Annabel by Kathleen Winter

4/5 stars.
ebook, 480 pages.
Read from June 12 to 21, 2014.

I’m literally one book away from finishing all the Canada-Reads nominations of 2014. I am impressed with the diverse content between all of the books up unto this point, however, Annabel has had the most beautiful plot so far.

Jacinta Blake gives birth to an inter-sexed child in a small village in Labrador, Canada in 1968. While her husband, Treadway is out trapping as usually does for most of the year, Jacinta’s friend Thomasina is the only other person present. While Jacinta and Thomasina want to let the child live as it has been naturally born, when Treadway comes home he decides that the child will be raised as a boy. They name him Wayne.

Jacinta struggles with decision and reluctantly takes Wayne into the hospital as baby to have surgery in order to make him a boy. This is also followed by massive concoction of hormones that he will have to continue to take for his entire life

Thomasina lost her husband and daughter, Annabel, while they were out on a canoe trip and comes to secretly call Wayne by the name Annabel when just the two of them are together.

The story progress through some heart-retching scenes as Wayne grows up. At one point he is hospitalized because he is menstruating, but because he had surgery as a baby there is no where for this menstrual blood to go, causing immense pain and discomfort for Wayne.

Out of all the characters, it’s Wayne who holds the most grace with his situation. He doesn’t learn what he is until he is a teenager but he lives a somewhat normal childhood. His parents were however racked with questions, fears and frustration that they are often unsure how to deal with. Each of them feeling isolated with the knowledge of what Wayne is. It’s ultimately Wayne’s brave decision that relieves and brings the family together again.

Inter-sexed people are more common then most people recognize and it’s a hard concept for some to accept. We grow up with the belief that we are either male or female, but the idea of someone being or both is foreign to many of us. The story of Wayne could be about any inter-sexed child and their family and for some, without a story like Annabel, would not have a basic understanding of what an inter-sexed person has to go through.

Annabel is a testament to great Canadian fiction and brings an in-depth perspective of growing up inter-sexed.

Smart Marathon Training by Jeff Horowitz

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 224 pages.
Read from May 15 to 29, 2014.

I’ve been running now for about 3 years and I’ve read, browsed and skimmed a variety of articles, magazines and books on different running techniques and training programs. What I found with so many of them is the excessive amount of exercise that are contained within the recommend training schedules, even ones for the absolutely beginners. I always felt that a 6-day-week training program that mixes 4 or 5 days of running with a variety of different cross training and weights is way too much for a beginner. To me, that spells burn-out and injuries. The first year I started running and training for a marathon I ran 3 days a week and I was utterly exhausted managing just that! The average person has a busy life juggling work and family, which is tiring enough in and of itself, just finding a solid running base before beginning any sort of training is challenging enough. Whether a beginner or not, every runner wants to be successful, injury-free and find a balance with everything in their life and this book finally confirmed everything that I was already feeling about training: less is more.

Jeff Horowitz challenged the idea of running back to back races without injury and has successfully run over 150 marathons and has applied this knowledge in his career as a coach and in this book. The traditional marathon training plans which can have runners clocking in over 80+ kilometers in a week (50+ miles). The premise behind these traditional plans is that in order to better at running you need run and do a lot of it. Horowitz argues that this isn’t the case and that you can run a better marathon by running less and making your workouts more efficient. His system focuses making your training dynamic in that each of your training runs have a concise goal and effort scale. For example, The long run: is to expand your endurance and work slow twitch muscles. This is run with the a 60-70% effort while the tempo runs are shorter runs in which you are running near your race pace or a bit quicker and you should be exerting about 80 to 85% effort. He emphasizes how important hills and speed work are to build strength, reduce injuries and work your fast twitch muscles which, will give you the speed to beat your personal best.

I had to flip the notion that “more is better”…devised a plan that includes three runs a week, totaling no more than 35 miles, consisting of speed and hill work, a tempo run and a long endurance run; core strengthening, strength training, running drills and balance work two to three times a week; and aggressive crosstraining…at least twice per week.”

What makes his program unique is that the emphasis isn’t on the amount of kilometers you’re making each week and he suggests running no more than 3-4 times a week while following quick and easy weight and strength training exercises, cross training (biking is his highest recommendation as it compliments running the most) as well as core and flexibility. He emphasizes just how important and beneficial these exercises are to running. Having a strong core and legs will ensure you will encounter less injuries and will improve your speed while cross training works out different muscles to keep your body from reaching exhaustion but at the same time you’re still adding to your overall training. Exercising while exhausted is not only hard, but not wise. You risk injury and you’re not doing your body and favors but pushing yourself that hard. Horowitz helps runner’s recognize when they’re doing too much and to pay attention to their bodies and intuition, which so many training programs ignore.

This book is by far one of the best marathon training programs and it has affirmed that my own ideas about marathon training are good ones. I would highly recommend this read for anyone embarking on a marathon, whether they are beginner or just looking to change up their training scheme.