Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Year of Blogging

It has been a year now since I started this blog.  In my first post I wrote about how the big year ahead prompted me to write about my running experiences.  I was a few weeks away from running the New York City Half Marathon, my first destination race and only my third half marathon.  I had also taken a giant leap of faith and registered for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, my first full marathon. Those races are now done and dusted.  They were amazing experiences, as were all of the other races I took part in, including 5 other half marathons.  I still consider myself an average runner and let’s just say if I ever make it to Boston it will be because I have aged into the “slower” categories.  But this average runner is having a blast, challenging myself to new things, meeting other runners and taking part in lots of local races.

So what events will I be writing about this year?  There is no marathon planned for 2014 but there are still exciting things to take place.  Very soon I will be taking part in my first Around the Bay 30k Race.  I’m hoping to do the Vancouver Half Marathon in June as a destination race.  I have also set a goal of completing 14 races this year.  In the world of running there is always a new challenge just around the corner.  So join me this year for another running journey and if you can, take a moment to “chat” in the comment section.

Here’s to another year of fun running 🙂

Winterman Race Recap

Who needs glass slippers????

Who needs glass slippers????

I still have a bit of a smile on my face after participating in yesterday’s Winterman Race. A winter race is always just such a different experience from warm weather races, and yes, just seems so Canadian. Old Man Winter offered up a classic Ottawa winter day; sunny and clear skies combined with a chilly wind and cold temperatures. You know it is cold when the water stations volunteers are shouting, “Get your water before it freezes!” If you are brave enough to deal with the cold, this is an awesome race. From the unique medals to the slightly challenging course, to the incredible downtown view during the run, this is a race to try.

I love these medals!

I love these medals!

I always suffer a little bit of nerves before a race, but for some reason this one really made me nervous, starting the evening before. I think the main reason was because for the first time I was taking part in a team event that would follow my solo 5k run. I have never been much of a team sport person, one of the reasons probably being the fact that I am always nervous I will let someone down. I only knew one person on the team, but had been assured that no one was going to be particularly fast, but of course speed is all relative. I know lots of runners whose “slow” speeds are still times I dream of. Combine this with the fact that I was going to be doing the team event after my 5k race, I really wasn’t sure how my effort for the team was going to go.

In the end, there was no reason to worry. Let’s face it, you can almost always count on runners to be a great group of people and this team was no different. Everyone was going out for a good time, many to kickstart their spring training. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to meet other runners and share stories and of course everyone was very supportive of each other’s efforts.

This race has a mass start, with marathoners, half marathoners, relays, 10k and 5k runners all starting at once. Only the 3k race had its own start time. At the start line the announcer gave several warnings to be prepared for the starting “gun” which was actually a howitzer, no small piece of artillery! The start was a little congested but certainly no more than you would find in a larger race. And while congested, the start pace was pretty quick and certainly did not slow my pace down at all. In fact the crowd helped give a little shelter from the winter headwinds coming off the river.

This was not a flat course, making it a nice challenge for the 5k distance. In particular it made me feel like I was getting a quality training run done for Around the Bay. There certainly were no huge hills, but the changes in grade could be felt. As I approached the longest grade change at around the 3.5k mark, I remembered that when I did this race 2 years ago I had to walk for a second after reaching the crest in order to catch my breath. This time I managed to complete it without serious difficulty. After that final hill it was a run to the finish on the flat and I was happy to find I still had enough in me for a sprint to the end where my ever patient husband and my kids were waiting for me. Evan had just completed his 3k run and while he wasn’t thrilled with his pace, he was pretty happy to find out he was in second place for his age group, and overall managed a 12th place finish.

This was my first race in my new age category of 45 – 49. While I am not quite 45 yet, Somersault bases your age category on how old you are at the end of the year. It ends up getting older has its advantages. My 27:47 was enough to place me at the top of my group. I find whenever I place in an age category I always come up with excuses – there weren’t many people, it is the beginning of the season so people are just getting started, etc. But I have decided to instead appreciate this win for what it is. I have been doing some quality runs for the last 6 or 7 weeks despite weather conditions that have been sending people into hibernation, or at the very least onto a treadmill. And the fact that overall I was 14th out of 100 women shows me that hard work does pay off. And as mentioned in the previous post I am kind of loving that fact that most of the women who place above me were younger. I in no way ever think of myself as old, but I admit that during a couple of bad runs recently I started thinking about the fact that my age and my late start to this sport (I started a 42) aren’t exactly helping me. So I do take a little pride in being an “older” runner and still getting reasonable times after a harsh winter.

Gold and silver winners - and a great spectator!

Gold and silver winners – and a great spectator!

I will admit that when I was finishing the 5k run, the first thought that went through my head was I must have been crazy to agree to doing it all again (plus an additional 274m) for the relay. But once I caught my breath I was kind of excited to be heading into another race.

