Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Running/Dog Rant

I will preface this post by noting that I love dogs. I would say I am a dog person. My husband and I have had 3 dogs over the last 16 years.  This is our current lovable goof (who by the way got into the garbage can and spread anything he couldn’t eat all over the kitchen today).

Charlie and my glowing shoes!

 

I believe dogs have justly earned the title of “Man’s Best Friend”.  They are faithful, loving, protective and all-round wonderful pets.  That said, if your dog is running at my heels barking at me, I am not happy.

Today I went for a run on a trail in the midst of the suburbs near work.  Now that the snow is gone I run on this trail at least 2 times a week.  Even on a weekday afternoon I will pass a number of other people using the trail, many of them with their dogs.  I assume that legally the dogs are supposed to be on leash but many of them are not and I have never had a problem.  As soon as owners see me they call their dogs and if necessary hold on to them until I pass.  It is a system that seems to work for all.

Today on my run I found myself approaching a women with two very small dogs without leashes.  I will admit here to a bit of a bias; I like big dogs, small dogs I don’t always trust as much.  I always have a feeling that those little guys are out to prove themselves to make up for their size.  The women called the dogs, they ran back to her and I figured there would be no problem.  But one of the dogs then spun around and came right at me, barking the whole time.  He came close enough to my feet that I had to brake and then get around him.  Then he started running after me.  The whole time the owner was quietly and calmly calling his name.  I stopped and turned around and yelled at him to go.  I then told the women that the dog needed to be on a leash when a runner was approaching to keep it under control.  I don’t think the dog had any intentions of biting me, but of course how would I know that for sure? Honestly, I was more worried about him getting tangled in my feet causing me to fall down.  There was no response from his owner, not even an apology.  Being a dog owner, I get that our animals don’t always do what they are told, so an apology is generally good enough for me, but none was forthcoming.  I was more than a little irritated but continued on my run.

Since I was doing an out and back, I knew there was a chance I would run into the dog again.  Sure enough, towards the end I approached the woman and her dogs once more.  She saw me, stepped to the side of the trail and called the dogs.  Once again, one stayed with her and the other ran at me, then followed me barking.  At that point I blew.  In a not-particularly-nice tone I told her again that she was responsible for keeping her dog under control when a runner was passing.  She just stared at me.  I had just come up a tough hill, and was a panting, sweaty mess and was probably not looking too friendly at this stage.  I told her it was a safety issue and asked if she understood ( I wasn’t entirely sure she spoke English).

She then went on to tell me that she brought her dogs to the trails in the woods to let them run free.  I responded that she was on a trail used by many runners, cyclists and walkers – she had to maintain control of her dog.  And then came the response that I knew was coming:

“But he’s harmless!”

And I am supposed to know this how when the dog is yapping at my ankles???  I told her she can’t expect everyone else to know that and then explained that my fear was more about being tripped than being bitten (though it would certainly be a valid feeling to be worried about being bitten by a dog you do not know who is chasing you).  I told her I had tripped once and broke my hand.  O.K., I didn’t mention it was a rock I tripped over, not a dog, but I wanted her to understand the risk.  She did assume I meant a dog and her response was… get this…

“Maybe that was a big dog.”

Ummm, WHAT???

My response, still not in a very nice tone: “Actually big dogs are a lot easier to get around than little ones running around your feet.  It is dangerous, you need to hold or leash you dog when a runner goes by if you can’t control it.  Everyone else does it, you need to as well.”

As all this was going on she kept giving the dog treats.  In dog language that translates to, “Oh look, if I chase people I get treats.  Life is great.”

By this stage my blood pressure was through the roof.  So much for a relaxing run.  I finished with, “Sometimes an apology helps the situation.”  Nothing.  That was the final straw for me, I repeated the fact that an apology would be nice but “clearly you are not willing to give one,” and left.

I am sure she will go home and talk about the crazy, mean-spirited runner who doesn’t appreciate her cute and harmless dog.  Of course what I truly don’t appreciate is a clueless dog owner!

