Monthly Archives: February 2015

Mad Trapper “Champs” Race Recap

Let’s just put this out there right now – I kind of suck at snowshoe running.  There are specific stages I went through during last Saturday’s 5k race to come to this realization.  Here is a more or less accurate account of my rambling thought process while doing the race:

Denial:

“I’m a half decent half marathon runner, I can definitely snowshoe 5k.  Sure there are a lot of hills, but I’ve been doing hill training.  Yes the race starts on a hill that just seems to keep going up.   But look, the 4 people ahead of me on this single track are walking now up the hill.  I could totally run it but since I am behind them I will just have to walk too.”

“Damn, why are those people moving off the track and letting me go by???  Oh $#*! now I am the leader of this group.  I don’t want to be leader, I think the people behind me might actually want to be running.  Maybe I will just move off the track and let them by.  But I could totally run this hill if I had to.”

Anger(this one is directed to you Mike Caldwell!)

 “Who the heck thought snowshoe racing on hills was a good idea???  What is wrong with snowshoe running on flat ground???  Why are there so many hills in Quebec anyway????

Bargaining:

“If the ground flattens out I promise to be a much better person, honest.”

This thought is interrupted by totally random thoughts to keep me going:

“Hey, five weeks from right now I’ll be getting ready to head to the start line for the Prague Half Marathon.  Oh, wait, there is a time difference.  Ahead or behind?  Would I be at the start line or the finish line at this time in 5 weeks?  Damn, not enough oxygen for my brain to do math.”  

Depression:  

OK, skipped this stage.  The thoughts of chili, beer and brownies kept me happy enough.

Acceptance:  

“I suck at snowshoe racing.  Oh well!  I’ll be back at the races next year regardless!”

Disappointments and Accomplishments…and Some Weather Frustration

Somebody, please make this weather go away.  I admit it, today is the day I have hit my limit of cold weather.  I should be more specific, I have hit my limit of stupidly cold weather.  Honestly, I would be more than happy to have a series of -10 sunny winter days with little or no windchill.  I really don’t need it to be spring.  I am understanding of the fact that we are still in the season of winter.  I don’t want to be running in a heat wave.  But can’t we just have pleasant winter days?  You know those days where if you dress properly you are perfectly comfortable, with the added bonus of no summer bugs or threats of heat stroke?  I like those days.  In fact I love those days.  My fear is this is what is going to happen: we will continue to freeze our butts (and noses, and fingers and toes) off, then we will get one or two perfect days and suddenly it will be hot, humid and buggy.  Could we just have some reasonable weather for a while???

Vector of a Frozen Cartoon Man Running in His Boxers by Ron Leishman

Moving away from the weather rant, I found myself questioning my running strength at the beginning of this week.  I was very proud of surviving that -39 C race on Sunday but oh so disappointed in my time.  I in no way planned to PB at the race but I certainly thought I would be a couple of minutes faster.  Of course the weather played a part, but there is only so much you can blame on weather.  It was frustrating to finish in 58 minutes given the fact I have been running fairly regularly.

The only upside was the fact that the next day I did not feel like I had run a race at all, so instead of having a rest day I went out again and made myself do some faster running for 6 km.  Sometimes anger and frustration can make you pick up your speed a little.

The following day though was my hill training day and I admit I wanted out of it.  Now my legs were tired and I was worried they would never last for 7 hill repeats, plus a long, gradual hill warm up.  I found myself hoping that my hill running partner wouldn’t be there so I wouldn’t have to work my butt off.  Bill is the one who has got me to the point of running up hills at a speed I would never have tried on my own, but yesterday the thought of pushing myself to that level was not in the least appealing.  If I was on my own I figured I could slowly do a couple of hills, go for an easy run and call it a day.  Bill was there though, so I couldn’t bail immediately.  Instead I warned him I might not make it through the whole training session.  We did a warm up, which was on a different hill, then made our way to where we do our repeats.  We started up and I felt OK.  Then my legs started feeling a little tired, which quickly changed to them feeling very heavy.  Once I was almost at top of the 475 m hill I thought there was no way I would be able to do 6 more repeats.  I announced that I was done and would just go on by myself for a short –  and more importantly – flat run.  To which Bill replied that there was a reason I was feeling that way and then told me to look at my watch.  We had run the hill at a 5:07 pace.  I don’t run on flat ground at a 5:07 pace!  We decided to slow it down to a 5:20 pace up the hill, and sure enough I was comfortable, or at least comfortable enough, at the slower pace.  That slower pace though is still much faster than I ever thought I would do on hills.  Also worthy of noting, the 7th time up was at a 5:10 pace.  I may not feel any confidence in running distance at a reasonable pace right now, but at least I know I can do hills!

