Category Archives: racing

VIRA Island Race Series Harriers Pioneer 8k Race Recap

About a week ago, I wrote a course preview for the new Harriers Pioneer 8k route.  

In theory, the new route should be faster than the old route. In practice (if you went to the race and experienced the weather conditions we had), I do not believe that it would be a fair comparison. Personally, I enjoyed them both for different reasons. 🙂

This year’s weatherman definitely wasn’t smiling down on us. Honestly, I’m also not quite at the same fitness level I was when I raced on the old route.

Before the race:

I was very pleasantly surprised that I received a “seeded” bib (#41) and that Victoria Sports News listed me as one of the other high performance runners on the list. Up until I saw my name on the seeding list, I didn’t have any particular goal for the race as far as placing goes. I intended to just enjoy the run and not look at my Garmin.

Then, I got my bib and decided that my goal would be to finish in the Top 10 in my age group and in the top 50 overall for the women. I also wanted to run a sub 4:30 pace per km.

Since this was my first race back in quite a while, I was a little bit nervous the night before. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect of myself but the thought of running a new route was exciting.

Above: Pre race photo by Joe Camilleri.Me with friends/clients Mark and Dominique.

How it went:

Overall, the race went as planned. Although, honestly, I didn’t follow my own advice when it came to pacing. I busted out of the gate at 3:45 per km and paid for that mistake later on in the race. Without a doubt, I started way too fast only because I was overly excited about racing.

I definitely had to slow down between kms 1-4. The good news was that the most elite runners in the race weren’t as far ahead as I thought they would be. Right before reaching km 5, I regretted starting out too fast. The minor incline that I wasn’t supposed to feel, I definitely felt and it was all my fault for busting out of the gate. HAHAHA. I just couldn’t hold back the excitement! The 6th km was my fastest in the whole race. Then, I managed to hang on for the last 2k and even sped up towards the finish a little bit.

It was a fast very field and there were a lot of talented runners. Therefore, I was happy to place 10th in my age group and 37th overall out of 221 women in the race. I achieved my goal for the race as far as placing and pacing.

I was so thrilled because I ACCOMPLISHED MY GOAL! 

Nearly 500 runners of all levels from Olympians and National Record Holders to first time racers came out to race.

It was cold, there was a little bit of a headwind for about 500m near the 3k mark and a lot of rain! The weather conditions were definitely less than ideal, which makes it difficult for me to compare the old and new routes.

My time 35:17 (4:25 per km, 7:06 per mile) was definitely my slowest 8k race I’ve ever done. However, it felt good, nothing hurt and I kept my heart rate at around 150 bpm. I believe that 6 of the top 10 in my age group were nationally ranked elite runners. With that in mind, I’m just happy to share the top 10 spots with them.

You can see the full results on Raceday Timing.

What’s next?

Above: Finish line photo by Joe Camilleri.

Undoubtedly, there is a lot of work for me to do before I get back to where I was before but I’m just glad to be back racing. It was great to catch up with some cool people and see some familiar faces 🙂

Above: Post race with my running buddy. Smiling because I stuffed my face full of cookies and pizza 😉 Seriously, you gotta do these races even if it’s just for the FOOD!!

Hopefully only upwards from here!

Running brings me joy! The next race in the VIRA Island Race Series is the Cobble Hill 10k on Jan 21! Stay tuned for my course preview and I hope to see you there!

If you read this, and wish you could have been there, sign up for the race next year. Or, better yet-there are 7 more Island Race Series this year that you can do.

Running the Harriers Pioneer 8k in 2018

The 2018 VIRA Island Race Series Harriers Pioneer 8k is coming up in exactly 2 weeks from now. This is a great way to start off the New Year if you are looking to make a positive lifestyle change after the holidays.

I’m excited to be signed up for the whole series. I’ve always been a huge fan of the series because it welcomes runners of all levels and the entry fee is reasonably priced. I’m also impressed with the post-race festivities and the food 🙂

After taking some time off racing (due to an injury and then being away on weekends for military training), I’m excited to be back on the roads. Although I don’t expect to hit any major PBs this year, I’m just grateful to be out there racing again.