And with that, the rant is over.

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Training for Ottawa Marathon Pace Bunny Duties

With Around the Bay training finished I am moving on to my next challenge, pacing the 5 and 1/2  hour marathon group for Ottawa Race Weekend.  I took a week off after ATB, only logging 20 relaxing kms for the week. That was enough to make me feel ready to get back to higher mileage and I was very pleased with a total of 64 km for the week of April 11.

My plan for these last weeks before the marathon is straightforward; train during the week at my regular paces and try to nail the bunny pace during my long runs. The latter, however, is more challenging than you might think. I set out last Friday for my first attempt at a long run at the correct pace. I found it incredibly difficult to adjust my pace and try to keep it steady. Add in the fact that I have to do 10 & 1’s, which I’m not used to, and I will admit panic started to set in. I struggled to adjust my gait and my muscles were hurting in places that don’t normally bother me. I started to think I had made a mistake in signing up for pacing duties. What the heck was I thinking choosing the marathon distance as my first bunny job?

But around 15k I started to get a bit of a rhythm. The walking breaks started to feel more natural. Unlike most of my runs I wasn’t out of breath and I’m quite sure my heart rate stayed very low. I started to enjoy the beautiful summer-like evening and wandered aimlessly throughout Kanata. My original plan was to run 25k but it was so nice out that I continued on until 32 km were done.  Remarkably I felt as though I could go even farther – what a wonderful feeling!  The first half seemed a challenge, but the second half of the run felt like a gift.  I thought running for such a long time (4 hours!) would be boring on my own.  Instead it was uplifting.  After a long winter – actually not as long as it could have been, but it felt like it lasted forever – it was so nice to enjoy a beautiful evening.  In the winter I often head out and complete a training run without seeing another runner or walker, but on this run everyone was outside, and I swear I was feeding off their energy.  During parts of the run I imagined doing the same thing but with the amazing Ottawa spectators cheering on my group of runners.  I am now so excited for race day!

Tomorrow will be another long run, I’m not entirely sure how far I will go.  I am loosely following a plan right now but training for ATB put me a little ahead on long runs, giving me a some freedom in my distance choices.  I already have a 30k and a 32k under my belt with 5 weeks to go, so I am feeling confident that my training will carry me through the 42.2.  Here’s hoping tomorrow’s run maintains the confidence I am feeling now!

Jackrabbit Clip Art

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What is StayBillety?

If you are runner you may have seen a few tweets, articles or news reports about a new business called “StayBillety”. The reason I say if you are a runner is because StayBillety is currently promoting itself along with Ottawa Race Weekend. For those outside the city who aren’t aware, Ottawa Race Weekend is a HUGE event, one that literally takes over the city for a full weekend. Almost 50,000 runners take part in the event and many of them come from out-of-town. Ottawa is an amazing destination city at the best of times, but throw in races for everyone from beginners to elites, plus a race course with scenery arguably second to none, it is no wonder many athletes flock to this event.

Of course traveling to a race brings its own challenges. I know, as I have made a trip for a race several times now. I have raced half marathons, 30k’s and marathons in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, New York, Philadelphia and Prague. When traveling there is always the added complication of finding accommodations. So many factors come into play: proximity to the start/finish line, price and – something that I consider a prime consideration – late check-out availability. Seriously, do you want to start a long drive home, or worse catch a flight, without first having the chance to shower? Personally I place more importance on that post race shower than I do on a good meal!

StayBillety is offering a new way to approach accommodations. It is an online service that helps link travelers to homes that are willing to rent out space. The idea is to link people with common interests, in this case runners. So, if you are coming from out-of-town for Ottawa Race Weekend you could find a place to stay owned by others who support the event and perhaps take part in it themselves. As a traveler you could potentially have a local’s expertise about the city and/or the race to tap into as well. It is a perfect way to meet up with fellow runners and forge new friendships. And let’s face it, we runners are known for wanting to congregate and share running stories. Who else wants to listen to our stories of lost toenails or awkward chafing spots?

