Monthly Archives: May 2015

Orienteering Training Camp

I just spent the weekend at orienteering training camp and I can honestly say that slowly but surely I am getting a little better at this sport.  Getting better is of course all relative, but right now I am pleased that even though I still made some pretty stupid mistakes, I was always able to recover.  When you make a mistake in orienteering it isn’t just a case of having to adjust your pace like you would in a road race when you start out too fast (is there anyone who hasn’t made that mistake multiple times?).  In orienteering that mistake usually means you are in the woods somewhere and you really have no idea where.  Using your map and compass you have to figure out where you are and where you need to be.  Sounds simple right?  The fact is when you are in woods that you do not know this is no easy task.  But I can at least say it is getting a little easier.

Until I started orienteering I had never used a compass.  I spent my first couple of years in Ottawa spending my weekends hiking, mostly in Gatineau Park, sometimes heading to the States and enjoying the Adirondacks.  I looked at park maps and was able to follow the trail systems.  I also never hiked alone so there was always someone who knew where they were going.  While orienteering I am often alone and I am more likely to be off-trail than on.

Learning to use a compass correctly has been a challenge for me.  To me, the main purpose of the compass was to find North.  While I have used the term “find my bearings” countless times, I had never actually had to take a bearing.  Have I ever mentioned my spatial sense and sense of direction just aren’t the greatest?  Thankfully now, if I make sure my compass is lined up properly on my map, and if I make sure I adjust the housing to the North lines on the map, and if I remember to line up the North needle to its place in the house, I can actually take a correct bearing and use it to get me through the woods to my next control.  For anyone who thinks that sounds easy, keep in mind you have to traverse uneven and wooded land.  There could be a marsh, a cliff or an extreme elevation change between you and the next control while following your bearing.  If you look at the map below, my proudest moment was making it from control 9 through 12, successfully using my compass bearings!

O-Foley Reduced


We spent Saturday morning in Foley Conservation Park near Westport.  Our first training session involved practicing longer distances.  The group of us, which included people from Hamilton, Montreal and the United States, had courses to choose at the intermediate, advanced or competitive level.  Needless to say I did not join those latter groups.  Luke and I decided to work together on this course.  I couldn’t help but think how many parents get to participate with their children in their sport?  We had a very enjoyable course together, working our way through successfully and in a reasonable time.  I admit I don’t do a lot of running at this stage when going through the woods.  This is largely because I know I will fall flat on my face.  I also tend to overshoot the controls (flags) and then get stuck backtracking.  But I consider navigating the uneven ground and different elevation changes as great cross training for my running.

My biggest mistake on Saturday morning?  Forgetting to put on a hat.  It was extremely hot out but I figured I wouldn’t need it in the shade of the trees.  No sizzling pavement without shade to be done here!  I hadn’t thought though of the deer flies.  I spent a large portion of my time peeling them off my scalp where they had buried themselves in my hair.  Even Luke was a little grossed out.

Saturday afternoon was urban sprint training.  This is an entirely different type of orienteering and it is exactly what the name implies.  We met at the campus of Queen’s University in Kingston and spent our time sprinting from control to control, all located in an urban setting.  I still made lots of mistakes, most notably forgetting to turn my map when I made a turn, causing me to run in the completely wrong direction after leaving a control.  My road running legs definitely enjoyed this one, you can kind of think of it as a way of fartlek training in disguise.  Since we finished up at the university track, I took advantage and dragged Evan with me to do a lap.  I finished my lap in a pace just under 4 minutes/km.  I have always said distance, not sprinting is my thing, but I am definitely managing to get a little faster, even on tired legs.

Our urban sprint map.

Our urban sprint map.

Sunday morning was back to the woods, despite the rain and cold temperatures.  Thank goodness for the Boy Scouts who had a fire going near our start line.  My fingers were numb and we hadn’t even started.  The cool cold single digit weather made for good orienteering, though the morning rain made things a little slippery.  I managed one wipe out on a wet rock, another wipeout had me land in a bit of poison ivy.  We will see if that has any lasting effect in the next couple of days.

By the end we were wet, cold, muddy and very pleasantly tired.  I am so pleased to have discovered this sport and even more excited that it is something that all four of us can take part in.  I know as a parent we are supposed to want to do anything  for our kids, but to be brutally honest, the thought of hanging out in cold hockey arenas or on the sidelines of soccer games just doesn’t  appeal to me.  In this sport, even when we do our courses individually, we can debrief at the end and discuss all of our tactics  and of course our mistakes (that last part would be my contribution to the discussion).  And I am immensely proud of my kids.  They right now have skills that many , maybe most, adults do not have.  They don’t need GPS.  They race around in an area they do not know and find their way to where they are supposed to be.  When they are lost, they figure out some way to get back on track.  They are not afraid of being out there on there own and while they may get frustrated at times they do not get overwhelmed.  They have both learned that to find their way takes a calm demeanor and clear thinking.  Sounds like a pretty good life lesson, doesn’t it?


Hamilton’s Road 2 Hope Marathon – I’m Registered!


