Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Special Awards Night

Last night my husband, kids and I headed to the Somersault Awards evening.  Anyone who has run in Ottawa has probably at some point participated in a Somersault Race.  The tagline for their series is “Events for Everyone…From Start to Finish”,  a very fitting statement.  In a race series that starts with the Winterman in February and ends with the Fall Colours in October, Somersault offers almost year round events.  And while the number of events they hold is impressive, perhaps even more so is the number of different types of races you can do.  They have the standard distances plus 1k kiddie races, and 3k and 8k races to help runners build up to a longer race.  They have triathlons and duathlons plus kayak and canoe multisport events of varying distances.  If I get up the nerve to try a duathlon next year, it will be at a Somersault event.

The series also offers a Championship Challenge.  This is a point system that allows you to see how you are doing in your age category.  At the end of the the season, if you have participated in a minimum of three races you can see your final ranking.

Evan receiving his award.

Evan receiving his award.

The top three in each category receive awards.  This was the first year that Evan could qualify for the challenge, having moved up to the 3k and 5k distances.  He was thrilled to find out that not only was he second in the males 13 and under category, he was also the second place overall junior male.  This is an amazing accomplishment for a boy who is not a natural runner.  And if that sounds a bit harsh, Evan agrees 100% with that statement.  He knows that he has improved his running through hard work and perseverance and he also knows that there will always be lots of runners naturally faster than him.  But when Evan decides to do something, good luck trying to distract him from his goal.  This can be both an amazing character trait in a 10 year old boy and one that can make a parent want to tear their hair out!  But in this case we are so proud of Evan.  He made a decision this year that he wanted to improve his running and he has exceeded his goals!

Luke in 2009.

Luke in 2009.

Evan in 2009.

Evan in 2009.

My boys have been participating in Somersault races for four years now. That is literally half of Luke’s life! They started in the 1k runs with either Mike or I taking them by the hand and coaxing them along the route. Adults are invited to run for free with their children and for a minimal price the kids get their registration,a t-shirt and medal and post race food.  I often joke that I haven’t bought my kids new t-shirts in years – they virtually live in Somersault race shirts. These kid-oriented, fun races (along with a great running program at their school) are what helped develop my kids’ love of running. Another wonderful thing about this race series is once your kids move into the 3k or 5k races, as students they receive a 40% discount, making the runs much more affordable than many of the “bigger”events.

A few weeks ago I emailed Terry and Christine McKinty, the organizers of Somersault, to thank them for the great season and to let them know that their races were part of the reason that Evan chose to organize his own Fun Run for his friends.  You can read about that race here. He was able to organize this race because of what he has learned participating in the Somersault series. I thought it was important for Terry and Christine to know that they were influencing the younger generation in such a positive way.

Christine got back to me to let me know how happy she was to hear about Evan’s race. But here is where this story becomes more powerful. Unbeknownst to me, Terry was dealing with some medical issues at the time I sent the email. He in fact had not yet seen my email and Christine decided to keep it from him. She asked me if we would mind sharing Evan’s story at the awards ceremony as a surprise for Terry, giving him the opportunity to see first hand that all of his hard work is making a wonderful impact on the youth who participate in his events. So last night Mike got up and told about Evan’s “Halloween Fun Run” and Terry was asked to present to Evan a “Junior Race Director” award. How wonderful to see an experienced race director pass on an award to a 10 year old who pulled together his own race. And what an example of how we can all have such powerful influences on the lives of others, often without even realizing it. I know Terry, Christine and the Somersault crew have made a positive impact on my kids, I hope that it has come full circle and that Evan’s enthusiasm for the sport has shown them that what they do is worthwhile.

Thank you Somersault and see you at the Winterman race in February!

And Winter Arrives…

The start of my run…

Snow is coming...

Snow is coming…

And the end…

Is it Christmas yet?

Is it Christmas yet?

After six days of no running it was time to get out. I know the time will come when I will curse winter weather, but being out in one of the first snowfalls of the year always fills me with wonder and yes, a little joy. Each season has its own downfalls; spring’s bugs that swarm my rural running routes; the sweltering heat and humidity of Ottawa’s summers; autumn’s cold rains; winter’s freezing temperatures and slippery conditions. But as I ran today I realized that if I lived in a place where the seasons blended together in their endless similarities, running could in fact become a little boring.

