Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Different Kind of Running Event

This morning I tried my first orienteering event and had a blast.  Until last spring I had no idea that this city had a very active orienteering club called Orienteering Ottawa ( They hold numerous events throughout the year in both Ontario and Quebec.  The boys joined their “Kids Running Free” program in the spring, quickly learning the basics of map reading. Essentially orienteering is like a giant treasure hunt in the woods so they were both quickly hooked.  This fall when we signed them up again, we also registered them for the “Intro to Competition” session.  This means they are orienteering twice a week, once at practice and once at an organized event on the weekend.  I decided I should learn a little bit about what they are doing, so I joined the basics class for adults.

Today’s event (number three for the boys) was on a beautiful property in Quebec used for cross country skiing.  You have a choice of a novice course (what I did), intermediate, short advanced or long advanced.  At the novice level most of the controls are located along the trail and a compass is not really necessary.  But if you try advanced be prepared to do some serious off-trail work to find your controls.  There were runners coming in with mud up to their knees from the more difficult courses.  Once you register you receive a map and you can rent a finger SI chip – yep, this is the great outdoors with a little technology thrown in.  You simply have to  put your finger stick into the control and it will record the time you arrived.

I admit I went into this event a little worried I would get completely lost.  I can’t say navigational skills are a strength of mine.  As it turned out I didn’t get lost exactly, I just couldn’t find all of the 16 controls with ease.  In fact, it was the final control that had me running in circles, not to mention running down a very, very steep hill only to realize I was way off and had to go back up.  I just kept reminding myself that hill training is a good thing!

In the end, regardless of my errors, I had a great time.  The trails were gorgeous and the course was great fun.  Orienteering is also the perfect family activity.  And much like a road race event, there is something for everyone.  Some people walk, others bring toddlers and small children and others are very competitive.  You can make this sport suit your needs.

A few other things I learned today:

  • Running on trails is tough, particularly when the evening before you ran 12k , also on trails
  • You actually have to pay attention when orienteering.  I am used to running on auto pilot.  Luckily today the controls were fairly close together which helped me keep my focus, but I know at some point I will daydream myself right past an important turn.
  • I run much, much slower on trails.   This was apparent in last night’s run too.
  • I need to do more hill work.
  • When you sweat during a road race your constant movement at least provides a bit of a breeze to dry some of said sweat.  When you have to keep stopping to read a map, it is quite remarkable just how much sweat can drip down into your eyes.
  • My kids are better at this sport than me, but this isn’t really a surprise.  They are also better trail runners than me, again not a surprise.  Luke was within view for a while, then he was gone!  Needless to say he placed ahead of me.
  • Evan is more competitive than I thought and I can learn from his perseverance.  When he was upset about his novice course, he begged to try the intermediate course and ended up placing second! (Thanks Coach Jennie for the compass lesson beforehand!)
  • I will one day get lost or at the very least disoriented during an event.  But just like a bad run, it doesn’t matter.  I do hope, however, that I won’t get so lost that they have to send someone out after me!

Right now I see orienteering as a perfect sport to combine with my running.  For ages I have been saying I should do more trail running, this will give me incentive to do so.  The work out on the trails uses different muscles and I’m sure will make me a stronger runner.  I think the mental aspect will provide both a challenge and a change, helping to keep my motivation going.  At the moment I am quite happy sticking to the novice courses.  The advanced, and even the intermediate, look a little too tricky for me.  But once upon I time I swore I would never run more than 10 km and would certainly never try a half marathon or full marathon.  Two marathons, one 30k race and 10 half marathons later… here I am 🙂

Army Run 2014

In the past five days I have run a half marathon, run two times with my clinic group, practiced swimming twice, gone to an orienteering class, run with my students for the Terry Fox Run, worked, met with five sets of parents for half hour interviews and had a dentist appointment.  This all translates to no blog post as of yet.  It also means I am just too tired tonight to write a major recap.

So short version is this.  My run was reasonable, not my best but probably not my worst.  Actually, it was my second fastest time, coming in at 2:02 something.  But this is one of those cases where the numbers are a little deceiving.  It is certainly a time I can be happy with, but I ran a positive split and was more tired and sore than I would normally be.  The lack of long run training came back to bite me!

