My Best Friend 

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I’m flying to Los Angeles for the second time this year. And for the third time in a rolling calendar year. I used to go to LA to visit Ali while she was out on summer program at USC, and then while she was there doing her masters and after. That would be maybe once a year…sometimes summer, sometimes college breaks. I’d go and visit, and we would attempt to go to Price Is Right (which we got into while Bob Barker was still host, but not never called to “Come on Down!”!), drive to Tijuana, Mexico (before it was basically a ‘do not enter zone’ as it is now), or go to Conan O’Brian tapings. But now, I apparently go for racing. And not just for myself.   
  
It’s only been the last year that Ali has started doing road running races. She did her first ever 5km in Independence, Iowa, in August 2014. Don’t know Indee? Yeah, unless you’re an Isham, you don’t know Indee. There’s an Insane Asylum museum there you can go on a tour at…We have pictures in straight jackets. There’s also a lot of corn and Dollar General stores we used to ride a two-person bike to when visiting her grandparents in the summer. Anyway, Ali did her first ever Spartan Race later that same month of August when she came to visit me in Lethbridge, Alberta….the other LA. We drove the two hours to Calgary one Saturday morning to compete in the Spartan Sprint. She has admitted it being one of the hardest fucking things ever. She could have stopped trying after taking 1 hour and 44 minutes to finish a 5 km obstacle race.  

  
But she hasn’t.  
This girl has always hated running. I’m serious. While she was a competitive swimmer growing up, she would loathe dry land practices. I do remember once having her go on a run with me when we were both in Franklin and she did a 2 mile loop on the bike trail and hated her life. The fact she went back at it after having such a hatred for it so many years later is admirable.
Ali has found a love and healthy addiction to Crossfit. Crossfit works for her. It motivates her. She is focused. She has caught on to healthy habits and lost a shit ton of weight the healthy way. She has achieved so much since being part of it. And she keeps pushing herself. She has now, since that 5km, run numerous other 5 km and also 10 km races. She is hooked on Spartan Races (she even bought a damn spear to practice throwing) and the Rock N Roll series of races. She has become a “bling addict.” Last year at this time I was flying down to run her first ever 10km race with her in Disneyland. We ran it together in a 1:27. This past May she ran the TinkerBell 10km in 1:04.  

  
So this weekend I head to LA not for Tijuana or late night shows. I’m going to run the Disneyland Half with my best friend. I’m going to push her towards her goal time, and we are going to have a great time doing it. She may hate me partway through (I can already picture the look of death at mile 10) but I’m there for her. I’m always there for my best friend.

  
Lanikai 

Lethbridge Police Half 2015

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OHHHH, I had high hopes for this race personally. It isn’t my goal race of the summer (that’s next week at Disneyland 10km) but it was a local half that I have done the past two years and know the course quite well. The Lethbridge Police Half Marathon (and 5km/10km) was held Saturday, August 29th, 2015. Of the 126 half marathon finishers, I finished 9th overall and 3rd place female…so I even won $75.00! So why am I a little upset with myself? …




Race morning came and I was psyched. I felt positive and strong and ready to go. I did have an awful stomachache the night before and it had sort of gotten better, but I thought it was just nerves. I was hoping to try and run my personal best, so below a 1:35.40. I was aiming for 1:35. I started off quite strong…perhaps too ambitious. I went out way fast for mile 1, and slowed to where I should be in miles 2-4. I could see my friend Bob (the one who paced me in Vancouver) right ahead. I wanted to keep this nice distance between us as I wanted to be pushed.

   
 
I also was lucky to have my husband come help me out today. I had asked him a few weeks ago if he would not work today and bike along the course (he’s an arborist for his own business so it’s not like he called in sick!). I had picked key spots I wanted him to meet me at and then he could let me know how my placing was, and really, wanted his encouragement. By the time we got to Henderson Lake, at around mile 5, my legs were starting to feel a bit heavy and my stomach wasn’t feeling right. Ok, I just kept my eyes ahead and kept looping the lake and when I got to mile 6 I was still on pace for my goal. 


Then, it started to slowly get slower. 


Now that I look at the barely used Nuun water I prepared in my bottles, I don’t know if I didn’t hydrate enough or what. My legs got so heavy and I was not able to keep going in the 7:20s. After mile 7 I officially gave up my 1st place female spot. I could still catch up if I lit a fire up my rear, but the gap slowly grew. I knew I had to make up time when we crossed Scenic Drive down to Lynx Trail around mile 9. So going down that hill I got back on pace. But my insides did not appreciate the downhill descent. 
I have done this hill a ton of times, but my ever present stomachache got exponentially worse as I descended to the river bottom. I had to speed walk in two spots and I almost wanted to stop at the porta potty near Helen Schuler when we got to mile 11. At that point first place was long gone and Heather came up earlier on in the river bottom and passed me. I wanted to hold on to 3rd but I also wanted to stop!

Down in the river bottom was where Dan made all the difference. Up above on the streets and parks, he just biked to a spot, took a picture, and sped ahead. Since I was in pain down here and no one was around us, he stuck close by my side for the final 3 miles. I needed to keep having him tell me I had good distance on those behind me and that if I kept where I was at I could stay at 3rd. We ran under Whoop Up and two of my WCHS cross country kids snapped a great photo that showed how happy I was even though I was feeling the pain. Actually, how happy we both were because in the end, Dan would admit to me that he “...actually had a lot of fun doing that with you today! I’d do it again!”