I was also reminded today that winter truly has its own beauty. I have always loved the silence of winter. It is one of the many reasons I can’t see myself living in a city again. I would hate to have the sounds of traffic and neighbours eclipse winter’s silence. I admit I never changed the “seasonal” picture at the top of my blog because I love that it makes me think of running in the quiet of a winter’s day. I spent much of today’s “run” walking. I won’t lie, some of that was simply because despite having run a marathon and a half marathon in the last month, I have done few runs in between. I can already feel the effects of that on my fitness level. Today I could tell my body was easily tired by running due to lack of training. But part of me just wanted to walk and enjoy the snow. When I left, the snow was just starting to stick, by the time I came back the scenery was that of a Christmas card. As I crested a hill on our rural road I realized why a snowfall is so beautiful. When else do you see so much motion – such a “flurry” of activity so to speak – that takes place in such perfect silence? I watched millions of feather like particles fall from the sky and yet not one single sound. A couple of times I even stopped walking, the sounds of my footsteps and of my coat rustling being too loud and too distracting.

I had started my run with my music on. Just before turning it off to enjoy the silence I listened to “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” Way back, in one of my very early posts on this blog, this song was mentioned as part of one of my favourite running moments. You can see that post here. Today, instead of listening to the song while watching a stunning sunset on a muggy summer’s evening, all things came full circle as I listened to them again on this snowy day:

Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by,
We never get to stop and open our eyes,
One minute you’re waiting for the sky to fall,
The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all.

So in the upcoming months when I start complaining about the weather (I have a theory that if weather is the only thing you can think of to complain about, life is very good), please feel free to remind me to go back and read this post and remind me how bored I would be if winter didn’t bring about its own beauty to our world.

Treat Yourself – Run with a “New” Runner

On Saturday I ran with a friend from work who started running this summer. She is in fact the person who inspired my post last spring called Why and is it Really Worth It? At the time she wanted to know why anyone in their right mind would try to run 21.1 km, or indeed why anyone would want to run at all. She was at the stage I was a couple of years before that, you know that stage when you look at runners and think they have all lost their minds for putting themselves through such torture and then insisting that no, really, it is an enjoyable activity. Now though, my friend gets it, more than gets it…she is hooked. She has done her first zombie run and her first 5k. And you know a runner is addicted when they head out and buy winter running clothes!

So on Saturday I introduced N to those rolling paths on the Marshes Golf Course. As much as that route made me curse when doing it for a half marathon, it is the ideal training run to build up muscle and mental fortitude. We did a short flat run to the golf course, did 1k on the “flatter” part of the paths (flat being relative) and then headed to the more difficult portion to do a few k’s. N was awesome and approached all those curves and hills with determination. I couldn’t remember what was her farthest run to date. When I asked I couldn’t help but grin when she replied, “This one!” In the end we completed 7km, about 2k more than she had done previously. A record for her and I have to say such a fun run for me. Why? Because when you run with a newer runner you get to share their accomplishments and remember your own. I remember finally getting past that 5k mark. What a feeling! I was thrilled that first time, not to mention a little exhausted. The fact is that in running, no matter how far you go or how fast you become, the major milestones you have passed on the journey are never forgotten.

Some key memories for me:
– When I finally felt like I could run 3k comfortably, I am sure learning to run those first 3 km was the hardest!
– My first 5k race. Yes, I thought I would throw up at the end having pushed myself to my first sub 30 min 5km, but what a thrill!
– The first time I ran 12k; it was unplanned but I just felt so good I had to keep going. It was after that run I decided to do a half marathon (you know, what’s another 9km?!)
– The first 32k run, I think that one meant even more to me than when I did the 42 at the marathon

Running with a new runner brings back all of those memories and the amazing feelings that go with them. So at some point treat yourself, run with someone who has not run as much as you have. Yes you will be supporting another runner, but on a more selfish note you will also be doing something for yourself!

Planning 2014 Already!?!

