Thursday, October 30, 2014

Becoming a Runner

I was never a super athletic kid.  I did like to ride my bike...


…one of my favourite things to do on summer vacation was to ride a bike around the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver...


…and giving my Cabbage Patch Kids a ride on my grandfather’s stationary bike was fun too.

When it came to sports I was horrendously uncoordinated.  I think I took a softball to the noggin more than once.  I tried playing volleyball in middle school but the year there were more girls who wanted on the team than there were slots I found myself the team manager instead of a player.  And as for running, I hated it with a passion.  I remember staring at my phys ed teacher’s Asics as he explained the concept of a runner’s high and I just couldn’t picture that it would be possible for running to be that enjoyable.  And running more than a mile?  Forget it!  Instead I threw myself into band, first rocking out on the snare drum...

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…and later moving on to the sweet tones of the clarinet.

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Some days when I go out for a run I wonder how I graduated from a fervent anti-runner to a marathoner and Ironman.  I think it was when I first discovered racing that there was something that drew me in.

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…one of the oldest race photos I could find from back in 2006, coincidently also on the Seawall in Stanley Park...

Let’s face it, sometimes a fancy medal or two is a good motivator!

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But there really is more to running for me than the medal at the end of the race.  I realized that I hated running as a kid because I had no clue about how to pace a run.  We would run a mile in gym class on a regular basis.  I would always start off, guns blazing, trying to keep up with the speedy kids.  That lasted less than a lap and then it would be a slow walk/run to the finish.  When I finally crossed the finish line my phys ed teacher would sigh and exclaim that I should be a faster runner because I had such long legs.

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…no, not a running photo, but definitely from the “I hate running”/spiral perm era of my life...

My coach has been giving me a lot of workouts where I am supposed to increase my pace over an interval or the course of a run lately.  It wasn’t that long ago that I would frequently start off too fast and not be able to hit my goal.  It is now incredibly gratifying to see that I can dial in my pace and nail my descending intervals.  I’m so happy to now be that runner who can get out and enjoy the scenery and appreciate running for what it is.  Not blowing up early on in the run is a nice bonus too.  It may have taken twenty-some odd years but I get it now!

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How did you become a runner?  Did you always enjoy running or was it something you discovered later on?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Coming Down From the Runner's High

After my back to back races I found last week to be a real struggle.  I felt pretty good at the beginning of the week, but as the days went on I started to feel incredibly tired.  Add in a sore little niggle here, a flu shot there, and some crazy strong winds that made running a tempo pace a challenge and I was mentally struggling.

It all culminated in a tough long run on Saturday.  For my 2.5 hour run I decided to change up the usual scenery and run around the Glenmore Reservoir - a route I haven't run in quite awhile.  The pathway around the reservoir has some more hills to contend with compared to my usual running route.  I figured it would be a good challenge to mix things up.  Unfortunately I hadn't had a ton of recovery time between Friday's tempo effort and Saturday's long run so my legs felt stiff and tired from the get go.  It was also chilly out so my legs never really felt like they warmed up.
I also managed to tweak something in my lower back that added a new dimension to things.  Peat is still recovering from his surgery back in August and he isn't very confident going up or down stairs.  No doubt I twisted badly picking up Peat while likely trying to juggle an iPad and a glass of water down the stairs.  My lower back hurt, and every once in awhile when I landed on my left foot I would get a shot of pain down into my leg.  Ow!
That being said it is very difficult to scowl your way through a run when there are so many happy runners approaching you on the pathway, giving you a smile and a wave as you run past each other.  I also had to feel proud when I made it to the top of the massive hill at North Glenmore and I had ignored my beeping Garmin letting me know I could take a walk break.  I figured I could walk when I got to the top of the hill.  And it is also very difficult to be upset when the University of Calgary Marathon training group is at the top of that large hill offering you a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
Despite the pain in my lower back (which is thankfully much better now) I think that run was a good character builder.  I've had to deal with those stiff and tired legs on race day before and it is far too easy to mentally throw in the towel.  Saturday proved that I could keep running and that it is possible to find the joy out there even if I'm not feeling my best.
Thankfully the week ended on a high note with my big workout of 5 x 5:00 hill repeats.  I had been anxious about that run all week.  5:00 up a hill sounded like a lot of climbing.  When I hit the hill I made sure to run up at a nice and steady pace and I didn't look at my watch.  Those 5 minutes didn't seem that bad?  When I turned around after my fourth repeat I saw a familiar face running towards me.  My friend Tara had found me on the hill and she was coming to run with me whether I liked it or not!  I couldn't say no to that!  That scary workout wound up being not as bad as I thought.  It is nice to see that the hill training I've been doing lately is paying off.
With that workout I feel mentally back on track with running now...  That is good timing because I have some big workouts coming up!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Executing the Double Race Weekend