That said, hosts also have the option of simply renting out their home while they are away. The hosts get to set their price and ideally the guests have the opportunity to save some money on a weekend when prices are most likely at a premium. And hopefully guests get that chance to head back and have that long hot shower they deserve after the race without room service knocking repeatedly to try to get them to leave.  And as an added bonus, Run Ottawa will get a percentage of every booking.

I think it will be very interesting to see where this new service goes. The idea will be that it will be linked to many events and organizations, not just running. My interest of course lies in the running events.  As race events get bigger, alternatives need to be offered in the area of accommodations. I find it appealing that there could be the opportunity to meet new friends in the running world.  I have had that experience through social media and as a result have come to know some great people who I make sure to visit when racing in their area of the province. This seems like another way to expand your running circles, either by being a guest or a host.

For more information about StayBillety, check out the website at http://www.staybillety.com/

What is a S.W.E.E.T. Ambassador?

SWEET_2016_WEBSITE_PHOTO

A month or so ago Mike Caldwell, Mad Trapper race director, asked if I would be willing to host a table for trail running and Madtrapper events at the annual Bushtukah “S.W.E.E.T.” night.  This is a women’s evening hosted at Bushtukah’s Richmond Rd. store and its title stands for “Sporty Women’s Empowering Evening of Tips and Advice”.  Mike asked me to step in since all participants, even those working at the tables, had to be women.  Imagine, if you will, an all female race expo that includes a fashion show, unbelievable prizes and inspiring guest speakers.  Also imagine the incredible energy in a room full of 500+ women who want to take on physical challenges and live life to the fullest.

I will admit to being a little proud of the fact that Mike asked me to represent trail running and the Mad Trapper.  I am still fairly new to trail running and I am certainly not at the front of the pack… or the middle for that matter!  But he felt that I could represent what his events are about – getting out there, challenging yourself, enjoying the outdoors and the social nature of trail runners.

To prepare for the evening I did some research as I had never attended a S.W.E.E.T. night before.  In the process of learning about it I discovered that Bushtukah was also looking for S.W.E.E.T. Ambassadors.  Five women of any age and fitness level would be chosen based on their applications to help promote achieving personal fitness goals.  Applicants were required to have a “personal first” planned for 2016, volunteer at a minimum of one event during the year and be active on social media, giving goal updates and sharing with other women stories of fitness.  Bushtukah in return would offer some very generous discounts and gift certificates as well as a Sugoi vest.  Needless to say I didn’t hesitate to apply and was very excited to find out that I had been chosen.  As for what my first will be, well a little more on that later.

That excitement increased even more once I was at the S.W.E.E.T. event on Sunday night.  To be truthful I was not prepared for the energy and enthusiasm of all the women attending.  To enter, tickets had to be pre-purchased with all proceeds –  $3,070! – going to the Ottawa School Breakfast Program.  Despite already having tickets, women still lined up outside 45 minutes before the event started!

I had a great time talking with so many different women about trail running and promoting the Madtrapper Power in Pink Trail Run that will be held this summer.  There were many women who voiced their desire to trail run but were nervous about starting – exactly how I felt not that long ago.  But if any event was going to convince you to try something new, the S.W.E.E.T. night  was it.

Once everyone had time to wander and look at all the tables, we all grabbed a seat and were treated to two guest speakers.  Sharon Donnelly spoke about the need for “me”, and the importance of giving yourself permission to focus on yourself.  Sue Halloway talked about the importance of encouraging girls to participate in sport and to recognize that how girls approach new challenges is in fact very different from boys.  Let’s just say we women spend a lot of time worrying about being accepted and wondering if we have the skills to meet the goals, and these characteristics start at a young age.

