A Runner’s Confession

I confess… I’m not loving running right now. It’s not that I’m hating it, I’m just kind of indifferent. I don’t seem to have any drive or goals. I really don’t have any interest in long runs and honestly, short runs aren’t doing much for me either.  I’m long past hoping for a half marathon PB this spring. My mileage is way, way down and the last time I ran more than 16k was at the end of March at the Prague Half Marathon. I know I can complete this weekend’s Ottawa Half Marathon, but I have zero expectations of completing it in under two hours. Negative attitude or realistic view?  Not sure.

I should be looking forward to this weekend. It is the biggest race event on the Ottawa calendar, with close to 49 000 participants over the two day event.  It is, in fact, the biggest race event in Canada.  The crowds, the energy, the buzz; Ottawa turns into a runner’s dream city. So the question is will all that energy give me the kick in the runner’s butt that I seem so desperately to need?  Actually, I think I need a double kick given the fact I am running the 5k late Saturday afternoon prior to the Sunday morning half.  On the upside, at least I’ll get some mileage in.   For all of you who have a better attitude than me, best of luck this weekend!

Colonel By Race Recap

On Saturday morning all four of us headed out in our race gear to take part in Somersault’s  Colonel By Races.  The big events on this day are actually the various Early Bird triathlons and duathlons, what I believe are some of the first races of the multi sport summer season here in Ottawa.  If you aren’t interested in swimming and biking though, there were the choices of a 3k or 8k run along the canal, starting at Carleton University.

The two running events started together, so Mike and I, running the 8k, and the boys, doing the 3k, were all at the start line.  Once the horn blew though we all ran our own race, me knowing that everyone would be waiting for me as the last runner.  I am slowly accepting the idea that despite the fact I started this whole running thing in this family, I am heading towards being the slowest runner of the group.  I am hanging on to the fact though that I can still run farther than any of them!

The boys nailed their 3k races, both attaining substantial PB’s, with Evan coming in under 14 minutes and Luke just over the 15 minute mark.  Mike finished in an impressive 38:02, a time I can still only dream of.  Officially, I also had a PB, coming in at 41:32, although unofficially I have run that distance a few seconds faster.  I was pleased with the average 5:11 pace and particularly pleased that my final km was my fastest at 5:01.

With only 67 runners in the 8k race there was certainly no issue with overcrowding.  Of course the first km was a little more crowded with the 113 3k runners, particularly the teenage football team that was taking part, some of whom did not realize that throwing a football or stopping dead in a race is not a good idea.   Once they had all done their turnaround the road was clear and I was often running on my own.

One slightly confusing incident made me wonder if I was witnessing my first example of out and out cheating.  This was an out and back course, but  the turnaround happened before the halfway mark.  As a result you had to run about 500 m past the finish area, then turn around again to the finish line.  On my way to the first turn around the only runners right in my area were two women.  It was clear to me they were running together but one was faster and pulled away.  For a while I was alongside the second woman and then I pulled away from her.  I did my first turnaround and eventually noticed that the second woman was ahead of me, back with her friend.  I can space out a little when I am running, so I was trying to figure out exactly when she had passed me.  For the life of me I couldn’t remember seeing her go by, which would mean she didn’t run all the way to the turn around.  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, thinking I really must have just missed her going  by me.  In a while I passed her again and didn’t think much of it.  When I went around the second turn around I saw her turn well beforehand to join her friend again.  At that point I figured she must just be pacing her friend, though I could see her ankle timing chip on.

When I crossed the finish line a little behind them I admit I went to take note of her bib number.  But she immediately came to me and let me know that she wasn’t trying to cheat, she just couldn’t keep up with her friend.  It was only after looking at the standings that I realized her friend was visually impaired, not to mention in need of a faster running guide!  I am curious as to what will happen with the standings though.  Because the guide had a chip on, her time is recorded in Sportstats.  She is listed as the 6th female, right ahead of me as the 7th out of 28 women.  Since the guide didn’t run the whole course, she technically shouldn’t be in the standings, so I am not really sure if she will be removed or not.