A year and a half after running Hamilton’s Around the Bay 30k race I will be heading back to that city for my third attempt at a marathon.  I have a month to relax a bit then my training session begins.

That leaves the next few weeks to have some fun.  It started today with a very pleasant 6k run at a 5:43 pace.  All of my solo runs the next few weeks will be based on feel and how much free time I have.  Next will be a 2 day training camp for orienteering.  Then there will be a women’s trail running clinic in Gatineau and at the end of June I will be stepping out of my comfort zone to run the Mad Trapper Natural Obstacle Off Trail Race.  Should I be worried when the website describes it like this:

Steep Uphills, Steeper Downhills, Downriver Canyons, Through Swamps, Under Logs, Up Cliffs,  Over Boulders, Lion and Tigers and Bears, Oh MY!

 Then of course there is the following quote about the event from Dave McMahon:
“The Mad Trapper NOOTR only offers 1 obstacle… the thing is, that obstacle is over 4km long!”
Ok, I will admit it now, I am just doing it for the beer and brownies after the event 🙂

Definitely Losing My Mind

While running the Ottawa Half Marathon on Sunday I was grinning ear to ear each time I passed a sign directing the marathoners one way, the half marathoners the other.  I have no good memories of running the 2014 full marathon and I was almost giddy at not having to follow that route this year.

While running the last stretch of the half marathon along the canal I told myself maybe I should consider starting to focus on 10k races.  Who really needs to run for 2 hours or more???

And today, I picked my next full marathon.  Go figure.  And I picked Hamilton… seriously.

We runners are nuts!

Yeah, So Training For a Half Marathon is Probably a Good Thing.

No speed records for me today.  But then I knew that going into today’s Ottawa Half Marathon since my training has been less than stellar.  I’ve had more weeks than I care to admit where I was doing well if I managed 20km in total.

I did however manage to finish in 2:03 something, my common half marathon time from my early half marathon days when I was actually training.   So essentially what used to be a finish time that required lots of training mileage is now my finish time with a very mediocre training effort.  Given the fact it was in full sun which doesn’t usually sit well with me, I was actually pleased that the first 16k felt quite steady and pleasant.  My first 10k was a very comfortable 56 minutes.  Perhaps the fact that the last 5k were not so pleasant has something to do with the fact that 16k is the farthest I have run in the last two months.

Technically my time was probably a 2:02.  Very close to the finish line I stopped to help hold someone up who was very close to crashing down.  Unfortunately for him his race was finished in a wheelchair.  I am not sure if I was just more aware of it this time but it seemed like people were dropping like flies.  I have never seen so many people receiving medical help on the sidelines during a race.  It was also the first time I saw someone flat out on the road on his stomach, clearly in significant medical distress (he was being attended to when I passed).  There were people being treated intravenously on the course.  I saw enough people down that when, around the 19k mark, I suddenly felt chilled and had goosebumps I made myself take a good walk.  In retrospect I think it was just my drenched body reacting to a sudden breeze but I wasn’t taking any chances that I might be suffering from overheating.  Yes, all of this made me wonder why we all do this running thing.

Pictures, expo info and more race details to come later this week.

A Runner’s Confession

I confess… I’m not loving running right now. It’s not that I’m hating it, I’m just kind of indifferent. I don’t seem to have any drive or goals. I really don’t have any interest in long runs and honestly, short runs aren’t doing much for me either.  I’m long past hoping for a half marathon PB this spring. My mileage is way, way down and the last time I ran more than 16k was at the end of March at the Prague Half Marathon. I know I can complete this weekend’s Ottawa Half Marathon, but I have zero expectations of completing it in under two hours. Negative attitude or realistic view?  Not sure.

I should be looking forward to this weekend. It is the biggest race event on the Ottawa calendar, with close to 49 000 participants over the two day event.  It is, in fact, the biggest race event in Canada.  The crowds, the energy, the buzz; Ottawa turns into a runner’s dream city. So the question is will all that energy give me the kick in the runner’s butt that I seem so desperately to need?  Actually, I think I need a double kick given the fact I am running the 5k late Saturday afternoon prior to the Sunday morning half.  On the upside, at least I’ll get some mileage in.   For all of you who have a better attitude than me, best of luck this weekend!

Colonel By Race Recap

On Saturday morning all four of us headed out in our race gear to take part in Somersault’s  Colonel By Races.  The big events on this day are actually the various Early Bird triathlons and duathlons, what I believe are some of the first races of the multi sport summer season here in Ottawa.  If you aren’t interested in swimming and biking though, there were the choices of a 3k or 8k run along the canal, starting at Carleton University.

The two running events started together, so Mike and I, running the 8k, and the boys, doing the 3k, were all at the start line.  Once the horn blew though we all ran our own race, me knowing that everyone would be waiting for me as the last runner.  I am slowly accepting the idea that despite the fact I started this whole running thing in this family, I am heading towards being the slowest runner of the group.  I am hanging on to the fact though that I can still run farther than any of them!