Between speakers, myself and fellow Ambassadors were introduced to the crowd and some incredible draw prizes were awarded.  To give an idea of the scope of prizing, everything from full running outfits to free shoes were handed out.  The final prize of the night?  A bike!  If I had won that I might have actually been willing to take up biking!

The whole evening was inspiring and energizing.  I sometimes think that as women we unleash our insecurities by comparing ourselves to each other and in turn sometimes being critical of other women.  But there is so much power and joy that comes from supporting one another and cheering others on, no matter their goals.  When I was running Around the Bay this year there was a women in front of me who had a handwritten bib on her back stating she had just had a baby 5 months ago.  My first thought was, “How awesome is that?”  But the second line written rubbed me the wrong way.  It asked, “What’s your excuse?”  I felt like that question, though I am sure meant to be inspirational, just once again put women against women in a competition to see who could be the better female.  I wasn’t a runner before children so I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think I would have been running 30k only months after having either of my children.  I am truly in awe of someone who can, but I felt like that bib had a critical edge to it, a, “Well if I can do it you should be doing it too and if you can’t, whats wrong with you?” feel to it.  Let’s just stop doing that.  Let’s celebrate our accomplishments and appreciate that the accomplishments are different for everyone.  Hey, if your accomplishment was managing to get your teeth brushed in between nursing a fussy baby and attempting to grab a nap after a sleepless night, that is awesome and you have my greatest admiration.  I love the fact that the S.W.E.E.T. night embraced all of us, whether regular fitness enthusiasts or women who are just on the first steps of something new to improve their well-being and happiness.  I hope that as an ambassador I can offer up a little bit of that power of support in 2016.

And as for that first I am going to do this year… Run for the Toad 50k, here I come!

Running Around the Bay 2016 – Race Recap

On second thought, maybe this post should be called “A Mental Battle Won.”  There was a lot of mental dialogue going on in my head during this race, I would venture to say more than normal.  In the end the voice of perseverance won out over the voice of despair and discouragement but it wasn’t an easy fight.  As a result however, I finished ATB feeling positive and happy.

Despite being the first “spring” race of the season, the weather was anything but spring-like.  Saturday, the day before the race, had more than its share of snow and wind, making everyone a little nervous about what we would wake to on Sunday morning.  I still have very distinct memories of fighting the wind in Hamilton at my fall marathon and really had no desire to repeat that scenario again.  The five of us who traveled to the race spent rather a lot of time trying to decide on just how many layers we would need come race time.

What to wear?

What to wear?

The view from the hotel the day before the race. Yuck!

The view from the hotel the day before the race. Yuck!

Luckily for us, Sunday brought cold weather but also sunny skies.  There was definitely a wind, but not enough of one to suck the life out of you.  It was cold enough for there to be ice in the water at the stations, but warm enough that I did end up tying my running jacket around my waist after 10k.

My experience this year was very different from that of 2014 in many ways.  I have strong memories of how the 2014 race seemed to just come together for me, at least up to 26k.  That time I felt so strong at the beginning and went out at a faster pace than I had planned.  For lack of a better way to explain it, I simply felt happy to be out running.  During that 2014 race I did slow down as the race went on, and the big hill after 26k forced me to walk and made me light-headed.  I fought hard for the last 3k and when I finished the race I needed to sit down and put my head between my legs for fear I might pass out.  It was a race I was very proud of though.

This time I started faster, but at the same time didn’t feel like it was going to be my day.  I’m not sure how to describe it but if you are a runner you probably know what I mean.  It just didn’t have that feeling of everything coming together.  But 30 km is a long way (a long, long way) and you can never really predict what will happen based on the first part of the race.