The event was well set up for a relay in winter. The start was at the Canadian War Museum, so all runners had access to the huge lobby, bathrooms and cafeteria (or mess, as it is called at the museum). When it was time for you to head out and wait for the runner before you to complete a lap, you had access to a large tent with propane heaters, quite cozy considering the temperatures. Being at a museum came in very handy for us, since my husband took the kids through the museum while I waited the 2 hours until my next run. An added bonus was the fact that as a retired member of the Canadian Military, my husband was able to see the museum with two guests for free – and received a voucher for food!

By the time I ran my lap the winds had picked up a little more and I saw more than a few guys whose beards had become icy. Heading out into the wind was tough, but the moment you did the turn around the tail wind gave you a boost and the temperature seemed to warm about 10 degrees. For about the first km I questioned why on earth I was out there again. I also wondered why I had never sat down in the two hour break. My legs felt like jelly and I questioned if I would even be able to do a 6 minute pace. But then a funny thing happened and I just started to feel better and better. In fact, I found the final hill easier than in my first race. Once again I still had enough for a sprint to the end where I passed the chip to our final runner. I was a little slower than my first run, but I felt good.

In the end, our team “Cucking Fold”, (didn’t even try to explain that name to my kids), finished the marathon in 4:01. Thanks to all the people on the team for a great time and I hope to see you at future races! A thank you also to all the volunteers who must have been absolutely freezing out there but who were smiling and giving words of encouragement throughout the day.

A final thank you to Jen, whose spot I took on the team. Even though she couldn’t run she spent a few hours at the side of the road holding up signs for all runners. She quite literally almost froze her toes off in order to cheer everyone on. And to top it off, she brought a series of great signs – take a look…

As a winter runner, I like this one!

As a winter runner, I like this one!

...just like an Olympics commercial :)

…just like an Olympics commercial 🙂

IMG_20140216_122355Reduced

Winterman: The Numbers

A full race recap will come later but for now, these are the numbers for my first ever “double” race day:

5k Solo Run:
Gun Time: 27:47
Garmin Time: 27:42 (average pace 5:29 min/km)
Age Category: First place out of 12
Gender: 14th out of 100!!! (I’m kind of pleased with that one, and I am not ashamed to admit I looked at the age categories of the women ahead of me and all but two were younger!)

One Lap of Marathon Relay (5.27km)
Garmin Time: 29:47 (average pace 5:40 min/km)

…and worth noting, this was not a flat course and there was a good winter wind, putting the “feels like” temperature into the -20’s.

In short, I am a happy runner today and I will most likely be doing this race again next year – and I would definitely make it a double again if the opportunity arises.

The Winterman Cometh

Tomorrow I will be running race number 2 in my 14 in 2014 challenge. In a way, I guess I am actually doing race number 2 and race number 3. This is because I am for the first time ever running two races at one event. Last spring I did 2 races during one weekend, completing the Saturday 5k and the Sunday Half Marathon at Ottawa Race Weekend. But tomorrow I have two runs to complete over the course of one morning.

I registered a little while back for the 5k race, deciding that since it had been a year and a half since I had seriously raced my least favourite distance, I should probably get out there and try one again. I am really not a 5k runner, in fact I usually only enjoy running sometime after I pass the 5k marker. But last year’s marathon training slowed my running down so much that I figured a little race pressure wouldn’t hurt my attempt to pick up a bit of speed again, relatively speaking of course.

After registering, a friend contacted me to see if I wanted to take her place in the 8 Person Marathon Relay. Once I figured out that the logistics could work I thought why not? So tomorrow at 8:30 I will run my 5k, then take a break for a while before running another 5.3km as part of a team. I doubt if I will match, much less beat my time in my previous, and only, Winterman run. Two years ago I did the 5k distance at this race in 27:11. It was my third time running in a race, ignoring the times I had run with my kids and the times I entered races as a Nordic Walker. At the time it was my personal best for the distance, though one more attempt gave me a time of 26:12. Any subsequent races at this distance have been done with my kids, so it has been a year and a half since I have put in an honest attempt to run the 5k. Realistically my time will probably start with a 28 tomorrow; a 27 would definitely surprise me. Ultimately I know this distance is really not my thing, but I definitely see the value in working on it after not bothering for such a long time.

What does strike me right now is how far I have come. I am, and will always be an average runner. But two years ago on this weekend I was heading into my third race. I think if I count only the races I have run for me (no kids in tow), tomorrow will be number 23, or I guess 23 and 24.

Two years ago I was only beginning to contemplate running a 10k race. A quick check shows that I have now done one 8k, five 10k’s, one 18k, 8 half marathons and a full marathon.