The best feeling though on Tuesday was doing that 7th hill and telling myself it was the last hill repeat of this training session.  Technically I could do another week, but I have decided i want to get three speed sessions done prior to heading overseas.  I have actually never done true speed intervals so this will be new to me.  I am wondering if I will be able to do a 5 minute pace for my intervals, or at least a 5:05.  I’m kind of looking forward to a new challenge, though I am guessing a few intervals into my speed session I will not be so enthusiastic.  If you see someone on the roads next Tuesday afternoon clutching her knees and doing her best to keep lunch down and still gasp for air, it will probably be me.

The Mother of All Winter Races – Winterman 2015

 

Don't be fooled by those pretty blue skies!

Don’t be fooled by those pretty blue skies!

WOW! It was cold out there today!  Windchill temperatures were at -39 during the race.  My guess would be it was colder than that where we were because of the wind coming off the Ottawa River.  Parts of the route were cleared but there were a lot of snowy, slippery, slushy parts too.  No matter what your distance or time, this would be a race to brag about.

The boys placed in 3rd and 4th in the men’s category of the 3k, and they were 2nd and 3rd in the under 13’s.  Little brother is getting closer to big brother’s times, that could make an interesting situation in the future.

My husband impressively placed 2nd in his age category for the 5k, leaving it down to me to complete the family lanyard collection but unfortunately it didn’t happen.  I had the option of turning my 10k race (a double 5k loop) into a 5k run.  You didn’t have to decide before the race, everyone was told to just cross the finish line if they felt they needed to because of the temperatures.  I had managed the 5k somewhat comfortably and in fact was feeling pretty good just before I had to decide whether to go right to continue or go left to finish.  I decided that since this was a training run and I need to maintain some mileage that I might as well go for a second trip around.   That good feeling lasted about 500m, at which point I seriously questioned my sanity.  It had been windy enough on the first trip out, but the second time was even worse.  Of course now that the race had spread out and the 5k runners were finished, there were no groups of people you could hide behind to try to avoid the gusts.  I ran one part with my eyes closed, though come to think of it maybe they had just frozen together.  It was the first winter run where my face warmed up for the first half but then just got colder and colder as I went on.  At times I had my hand up to my face trying to block the wind.  My neck/face warmer by this time was frozen solid and certainly no providing any warmth.  That said, when you weren’t being hit by the wind it really wasn’t all that bad.  I’m not making that up, there were times when I felt pretty good out there.

This is also not a flat course, so there were some elevation changes to deal with.  No major hills but when you are climbing even a relatively simple hill while fighting wind gusts (I think I heard between 40 and 60 km) it can be a little tough.  I unfortunately found myself walking a couple of times during the 6th and 7th kms, something I really don’t usually do in a 10k.  The breaks helped me pick up a little in the last 3k, in fact the final km was one of my fastest, but overall it was my slowest 10k race.  I knew I would be nowhere near my PB of 53 minutes but I was hoping for a comfortable 56 minutes, maybe even a 55.  Instead I was over 58 minutes. To be honest it was a disappointing time for me and slow enough to put me in 4th for my age group when I usually manage to place in the top three in these smaller races. (Note, I am the first to admit it is because they are smaller races that I can place!).  It would have been fun for all four of us to get age group lanyards but we will have to aim for a family takeover next time.

Despite the disappointing time, you can’t  finish a race like this one and not feel a little special.  Most people didn’t head outside today much less go running.  I think a large number of people who had registered didn’t bother coming out this morning, which is a shame.  It really was pretty amazing to see a few hundred people line up outside the War Museum knowing full well they were heading into some of the worst possible running conditions and still – for the most part – have smiles on their faces.  As race director Christine McKinty noted at the beginning of the race, there was to be no complaining about the cold since all of us huddled at the start line were probably creating the warmest spot in Ottawa.

