Monthly Archives: March 2014

Dear Winter

Dear Winter,

I like you winter, really I do. I’ve had some great runs these last few months, even on those days when other runners were so fed up with you that they wouldn’t even bother to head out the door. Apparently you have managed to screw up so many people’s training schedules that a record number of Around the Bay registrants have put their bibs up for sale. Countless others have modified their goals significantly. But not me. I have run my way through some of the coldest months in recent history. Of course since my main goal for ATB has simply been to finish, there really isn’t much in the way of modifications I can do. But I digress.

I have stood by you. I have spread the news to everyone that there are so many advantages to running while we are in your grasp. For me your best quality is the fact that you don’t make we want to pass out or throw up. These are important qualities that shouldn’t be overlooked.

But here’s the thing…it is time for you to go. Now. I had one final run to do today, just a nice easy 3 or 4k. When I looked out the window you were showing off again – you know, that horizontal snow thing. There I stood, realizing that I just couldn’t do it. I could not make myself go for yet another run in wind and snow. You may not be done, but I am.

Winter, it’s been fun and thanks for coming out, but I think it is time for us to take a break for a few months. I know there will be times when I am running in the heat and humidity while being attacked by whatever bug is in season and I will miss you, perhaps even wish for your return. But for now, it is time to say goodbye and part as friends.

Until next year,

Countdown to Around the Bay 30k

Photo: Keep your eye on the prize. 120th Around the Bay Race Medal.

Five more sleeps until my first attempt at North America’s oldest road race, the Around the Bay race held in Hamilton, Ontario.  On the agenda for Sunday morning is 20km of fairly flat running, followed by 6 or 7km of hills and then a final run into what was Copps Coliseum (I have forgotten the new name) for a grande finale of a finish.  That unfortunately will not be the end of my day since I will then have the 5 or 6 hour drive back to Ottawa.  I have already warned my husband that when I get back home I may have to call him so he can come out and pry me out of the car.  I have never done a long run followed by and even longer car ride.  My gut feeling is that it won’t be pretty.

Today I finished my last double digit run before the race; a 10km route that at the beginning felt awful and by the end felt great.  What are the chances of being able to say the same thing as I cross the finish line on Sunday?  I have absolutely no idea what to expect – other than the fact I am guessing it is unlikely that I will feel better at the finish line than I did at the start.  I have bounced through so many approaches to this race that I can no longer keep track of all my ideas.  The plan for the most part has been to simply treat it as a training run and that would be the most sensible plan.  I started training for this race a month late and I really should have a couple of more long runs under my belt.  In fact, now that I think of it, I have only run 30k or more 3 times in my life, one of them during my first marathon.  The other two times had a good half hour break in the middle.  O.K, that sudden realization is not making me feel any more confident about this whole thing!

There is (perhaps unfortunately) a little voice inside my head that is saying why not just go for it, treat it as a race and not a training run and see what happens.  The voice of common sense then tells me what will most likely happen in that scenario – I will end up a stumbling, staggering, teary eyed walker. The famous ATB Grim Reaper will spot me from a mile off and then gleefully offer to carry me to the nearby cemetery.

So, a few days out and I don’t actually have a plan.  This may be a run based on feel and nothing more.  Ideally I would like to come in under 3:11, which was my 30k split time at the Toronto Marathon.  That said, the marathon had virtually no hills.  Right now I have this little fantasy going on in my head that when I hit the ATB hills I will discover that they really aren’t that bad and just what was all the fuss about anyways?  I can hope…

Final Run in Snow?????

Winter hit Ottawa yet again yesterday in the form of a snowstorm.  At any other time I would have used the prediction of 15cm of snow as an excuse to stay in bed and delay my run for a day.  Instead though, I found myself up at 6:30 in an attempt to beat the incoming storm.  Unfortunately, for what I believe was the first time all winter, the weatherman was actually correct in predicting that the heavy snow would start falling in the early morning.  But this didn’t stop me because, quite frankly I wanted this run done so I could say I was officially into my taper.

I did a slow warm up down our long driveway, followed immediately by a complete wipeout on the snow covered ice at the road.  While laying on the ground I made a mental note to make sure I kept to a very slow pace and off I went.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t going to have an option about my speed anyways.  When you are running in a snowstorm on an unplowed road it is safe to assume you will not be doing a speed workout.

