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Health & Fitness

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This morning I ran my third half-marathon for the 24th edition of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Montréal Marathon. My main goal for this race was quite simple: I did not want to get injured. If you have ever run a race, you know the importance of pacing and for my first two half-marathons I made a neophyte mistake: I went too hard, too early and ended up hobbling for the last eight to ten kilometres with an achy knee. Last year, I could not believe I made the mistake of not pacing myself yet again, so this year I vowed to do better. So I made the goals of warming up for the first one-third of third, then slightly increasing my pace for the next third of the race, and finally pushing myself in the last kilometres. And I was so glad I made these simple goals as I ended up shaving off a whole twelve minutes off last year’s horrible time and obtain a personal record this year.
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A lesson I learned from running through the Prairies in Manitoba, Western Canada.

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By nature, I am a city girl. I was born in Seoul, South Korea, which as of 2012 had a population of 25.7 million people in the Seoul Capital Area making it the third largest metropolitan area in the world. I then moved to Toronto, the most populous city in Canada, at the age of four and resided in the city except for a few years when I went off to do my undergraduate studies. And now that I call Montréal my home, I remain in the metropolis centres of Canada and love the bustle, riding the métro, and stacked apartment living.

However, I recently had the chance to venture to another part of Canada that I had never had the opportunity to visit until now. I hitched a ride to the southern Manitoba and Winnipeg area, which means that I now only have Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the northern territories to cross off on my Canadian destinations list. I had been to the Prairies before, Calgary and Edmonton to be exact, though Alberta is tempered by the beautiful rocky mountains. Manitoba was a completely different type of the Canadian Prairies, however, as it has not expanded in population nor revelled in the oil boom like its Alberta counterpart. This is really how I always imagined the Prairies to be: flat, sparse, and still. And Manitoba truly delivered.
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October means many things for different people: school has started to settle for parents and students, others are excited by Hallowe’en candy, and winter is at the doorstep as per the current weather here in Montréal. For me, I also note that the month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I feel grateful for my health and think about the many families that are impacted by diseases such as breast cancer. As I young child, I knew how the diagnosis of breast cancer can shake a family as my mother was diagnosed with the disease at a young age. After battling cancer for eleven years she succumbed to the illness more than a decade ago.

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Parc National du Mont-Saint-Bruno
330, rang des 25 E.
Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Québec J3V 4P6
1-800-665-6527
www.sepaq.com/pq/msb/

There is so much to explore in my city of Montréal but I also love trips outside the island to discover the rest of the province. A friend had been harping about hiking at one of the mountains outside of the city forever so we finally planned a day to visit the national park at Mont-Saint-Bruno (the trails and not the ski hill), which is so close to Montréal and makes a fun day time excursion.

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The different trails were marked by signs with various route distances

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This morning was the 23rd Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon, which started at 8:30 am at Jacques-Cartier Bridge for the half-marathon and full marathon races. I took part in the half-marathon (21 kilometres or 13 miles), and the event drew a record number of runners — 32,000 in total for all races, with 14,000 registered in the half-marathon, and 7,000 for the full-marathon. When we waited in our corrals on the bridge, the runners were getting excited and jumping up and down, and we could feel the bridge shake from the weight of participants! A tad scary, if you ask me. Like other races, the run had staggered starts so by the time our corral was brought to the starting line it was about 8:50 am. The morning called for a 40% chance of precipitation and it was spitting by the time we started the race, but it ended up raining heavily for the first seven kilometres. Rain doesn’t faze me so much as the huge puddles and overflowing streets, but most of the run ended up dry but very cloudy.

I started off great and felt good about the pace I was initially keeping, which was about three minutes slower than my 10K time. However, by the 14th kilometre I slowed down severely — at snail’s pace or about 10% of my previous running speed. I injured my right knee, a new injury, and though I don’t remember what exactly happened and how, I could no longer bend the knee anymore or put much weight on it. It felt sort of like a very old affliction I had in my teens when my right hip became slightly dislocated; my knee was making a similar popping sound as that hip injury, but the pain wasn’t too bad — it just made me slow. So I kept this awfully slow pace for the last 7 kilometres through a very awkward limp-run and by placing most of my weight on my left leg. While the race for me was definitely doable on a cardiovascular and leg work level, I couldn’t run at my limits due to this annoying grievance. At the end it was all about mental gymnastics as I had to talk myself into continuing on with the race and getting through the last third of the run on a limp. Disappointingly but as expected, my race time was actually slower than last year’s run by four minutes. Whatever, I have next year to look forward to!