To prep for January’s Goofy Race and a Half Challenge I wanted to try and run back to back races in training.  Typically I might wait for the Last Chance Half in November to run something a little closer to the big race weekend.  The weather has not been all that favourable the last few years though.  Instead I decided to run my back to back races this weekend at the Robert Hamilton Memorial 5 Miler on Saturday and the MEC Half Marathon on Sunday.

Robert Hamilton Memorial 5 Miler

I had to pass on this year’s running of the Little Bloggy Blue Birds at the Banff Ekiden Relay because I wanted to run the Robert Hamilton 5 Miler.  I figured a race near home would give my legs a better chance to recover between races.  The race started at 10:00.  I met up with Ange, one of my fellow Calgarian Oiselle Flock runners before the race.

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I had specific instructions from Coach Angie on how to approach this race.  She wanted me to run the first four miles at endurance pace, then pick it up to a tempo pace for the final mile home.  The race was short on volunteers this year so at the pre-race meeting the 5 mile runners were told to watch the chalk marks on the pathway and there would be an arrow in chalk and cones for the turnaround.

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I kept a strict eye on my Garmin to make sure I didn’t start out too fast.  The first mile went by in 10:03 and the next in 9:55.  I was feeling good at this pace!  As I neared where the turnaround should be I was keeping an eye out for the ladies just a ways ahead of me to start coming back towards me.  Before that happened the girl in front of me paused over an arrow on the ground and turned around.  By my Garmin it was a little early, but sure enough it looked like an arrow…just with no cones beside it.  I just assumed that maybe the people in front of me got a little excited and missed the turnaround.

On the way back a lady passed me and I mentioned my confusion over the turnaround.  She mentioned that the arrow was originally in the wrong spot and the cones were just a bit farther ahead.  Doh!  I turned around too early!  Oh well, nothing I could do about it now, I just had to keep executing my plan.  Mile 3 went by in 9:53 and mile 4 in 9:55.  It was now time to turn things up and race back to the finish line!  My brain was fighting near the end but I kept telling myself there wasn’t much farther to go and I was right on track.

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I crossed the finish line at 48:36 with 4.95 miles on my Garmin and a 9:18 pace on my final mile.  I told the race director about my confusion with the turnaround and she mentioned a few other folks had issues too.  We got a gingerbread medal and a bag of coffee when we crossed the finish line.

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This race was also special because this was Peat’s first spectating gig!  He seemed to have a blast seeing all the runners.

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After the race it was home to eat and to put some compression socks on!  I had a half marathon to race the next day!

MEC Calgary Half Marathon

This was my very first MEC race and it was hard to pass up the opportunity to run a half marathon for only $15.  There was also a marathon, 10K and 5K.  My friends Victoria and Michelle were running the full, and Ange, Jen and Tina were running the half.  I wanted a chance to say hi to Victoria before her race started so Ange and I met her bright and early at the start.

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It was so chilly out!  Despite multiple layers I was freezing!  It was great to catch up with these two ladies before the race though.  Soon enough 9:00 came around and Victoria was heading out for her marathon.

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With about half an hour to go before our race I figured I should visit the porta potties.  There were special ones for the ladies!

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Soon Jen and Tina arrived…


…and I dropped my gear bag, took a gel and we were off!  My instructions for today were to attempt to negative split the race.  I also wanted to race a really strong half marathon on tired legs.  I’d stick with my 9:1 run/walk intervals, gels every 40 minutes, and I was carrying my own bottle of Osmo nutrition so that I could drink fluids on my walk breaks instead of relying on the water stops.  Luckily within a few minutes of running the temperature felt comfortable, the feeling came back into my feet and I was happy with my decision to race in short sleeves and capris.