In short, what should have been a miserable run really wasn’t all that bad.  When blocked from the horizontal snow and wind it was actually quite peaceful.  Running in ankle deep snow for 15.5km also provides one heck of a muscle workout with minimal joint stress – and you can actually have the centre of the road to yourself for the entire run (no one else, pedestrians or drivers, is stupid enough to be out there with you). The two wild turkeys I passed looked a little pissed off fighting through the snow and wind, but then again, wild turkeys just look pissed off at the best of times.  In the end it was a perfect final run to finish a week where I had done a little bit of everything: race last Saturday, speed work on Monday, yoga on Wednesday, steady 10k on Thursday, hills on Friday.  Why not finish it up with a workout in the snow?

So now my taper week begins.  Next Sunday is the Around the Bay 30k Road Race.  I am trying to tell myself that if I can run just over 15km in snow, I should be able to run 30km on dry roads…assuming the weather doesn’t throw yet another storm our way.  And hopefully when I finish the race it won’t look like this:

Snowstorm run done!

Snowstorm run done!

Making It Up as I Go

There are 12 days left until Around the Bay.  Since I haven’t really been following a schedule, other than getting ideas from the Running Room’s marathon training guide, I have no idea what I should be doing right now.  I have looked at the 30k training guide on the race’s website, but I am pretty sure that was created with really crazy runners in mind – honestly it looked tougher than marathon training.  So, do I start tapering?  I’m not sure, somehow I feel a little undeserving of a taper considering I started training a month later than I should have.  I swear if I had one more month I would be so ready for this race!

Instead, I am making it up day by day and it is rather liberating.  Other than knowing I will take the Friday and Saturday before race day as rest days, I am simply going to put on my shoes (or not) and see what I feel like doing (or not doing).  In other words, no pressure and whatever happens, happens.  Am I nervous about the race?  Absolutely.  Nervous enough to have to force myself to avoid thinking about it when I go to bed for fear of not falling asleep – or perhaps even worse, falling asleep and dreaming of never ending hills looming as far as the eye can see.  But ultimately I am glad I am getting the chance to try a race that everyone seems to love, despite the dreaded hills.

My somewhat fast time for the St. Patrick’s Day 10k seems to have given me a mental and physical boost.  I headed out today planning to do 10 – 14 steady km’s.   Within 2k, feeling good, I changed my plans and decided to push harder and complete a faster 5k then take a break, run another 5k but slower and then a slow run for however many km I could fit in before getting the kids.  The first 5k was done in just over 28 minutes.  The second “slower” 5k lasted for about 28 and a half minutes.  I was originally aiming for 30 minutes but halfway through I felt good and decided to go for a sub 29.  Then I finished it up with a relaxing 3k with some small hills.  It turned out to be a pure “run by feel” day and it was, dare I say it…FUN!  I love these days that remind you running is not a chore, or at least it does not have to be all the time.  Sometimes it is simply the  highlight of your day 🙂

St. Patrick’s Day Run


Yesterday I ran the 10k St. Patrick’s Day Run on Colonel By Drive in Ottawa, completing race #4 in my 14 in ’14 challenge.  Two years ago this was the race that was going to be my first 10k race.  I remember being so excited, not to mention incredibly nervous, about it.  Then my first ITB injury occurred and I ended up dropping to the 5k and my introduction to the 10k had to wait for almost 2 months.  This time however, this little race was sort of the ignored event in my schedule.  With only two weeks until Around the Bay and with plans officially forming for a trip out west for the Vancouver Half, I spent little time even thinking about this race.  I had no plans for time or pace and was simply looking at it as a training run that would hopefully be a little faster than what I have been doing lately.

I admit it was nice to start a race with no expectations.  When my Garmin somehow stopped during the first km, and I didn’t notice until it turned itself off, I just reset it and figured at least I could keep an eye on my pace for the rest of the run.  Unfortunately by the third km my head was full of negative talk (that came on quickly even for me) and once again I had to remind myself to just run in the moment.  My legs felt sluggish and I was reminded of the fact that in the previous 7 days I had done not one, but 2 long runs (24.5k and 27k) so I was already making excuses to myself as to why I would just take this slowly.  I was pretty convinced  that I just no longer had any speed in me and perhaps I should just learn to accept it.