It crossed my mind at about the 8k mark that this race was probably harder than any half marathon I have done.  While there were times I felt good, there were other times when my legs just felt wobbly (not sure if that was from the slippery road or from the 11k I ran less than 48 hours prior to the race).  There were also several times when I was consciously thinking about the possibility of frostbite.  I was envying my kids who wore ski goggles and full face covers so that they had no exposed skin.  At times their distance of 3k also was worthy of some envy.  Luke said he wasn’t too cold or too hot but was “just right” during his 3k.  Evan felt good except for cold legs.  He was wishing he had used a third layer to help break the wind.

The kids bundled up alongside the Winterlude mascot.

The kids bundled up alongside the Winterlude mascot.

While I wish the course had been a little more protected from the wind, you can’t ask for a better place than the War Museum for an indoor space before and after the race.  The large lobby had lots of room for runners, a small auditorium provided space for awards and massages and timing chips were picked up in a space surrounded by tanks and a fighter jet.  Needless to say, indoor washrooms were more than appreciated given the temperature.  A large cannon was even used for the starting gun, which I think made most runners leap to a start since we didn’t know when it was going to go off.

After the race we toured the museum.  My husband’s military past means he can get three of the four of us in for free, plus a free parking voucher so we didn’t have to pay for our underground parking, and I can tell you that warm parking area was a bonus when we arrived at the race just before 7:30 this morning.  He even received a cafeteria voucher for $11, so you can guess where we had lunch after the race.  It was my first time seeing the exhibits, and I highly recommend visiting the War Museum, though maybe not right after running a race in Arctic like temperatures.  We were all fading towards the end so decided another trip back will be needed to fully appreciate everything on display.

My2013, 2014 and 2015 Winterman medal - one of my favourite medal designs each year.

My2013, 2014 and 2015 Winterman medals – one of my favourite medal designs each year.

Will I sign up for Winterman next year?  Absolutely.  You can’t live in this city and not do a real winter race.  Actually, I guess many runners do skip the winter races, but they are missing out.  Finishing a race like today’s is a whole different experience than racing at any other, more sane time of year.  I also love the snowflake medal made of runners.  The only change I might consider for next year… maybe just the 5k!

Side note: about 15 people completed the marathon today.  What can I say but “Wow!”

A family of Salomon runners.  The extra traction was definitely needed today.

A family of Salomon runners. The extra traction was definitely needed today.

 

Weather Update for Winterman

Tomorrow morning if you are skipping your long run because of the crazy temperature, keep all of us running at Winterman in your thoughts!  Forecast has changed, for the worse.  Wind is now meant to be around 40km, with gusts up to 60.  Windchill temperatures will be around -35 or -36 C.  My kids are running the 3k race; we have laid out the ski goggles so that they will have no exposed skin.  My husband is doing the 5k, and I admit I may join him if the wind is going to be too much for a 10k run.  On the positive side, at least I wasn’t looking for a PB this time around. This may just be one of those races you are happy to merely survive.

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Race bibs and even more important – handwarmers!

Time to Really Earn the Winterman Medal

I think I should have run the Hypothermic last weekend.  The temperature was almost balmy at around -12 C.  But instead i opted to race a shorter distance, 10k, at tomorrow’s Winterman.  Here is what Environment Canada is predicting for tomorrow:

Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of snow early in the morning. Clearing in the morning. Local blowing snow in the morning. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 becoming light late in the evening. High minus 19. Wind chill minus 31.

Of course Winterman happens to be held in an open area along the Ottawa River.  This isn’t going to be pretty.  The race is made up of loop repeats, so you are allowed to run a shorter distance than you signed up for and head to the finish line early.  You just need to let race officials know and they will record your time based on the shorter race distance.  This means I do have the option of doing only one loop and being part of the 5k race.  I would really like to complete the 10, even if it is going to be slow, and if we get those wind gusts coming off the river it is going to be really slow!