With such a small race our chances were good to place in our age categories.  Like the Winterman Race we just missed all four of us getting lanyards.  At that race Mike and the boys picked them up with me just missing out, this time Mike and I won our age groups, Evan came second in his and Luke just missed, coming in 4th.  The running joke though is that maybe if he had talked a little less he could have shaved off a few seconds.  Only when you are young can you run a 5 minute pace for three kms and at the same time make a new friend and know all about him (age, birthday, favourite activities…you name it) by the end of the race.  At that speed I am just trying to keep my breakfast down, never mind have a 15 minute conversation with someone!

Congratulations go out to Amanda and Jerome in the 8k who also won their categories on Saturday.  It was fun to be able to cheer for people I know at the awards ceremony :)

Next up – Ottawa Race Weekend.  So NOT ready.

Family Race Day!

Family Race Day!



Ottawa Sporting Life 10k Race Recap

I decided it shouldn’t be me writing this race recap, but instead it should be Evan, my 12 year old who ran this distance for his very first time.  I had a great time pacing him, and perhaps more importantly, reminding him to breathe!  He did manage to run his last two kms faster than the previous ones, never an easy feat.  Before his post, a couple of race thoughts from me:

  • love, love, love the medals and t-shirts
  • nice course, using a different part of the canal route from other races
  • while the location for medals and food was nice at the new Landsdowne Park, it was a little too far from the finish line – would have hated that walk had it been stormy or blistering hot in the sun
  • some more post race food choice would have been nice, though I did enjoy my chocolate croissant that I bought at the farmer’s market
  • love the fact that over $50 000 was raised for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
  • I liked the fact that today the organizers sent out a survey to see what people thought of the race

And now for a first time 10k runner’s perspective from Evan:

On Sunday, I ran my very first 10 km run at the Sporting Life Ottawa 10k.  There were just under 1800 runners at the event which is not a whole lot but not bad for the first time the event has been held in Ottawa.

In the first few kilometers I learned something about a road race:  Do not wear a camelback!  It might work for orienteering, but at the 4k mark I had to pass it off to Luke and my Dad who were our (awesome) cheerers at the side.   I actually felt like I had a camel on my back!

I also found out that running a long distance is all mental. If you tell yourself that there is only 1km left you run faster, even if there’s actually around 1.8 km left and you know it!

The weather was terrible for running.  It wasn’t too hot, but the humidity was crazy.  It felt like you were trying to breathe steam.

When we finally made it to the finish, we had to walk a very long way to get to the food, of which there wasn’t a lot to choose from.  Luckily I like bananas, but they are not very filling.  That was the only part I disliked about the race, because thinking about all the food at the end is what kind of keeps me going during the run.

My overall time was just over an hour, which I am proud of, and it was also a PB! :)  There were great medals at the end, the money was going toward CHEO, and overall it was a very fun race!

After the race was done, we set off to orienteering.  The road race was fun, but I was glad to get back on the trails at Mackenzie King estate!

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Ottawa Sporting Life 10k

A full recap will come later this week, but for now I am thrilled to share that Evan ran his first 10k, in ridiculous humidity no less, in 1:01!  I think it is safe to say that he didn’t love every minute of it but he is a proud kid and I am a proud mother :)

Oh yeah, then we headed over to the Gatineau Hills and ran around for another hour + for orienteering.

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Sporting Life 10k Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning I will be pacing at the inaugural Sporting Life 10k here in Ottawa.  But I won’t be donning official bunny ears.  Instead I will be pacing my 12 year old, Evan, for his very first 10k race.  At his age I definitely don’t want to see him running this distance with any regularity but the combination of an awesome medal that I knew would appeal to him and the fact that it is Mother’s Day tomorrow made me think that this would be the first 10k race for us to do together.  As a mother of boys, I know it is special to be able to share an activity, particularly with a boy who is heading into those dreaded  wonderful teen years.

We won’t be going for too much speed tomorrow, and quite frankly with the heat and humidity that has hit us here in Ottawa I am fine with a slower run.  At the end I hope Evan is proud and excited to earn his first 10k medal.  How can you resist a medal with the CHEO bear and knowing that the race is helping kids?

