Monthly Archives: April 2015

No PB at the Manotick Miler…

…but it was nice being out running again!

I’m curious, how much do you think you would have to spend to bribe race officials to change part of their course?  I ask because there is an out and back section of the 10 mile course in Manotick that is nothing short of a wind tunnel!  Since it has been two years in a row now that the 10 milers have had to fight a crazy head wind, I am going to assume that that portion of rural, open road is simply always windy.  I guess the bonus was I didn’t get too hot, in fact my hands nearly froze off.  I thought it would be too warm for gloves, but I was proven wrong since my hands went from cold to just numb from the biting wind.  They started cold and finished cold, no matter how hard I worked.

As for my run, the first half was awesome.  Honestly I was just so happy to be out running again.  My calf held up perfectly, in fact by the end of the race I think it was the only part of my body still feeling loose and good.  Maybe I should have been stretching my other leg this week too?  For the first 8 km I had to remind myself to slow down, often finding myself running well below a 5:30 pace.  It is possible I went out to fast and hence the much, much slower second half, but I have a feeling that due to the wind this is a course that you pretty much have to take the speed when you get it because of that wind tunnel.

To be honest, I was done at about 14 km and a side stitch forced me (ok, maybe just encouraged me) to take several walk breaks in the last km and a half.  Yes, that is sort of sad.  I guess I could have pushed through but I admit that I am very bad for backing right off once I know I won’t get the PB.  Mental note that my mental attitude needs to change.  Those final walks meant that at least half a dozen people passed me, people I had been ahead of for most of the race.

The final numbers:

chip time 1:30:52 (a little less than a minute and a half slower than last year)

avg pace 5:38 (last year 5:33)

overall 84/240

women 30/137

F40-49 15/51

Not bad, so I am not unhappy.  I just think I could have done better in the second half.  Interestingly I placed higher overall and in the women’s category than I did last year.  My age ranking stayed the same.  Ultimately the lesson learned today is that I need to get working to run a solid sub 2 hour half marathon, because I really don’t think I had another 5k at a good pace in me today.

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What was fun today is that with it being a relatively small race, I ran into lots of people I know, some who I haven’t seen in a while, including getting to chat briefly with Rebecca from RunningFoodBaby, who I haven’t seen in person since we traveled to last year’s Around the Bay race.  I also had a blast cheering on two friends, one running 16k for the first time ever, as they approached the finish line.  Way to go Nathalie and Lisa (and your hubbies did great too!).  And a message to Jerome – man, I could not keep up with you today!!!  Maybe I should get you to pace me for the ORW half!  That is, of course, if I can manage to keep up with you.  Congrats as well to all the runners from the Grant Crossing Running Room, I think there was quite a group of you in Manotick today.

All in all, the Manotick Miler once again offered a fun race with a small town vibe.  I remain impressed that local businesses welcome runners to virtually take over their parking lots.  The rural/suburban route is pleasant and hey, there weren’t any cobblestones!

And so begins a very busy few weeks of running.  My husband, kids and I are all planning on orienteering in the local meets for the next 6 or 7 weekends.  We are also all taking orienteering training courses once a week (actually the boys are twice a week).  And there are races every weekend for the next 4 weeks that we are planning on doing.  I think I am getting exhausted just thinking about it all!

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Manotick Miler Here I Come

 

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Yesterday I had my final physio appointment and was given the green light to run in tomorrow’s 10 mile race in Manotick!  When I arrived my physiotherapist asked how my calf was feeling and I immediately replied, “Great!”  His next question was very sensibly… “Are you just saying that because you want to be able to run on Sunday?”  There’s a guy who knows runners.  But honestly, things are feeling good.  I am taped up and hopefully ready to run.  I was only given permission to run for 5 minutes today to make sure I had one more day of healing before the race.  As dumb as I looked, I just put my shoes on and jogged on the spot in my house.  Hopefully my calf holds up for the hour and half I will need tomorrow to complete the course.

In a perfect world, I would like to finish in less than that hour and a half.  Last year I finished in 1:29:xx, a time that completely surpassed my hopes of a 1:33.  I was the 36th woman out of 129 and was 15/49 in the 40 -49 age category (hate those 10 year age categories!).  If it weren’t for the calf injury and a week of no running, tomorrow looks like a perfect day for a PB.  The temperature should range from a cool 4-9 degrees C and the wind is supposed to be only 11 km/hr.  Last year I found the headwind on part of the course to be a challenge.  It is also calling for a mix of sun and clouds.  I have run this course in full sun and there is no shade to be found, so clouds could be a blessing.