Again I kept a watchful eye on my Garmin to ensure I wasn’t going out too fast.  I wanted to be sure I’d be able to get that negative split!  It was also really pretty running through Pearce Estate Park and into Inglewood on the east side of town.  I’ve never run this part of the pathway before!

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The miles were ticking off like clockwork and my legs still felt great.  I hit the halfway point at 1:05:36 with an average pace of 10:00/mi on my watch.  Alright, I knew what I had to do now!  I also knew the tough part was ahead…where my legs might start to feel tired and my pace might start to slip off.  I needed to stay smart and on top of things.  I also knew I needed to keep up with my gels and hydration plan through this final stretch.  With two miles left to go I attempted to pick things up just a tiny bit.  Time to forgo the walk breaks and up the pace just a tiny bit.  I told myself to stay focused and to keep pushing, that this was the part of the race where I would show what I was made of.

I looked down at my watch to make sure I had that negative split in hand and I realized I was running the course long.  I hit 13.1 miles at 2:10:43, a nice little negative split of 29 seconds.  When I realized I was going to have to run a little longer my brain wanted to rebel and give up but I quickly gave myself a stern talking to and this was not the time or place to give up!  I pushed it to the finish line and crossed in 2:12:40.  Immediately after I finished I filled up my water bottle at the hydration station...

…then headed back to the pathway to cheer Ange and Jen in...

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…and later Tina!

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My takeaway from the weekend:

I feel like my weekend of back to back racing was a success!  I was able to execute my plan and my pacing was spot on.  I think this may have almost been the first time I’ve ever negative split a half marathon before as well.  I was able to silence the negative voice in my brain and to keep my effort up when it would have been easy to slack off.  My time wasn’t a PR, but it was fairly close to my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon time in May.  Last year I was chasing a 2:15 half marathon all year and I just couldn’t get close to it.  To come in under that time now, on tired legs, feels really good.  I’m thrilled with my race execution.

And with that…bring on the rest of training for the Goofy Challenge!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Race Report: Tower of Terror 10 Miler

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For the most part we spent the time between the 5K and 10 Miler races laying low.  We ventured out for lunch at the Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios, and went for quick spins on Star Tours and Toy Story Midway Mania (thank you FastPass+).


After we got back to our hotel room I attempted to have a nap but I was too excited to sleep.  Before I knew it, it was time to get ready and make our way to the race start!  We were staying at the Swan so we were able to leave a little later and walk from the hotel to the start line at Hollywood Studios.  Not having to drive to ESPN Wide World of Sports and then take a bus to the start was really nice!

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Neil and I decided to go the super hero route with our costumes this year - he as the Flash (with an Under Armour shirt he loved) and me as Wonder Woman.  I got the skirt, gold cuffs and visor (that I embellished with red stars) from Sparkle Athletics.  I had a pair of Oiselle Distance shorts under the skirt and my tank was the Oiselle Scantron tank.  The yellow Wonder Woman logo was done with yellow Duck tape.


We made the decision to not check any gear for the end so when we got to the race start we lined up to sign the guest register for the Hollywood Tower Hotel and to grab a photo.  It was getting close to race time after we got through the line but all of a sudden I had to pee badly!  I knew that would be a bad way to start the race so we got in the very slow moving lines for the porta potties.  We were supposed to be in corral E but by the time we got out of the porta potties corrals A-E had already been sent off to the start line.  We narrowly missed corral F as they closed the barricades just before we could make our way up.  We managed to get into corral G just in time.  At first I was a bit upset that we’d be starting farther back and that we’d have to weave around more people, but I knew starting that race with a full bladder would have not been fun.  And after all, this race was for fun, right?


I took a gel and all of a sudden fireworks were going off and the first corral was on its way!  There were only a few minutes between the send off for each corral so we were running shortly.

Neil and I have done this race three times.  For our first race in 2012 Neil hadn’t trained for it, yet we ran the race together and finished together.  Last year Neil did train for it, but experienced pain in his shins and hip flexors and pulled out mid-race while I continued on (feeling guilty and terrible the entire time).  This year Neil didn’t train for the race so I had no idea what to expect.  To avoid the shin/hip flexor issues we had a nice warm up walk to the start of the race and we didn’t sit around the start tightening up.  We also did a few activation exercises (butt kicks, high knees) as we walked to the start.  We had a plan to run/walk 4:1 intervals and if the lines for the characters were okay we would stop for photos.  I was prepared to adjust the run/walk ratio if we needed to as well.