As of today I have officially registered for two races months away.  This is not because I am in a panic having no races penciled into my calendar.  To be honest I kind of hate organizing things so far in advance.  For some reason it feels like tempting fate.  But these early registrations came of necessity.  Some of the big Ontario races are just so popular now that you have no choice but to register early.  So when I heard earlier this week that the half marathon for Ottawa Race Weekend was already over 75% sold out I figured I might as well grab a spot now rather than try to get one through the bib transfer process in the spring (which BTW I did do relatively easily this past spring).  So today, November 16th, I registered for a race that will be held on May 25th, 2014.  And I should note, as of today the half marathon is 82% sold out.  That number is bound to go up quickly since there was an article about it in today’s paper.  Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that the full marathon is already 46% sold out!  I’m sure part of the interest in the Ottawa Race is the fact that it will be a major milestone for the event.  The 2014 race will mark the 40th anniversary of the run – what runner wouldn’t want to be part of such an event?  And rumour has it there will be a pretty nice shirt for this one.

The other race I have registered for is also one that sells out quickly.  The Around the Bay 30k, and end of March race held in Hamilton, is a race steeped in history and tradition.  It first ran in 1894 and its tagline is “Older Than Boston”.  Almost every person I have met who has done this race has actually done it multiple times.  I am guessing that the unique distance and challenging course (lots of hill work in the last 10k) make people want to return again and again.  As a result it is another race you want to enter early to avoid disappointment (no bib transfers for this one).  While I had no troubles registering a few weeks ago, I can tell you that even this early it is almost impossible to find a hotel room near the start/finish line.  In fact, the sponsoring hotel has been sold out since September!  There is no data on the website as to what percent of the race spots have been sold, but the two person and three person relays are already sold out.

Sign up now folks if you are interested in either of these races!

Last Half Marathon for 2013 Completed!

In my last post I noted that today would be a bit of an experiment as to how really poor (o.k, non-existent) training and preparation can affect a half marathon. The short answer is it can add about 2 and a half minutes to the time I in which I ran the course last year. Honestly, I did expect it would add more time so for the most part I was pleased. That said, those last 6km were NOT fun!

As for the race itself, I love this one. Why the Mission Possible Race is not getting more attention I am not sure. I have a feeling a lot of people are just not aware of this race. If you ignore the fact that it is one of the harder half marathon courses in Ottawa, this race really is a bit of a treat and a great way to finish up the season. This is a very civilized run and one that I think many people would love. The start line is just outside of the Club House at the Marshes Golf Course. Runners have full access to lockers, showers, bathrooms (no porta potties!) and the race is followed up with a buffet brunch. There is no standing outside for ages before the start gun goes – you just wait inside and they let you know when it is 5 minutes until race time. This was particularly nice this morning when it was pouring rain (which amazingly turned to a very light sprinkling for the duration of the race) and only a few degrees above zero.

More importantly the race is a fundraiser for the Ottawa Mission. It was announced at the brunch that $10,000 was raised because of the race! Several bags of clothing were also collected. Mizuno, one of the sponsors, laid out various pieces of running gear that was for the taking for any donation. And for his donation, Evan had guest speaker Jody Mitic, the double amputee runner and second place finisher of Amazing Race Canada, sign his race shirt. Evan, by the way, continued his P.B. streak (oh to be young!) by finishing the rolling 5k course in 28:35.

As for me, no personal best but that was certainly to be expected. I said in the last post I would be happy to finish somewhere between a bang and a whimper and that is exactly what I did. My best half times have all been in the 2:03 range. The two half marathons I recently used as long slow training runs in preparation for the marathon saw me finish in about 2:13 and 2:14. And today I finished in a little under 2:09, hitting the middle ground.

I actually felt remarkably good up until 15k, but shortly after that my tired legs were begging for a break and I was feeling a little light headed. As a result I did have to take some time to walk, eat and drink. Between the 17 and 18k markers I think I actually felt more tired than at any point in my marathon three weeks ago. In fact, I can honestly say this race was more of a mental challenge for me than any other races I have done. I really had to talk myself through this one and remind myself that I could do it. The roller coaster course definitely took its toll on me. As I have said before, there may not be any huge hills on the course, but there are no straight, flat areas either. And as a double loop course, even when you get through it all once, you know you have a second round to go. I swear those hills multiplied the second time through. It is also surprising how tiring running constant curves can be; I was feeling those turns by the end of the race. But I was happy to discover that at the end of the race I was far less sore than I was last year. I distinctly remember the stairs from the locker rooms area to the restaurant to be incredibly uncomfortable last year. Today I was able to handle them without a problem.