My plan is start slow, see how things feel and then slowly speed up and hope for a negative split.  I will be very interested in seeing how a week off affects me.  Will I be tired and stiff?  Or will I have that awesome feeling where my body just wants to run?  It could go either way.  I know I said I would aim for a slower pace than last year, but I would be lying if I said it hasn’t crossed my mind that maybe I could beat 1:29.  I’ve checked my times at the Prague Half Marathon and I hit 16k at 1:31 and I was running a little conservatively there.  I know I need to be careful tomorrow, I don’t want to ruin the three other races I am doing in May.  But I also know I will be a little disappointed if my time is over 1:32.  This one is going to be a hard one to call.

Manotick Miler This Weekend – I Hope!

 

Last year's  Miler medal

Last year’s Miler medal

For the first time ever I am approaching a race weekend not entirely sure if I will make it to the start line.  I have been looking forward to the Manotick 10 Miler since I signed up for it waaaaay back in the fall when you could get 50% off the entry fee.

I have great memories of last year’s 10 Miler.  I started the race not sure I was feeling like it was going to be a good run.  But then something kicked in and my body wanted to go faster.  I remember passing the 5:40 min/km pacer thinking at some point I would tire and he would then pass me.  I remember deciding that since it wasn’t a goal race I would just push hard and if it all fell apart so be it.  I also remember fighting a head wind and thinking there was no way I would make it to the end at the pace I was going.  But somehow I did keep going and finished the 16 km at a 5:33 pace.  It was then that I finally felt certain that I had a sub 2 hour half marathon in me, which proved to be true not once but three times in 2014.

This year I had set a goal of finishing with an average pace of 5:30 or less.  I say it in past tense because that was before I badly pulled my calf muscle last Sunday while orienteering.  One minute I was running in the woods, the next minute I was limping along.  I finished the course – it took over an hour – almost all of it was at a walk.  On the upside, the slow pace allowed me to focus on my map reading skills which, to be blunt, desperately need some improvement.  For those who have never participated in orienteering, map reading skills are essential.  There is no GPS in this sport!

I knew as the day went on and my calf became more sore that I was in trouble.  So for the first time ever I actually went to a physiotherapist.  I have had other times when I probably should have done so, but just could never be bothered.  This time though, I had 7 days to recover and I had a feeling it wasn’t going to happen if I just relied on some rest.

I have now been twice, with a third visit tomorrow.  I have gone from hearing I had a “50/50” chance of running on Sunday to a “I think you will be able to do it”.  I have had massage, ultrasound, electrical current and stretches.  I have also not run one single step since Sunday.  Oddly, I have not missed it as much as I thought I would.  I think that largely has to do with the incredibly awful, cold, wet, windy weather we have endured this week.  But now I am getting a little antsy and I want to hit that start line Sunday morning.  I will change my pace goal – maybe aim for a 5:40 to 5:45 pace in the hopes of not causing another injury,  I have several races coming up so I don’t want to do anything that will stop me from running them.  Right now I will just be happy if I can comfortably run the Miler.  I am not so sure what it will feel like after a week off, particularly given the fact that it seems the less I run, the more junk food I eat.  I am hoping the fact that, working  backwards, the last four weekends have seen me do two 16k long runs, a 15k and a half marathon.

Now, off to do my calf exercises….fingers crossed!

 

The Mad Trapper Pancake Prediction Run

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So, let’s just start by stating the obvious – if a race has the word “pancake” in it, you know it will be a worthwhile race.  If the race is also going to offer you a bottle of maple syrup to take home, well, is there really any reason not to attend said race???

Yesterday’s Mad Trapper Run, which all four of us took part in, lived up to all that the snowshoe/running series promotes – some good exercise, a fun social event and lots of food.  If you are a runner who needs chip timing, medals and certified course distances (oh, and the burning off of more calories than you take in), well the Mad Trapper might not be for you.  But then I would ask, do you really need all of that for every race you participate in?

As per the name, this was a prediction run.  No watches or cell phones allowed.  To be sure everyone followed the rules, before the race started you were asked to introduce yourself to a stranger and then frisk them.  To record times you wrote your name and time prediction on chart paper – who needs high tech?  You could set a world record, you could stop and enjoy the scenery, you could sit and have a drink at the turn around if you wanted, you just needed to come in as close as possible to your prediction in order to win.