Even though I may not run any PBs, I will be out there enjoying the sport that I’ve always loved. Given that I’ve done over 100 races, ranging from 800m to marathon, I have a few tips for beginner runners on how to enjoy their first Harriers Pioneer 8k.

The course has changed since I last ran it and I believe it will be faster compared to the old course. Take a look at the map and elevation profile below (click on the image to make it larger)

From looking at the course map and elevation profile, I can see that there is not a significant gain or loss in elevation, which means that it should be relatively flat and fast.

How should a new runner run this course?

The first km looks like a gentle downhill. The mistake that many new runners make is they bust right out of the gate. The first km here makes it very tempting to start too fast, but it’s best to start conservatively. You may want to start a few seconds per km slower than your desired goal race pace.

Between km 1 and 3, there is a very gentle incline, so, again, it is still best to maintain a conservative pace. If you didn’t run the first km too fast, you shouldn’t really notice the incline. If you run the first km too fast, you will feel the incline (even though it’s barely there). Believe me….I would know! HAHA

The gentle downhill will feel great after the 3k mark. However, you should still hold off on picking up your pace until after the turnaround point. The reason is that despite speeding up, you will be forced to slow down as you approach the turnaround. Therefore, you are better off conserving your energy until after you’ve made the sharp turn.

Once you get past the turnaround point, you will encounter a small incline. Maintain a conservative pace between km 4 and 5, but don’t be afraid to start speeding up if you have the energy for it.

Once you pass the 5k mark, there should be no surprising elevation changes. If you didn’t burn yourself out on the first 5k, you should be able to pick up your pace and finish with a negative split. After the 5k mark, you will encounter a gentle downhill which should help you speed up.

Once you get to the 6km mark, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and see if you can run the last 2km faster.

As we can see, this course is not too “turny”.

Summing it up:

Take advantage of the longer, straighter and flatter parts of the course. The small changes in elevation should be hardly noticeable if you don’t start too fast.

Keep a conservative pace until you reach the turnaround point.

Enjoy the beautiful views of the countryside.

Last but not least, use this race as an opportunity to meet other people who also love the sport as much as you do.

I’ve made many friends at races and this is part of the reason why I keep coming back.

The other reason is that constant desire to get better.

Together, we form a community of active people who enjoy living a healthy lifestyle and help great charities in the process.

Lastly, you have a chance to win a FREE Island Race Series Registration. Here’s how: register for Run4Dreams before December 29th, 2017 and you will be in the draw. It’s that simple. Not only do you get a free pair of Run4Dreams athletic socks just for signing up for Run4Dreams, but you also get entered to win great draw prizes.

See you on the roads, my friends! 🙂

SUCCESS STORY: Jerry Hughes’ SECRET to Sub 40 min 10k and Much More

A little over a year ago (December 2014), Jerry Hughes hired me to be his running coach. It all started because I had a Christmas special on my “fly solo” online training plans. When we first started working together, we have only met each other once or twice in person before that.

What’s amazing is that after about a week or two of following my running program, Jerry bought a training package with me for his wife. To me, this meant a lot because he originally started out as an online client and he trusted me with his family after such a short time of knowing each other.

I knew that Jerry, just like the clients before him, would improve significantly as a result of my training plan. I predicted that he would be a lot faster.

Prior to starting his training program with me, Jerry’s best 10k time was 44:53 at the 2014 TC 10k in April and best half marathon time was 1:36:12 at the Goodlife Fitness Half Marathon on October 12, 2014.

When he started training with me, he was just getting over a few injuries that kept him from running  to his full potential, which at the time, neither of us were fully aware of.

The one thing I knew about Jerry is that he works very hard, he’s not afraid to ask questions and he knows how to follow instructions. That, to me, is a prerequisite to success.

Jerr Hughes and Yana at Mile O after completing their 63km run fior the Help Fill a Dream Foundation. Photo by Ian Simspon

Jerry Hughes and Yana at Mile O after completing their 63km run for the Help Fill a Dream Foundation.
Photo by Ian Simpson.