SL10K Ottawa Medal

Orienteering in the Ottawa Area

Control flag or bag or marker

I have mentioned a few times that last year my entire family took up the sport of orienteering.  For the men in my family (my husband and two kids) this is currently their favourite sport, one they are hoping to excel at.  I, on the other hand, make it a goal to not get lost and suffer the embarrassment of the organizers having to come search for me after the time limit.

I have to say though that I am thoroughly enjoying this new form of running.  One of the issues for many road runners becomes the boredom.  For the most part I enjoy the time while road running to listen to my thoughts and my music, to just let my mind wander at will.  In fact, I think that may be one of my difficulties when orienteering – once my legs get moving my mind is used to turning off.  When that happens while orienteering, needless to say you get lost.  I find I am enjoying the challenge of trying to focus on a map, the footing, the trails, the landscape and once in a while, a compass.  If just reading that makes your head spin, imagine putting it into practice!

This is a wildly popular sport in many areas of the world, but not nearly as well known here.  For those not sure of the sport,this post gives some basic information.  First off, THERE IS NO GPS!  Sorry for the shouting there, but everyone these days thinks that finding your way around an unknown area requires GPS.  The fact is, long before technology there were things called maps and compasses and if you learn to use them they can actually lead you to where you want to go.  Though not always… if you as the user aren’t careful it is pretty easy to make a mistake.  And that of course is where the challenge lies.

While orienteering events can take place on an urban course, many of the events take place in the woods and fields.  Here in Ottawa/Gatineau we have so many beautiful areas, and Orienteering Ottawa puts many of them to good use in their weekly spring and fall events.  We have found our way in the Gatineau hills, the March Highlands, the Constance Bay sand trails and on the trails of the Greenbelt.  We have had to find our way through brush, forest, rocky terrain, ski hills, and around (sometimes through) various water bodies.

So how does this sport work?  At the local level events you simply show up and register sometime between 10:00 am and 11:00 am.  You start when you are ready, so no panicked race to your corral.  These events also won’t leave a hole in your wallet the way many road races do.  The four of us can enter for a total of $22.  Add a zero to that I think you are around what we paid to all race at the upcoming Ottawa Race Weekend, so $22 seems a very cheap way to spend a Sunday morning.  The events are open to all ages and abilities.  Bring your babies in backpacks, lead your toddlers around a trail or get ready to race through the terrain in search of a fast time while being awed by national team members.  You can pick from a novice course, where all of the controls are located very close to the trail; an intermediate course where you will need to be able to find your way off the trails; and a short or long advanced course where you may find yourself doing some serious bushwhacking.

As for equipment, bring your comfortable hiking shoes if you are walking, or a pair of running shoes with a good tread.  If you are doing anything above the novice level you will probably want a compass.  If you are going off trail you will need to think about poison ivy, ticks and sharp branches, so long pants may be advised.  There is one high tech gadget that you will need, an SI stick which you will use when you have found each control ( an orange and white flag).  Just “dip” the stick in and the time of your arrival at each control, plus the start and finish, will be recorded and printed out for you at the end of your race.  The SI chip can be rented at each event for only $2, and are provided for free for anyone trying the novice course.

Once registered you will get your map and you can take some time to figure out your plan.  This is not the case in higher level events, where you will not see your map until you start.  The maps will show you trails, contour lines, types of vegetation, man-made features, water features…the list goes on.  It will also show you the start, finish and where each control you must find is located. Here is the intermediate course from today:


MarchHiglandInt ReducedIt is a little hard to read on the computer, but if you look closely you can see pink circles marking the controls and their order.  You will also notice that they are all off the black dotted lines representing trails.  All of those white areas mean forest, so it is not as open as what you might think.

Part of reading the map will involve you learning a rather extensive number of symbols.  For example, a tree stump or root stalk will be marked with a circle with an “x” inside.  A marsh is marked with blue horizontal lines.  A boulder will show as a black dot, but be careful not to confuse it with a brown dot as that would be a knoll.  As you progress you will start learning terms such as “spur”,  “saddle”, “re-entrant” and “depression”.  Cliffs, fence lines, railway tracks and roads are also marked on the map.  The brown lines you see are contour lines which can help you identify where hills and knolls are.  But if this sounds complicated, you don’t need to know all of this to try out a novice course and there are always people around to help you out if you are not sure about something.  This is a sport that grows with you in whatever form you wish.  Keep it simple and enjoy some time in the great outdoors, or each week learn a little more in order to complete more complex courses in faster time.  Of course at some point you can add in your compass skills, skills I seem to be lacking in, to also guide you along your chosen path.