The 8k run was on a rural dirt road with plenty of hills.  There was no traffic and lots of room for the 60 runners taking part.  That dirt road was also at its best for running; just soft enough to feel comfy without being so soft that it dragged you down.  A fairly crisp morning was the final ingredient in a comfortable and fun run.

When you crossed the finish line someone handed you a sticker with your finish time on it.  You then took your sticker, put it on the chart paper and figured out the difference between your prediction and your actual time.  The next time your kid asks you what the point of math is, just tell them they will need it to do important things in life, like prediction runs 😉

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Unfortunately no photos of Mike crossing the finish line - the down side to being the first of the family to finish.

Unfortunately no photos of Mike crossing the finish line – the down side to being the first of the family to finish.

Once the run was done (and by the way it finished on one hell of an uphill!) you headed inside at The Ark to socialize and await the much anticipated brunch.  By the name of the race you would be right to assume that the brunch would be pancakes.  But what wasn’t included in the title (because really, it would be one helluva long race name) was the bacon, sausage, hash browns, eggs and beans that were also served on your plate.  I should have taken a picture but was too busy eating and didn’t really think of it until my plate was empty.  Priorities.

After the meal the top three “predictors” were announced.  Amazingly the first place winner was only off by one second.  Then Evan, in his first 8k event, tied for second, with his final time being 15 seconds slower than his prediction.  He ended up winning a great Salomon running backpack… one he might be forced to share.  I should note that so many runners were so kind to Evan and Luke, congratulating them for their efforts.  I think the boys walked away feeling a little special, and who doesn’t enjoy that once in a while?  It is one of the things I love about running, everyone supports everyone, regardless of age or ability.   A special thank you to the ORW 60 minute 10k pace bunny who came and offered words of encouragement to Evan with regards to his upcoming first 10k race.  It is one thing for your mother to tell you that you can do it, another thing entirely for an official pace bunny – and last year’s winning pace bunny at that – to cheer you on!

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For the record fellow Mad Trappers, Evan still isn’t sure who Nick is, but he is pretty excited to have “beaten” him 🙂  Look out Nick, in a few years he might be trying to chase you down in a race.

As for me, I can barely organize my pace with a watch on!  But on this run I teamed up with Luke, so I got to hand over all the decisions to him.  Ends up we totally underestimated what he could do on a hilly 8k run.  He predicted 59 minutes and came in 5 minutes faster!  At one point I said to him that I thought we were going too quickly but he said he was feeling good and wanted to see if he could keep up the same pace.  Just to prove how nice it is to be young, he then sprinted up the final hill, leaving me to fall behind.  He also managed to talk almost non-stop throughout the run.  Don’t young children need to breathe when they are running???  I was exhausted just listening to him.

Best Luke quote of the run?  I told him he had a wonderfully positive attitude when running.  He replied, “I’m always positive on the outside, on the inside let’s just say you may not always want to know.”  🙂

There are more Mad Trapper races to participate in this season.  The boys have already decided they want to participate in the June natural off trail obstacle race.  According to organizer Mike Caldwell, the course will involve going over everything that you would normally go around on his wooded, hilly (really hilly) property.  I’m pretty sure that my kids’ eyes lit up at the explanation, particularly when the crossing of streams was mentioned.  As for me, maybe slightly out of the comfort zone of this road racer but I will be doing it anyways!

Personally I am looking forward to another race in the series, the Power in Pink women’s only trail race at the end of August.  Mimosas, firemen and prizes have all been mentioned and it is a fundraiser for the Princess Margaret Hospital for cancer research.

Why not take a break from your regular race routine?  For more info about any Mad Trapper event, check out the link at the side of my blog.

The Prague Half Marathon Race Recap

 

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About two years ago I started thinking about running the Prague Half Marathon in the Czech Republic.  Having worked in Prague for a brief time over 20 years ago, it was a city I really wanted to return to and show my family.  All I needed was for the race date to fall within my March holidays to make the trip possible, and this was the year it happened.  Was it worth the wait?  Absolutely.

My previous posts have talked about our travels in Nice and Prague prior to race day, plus my rather weak attempt at putting in a proper taper.  The two weeks of busy traveling prior to the race confirmed in my mind that I would not be going for a PB, but I would be aiming to run a solid, comfortable race.