The boys nailed their 3k races, both attaining substantial PB’s, with Evan coming in under 14 minutes and Luke just over the 15 minute mark.  Mike finished in an impressive 38:02, a time I can still only dream of.  Officially, I also had a PB, coming in at 41:32, although unofficially I have run that distance a few seconds faster.  I was pleased with the average 5:11 pace and particularly pleased that my final km was my fastest at 5:01.

With only 67 runners in the 8k race there was certainly no issue with overcrowding.  Of course the first km was a little more crowded with the 113 3k runners, particularly the teenage football team that was taking part, some of whom did not realize that throwing a football or stopping dead in a race is not a good idea.   Once they had all done their turnaround the road was clear and I was often running on my own.

One slightly confusing incident made me wonder if I was witnessing my first example of out and out cheating.  This was an out and back course, but  the turnaround happened before the halfway mark.  As a result you had to run about 500 m past the finish area, then turn around again to the finish line.  On my way to the first turn around the only runners right in my area were two women.  It was clear to me they were running together but one was faster and pulled away.  For a while I was alongside the second woman and then I pulled away from her.  I did my first turnaround and eventually noticed that the second woman was ahead of me, back with her friend.  I can space out a little when I am running, so I was trying to figure out exactly when she had passed me.  For the life of me I couldn’t remember seeing her go by, which would mean she didn’t run all the way to the turn around.  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, thinking I really must have just missed her going  by me.  In a while I passed her again and didn’t think much of it.  When I went around the second turn around I saw her turn well beforehand to join her friend again.  At that point I figured she must just be pacing her friend, though I could see her ankle timing chip on.

When I crossed the finish line a little behind them I admit I went to take note of her bib number.  But she immediately came to me and let me know that she wasn’t trying to cheat, she just couldn’t keep up with her friend.  It was only after looking at the standings that I realized her friend was visually impaired, not to mention in need of a faster running guide!  I am curious as to what will happen with the standings though.  Because the guide had a chip on, her time is recorded in Sportstats.  She is listed as the 6th female, right ahead of me as the 7th out of 28 women.  Since the guide didn’t run the whole course, she technically shouldn’t be in the standings, so I am not really sure if she will be removed or not.

With such a small race our chances were good to place in our age categories.  Like the Winterman Race we just missed all four of us getting lanyards.  At that race Mike and the boys picked them up with me just missing out, this time Mike and I won our age groups, Evan came second in his and Luke just missed, coming in 4th.  The running joke though is that maybe if he had talked a little less he could have shaved off a few seconds.  Only when you are young can you run a 5 minute pace for three kms and at the same time make a new friend and know all about him (age, birthday, favourite activities…you name it) by the end of the race.  At that speed I am just trying to keep my breakfast down, never mind have a 15 minute conversation with someone!

Congratulations go out to Amanda and Jerome in the 8k who also won their categories on Saturday.  It was fun to be able to cheer for people I know at the awards ceremony 🙂

Next up – Ottawa Race Weekend.  So NOT ready.

Family Race Day!

Family Race Day!



Ottawa Sporting Life 10k Race Recap

I decided it shouldn’t be me writing this race recap, but instead it should be Evan, my 12 year old who ran this distance for his very first time.  I had a great time pacing him, and perhaps more importantly, reminding him to breathe!  He did manage to run his last two kms faster than the previous ones, never an easy feat.  Before his post, a couple of race thoughts from me:

  • love, love, love the medals and t-shirts
  • nice course, using a different part of the canal route from other races
  • while the location for medals and food was nice at the new Landsdowne Park, it was a little too far from the finish line – would have hated that walk had it been stormy or blistering hot in the sun
  • some more post race food choice would have been nice, though I did enjoy my chocolate croissant that I bought at the farmer’s market
  • love the fact that over $50 000 was raised for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
  • I liked the fact that today the organizers sent out a survey to see what people thought of the race

And now for a first time 10k runner’s perspective from Evan:

On Sunday, I ran my very first 10 km run at the Sporting Life Ottawa 10k.  There were just under 1800 runners at the event which is not a whole lot but not bad for the first time the event has been held in Ottawa.

In the first few kilometers I learned something about a road race:  Do not wear a camelback!  It might work for orienteering, but at the 4k mark I had to pass it off to Luke and my Dad who were our (awesome) cheerers at the side.   I actually felt like I had a camel on my back!

I also found out that running a long distance is all mental. If you tell yourself that there is only 1km left you run faster, even if there’s actually around 1.8 km left and you know it!

The weather was terrible for running.  It wasn’t too hot, but the humidity was crazy.  It felt like you were trying to breathe steam.

When we finally made it to the finish, we had to walk a very long way to get to the food, of which there wasn’t a lot to choose from.  Luckily I like bananas, but they are not very filling.  That was the only part I disliked about the race, because thinking about all the food at the end is what kind of keeps me going during the run.

My overall time was just over an hour, which I am proud of, and it was also a PB! 🙂  There were great medals at the end, the money was going toward CHEO, and overall it was a very fun race!

After the race was done, we set off to orienteering.  The road race was fun, but I was glad to get back on the trails at Mackenzie King estate!

IMG_4079 Reduced