a controlled effort.  Vancouver was about showing that I was fit and ready for CWG, not necessarily about going after a course record… sometimes in a marathon build you have to eat your humble pie.  As per usual, I was able to see my lil’ big sis Samantha and get in some awesome runs with Natasha, Dayna, and Rob.

Common Wealth Games: OK, so CWG was definitely a big one… that kinda goes without saying. I felt a bit like the odd [wo]man out being the only marathoner heading to Glasgow for Canada, but I was definitely excited.  I had one long run and workout left to do before lining up to race and was lucky enough to have our Athletics Canada Head Coach join in on the long run fun on a bike and even got some of the other staff members out for the running fun… though that did result in some hobbling around… oops.

I kept my routine pretty low key before the race – carb loading, massage and physio, easy runs. The temps ended up being a lot warmer than anticipated and I’ll admit I had some flashbacks to last year’s world champs… but then the day before my race the typical grey sky returned and I realized I’d likely be running in some humid and/or rainy conditions… bring on the red hat!

The race itself was actually a blast. I was one of the women individually called up to the starting line – whoa is that a way to get the nerves flowing, and before I knew it, we were off. Trent and I had tweaked my nutrition and I knew roughly where my bottles would be on the course (luckily it was two loops, so after the first loop there was absolutely no guessing which end of the line I would find my bottle table).

This was probably the most tactical marathon I have ever run… pace did not matter… clearly, since we split our first 10k over 36 min.  By 15k the Africans had decided they were done playing and made a quick move to the gap the rest of us. My plan was to stay with the chase pack through the first loop and then I had the go ahead from coach Dave to go for it.  Just before the end of the first loop I started to drop the two other women I was running with. It wasn’t so much that I had picked up the pace, more that they had seemed to slow down a bit going into one of the inclines on the course. This meant that I was likely going to have to run the second loop of the course on my own.  By now the rain and wind had picked up a little bit – Glasgow weather… such fun – so I didn’t worry about splits and just tried to keep my effort consistent. At about 25k I knew I had made up ground on one of the Africans who was running in 3rd. By 32-33k I had continued to gain on 3rd, but started to have some left calf issues (damn thing) and was getting caught by the Aussie in 5th. Ugh… nothing is more frustrating that that stupid left calf.  I got swallowed up by the Aussie and could tell that she was going to keep going after 3rd. My goal going into the race was top 5… so I was still pretty solid at this point in the race, but in my mind 5th was now last and I needed to keep pressing to catch the African who was now 4th.  I caught the African with about 1k to go and came into the home stretch.  What an awesome experience. After my finish at Worlds last year where there was no one left in the stadium, it was such a great feeling coming into the park with so many people lining the road cheering.  No medal, but I was pretty pumped with my run.

My recovery post-marathon was fantastic. I felt a little bonky when I got back to the village, but was able to nab (ok steal) some food from the staff, had a beer stolen on my behalf, and immediately get some IST to knock out the junk in my legs.

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I was a little slow moving the rest of the day and evening, but actually made it up and down the stairs to the pantsless third floor room I shared with some of the best roommates ever!

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After returning to North America, recovery continued to be easier than in the past.  I was jogging 10-20 minutes three days after the race, and got back into the swing of training runs pretty easily when I got home to Tennessee.

Home is where the heart is, and it’s where the celebratory burgers and beers were waiting too…

 

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Surprise because... STWM

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Surprise because... STWM

SURPRISE! I’m running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon!!

DOUBLE SURPRISE! I’ve written 2 blogs in the past 24 hours… quite the news day I know :/

I guess now that the news has broken that I will be toeing that line in Toronto come October 19th, I should bring everyone up to speed on that whole racing and training bit I’ve been doing these days. So here it is… my recovery after Common Wealth Games and my training… look at that, there’s more to life down here in Chattanooga than my burger and beer exploits ;)

I’m sure that a lot of people suspected that I would line up again this Fall for a marathon (I’m a marathoner… what else would I do with my Fall? Run Cross Country? Eek), and I’m sure a lot of you are keeping count that it will be my third marathon this year (one potato, two potato…). Don’t worry, I’m not going to rant on, defending my decision. The truth is, I was a bit surprised myself that I wanted to sign on for another build… even more so that I’d want to return to the scene of the crime from last year where I know there will be added pressure to chase down my own record.  Whoa, maybe I should look into that whole cross-country thing. I joke. I joke. I kid. I kid.

 (I did… and that stuff is hard work!)

Rather than drive myself bonkers worrying about whether running a fall marathon was a good idea… there was another race or two in my mind outside of Toronto, I decided to follow what I did last year and wait and see how I felt during my recovery from Glasgow.

Very similar to last year I kept Alan in the loop and just got into the groove with training… only this year, it included seeing Dameian twice a week to continue to have my bum kicked into shape and regular physio and massage treatment. Yes ladies and gents, I may actually figure out this damn hip/bum and left calf issue.

Dave and I have been following a very similar training plan from last September and things seem to be clicking. I found I was able to get my mileage back up this time around a bit easier than I did after Boston, and I have been having some pretty speedy workouts – which is great because as much as this blog is about STWM there’s still that 10k champs this Saturday to concern myself with.

I tested my legs out with a small collegiate 5k cross country race “The Belmont Invitational” at the end of August and won it in the same time I won it in last year… consistency is good I guess. I was pretty happy with the effort considering Dameian had destroyed me with a weighted vest strength session the afternoon before and I had a much higher mileage week than I did last year leading into the race.

But holy geeze… that was a one hot and sweaty rust buster.