I ran a solid 16k (though at 11k a painful side stitch forced me to walk) but by 17k my muscles were feeling tight and tired.  At that moment I made the call to just relax, take a nice walk and run to the finish line comfortably – or as comfortably as possible in the pouring rain on achy legs.  The nice thing about achieving my sub 2 hour half marathon last June is that it has actually taken the pressure off.  Now I know that I have it in me, I am not obsessed with beating two hours.  To be less than 3 minutes past the two hour mark, with little long run training and a slow finish just proves to me again that I can do it.

Once again, a great race was put on by organizers, and lots of cheers to the volunteers and spectators who braved what turned into a cold rain to be there for all of us running.  Also, congratulations to the 6 runners from my running clinics who took part in the 5k race – many of them running a race for the first time!  Most importantly, thanks to those who this race was really about – the men and women of the Canadian Military.


What Happens If…

…there is a lightning storm in the middle of a race?


I have done many, many races now.  Somehow I have had pretty good luck when it comes to weather.  I remember one small race that was delayed slightly by passing storms.  I also remember one Ottawa Race Weekend that looked a little iffy as some black clouds and a bit of lightning followed a path along the Ottawa River but managed to avoid downtown.

Here is the description of tomorrow from Environment Canada:

“Showers. Risk of thunderstorms in the morning and early in the afternoon. Amount 30 to 40 mm.”  

Lovely.  Combine that with the Weather Network, which is predicting the “Feels Like” temperature to hit 29 degrees Celsius and things are not looking so great for tomorrow’s Army Run.  It has made me wonder though, what happens if in the middle of a race the weather gets nasty?  I know if it happens at the beginning they will delay or cancel.  But you are over in another province, half way through 21 km and they have to shut things down for safety, where do you go?  Do buses pick you up?  Do you hope you are near a public building in which you can seek shelter?  Do you rely on strangers to welcome you into their home?  I had never thought about this scenario.  What a nightmare that would be for race organizers and participants.  I’m sure that right know there are some organizers who are watching the weather forecast carefully, praying for changes.

A final question, do you think weather websites notice a huge increase in hits on big race weekends?  I have checked 3 weather websites more times than I can count today.  It is an obsession I can’t stop, even though I know they only update a few times a day.  Somehow I think if I check often enough it will change for the better.  Here’s hoping!


Half Marathon #10

This Sunday is the big fall race event in Ottawa; the Canada Army Run.  With 25 000 runners registered in the two distances (half marathon and 5k), this is a race that continues to grow in popularity.  In fact, it is the fastest growing event of its kind  in Canada, having more than tripled its numbers since the first race in 2008.

This race is also special because it offers the opportunity for civilians to run with members of the Canadian Military, including wounded veterans.  While there is an air of celebration and thanks at this race, there is also an understanding of what has been lost due to war and conflict.  There are emotions experienced at this race that makes it a unique experience.  To read my particular emotional experience from last year, click here.

I don’t have much of plan for Sunday other than to find the 2 hour pace bunny (or pathfinder as they are called at this race) before the starter’s cannon goes off.  I may or may not stick with that pace.  While this is my 10th (!) half marathon, it is the first one for which I have not followed any training plan whatsoever.  I have had a couple of long runs, but they have been scattered over the past 3 months.  They certainly didn’t follow any progressive order.  Can I run 21.1 km?   Absolutely!  But what pace to follow?  I have no idea.  I actually think I could have done a half decent time if the weather were to be cooperative, but that looks unlikely.  After weeks of beautiful cool temperatures, summer is scheduled to make a brief two day appearance with temperatures in the low 20’s and a humidex pushing that number several degrees higher.  It is also supposed to rain all day on race day.  Not ideal, but since this is not a goal race I am not going to worry about it.  Hopefully I can just take in the experience and enjoy half marathon #10.



My Happy Place

It has been a busy week, too busy.  When a week you know is going to be busy also ends up starting with a night visit to the children’s hospital (thanks to son #2 swallowing an inch long wire that broke from his braces), well, let’s just say it is a week in which you find yourself counting down to Friday.  For the record, the wire caused no harm, but Luke was very excited to see it in an x-ray… at midnight no less.  Also for the record, my happy place is not the waiting room in CHEO.

Despite the craziness of the week (I do realize it is not over yet, but it is close!) I found myself enjoying two specific activities.  Not surprisingly, one of those was running.  Somewhat shockingly, the other was swimming.