The weather for the race this year was absolute perfection for Orlando.  In the evening a cool front blew in, knocking the humidity down and dropping the temperature a few degrees.  It was lovely!  It wasn’t long before we came upon our first villain, Jafar.

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After saying hello we were on our way and it didn’t take long to get to the turnaround at the entrance to the Animal Kingdom parking lot.

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We knew Dr. Facilier, the bad guy from the Princess and the Frog, was just a little ways ahead.  After we crossed the 5K timing mat I sprinted ahead to grab us a spot in line for a photo.

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While it felt really fun to sprint ahead it turns out it didn’t make that much of a difference as there weren’t that many people lining up for photos around us.  From the conversation I heard many of the folks were afraid that if they stopped for photos they would drop behind the pace requirements and get swept.  There were also several characters with crazy long lines (like the hyenas from the Lion King and Captain Hook) that we decided to skip.

The 4:1 intervals were working really well and Neil was feeling good.  We didn’t manage very many photos of us actually running together…but here we are, running around the baseball diamond at WWOS, just after the 10K timing mat.

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Just after we left WWOS we ran into the Big Bad Wolf again.


And just as we turned Osceola Parkway we ran into the ballroom dancers from the Boo to You Parade from Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.


After that Neil declared that he was ready to quit standing in lines for photos and finish this race off.  Time to bring it home!  Once we entered Hollywood Studios the atmosphere was electric.  We ran through the Lights, Motor, Action Stunt Spectacular.

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As we ran around the Sorcerer’s Hat there was a large crowd of spectators cheering us on.

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Then we were through Pixar Place and on the final stretch to the finish!

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Neil and I held hands as we crossed the finish line together!  We had done it!

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We finished in 2:17:02.  I’m so happy we were able to run the entire race together and I know Neil felt a bit of redemption after not finishing the race last year.  We grabbed our food boxes, Powerade and water and had our finisher’s photo snapped.

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Because we didn’t check a bag we were able to exit out into the park right near the Tower of Terror.  My first priority was to get something to eat and a cheeseburger sounded delicious!


After we were done eating Neil was ready to call it a night so we bypassed the meet and greets with the villains along the rides and walked back to our hotel.  Again, it was really nice to not have to board a bus and then drive back to our hotel in the middle of the night!

After having run this race three times (plus the inaugural 13K Tower of Terror in 2007) I’m a little sad to see that the Tower of Terror isn’t on the Run Disney calendar for next year.  Neil and I have loved making a trip out of the race, the Halloween Party and the EPCOT Food & Wine festival.  Oh well…maybe that gives me an excuse to try something new around this time next year instead...

Did you run the Tower of Terror?  How was your race?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Race Report: Disney Happy Haunted 5K Trail Race

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Neil and I decided to once again kick off our Tower of Terror race weekend with the Happy Haunted 5K Trail Race.  To be perfectly honest I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the start line of this race.  I was sick and unable to eat anything for a couple of days while we were in Florida.  If I woke up feeling under the weather then I knew that the race wouldn’t be possible.  Luckily I felt pretty good on race morning!

It was drizzling all the way to the race start at ESPN Wide World of Sports but the rain stopped right before the race.  It was crazy warm and humid for the race though!  We got to Wide World of Sports with just enough time to hit the bathrooms and squeak into our corral before go time.

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For the past two years I’ve thought I should race the 5K.  Then the heat and humidity knock me down and I don’t enjoy the race that much.  This year I decided to change things up and to run for fun and photos.  Best decision ever!  We first ran in to Honest John and Gideon from Pinocchio.

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While waiting in line I ran into Kimberly Markey and her group of hitchhiking ghosts!

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And just a bit further along we found this nice looking old lady with a delicious looking apple.  Yum!

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And then Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear.

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And the Big Bad Wolf!

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And finally some creepy looking grave diggers!

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It was then time for the final push to the finish.

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Why do I look so worried turning the corner here?

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My favourite photo of Neil and I running!  We were in sync on our way to the finish line!

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Goofy was at the finish line for high fives.

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I think the smiles as I crossed the finish say it all.  That was fun!

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We crossed just after 43 minutes.

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After the race it was time to grab some food and start recovering and getting ready for the big race later that night…the Tower of Terror 10 Miler!