After crossing the finish line, my friend and I grabbed our checked-in bag and walked home and we passed through the full marathon race continuing through the neighbourhood. When we came home we could actually hear the cheers from the spectators. Because we live in the Plateau we were lucky that we could stagger back home without a car which would have been a nightmare as many of the roads were closed around the city. We showered, replenished ourselves with food and fluids, and were surprised that we weren’t as wiped out as I was last year. I definitely trained better this time around and I’m used to the long distance runs and hill work, but I guess I’ll have to look into what caused my knee injury and probably do some strength work in that area once I give it time to heal.

I guess I made some mistakes with this second half-marathon that resulted in my injury, but I also made a lot of good choices in preparing for this race.

Here’s what I did right this time around:

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The George-Étienne Cartier Monument at the base of Mont-Royal

I love the mountain. Mont-Royal (Mount Royal) is located just north of downtown Montréal and the park is very much visited by both locals and tourists. In the warmer months, you will find cyclists, runners, and walkers climbing the trails while the Tam Tams drum and dance at the George-Étienne Cartier Monument, and a medieval battle takes hold further up in the forest. Others play frisbee, hackey sack, picnic, or just rest in the grassy hills, or take in the view of the city from the Observatory near the top of the mountain. A large crucifix illuminates at the top and faces the east side of the city, and two large cemeteries — the larger and Catholic Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, and the traditionally Protestant and English Cimetière Mont-Royal — encompass the west side of the mountain.

Montréal is a cold city, so we don’t have too many months available for seasonal activities which means that city dwellers learn to embrace the cold. Hence, even in the winter, the mountain is accessible with fresh snow fall immediately plowed and packed to the ground so that cold weather runners and cross-country skiers can whiz up the paths. I also sometimes see snow-shoers as well, though there are fewer tourists who are willing to bear the biting Montréal cold. The Montréal Police also patrol the mountain, riding on horses through the trails, so the sight of road apples is common in the park.

The temperature has been dropping in the city, so if you want to catch the Tam Tams and the Medieval Battle, or take a walk through the park is warmer weather, don’t wait too long to visit the mountain. Find out more information about Mont-Royal on their website: www.lemontroyal.qc.ca.

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Parks in Montréal are very well used

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Medieval sword-fight battle every Sunday at the mountain

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I have just over one month to go until my second half-marathon, and I feel the fire lighting from underneath. Black toe nails? Yep. Sore legs? Definitely. Unsightly tan marks? That, and my summer freckles have crashed my diligent skin care regimen once again. But I still have a lot mileage to cover meaning I have time to turn another shade deeper by the end of September no matter how much sunscreen I’m using.

Aside from great running shoes, a GPS watch, and lots of Gatorade G2, I rely on good music to keep me going. And when I run, it’s really the only socially acceptable time that I can kinda bop to the music in public, which I understand is a no-no during my study sessions at the library. I bring along my ultra small and ultra light iPod Shuffle that I use solely for my workouts, and I blast music of the thumping kind that usually don’t make it to my study music playlists. Of course, I have a separate playlist for my running sessions and though I update my iTunes library every few months or so, lately I have been adding a lot of new and different artists to my running soundtrack.

The standards are the same: Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, MSTRKRFT, Robyn, and Underworld. But I have been loving tracks from Disclosure’s new album, Settle, since they released the garage-pop track Latch last year which reminds me a lot of the electronic music I first started listening to over a decade ago. Can you believe that the British brothers are only 18 and 20 years old? Well, when I blast favourites like White Noise I think about the Disclosure kids kicking my butt and it makes me run. (I also think about RuPaul telling me, Girl You Better Work!. Anyways.) Other new music additions include the new single by Annie, a remix of Young Galaxy by Peaking Lights, Toro y Moi, and Stockholm’s Kate Boy. So here is a list of a few of my new and standard running music favourites to get you motivated, running, or both. Click on the tracks to open streaming links.

Disclosure’s White Noise featuring AlunaGeorge

THE HALF-MARATHON TRAINING PLAYLIST

Annie, Invisible
The Chemical Brothers, Hoops
Daft Punk, Rollin’ and Scratchin’
Disclosure, When a Fire Starts to Burn
Disclosure, White Noise featuring AlunaGeorge
John Hopkins, Open Eye Signal
Kate Boy, Northern Lights
The Knife, We Share Our Mother’s Health
Lupe Fiasco, Kick Push
Lupe Fiasco, I Gotcha
Method Man, Release Yo’ Delf
MSTRKRFT, Bounce featuring Nore and Isis
Outkast, B.O.B.
Outkast, Knowing
Robyn, Cobrastyle (Bloody Beetroots Remix)
Robyn, Because of Boys (Yelle cover)
Slava, Girl Like Me
Thunderheist, Jerk It (Nasty Nav & JFK Remix)
Toro y Moi, Say That
Underworld, Pearl’s Girl
Young Galaxy, Pretty Boy (Peaking Lights Remix)