Fast forward to April 26, 2015, which is about 4 months after he started training with me. Jerry ran his first ever sub 40 min 10k, finishing the TC10k in 39:41. At that moment, I knew that bigger personal victories are ahead of him.

Shortly thereafter, Jerry ran a half marathon personal best of 1:27:45, which is over 8 minutes faster than his previous best time. JerryHughesHaldMarathonPB2015

As we continued to work together, his list of accomplishments continued to grow exponentially.

Together, we have raised thousands of dollars for Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

Help Fill A Dream is an immediately responsive charitable foundation based in Victoria, British Columbia. They provide hope, help and happiness for Vancouver Island children under the age of 19 with life-threatening conditions by fulfilling their dreams, improving their quality of life and assisting their families with care and financial support.

We also ran from Duncan to Victoria together in order to raise funds and awareness for Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

I witnessed him come within 2 minutes of qualifying for the coveted Boston Marathon. Jerry ran his first ever marathon in 3:11:48, which is a significantly faster pace per km than he used to do for his 10k.

Most recently, he has been achieving one personal best after another in all distances across the board. His new 10k PB is 38:46.


Above: Jerry on his way to a new 10k personal best. Photo by Lois DeEll

His 10k time is now officially ~6 minutes faster than it was when he started training with me. This equates to about a 40 second per km improvement as a result of my training and his continuous dedication and commitment to excellence.

Jerry’s story is very remarkable in that he takes away all the excuses people make when it comes to working out. On average, he works over 60 hours a week. He works as a chef, which means that he spends his entire work day on his feet. Not only that, but he and his wife also have 2 young kids.

However, that’s not all he had to overcome to get to where he is. Jerry was born with a rare aggressive genetic disorder called Gardner’s Syndrome. When not diagnosed early enough, the prognosis is not very good. It claimed Jerry’s dad’s life when he was very young.

Despite all the challenges that Jerry was facing, his results speak for themselves. He never ever complained and he always put in the work that I told him to do. Jerry had every reason to make excuses, but he never ever did.

I created a plan that was tailored to his work schedule and circumstances and it worked.

What was his secret? It was a combination of a proper training plan and a genuine desire to achieve his goals no matter what curveballs life throws at him. He persevered in times when other people would have given up.

This is what Jerry had to say about our journey so far:

“Rarely in life do you meet someone that will change the course of your life forever. That day happened to me when by chance I saw a running coach that was super passionate about training runners. That was Yana Hempler. She was the first person that really believed in my abilities. Her encouragement and programs have changed me and inspired me to follow my dreams. I’m now able to talk in front of people live or in front of the camera. We have done charity work together and will continue to do so forever. There have been so many things I have accomplished due to her training from climbing 40,000 stairs, ultra marathon 55km, 12000 ft elevation, 2 marathons. One of the marathons I did was 8 days after doing the 40,000 stair challenge. Participating in Yana’s program has really changed me. My future with running has evolved into crazy marathons, ultras, and biking all to raise awareness for Gardner’s Syndrome and conquering cancer. I really believe if I never met her none of this would have happened. Thank you, Yana Hempler.”


I’m extremely proud of everything that he has accomplished so far. It has been amazing to watch him develop into a confident individual who thrives on public speaking and inspires many to follow their dreams. Jerry’s dedication, hard work and persistence deserves to be recognized.

People often say that the trainer inspires the client. That’s not always a one-way street. Jerry inspires me in more ways than I can express in this post.

From the bottom of my heart, Jerry, thank you for trusting me to be a part of your journey and I look forward to seeing what you will do next.

Want to achieve amazing results too? Let’s connect and I will help you get there.

Race Recap: Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon 2015

Every year, this is the biggest running event in the fall in Victoria. I always look forward to doing it. The crowds are fantastic and the atmosphere surrounding the event is great.

For the past 3 years, I did the marathon (42.2km), but this year I opted to run the half marathon (21.1km).