After a solid 10k I started to get slower.  It was a strange feeling as I didn’t feel like I was struggling, but when I checked my watch there was a definite change in pace.  I think I was running into a bit more wind at this point and maybe that was what made the difference.  My mood changed here too.  Many of the thoughts that plagued me during training came out in full force.  I could not seem to turn off the discouraging voice in my head.  I was frustrated that these legs of mine just didn’t want to run faster, though at the same time pleased that I didn’t actually want to stop altogether.  As I started the hills of Burlington I finally got angry with myself.  Basically, I told myself to suck it up and just keep moving at whatever pace my body was prepared to do.  If I couldn’t beat my previous time of 3:04, so be it.  I stopped looking at my watch.  I told myself that no matter what, I would pick up my pace once the hills were done and show some speed in the last couple of kms.

Interestingly, I remembered there being more rolling hills two years ago.  This year of course the final hill was not included due to construction.  Am I a bad ATB runner for saying I was quite grateful to not have to do that hill this year?  But I was surprised when approaching a hill and I heard a woman behind me say, “This is the last hill.”  I was sure she was wrong as I was preparing for at least a few more rollers.  Amazingly she was correct and suddenly the hardest work was behind me and only a few more kms left!

With that my spirits picked up as did my pace.  I felt confident that I was not going to hit a wall, even if a big portion of the race felt like a giant speed bump.  I was able to high-five the Grim Reaper Jr. and make my way to the finish line inside First Ontario Place.  This was the stretch that two years ago seemed to last forever; where I fought light-headedness while quietly hoping I wouldn’t pass out.  This time I can honestly say that while I was tired, I did not feel like I had run almost 30 km.  That is a pretty amazing feeling, even when not quite reaching the hoped for pace.

It was during this stretch that I said to myself words I never thought I would:

“Thank you, thank you, Taylor Swift!”

I can’t say I’m a Taylor fan – indifferent would probably be the best description of my thoughts on her music.  But right before the race I added a few new songs to my iPod, and Swift’s “Out of the Woods” was one of them.  I often use music as a motivator when I run.  I would argue I am somewhat addicted to listening to music both when training and racing.  Music can sometimes pull from me strength that I otherwise can’t find.  It is not always predictable what song will work at any given time so I keep quite a variety on my iPod and simply skip forward if I need to.  I don’t even rely on songs with a specific beat.  Slow songs can push me forward as much as something with a quick tempo.  I have a memory of one day running joyfully to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Carefree Highway” and let’s face it, Gord is probably not usually thought of when making a running list.

In this case, after 28k of running, it was “Out of the Woods” that somehow pulled that little extra out of me – so much so I played it twice.  To my ears there is some female anger and a fighting spirit in that song, just what I needed as I edged closer to the finish line.  In less time than I was expecting, I was on the steep ramp (with unhappy quads I might add), entering the stadium.  I watched the gun time just roll over the 3 hour 3 minute time and told myself that at least I had managed to come in before the 3:04.  In fact, I reassured myself that my chip time would actually be 3:02 and was satisfied with the result.

Pre-race view of the finish line.

Pre-race view of the finish line.

It was only later that I checked my watch and then Sportstats to find the best kind of running surprise.  I really had no idea how much time passed between the gun going off and me crossing the starting mats.  Where I was, you couldn’t even hear the start gun, something I would really like to see this race address.  It ends up it was longer than I thought and so, quite a while after I finished the race, I discovered that I had actually finished in 3 hours and 53 seconds!  Another time I might have been a little frustrated with just missing a sub 3 hour 30k, but this was just such a good surprise I couldn’t feel disappointed.  In the end I had salvaged what for a while had felt like a run that might not come together.  In fact, I didn’t even take a walk break.  How could I complain?

If there is one thing I will take away from this race it is that I can keep going and I don’t have to listen to those negative voices in my head.  I know they won’t go away, but I sure don’t have to pay attention to them.  When I run I sometimes find it easy to give up when I think all is not going to plan.  I never quit, but I easily convince myself to just change it to an easy run, because hey – at least I’m out there running right?  This run proved I don’t have to do that, I am capable of pulling it all together again and fighting for a strong finish.  No, I am not as fast as my friends, but as cliché as it sounds, I can still fight for my own personal best.

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