Race Expo

 

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Race expo opened on Thursday morning and I made sure to get there early, curious as to what it would offer.  Up to that point I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The Prague Half Marathon is an IAFF Gold Label event, one of 5 held in the Czech Republic and one of 3 Gold Label events in Prague itself.  But I had noticed some key differences in the months leading up to race day.  I admit that here in Ottawa I am used to some pretty detailed websites, not to mention lots of information through email and Facebook.  I found the Prague website and information a little sparse in comparison which made me wonder about race organization.

There was no need to worry however.  This would prove to be a very well organized race event.  While the expo was quite small compared to Ottawa Race Weekend or Toronto Waterfront, it offered a couple of great things that I have not seen before. I was hugely impressed by the fact you could choose between a long sleeve or short sleeve tech shirt, both in men’s and women’s cuts.  I have no idea how they plan for that number-wise, but what a treat as a participant to have a choice.  And that certainly puts to shame any races that have yet to manage to offer male and female cuts.  You also got to choose your colour for your RunCzech sports bag, another bonus that was much appreciated.  I was also very glad to see souvenir gear, something that I really missed not having at last year’s Vancouver Half Marathon.

Another offer at expo was a chance for your family or friends to record a personalized message cheering you on.  This message was linked to your timing chip.  At the 14 and 18k marks of the race there were chip reading mats and very large – think billboards – screens.  When you crossed a mat there was a chance your video message would appear on the screen.  I was lucky enough to see my husband and kids up there at the 18k mat and as silly as it may sound, it gave me such a boost of energy!  My pace immediately picked up.  I also admit that I waved to them… as if they could actually see me 🙂

I also liked the big poster that was up at expo that showed the route plus all 12,500 names of the race participants.  A nice touch.

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The expo was located outside of the centre of Prague, about 5 or 6 km away from the start line.  It was easily accessible by tram, or at least easy enough once we found where we could actually purchase tram tickets.  That part took almost as long as the tram ride itself.  Moving out of the city core gave me the opportunity to do one final little run before race day, this time in a park immediately beside the expo grounds.  I had heard this was a popular area for runners and sure enough there were several out there running the paths.  This run gave me an opportunity to make a decision about what shoes to wear race day.  I had tried some cobblestone running in my Nike Lunar Tempos earlier in the week and was not convinced they were the right call for such uneven terrain, particularly given the fatigue my legs were feeling after two weeks of constant walking.  This time I tried my Asics and with their extra cushioning and support they proved to be the shoes to run with.

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Race Day

This race would be my first ever noon start time.  I wasn’t entirely sure of what I would think of that, but it ends up I loved it.  Obviously it would not be a great start time in hot weather.  While it did get warmer on the course than I was anticipating, it was still manageable.  The advantages of a late start?  Firstly, I actually had a reasonable night’s sleep, a rarity on race nights for me.  With the start line only a short walk away, I had no concerns about sleeping in and being late.  Secondly, there were virtually no line ups at the porta potties 35 minutes before the gun.  Either European runners just don’t have to pee as much as we North American runners before a race, or the fact that everyone was up well before race time meant there was time to sort things out so to speak prior to arriving at the race.  All I can say is it was a treat to be in a race with over 12,000 runners and not have to deal with the stress of waiting in a slow moving porta potty line!

Gotta like the women's porta potties, or "Jennys", with NO line ups!

Gotta like the women’s porta potties, or “Jennys”, with NO line ups!

I had made a last minute decision to not wear shorts for the run.  There was a fairly cold wind blowing and cloud cover.  I did leave my running jacket at the apartment, bringing instead a throwaway fleece to stay warm before the gun.  It ends up though that there was access to a building right beside the corrals, so there was no issue staying warm.  About 15 minutes before the race I figured I should head out to my corral.  I was surprised to find that only a few people had done the same at that time.  As a result I had easy access and was even able to run back and forth a few times in the space.

As the corral filled I heard any number of languages, plus English being spoken in a variety of accents.  We have an amazing running scene here in Ottawa, but I could not help but be a little jealous of European runners.  Imagine being able to hop on a train or take a quick flight and be able to attend a wide choice of races in other countries.  That would be a dream situation for me.

Waiting for the gun everyone was shivering and I was thinking that the fleece would have to stay on for a km or two before I would warm up.  But almost as soon as the gun went off, the sun came out and suddenly I was regretting my decision to not wear shorts.  In the 8 minutes it took for me to make it to the start line I ditched the fleece and was ready to go.