I felt that after finishing the Boston Marathon, I had to take a break from the 42.2km distance in order to focus on running shorter races faster. Doing one marathon after another becomes too much so I had to switch things up.


I decided that until I run a half in under 1:25 (or a 10k under 40 minutes), I will not do another marathon. The reason being is that 1:25 seems to be the elite or sub-elite standard at most races and my PB is a couple of minutes too slow (1:28:15 at Comox Half Marathon 2015).

Since I was dealing with a few challenges (moving and an incident with a cyclist on the trails) leading up to this year’s race, I knew that I wasn’t in shape to get a personal best, but deep down I believed that I would get relatively close. After the incident with the cyclist, I took a full week off running, which I think was a good decision.

What I was most looking forward to was seeing how some of my coaching clients will do in this race. Two of them were doing the marathon and one was doing his first half. By the way…they all more than exceeded my expectations of them (but that’s for another post as I feel each of them deserves a separate one highlighting their amazing individual achievements).


After my week off from running, I decided that I was going to have fun at the race and that I won’t look at my Garmin more than 4 times in total. In the past, I would find myself staring at my wrist for the majority of the race and that’s not good.

In fact, some of my best races have been the ones where I didn’t stare at my wrist so much.

At the start, I saw many of my running friends. We all wished each other luck in the race and off we went.


The first 5k felt very easy. Then, the next thing I knew, I was already passing the 10k mark, in a shocking time of 41:06!!! What???

For those of you who don’t know, my 10k PB is 40:56, which, if my math is correct, is only 10 seconds faster than I was at the 10k mark of the half marathon. This means that I almost ran a 10k PB while racing a half marathon.

Shortly thereafter, I was at the turnaround point. Coming back was a lot of fun. I saw many familiar faces and at that point I was so happy that I wasn’t staring at my Garmin.

Instead, there I was, enjoying the moment rather than worrying that I only have X amount of minutes before I have no hope of running X:XX.

As I was starting the last km of the race, all I thought about was how much I enjoyed it. Truthfully, I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to end.

To my surprise, as I approached the finish line, I saw that my time was 1:30:xx. It was my second fastest half marathon time ever. Most importantly, I felt no stress and no pressure to “perform”. Sure, it wasn’t 1:25 but at the same time, I was in the Top 100 overall finishers and over 3000 people finished behind me.


Shockingly, I ended up being 3rd in my age group (out of 263) and 24th female overall (out of 2008).

The good thing about finishing was that I was reunited with my friends and clients. Let’s also not forget the post-race food….delicious!! 🙂

2015 Season Recap: Christie-Phoenix Insurance Victoria Run Series

Yet another Christie-Phoenix Insurance Victoria Run season has come to an end. The series was previously known as The Q’s Victoria Run Series and 2015 was its first year with the new title sponsor.

In addition to changing the title sponsor, they also changed their charity partnership. For several years before, The Mustard Seed Food Bank was the charity partner. This year, it was KidSport.

Over the past few years, the series raised over $12,000 for charity and that’s awesome.

By the end of the season, I definitely got to know everyone. This was my 2nd year participating in the series and it was great to meet all the prolific racers who come back for more fun year after year.

Seriously, I think there is a good reason why some people have been racing every single race of this series ever since it first started.


Above: So excited to add another medal to my collection. 1st place in Age Group Overall.

I’m super stoked that I will be able to participate next year. Since I won my age category for the entire series, I won a free 2016 season pass. 🙂 Not only that, but my name also got drawn for a free pair of shoes. SCORE!!!


Above: Photo by Chris Kelsall from the Awards & Silent Auction Night.

The silent auction to celebrate the end of the season was excellent. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday night than be surrounded by like-minded people who love running as much as I do. All the money goes to charity and there are some really fantastic items to bid on.

What I really like about this series is that it’s not expensive to enter, the medals are great, and the atmosphere is awesome.

I swear, this is a very fun experience. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be super fast and super young to participate in the track races. Runners of all levels and ages are welcome!

If you’re reading this and wondering whether or not you should do it…I think you should.


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