If you find while out on your long road runs that you feel like you need something a little different, why not come out to one of Orienteering Ottawa’s Sunday events?  Get yourself on some trails, explore an area of our city you haven’t seen before, develop a few map and compass skills and find a whole new group of running or outdoor fanatics looking for a way to keep fit and have fun.  Check out the Orienteering Ottawa website at http://www.ottawaoc.ca/  For those of you outside of Ottawa, do a quick search of orienteering in your area, you might be surprised to find there is an active club in your home town.

orienteering at Camp Fortune last fall.

orienteering at Camp Fortune last fall.



No PB at the Manotick Miler…

…but it was nice being out running again!

I’m curious, how much do you think you would have to spend to bribe race officials to change part of their course?  I ask because there is an out and back section of the 10 mile course in Manotick that is nothing short of a wind tunnel!  Since it has been two years in a row now that the 10 milers have had to fight a crazy head wind, I am going to assume that that portion of rural, open road is simply always windy.  I guess the bonus was I didn’t get too hot, in fact my hands nearly froze off.  I thought it would be too warm for gloves, but I was proven wrong since my hands went from cold to just numb from the biting wind.  They started cold and finished cold, no matter how hard I worked.

As for my run, the first half was awesome.  Honestly I was just so happy to be out running again.  My calf held up perfectly, in fact by the end of the race I think it was the only part of my body still feeling loose and good.  Maybe I should have been stretching my other leg this week too?  For the first 8 km I had to remind myself to slow down, often finding myself running well below a 5:30 pace.  It is possible I went out to fast and hence the much, much slower second half, but I have a feeling that due to the wind this is a course that you pretty much have to take the speed when you get it because of that wind tunnel.

To be honest, I was done at about 14 km and a side stitch forced me (ok, maybe just encouraged me) to take several walk breaks in the last km and a half.  Yes, that is sort of sad.  I guess I could have pushed through but I admit that I am very bad for backing right off once I know I won’t get the PB.  Mental note that my mental attitude needs to change.  Those final walks meant that at least half a dozen people passed me, people I had been ahead of for most of the race.

The final numbers:

chip time 1:30:52 (a little less than a minute and a half slower than last year)

avg pace 5:38 (last year 5:33)

overall 84/240

women 30/137

F40-49 15/51

Not bad, so I am not unhappy.  I just think I could have done better in the second half.  Interestingly I placed higher overall and in the women’s category than I did last year.  My age ranking stayed the same.  Ultimately the lesson learned today is that I need to get working to run a solid sub 2 hour half marathon, because I really don’t think I had another 5k at a good pace in me today.

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What was fun today is that with it being a relatively small race, I ran into lots of people I know, some who I haven’t seen in a while, including getting to chat briefly with Rebecca from RunningFoodBaby, who I haven’t seen in person since we traveled to last year’s Around the Bay race.  I also had a blast cheering on two friends, one running 16k for the first time ever, as they approached the finish line.  Way to go Nathalie and Lisa (and your hubbies did great too!).  And a message to Jerome – man, I could not keep up with you today!!!  Maybe I should get you to pace me for the ORW half!  That is, of course, if I can manage to keep up with you.  Congrats as well to all the runners from the Grant Crossing Running Room, I think there was quite a group of you in Manotick today.

All in all, the Manotick Miler once again offered a fun race with a small town vibe.  I remain impressed that local businesses welcome runners to virtually take over their parking lots.  The rural/suburban route is pleasant and hey, there weren’t any cobblestones!

And so begins a very busy few weeks of running.  My husband, kids and I are all planning on orienteering in the local meets for the next 6 or 7 weekends.  We are also all taking orienteering training courses once a week (actually the boys are twice a week).  And there are races every weekend for the next 4 weeks that we are planning on doing.  I think I am getting exhausted just thinking about it all!

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