Ottawa has been stupidly cold this year.  We have had day after day of temperatures in the minus 20’s or worse when windchill is factored in.  I think I can count on one hand the number of pleasant winter days we have experienced since we started the new year.  When I got up yesterday the temperature with the windchill was -40 C, that crazy cold number where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet.  I ran 11k outside yesterday and when I headed out at 2;00 in the afternoon it had only warmed up to -32. Amazingly I was able to find an area that wasn’t too windy and just kept running out and backs and small loops.

I just checked the temperatures in Moscow, Whitehorse and Anchorage.  They are all hovering around -2 C.  Who would have thought that in the middle of winter those cities would look like the ideal places to go to warm up?

At tomorrow’s race there will be people doing the marathon distance.  Anyone hardy enough to do that will certainly have my utmost admiration!

For anyone else who has an urge to run a very Canadian, wintery race tomorrow, registration can be done first thing in the morning at the War Museum.

Nothing but ice looking through the windows at our church.

Nothing but ice looking through the windows of our church.  The icicles are over 5 feet long.

Finally, a Run to be Excited About!

There has not been much exciting going on with my running lately.  It hasn’t been bad; I’ve been getting the job done and for the most part fairly well.  I did twist my knee a little on a long run a week and a half ago, but I put my patience to the test and was very careful about what I did last week in the hopes of avoiding anything major.  I even tried shallow water pool running for 40 minutes in order to avoid too much impact.  I was definitely relieved that I had not signed up for the Hypothermic Half Marathon this past weekend.  (But if you ran it let me know – I’d love to hear how it was!)

My last two long runs were successful.  I pushed the pace a little faster than I should have for a 14k run at a 5:50 pace but it was a comfortable push.  This past weekend I went back to the recommended 6:04 pace and completed a very pleasant 16k run.  Nothing to complain about right?

But I admit it has been quite a while since a run excited me or made me say, “Wow, I did that?”  Thankfully today was one of those runs.  I missed my hill training last week because of my knee (though I did substitute it with a 9k flat run),  A few weeks ago when I started my hill training I met another runner doing the same.  While he is a good 15 years older than me, he is definitely faster than me – much faster!  But we decided to run our repeats together that day and have now met on a few Tuesday afternoons for more.  He is happy to “slow” down a bit to avoid injury, but still manages to push me way out of my comfort zone on hills.

I have done this 500m hill in the past, though it has probably been a good year since I did it for repeats.  My average pace going up the hill probably wasn’t much under the 6:00 min/km mark.  Today’s average of the six times we went up the hill?  5:15 min/km!!!  I’m not going to say it was easy, but I was surprised how much easier it felt than 2 weeks ago when we were doing the uphill around 5:32.  One thing I am doing differently is in the past I jogged down the hill while now we are walking down, so there is lots of recovery time.  But even with the walk break I never would have guessed I could run uphill at that pace, repeatedly at that.  I also freely admit I would never have bothered to try if it weren’t for the fact I had someone to push just that little bit harder.

Finally… a run to be excited about!

Treadmill Running Part 2

I have come up with the main advantage of treadmill running…

It makes your next run outside so much easier and so much more enjoyable.  A 14k long run yesterday at a 5:50 pace (a little faster than what I should be doing for a long run but it felt good) seemed to fly by, despite the cold temperatures and snowy road.  Honestly, the 7k treadmill run on Friday felt like twice the work for half the distance.

As enjoyable as the run was, I have decided against registering for the Hypothermic Half that will be taking place next weekend.  My long runs the last few weeks have looked like this: 12k, 14k, 16k and 14k.  Could I run 21 next weekend?  Probably, but it is just too early in my training schedule for Prague and I am not sure I want to risk injury.  I had considered running 17 or 18 km yesterday, but looking at the bigger picture it made more sense to cut back a little for a rest and then start building again.  With 6 long runs still left to do before Prague, I have lots of time to build up and I have plans to do two more 16k runs, two 18k runs and a 20k.  Patience will hopefully ensure I avoid injury.

I do still have a race decision to make though.  Winterman is coming, the question is will it be a 10k or a 5k race for me?  As for all you Hypothermic runners next weekend, have fun and enjoy that big brunch – you will doubtless deserve it!

So much better outside, even if it was well below freezing.

So much better outside, even if it was well below freezing.