Despite – or maybe because of – the challenges of this course, I plan to make it an annual event. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants to experience a slightly different race for a great cause. My only “complaint” of today is the half marathon shirts. (And given the fact this is a charity race, I am appreciative that they even provide a race shirt). The white shirts, while comfy, are made of the most see-through material you can imagine. If you have a fancy bra you want to show off, this would be the shirt to wear! I would not recommend going out in the rain with it on though:)

Thanks to all the people who put the work into running this race. I not only plan to be there next year, I plan to conquer the roller coaster that is the course!

A Running Experiment

It has dawned on me today that I am not taking tomorrow’s half marathon seriously. What caused me to realize this? Hmmm, let’s see. Maybe the total lack of training runs. Or when it dawned on me I have barely been drinking anything lately, much less adding extra hydration. (I am currently chugging water as I write this). I hadn’t even thought about refueling, luckily I found some sport beans buried in my running gear. And I won’t even mention my diet this week other than to say it was probably the exact opposite of what it should have been. Even Mother Nature isn’t going to give me a hand on this run; a couple of degrees above zero and rain.

I do know why this has happened, beyond the obvious factor of pure laziness. Running the marathon has skewed my understanding of running reality. In my head I was just thinking of tomorrow as a short run. Wake up call! It is still 21.1km. And for this course it is 21 km of small rolling hills! I could be the poster child of poor training.

So I have decided that tomorrow will be a running experiment. I am going to see how much poor preparation can affect my run. Just how many more minutes can I tack onto my half marathon due to stupidity? Fifteen, twenty, thirty? At what point in the run (I can’t in good conscious call this a race) will I realize I am fading and fading fast? I am putting my money on the 12k mark. Then again that might be giving myself too much credit.

When running a race my son repeats to himself, “Bagels, bagels, bagels.” I don’t think he would ever mind if a race ran out of medals, but look out if they run out of food! So tomorrow I will borrow his technique and repeat “Brunch, brunch, brunch.” Thankfully the Mission Possible race includes a brunch at the club house. Hopefully the thought of a hot brunch will be enough to get me to the finish line.

What Was I Thinking?

I am running the Mission Possible Half Marathon this weekend and if I am honest I am a little worried that this one might be a bit of a struggle. Since my first marathon two and a half weeks ago my main activities seem to have been watching episodes of Downton Abbey and eating Halloween candy. That healthy eating thing I was doing before the marathon seems to be in the distant past. With the dark evenings and seemingly never ending supply of bite size chocolate bars (yes some are from my kids’ Halloween bags, no they do not know I am eating them), I just have not been in any kind of running mode, much less training mode. I have done exactly four runs since October 20. And the two weeks before that I was in taper mode. Combine all of this with the fact that of the 7 different half marathons I have done, the Mission Possible race was definitely the hardest. This may not be pretty on Sunday.

I have tried to convince myself that last year it was a difficult run because it was only my second half and I did it 4 weeks after my first. I remember finding the rolling hills of this golf course run to be quite a test of endurance, but when I registered this year I convinced myself that my memory was probably exaggerating the difficulty level. To prove it to myself I headed out this week to run part of the course. Mistake! It is hard!

It really shouldn’t be as hard as it feels. There are no gigantic hills at all. There just don’t happen to be many flat spots either. And there are no straight paths, you are almost always turning a corner. There are also a couple of short, steep downhills that force you to slow down rather than speed up. If you picture running around and around a children’s roller coaster you will have a pretty accurate image of what this race is like.

I remember being disappointed last year when I finished in 2:06, but honestly that would be a dream time for me right now. I am thinking this will be more in the 2:15 range with some walking breaks being needed. But that is ok. This will be my final race of 2013 and if I manage to go out with something somewhere between a bang and a whimper I will be satisfied. It has been an amazing year of races for me and I don’t really feel like I have anything to prove. I’m still taking in the fact that I ran a marathon so anything right now is just icing on the cake 🙂