On Tuesday I had my first swimming lesson in about 35 years.  I put my head under water for the first time in about 20 years.  I think the last time I actually went into a pool was when I did a mother/baby aquafit class with Evan, about 11 years ago.  These stats should make it pretty obvious that swimming has been one of my least favourite activities for most of my life.

But recently I decided – perhaps in some fit of mid-life crisis? – to sign up for lessons.  My boys had done four lessons with a private swimming program this summer and I was impressed with the progress they made.  Having sat poolside at any number of their lessons in public pools, I did not once picture signing up for a lesson myself.  Being in a noisy, chlorine filled pool, potentially running into my students and their families was not going to happen.

This time, as I watched the boys swim in a quiet, local hotel pool I suddenly started thinking that maybe it was time to step out of my comfort zone and try something I don’t like.  You know, because it makes perfect sense to pay a lot of money to do something uncomfortable :).   Before I lost my nerve, I emailed the Aqua Life Swim Academy asking about private lessons for myself.  The owner, Stephanie, quickly responded, offering calming words that made me feel this was possible.

This past Tuesday I headed to my first lesson.  To be truthful my stomach was in knots.  I had a fear that I wouldn’t even get myself into the water.  To clarify, not getting in would simply be a result of me HATING having to get into cold water.  Yes, I consider pools to be cold water.  I consider  anything that isn’t a hot bath to be cold water.  I had visions of me spending the entire lesson just trying to get into water above my waist.  Thankfully I made it in with minimal fuss, and suddenly I remembered that sensation of floating and how relaxing it can be.

Stephanie put me through the paces of bobbing, floating and kicking and to my amazement I loved every minute.  I specifically remember thinking at one point, as I smoothly kicked my way under water, that perhaps I wasn’t as bad at swimming as I thought.  Maybe, just maybe, this is something I could at least become, well, average at?  Who knows, maybe this will become “Blog for an Average Runner and Swimmer” one day.  For the time being, all I know is I exited that pool feeling like a little kid who had just conquered a momentous task.  In the change room I looked in the mirror and saw myself with puffy, goggle marked eyes and a grin ear to ear.  I am finding myself looking forward to next Tuesday, curious to see what I can accomplish next time in the water.

As for my other happy moment, it was during today’s run.  After work I ran a couple of km to some trails in the hopes of finding protection from the 50 km wind gusts we experienced all day.  Once into the forest the weather was perfect.  You could hear the wind in the tops of the trees but on ground level it was cool and calm.  Within those woods I found myself running for no other reason than how happy it made me feel.  I didn’t care about pace, I didn’t even think of how much I “should” be running, I just ran.  In the end I did a very comfortable 10k, a combination of road running and trail running.  It struck me how thankful I am that I’m in a place in my running where, after a tiring week, I can step out, run 10k and be happy.  How lucky am I?



For unexplained reasons my blog has not been sending emails to those of you who are on the list.  Hopefully it is now working and if you get this there are a couple of posts you may have missed, including last week’s 8k race report.

For now, just a quick update for yet another smaller, local race.  Today we did the boys’ favourite race, Run for the Animals, a fundraiser for the Ottawa Humane Society.  More details later, but here are the stats.

The boys forgot their watches today and the race used a timing company that I have never heard of; at the moment I can’t seem to find where they post their results online.  But from the kids’ memories – Evan, 5k, 25:36 and Luke, 5k, 29:05.  Two more great times for the kids.  Unfortunately no age category awards, despite the fact the website said there would be.  Evan was 12th overall and Luke was 29th out of just over a hundred runners.

As for me, another PB!  10.2 km in 53:05!!!!  So close to a 52 minute time.  My average pace was 5:12.  I squeaked into the top 10 women as the 9th female to cross the finish line.  Somehow this summer, despite a very casual and relaxed season of running, I seemed to have become faster.  I am not sure how or why, particularly given the fact that most of my weekly runs have been rather slow.  I wonder what would happen if I actually did some speed work?

And today’s other participant, well spectator really, had a great day too.



Race Report – The Canadian



Last Saturday the boys and I headed out to race at The Canadian, a local multisport event.  This is one of those events that has something for everyone; race distances of 3 km, 8km, half marathon and marathon and what seems like an endless list of duathlon/triathlon events, including iron distances and canoe and kayak triathlons.   There is a constant buzz of activity, even if some of the individual events are small in number.  Overall it creates an exciting atmosphere with a small race feel.