Somewhere after the 3k mark though I started to feel good.  Even better, I was feeling comfortable.  After 5k I felt really comfortable at a steady average pace of 5:42.  I kept backing myself off a bit – or so I thought – in an attempt to save some energy.  What a pleasant surprise when each time I checked my watch thinking I was a little slower, I was always in fact at the same pace or faster!  And while I was definitely working, I did not feel I was working ridiculously hard.  That just doesn’t happen enough to this average runner.  When I hit an average pace of 5:39 I did force myself to avoid another increase of speed but when I had a couple of hundred metres left I let myself go.  Final 10k time – 56:30, only 16 seconds slower than my P.B. set at Ottawa Race Weekend almost two years ago.  I admit there is a little part of me thinking I should have pushed just a little harder and I would have beat that P.B. but in all honesty I couldn’t even remember for sure what my best time was.  I hadn’t looked at previous 10k race times prior to the race because I had intended to finish around 58 minutes.  This race did leave me knowing that I have a sub 56 minute 10k in me if I actually choose to work on the distance.  Generally speaking when I run a 10k it is as a part of a longer run.  As a result, it just isn’t a distance I focus on.  Now I am thinking maybe I should put a bit of work into this distance and give it some respect.  I also feel fairly confident I could have held on to that pace for a few more km’s, making me think a sub 2 hour half marathon is a little closer than I thought.

As for the race itself, the main appeal is probably the fact that it takes place in March.  Not that March is a particularly nice month in terms of weather, but it is lacking in organized races so a mid month race is a nice addition to the calendar.  As with my January and February races, I love the fact that the St. Patrick’s Day Run offers a large indoor space (Immaculata High School) so no need to hang around in cold weather before your run.  At this time of year that makes it so much easier to decide what to wear; if you get to wait inside you can dress for the run rather than for the long wait before the start gun.

There were 365 10k participants and 386 5k runners, making it a nice sized race without being overcrowded.  It was an out and back course along the canal, which always makes for a nice run.  I have to admit I never realized that there is some noticeable incline on that route at around the 4k mark.  I was cursing that a little, especially as there was also a headwind at that point.  Of course it being a winding route, the wind managed to hit you on both the “out” portion and the “back” portion of the run, though thankfully never for long. The 10k runners headed out about 15 minutes before the 5k race.  The only slightly awkward part about this is it leaves average 10k runners like myself having to pass 5k walkers (of which there seemed quite a few) during the last 2.5 km of the race.  These weren’t race walkers or Nordic walkers, so they were definitely not looking for speed.  I love seeing walkers out on a course and I love the fact that often those walkers are taking the first steps to a new life of fitness.  I just wouldn’t mind it if they were asked to stay to the right if runners are coming up behind them rather than spreading out in a group of 2 or 3 (often deep in conversation) forcing the runners to go around.

The race was well organized with no shortage of cheerful volunteers.  Parking, at least when we got there, was easy and I ended up parking only a couple of hundred metres from the doors.  I opted to not drive all the way downtown the day before to pick up Evan’s and my race kits, despite the fact I usually hate leaving it to the last minute on race day.  There were no line ups however an hour before the race so I am glad I saved myself a drive.

Of course another advantage of races with an indoor venue is the indoor bathrooms … no porta potties 🙂  As always though, the ratio of women’s bathrooms to men’s wasn’t working (as in one set of bathrooms each).  Realistically if a race is going to provide marked men’s and women’s washrooms there needs to be a 2 to 1 ratio.  At the best of times at any event you need more bathrooms for women; let’s face it, we take longer.  Throw in the fact that many races, including this one, have more female participants than male, it is a given that there will be long lineups for women right until the starting gun and this race was no different.

No medals are offered at this race but there were lots of draw prizes plus prizes for the winners of each age group.  When Evan, who was I believe one of only a handful of kids running the 5k, finished his race a very kind volunteer just handed him a prize – a $25 gift certificate for the Royal Oak Pub.  Needless to say as his driver I get to share the prize.  This is actually the second time Evan has been handed a prize at a race, proving that if you are young and cute running races can pay off!  As Evan pointed out, people always seem really excited to see kids or grandmothers running a race, the rest of us just aren’t as exciting.

A tech shirt came with this race too, I’ll definitely put it to use but can’t say it is one of my favourites.  It kind of looks like they forgot to put the name of the race on the shirt since the entire black shirt is blank on the front with all the sponsors on the back along with a small race logo.  It seems kind of odd to not have the race name emblazoned on the front of a tech shirt.

Evan, as always, appreciated the food: bagels, bananas, oranges, granola bars, water and my personal favourite – chocolate milk.  For me, any race that provides chocolate milk gets bonus points!

So, for $35 is this a race I would do again?  Why not?  It is good timing for kicking your race season into gear, particularly if you aren’t into doing races in January and February.  With only 11 weeks to Ottawa Race weekend it is a perfect training run no matter what distance you plan to to in May.  My guess is I will be there next year, particularly since I do not plan on running Around the Bay again next March, or at least that is what I said to myself over and over again when doing my last long run!