Next up was the Longboat Island 10k where getting my trip to Kenya covered was on the line. Much like my Spring/Summer season, this was a race I was going to have to train through… fortunately, I was in London for the week leading into the race and was able to get in a quality long run and some mile repeats with Leslie Sexton.  I made my way up to Toronto a few days before the race and got in some kilometer repeats with my STWM 2013 pacer Rejean and was tracked down by doping control. Nothing like trying to provide a urine and blood sample after a hard interval session to keep things interesting.

Lanni Marchant returns to Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

I actually really enjoyed racing on Toronto Island. I took the ferry over with the other runners and got in a good 8 miles before the race kicked off. I was pretty happy with my time and accomplished the mission of the trip… Kenya I’ll be seeing ya soon ;P

Now I’m a few days out from the Oasis ZooRun 10k championships and just about a month out from the Marathon. There really isn’t anything special I can do to make huge gains at this point, but there are a lot of things I could do to wreck the end of what has been a pretty good year.

The plan now is pretty simple… stick to the plan.  Run. Rest (aka Research for work). Repeat.  Simple works for me… sometimes I hate to think ;)

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½ Marathon, 10K and Boston - 2014 you're looking good

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½ Marathon, 10K and Boston - 2014 you're looking good

Spending my week sitting in continued learning classes… so naturally this seems like the perfect time to write a blog. Hey, check it out! I actually wrote a blog before Boston… so technically I am still keeping my New Year’s resolution to blog more frequently.

http://jhextramile.com/third-times-the-charm/

I actually had drafted this blog several times – after the Tom King Half Marathon, after Stanford 10,000, and obviously after Boston. I was mostly prepared to post something a few weeks ago, but then felt like a “grade A” jerkface to post about how well my season was going and my post-boston recovery when Krista had just ran until her leg gave out. I have been injured (a lot) and know how hard it can be, especially mentally, to recover from. From the lil’ fb message chats I have had with Krista it seems that she is on the mend and is as hungry as ever to come back. I have no doubts that she’ll be back on the roads chasing down the Rio standard in the near future.

Ok, so my 2014 season so far. I have raced three times and have been pretty pleased with how everything went. I opened up my season with a local half marathon down here in Tennessee. It was nice to sneak one under the radar ;)  I knew that my Kenyan training had gone really well, but wanted to test my fitness without digging too deep. I entered the Tom King Half with a broad goal of anything from 1:10-1:12. I managed a comfortable 1:10:47 with 100 miles (about 160km) in my legs for the week.

Here’s an interview I did with Alex Flint while running in a snow storm the week after the ½: http://castroller.com/podcasts/DistanceObsessed/3975809

Next up was the Stanford Invite… my return to the track for a 10,000m. Talk about stepping outside my comfort zone… I have grown accustomed to just having to line up in time for a race gun to go off, not checking in, getting hip numbers, and having to line up in any set order. Anyways, it was a lot of fun to head out to Cali and race in an event I had not done since University. It was also fun to debut my first race as an Asics Canada athlete (more on that later). Looking at the start lists a week or so out from the race it was apparent that getting pulled along to a Common Wealth Games qualifying time (31:45 A or 32:10 B) was not likely and that I was going to have to do a lot of work to try and run a fast time. I switched out the lead with the Dutch Giant… no lie, that girl was crazy tall and crazy talented (I think this is her first year not racing as a Junior)… and ended up finishing 3rd with a 32:29. I locked into pace and like the marathoner that I am kept that pace the whole race. I was pretty pleased with my time and the fact that I felt fully recovered within a few steps of crossing the finish line. The only hint that I had raced was a tight tricep… yes, apparently I like to race track races with my left tricep primarily. I finished up my weekend in California with a trail run with the Boise State track team. I ran with the boys and we got lost on an out-and-back course… oops.

The final race of my “Spring” season was Boston! I had a blast at the pre-race events and taking in the atmosphere of the city. I am pleased with how the race went… ecstatic? Not so much… running 32k solo is not exactly how I envisioned racing in the Boston Marathon… but I am really with my effort and mostly with how my body has recovered post race.

I really did not know what to expect on race day. Looking at the start list I figured a top 15 would be possible, and maybe something in the 2:30 range depending on how the race played out. I knew Flanagan was looking for a win but had no idea if that meant taking it out hard or running a slow tactical race for the first few miles. Well, the gun went and within a few steps it was clear that I was not going to be running with any pack… holy heck that race went out crazy stupid fast! I did my best to settle in with Des Linden and then, when I realized Des was moving a bit too quick for me, I did my best to run as controlled as possible. My hip started to misbehave slightly before mile 30… but that’s the Boston course; it’ll find your weak link and beat up on it. I finished 14th and in 2:30:34. It was a pretty good day. I was mostly pleased with how good my body felt over the next few days. I took 5 days completely off and started back with easy runs for 8 days after that.

Immediately after Boston I focused on eating pretty clean. Yes, I had my adult beverages and a burger, but after carb-loading my body was ready for some good clean food and I think it really helped speed up my recovery.

I am now a few weeks back into regular running and 2 weeks back doing workouts. I am going to have a pretty busy next few weeks with racing and traveling; it’s weird to have a marathon be “part” of my season and not the be-all end-all of it. I have made my return to intense strength training sessions with Dameian, where he makes me want to vomit twice a week… all in the hopes of building a stronger, fitter, and faster Lanni.

 

Here are some interview links:

http://metronews.ca/sports/1009351/london-marathoner-lanni-marchant-is-top-canadian-female-in-boston/

http://runningmagazine.ca/lanni-marchant-boston-marathon/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcLQeVXx6S8

http://www.cjbk.com/local-sports/2014/04/21/lanni-marchant-of-london-14th-in-boston-marathon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcLh6p454XM

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