The crowds were thick, both on and off the course.  The spectators were great; whistles seemed to be the most popular way of showing support.  I am pretty sure this was the most crowded I have been at the beginning of a half marathon course.  It took all my concentration to make sure I didn’t trip over someone or cause someone else to fall.  Throw in uneven cobblestones, tram tracks and curbs and islands in the middle of the road, and this became what I would consider a technical road race.  The 2 hour “pacemakers” (no bunnies here) were just ahead of me but I couldn’t fight the crowds to stay with them.  They clearly did a better job than I did of maneuvering around other runners, so after several times of me catching up then getting caught behind a crowd I gave up.  To a certain extent I felt like I just followed the crowd for the first 5k.

Here is an important note if you are going to run in Europe.  Cobblestones are not your friend!  They may look quaint and pretty in pictures but I am sure the human body was not meant to run on them!  I knew they would feel different, I didn’t know that, particularly once you get tired they can suck the life out of you.  I did become a bit of an expert though on which ones were easier to run on.  Take a look at this picture:

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The stones you see on the left are the worst.  They may look flat in this picture but they are not.  The stones you see on the right are easier, a little flatter, packed a little closer together,  The large line of rectangular stones in the middle are the easiest, except of course for the fact that they are narrow.  There were several times on the course when my whole goal was to try to make it to the easiest footing.  That said there was lots of smooth pavement and very few elevations changes, so there were plenty of opportunities to run comfortably.  If you like flat courses, I don’t think you will find much flatter than this one.

At one point in the course I thought the spectators must all be enjoying a good Czech beer as there was a rather hoppy aroma that was becoming quite strong.  Unlike here, in Prague there is no issue having your alcohol outside in a public place.  I did come to realize however that we were in fact running past a brewery.  Who knew that the smell of beer could overpower the smell of the sweat of thousands of runners?  It was a bit of a tease though, since there was a lot more running to be done before being able to enjoy a pint.

Despite my up and down pace due to crowds, my overall average pace stayed a very steady 5:43 for most of the race, with a final pace of 5:42.  Could I have pushed a little harder and therefore finished faster than my 2:01:08?  I think so.  But with the way I had been eating and walking and climbing endless stairs for two weeks, I really had no way of knowing how long my energy would last.  I kept things conservative and as a result felt good throughout most of the race.  I did somehow manage to screw up my distance reading.  I thought I had not even hit the 21k mark yet when suddenly there was a sign saying 600m left.  Oops!  I admit I would have started pushing harder earlier had I known.  But I was able to cross the final bridge (there were a total of 6 bridge crossings over the Vltava river) with a smile on my face and enough energy to wave to my family and then sprint to the finish.  I actually had to ask somebody to move over at one point as I couldn’t get by!

 

About 300 metres to go and still smiling!

About 300 metres to go and still smiling!

There was a long walk through the finishing chute, but everything was handed out efficiently.  I handed in my timing chip (the largest chip I have ever had on a bib, maybe that slowed me down a little!), picked up a medal and foil blanket, then was passed water and a sports drink.  Following that I had the best post drink ever – they were serving warm, sweet tea.  I don’t even like tea but this was delicious!  It might even rival chocolate milk.  Food as far as I could see was limited, just oranges and apples.  Personally, it  takes me a little while to be hungry after a race so I was happy to just skip the fruit and pick up a yummy “Trdlo” with Nutella once we left the race.

I will say though that leaving the race was tough.  It was definitely a moment I wanted to hang on to.  Even as I started to get chilled I didn’t want to leave and instead just spent some time taking in the view of the river and Prague Castle one more time.

Enjoying the moment,

Enjoying the moment.

In the afternoon there was a little time to relax thanks to my personal race crew:

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And then it was time to celebrate with traditional Czech food and of course Czech beer:

I am now addicted to Czech dumplings... a bit of a problem now that I am back in Canada.

I am now addicted to Czech dumplings… a bit of a problem now that I am back in Canada.

How can you not like beer that costs less than $1.50?

How can you not like beer that costs less than $1.50?

Would I run this race again?  In a heartbeat.  The only reason I probably won’t (besides the obvious of the cost of traveling) is the fact that the world is large and time is short.  There are many races out there I would like to try if the opportunity arises.  It may be some time before I get to try another running adventure such as this but I certainly hope there will be more in my future.  And I admit it, I have now checked out the website for the Reykjavic Half Marathon in Iceland several times.  Maybe one day….