Two years ago I really did not yet have a sense of how just much running was going to take over my life. I am quite sure at that time I did not even consider myself to be a runner. I just knew I was kind of enjoying a new challenge, but I was also quite sure I wouldn’t be one of those crazy people who liked hitting distances in double digits beyond the 10k mark. My, times have changed 🙂

A New Day, a Better Run

After such a disappointing attempt at a run on Thursday I approached my long run today with more than a little trepidation. I didn’t even bother to run yesterday in the hopes that a day off would help me get through 16km today. Thankfully today was a good day and while it wasn’t fast (nor should it be I guess when it is called a “long slow run” on the training schedule), it was comfortable and for the most part enjoyable. It was in fact what I just like to call a really nice run.

I know everyone has had enough of this winter but I have to say that without a doubt I prefer a day like this over the heat of July and August. At -9C (16F) with bright sun and limited wind it was quite simply gorgeous outside. Today also marked the first day in months that I ran on sidewalks rather than roads. What a treat to not have to think about cars or have to be constantly moving into the slushy sides of the roads. That isn’t to say the sidewalks were perfect. For the first 3k I was running on an ice/slush/snow mixture and since I was running out and back, I had to finish on that as well. In the middle of the run I was also on similar footing. But some City of Ottawa employee has performed miracles on a big section of one of my favourite paths, leaving it as dry as on a summer day. Summer footing combined with comfortable winter temperatures? It doesn’t get any better than that in my book.

Today I gave myself permission to run something comfortable and to not push myself for anything other than completing 16km. I had hoped to run it without stopping but when I had a few I.T band twinges at the 9k mark I stopped my watch and gave myself a “one song break” while having a few raisins and almonds. The break was perfect; as soon as the song was done I felt like running again and the twinges were gone. The route I took involves doing several gradual hills and even those felt good. My final pace was around 6:17min/km, not exactly fast but reasonable for a slow run, particularly since I know in the snowy areas I was probably doing closer to a 6:30 pace.

One of the tricks I used today was to just enjoy the moment. Every time I caught myself thinking about how hard the upcoming 30k race is going to be, or how I was running faster at this time last year, I quickly shut those thoughts down. Instead I focused on how good I was feeling and how beautiful it was outside. At the top of each hill I thought about how amazing it felt to have made it up without too much of a struggle. Going down the hills I thought about how relaxing it is to just let gravity pull you forward. I often spend ridiculous amounts of my running time thinking about pace and distance and whether the run is preparing me for my next challenge. It is very difficult to simply run “in the now”. But when you manage to pull it off, even for short times, it is well worth the effort.

Finally, thank you to everyone who gave me words of encouragement after that last disappointing run. All of your kind words were appreciated!

How Do You Know…

…if you are listening to your body or just giving up?

I think of all the difficult things in running, the hardest to figure out is when to push yourself and when to say it is ok to take a break. Let’s face it, there is a big difference between your body needing a break and your brain deciding it’s just not worth the effort. The problem is they both sort of feel the same. Obviously if your body is screaming in pain you know where the message is coming from and what your reaction should be. But what about when you just feel tired? How do you know if that is a mental thing or a physical thing?

Unfortunately today was one of those days when I lost the battle with the voice that said I was too tired. I got myself out the door, I guess that can count as an accomplishment. Everything was in place to have a good run; sunny skies, no wind, a temperature well into the negatives but comfortable nonetheless. The only thing not up for a perfect run – ME. When you feel the need to walk at the 2k mark you know it is not going to be an epic run. In fact, after a mere 3.5 km, my run dwindled to a walk. All kinds of negative talk went through my head. If you have had bad runs you know that dialogue all too well. Everything from “I’m too old for this $&@!” to “I have no natural athletic skills whatsoever and I should just be sitting on a couch eating potato chips,” went through my mind.

When I stopped running and went for a 3k walk instead, was I quitting or was I respecting what my body was able to do on a particular day at a particular moment? I wish I had the answer. Unfortunately I can’t shake the feeling that today I simply stopped trying.

Cue more internal dialogue in an attempt to convince myself that all is well, an off day is nothing to worry about, tomorrow is another day, there will be better runs, blah, blah, blah, blah. 🙁

Week in Review

This felt like a good week.  My mileage may not have been quite as high as I was aiming for, but every single run felt like a quality run.  From that snowy, gusty cold run (see previous post) to Friday’s run – my first run in months with only one layer of clothing on when the temperature worked its way up to a balmy 0C!!!  This was also the first week in this session of training where I consistently managed to run at a pace of less than 6 min/km.  And to top it all off, I have received a Running Room store credit because of those mismatched Aisics I unknowingly bought last fall.  All in all, a good running week and I am looking at the Around the Bay 30k race a little more positively (as in I now think I will be able to finish it without offering myself up to the Grim Reaper who stands at the top of the last hill).

Last week’s runs:

Sunday: rest

Monday: 7km  6:30 min/km

Tuesday: 5km  5:35 min/km

Wednesday: yoga

Thursday: 5km  5:39 min/km

Friday: 6km  5:54 min/km

Saturday: 14km  6:17 min/km

Total: 37km