The boys were entering the 3k while I set out to do the 8k.  Each race had just over 50 people, so no crowds to fight and the “start waves” were actually each race starting one minute apart, with one of the duathlons starting a minute before the boys’ race.

I headed to the race with one goal in mind – I did not want my time to start with 44.  I had only done one 8k race before, back in 2012, finishing in 44:53.  When I looked back at shorter training runs I noticed that I consistently hit 8k at 44 minutes.  So, obviously my goal had to be to get a time that started with 43.

As I started the race I felt like I was going to struggle.  Then I looked at my pace and realized that I was running a sub 5 min/km pace, hence the struggle!  I slowed it down a bit but the first km still came in at a 5 minute pace.  At that point I did a shift in strategy (something I seem to do on a regular basis at the beginning of runs) and decided to push for a time under the planned 43 minutes.  My legs seemed to feel like running and I decided to put them to the test.  I did have the sense however to back off a bit.  I feel pretty confident I cannot run for 8 km at a 5 minute pace.

This was a double out and back course, relatively flat and while warm, the weather was reasonably good for some speed work.  At some point in the run, I can’t remember when, I did question if the course was going to be a little longer than 8k.  But I was concentrating so much on speed that I couldn’t be bothered trying to figure out the math (which yes, in hindsight I realize was not complicated given the out and back nature of the course).  When my 7k beep went off on my Garmin, I was shocked to see I had done the seventh km at a 5:05 pace, despite trying to keep it closer to 5:15.  I was also a little worried by the fact that I was fairly certain the finish line was farther than 1km away.  So I backed off a little again in the hopes of saving some energy.  Only when the 8k beep went off did I realize that the course measurement was not just a little off, it was significantly off.  At this point I was tiring and my stomach was protesting my pace.  All I can say is those last 600 metres (the finish line was at 8.6 km) felt like a full km.  I still had a little kick in me for the finish, but not as much as I would have had back at the actual 8k mark.

I admit I have had two races where I have come really close to throwing up.  This race is now the third.  My timing chip was around my ankle and I quickly realized that if I bent over to take it off the results would not be pretty.  I asked a kind volunteer to take it off for me.  Next realization – she was in a really bad position if I threw up!  I had to twist my upper body  away to ensure her safety.  I am at a loss as to why the rest of my body can adapt to the stress of running, while my digestive system just continues to find ways to protest.

In the end I finished the 8.6 km course in…. yep, 44 something.  Technically I know that the 44 is only there on my stats because of a course error.  I also know by my watch that I finished 8k in 41:31, significantly faster than I had planned.  I just wish my stats showed it.   Oddly, Sportstats did adjust all runners’ average pace times factoring in the longer distance, but the race is still listed as 8 km.  I know they are only numbers, but I was really disappointed in the course error.  The problem with a double out and back is that a small error multiplies.  In this case the turn around cone would have been placed about 150 metres too far.  The two trips out and back turned that relatively small error into a big one, or at least what I consider to be big.  I hate complaining about a Somersault race because I have a soft spot for them.  I love their series of races and I love their philosophy of “events for everyone”.  It is through the Somersault Series that my kids and I really became runners.  But I do believe that races owe it to their participants to check and recheck the distances.  In this day and age of GPS watches, there should not be errors in distances.  That said, when I emailed the organizers about the error I had a response within a half hour acknowledging their mistake and apologizing.

The highlight of the day was the awards ceremony.  Evan and I just missed overall placings, he was the 5th male in the 3k and I was the 4th female in the 8k.  I admit I thought I might have been third, I had seen two women ahead of me but hadn’t seen the other, so I was a little disappointed to have missed the top three.  But… it was the first time all of us received age awards – Evan and Luke were 1st and 3rd respectively in the under 13 category and I was first in my age group (ok, there were only two of us in the 45-49 category but with a 5:10 pace I think I would have placed well even if there were more runners in my age group).  For Evan, it was his first gold lanyard and for Luke it was his first age placing ever.  A successful day for all three of us!  And I think my husband is now motivated to do some more running and join us in an attempt to get 4 age placings for our family at a future race.

imageAfter the race it was off to enjoy one last summer weekend at the lake where we were treated to this:

imageGoodbye summer, hello fall running season!