  
I held onto 3rd somehow but boy, I was glad to be done. 1:40.13…well off what I am capable of. I know I haven’t been running the farther mileage on weekends this summer like I was in Spring training for Vancouver, so that’s a huge issue. Summer heat training has been tough and I’ve been doing lots of short speed work. I’ll be set for my 10km next week as long as I take it easy the next couple days. The smoke-filled air from the wildfires I don’t THINK bothered me…no coughing at all. But who knows? And I really can’t peg what caused my stomachache….other than perhaps still having some of the craziness of Kelowna in my system from last week. 

So all in all, while I wish my time was faster, I am happy about the day. I got to spend the day doing my favourite sport (Running!) while my favourite guy (my husband Dan!) was by my side and I got to celebrate it all in the end with lots of great friends from the running community who also participated. I also got to spread the running love to four of my WCHS Cross Country athletes, as they did the 5km. The other coach was there at the start and finish to see them, but I got to see them all before leaving. They placed 5th, 13th, 14th and 18th overall in their event out of 188 people! So now, I’m going to just try to enjoy my weekend before we are all back to school with kids in our class next week! Final weekend of no exams or papers to mark!  

   
   

…And that was Summer 2015

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Tomorrow is the first day back to work for us teachers in the Lethbridge School District.  So, farewell summer—it’s been nice knowing you. The first couple days will be a lot of the general small talk of “How was your summer?  Do anything fun?!?” And I personally have had people already ask me, or more so say to me, “You must have run a lot Andrea?”

I did run.  I did my one race of the Summer Alberta Summer Games, but I trained a ton.  Followed a training plan from my coach Dean Johnson pretty well, which was meant to keep me on track and work toward the goal of a 40:30 10km personal best while running the Disneyland 10km, which is coming up this Labour Day weekend.  I also have the Lethbridge Police Half this weekend, which I hope to run my best time at!  We have been having Air Quality Warnings in Southern Alberta the past few days, due to wildfires in Washington state.  Hope it clears up!  I also have in two weeks the time Red Deer Spartan Super and Sprint….and also the Hurriciane Heat!  I have never done the special Hurricane Heat before in all the Spartan Races I’ve done before, so this will be a first!  If you don’t know what one is, you’ll have to wait for my recap!  And rounding out September is my Spartan 2015 grand finale—Sun Peaks Ultra Beast.  26.2 miles of Spartan hell. 

So I am excited for the school year to start because I have some great races ahead!  And not just that; I do love my job.  It is my sixth year in the district and I’ve been at the same school the whole time.  It’s great looking at your class list and seeing familiar names year to year, and it’s also great having courses you’ve taught before.  I have gotten the opportunity to be involved in our schools IB (International Baccalaureate) program over the past year, so that’s always a great challenge.  And today, while we didn’t have to report to “the office” officially, I went in to do a couple hours of housekeeping items.  And I even decided to get to work the best way I know how-I ran.  So long Summer 2015, and hello new school year!
 

Hanging out at my desk after running to work!

 

Summer Training: Slumps & Success

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My training this summer has been all over the place. Some weeks are solid, other weeks it’s like I’ve never run before in my life.  While I have a schedule to follow and check off (If I was just going to “keep up running” in the summer without a schedule it’d be next to impossible) I sometimes am not able to follow it exactly.  

My body is worn out.  I’m not whining, I’m just stating a fact. I had 16 weeks of full marathon preparation and then a bunch more races after the fact before summer hit.  And I kept at it right into the start of summer.  Start of summer brought a horrific heat wave…still can’t believe that the province of Alberta hasn’t gone into a state of agriculture emergency due to the lack of rain we’ve received.  There have been some runs I’ve had to cut short just because my body can’t handle the heat, even when I plan ahead and go out early.  
Last week, I struggled again. Friday I went out to do my easy run and was having trouble hitting my paces.  Here’s the quote from my running log I keep on this 60-70 minute workout:

“that was trash!!!! My legs were on fire from yesterday’s mile repeats. My bandaid on my open blister wouldn’t stay on my heel and I couldn’t keep pace. I ran down scenic to Wendy’s hill, down to Helen Schuler, and then back up the damn thing. I just plucked along because I was hurting so bad. 6.5 miles in 61 minutes. Average pace of 9:21. Let’s not even talk about the splits. Only my first and third mile was in the pace range.”

Then the following day I went on what was supposed to be a 105-120 minute run.  I left the house at 6:30 am, way before any heat.  But. I faltered:

“something is wrong with me. My legs are feeling so heavy, I have a pain down the side of my right shin and calf. I try to pick the pace up and I just can’t. I did everything right leading up to today, in that I went to bed early, got up at 5:30, out the door by 6:30 Had moleskin over a bandaid on my heel. But it was just hiccup after hiccup. I cut it short at 9 miles and 1 hour 20 min and 38 seconds. It was just painful. 8:31, 8:44, 8:51, 9:22, 8:55, 8:44, 9:20, 9:02, 9:02. So actually now looking at that, I had two miles that were over my pacing limit, so it makes me feel a bit better. I just don’t know what’s up.”

I took Sunday-Tuesday off.  My legs needed rest.  I rolled out my muscles lots using foam roller and “The Stick.”  My blister healed.  I felt rested and set for Wednesday. Wednesday would be a 50-60 minute run at easy pace, which for me should fall between 7:52-8:52 minute per mile. 

“That was encouraging. Will have to roll out my hamstrings more later tonight but my 6 miler felt pretty good! 8:33, 8:29, 8:32, 8:35, 8:36, 8:29. Consistency and right where I wanted to be.”

With that in the books I headed into my speed workout on Thursday pumped.  I successfully completed 20×200 metre repeats of 90-95% with 200 metre jog after each one. I felt strong!  And today, I pumped out 7.04 miles at the easy pace…with my best mile being the final one!  8:54, 8:27, 8:24, 8:32, 8:23, 8:41, 8:19.  

This past week hasn’t been the only running roller coaster this summer, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  The main thing I need to learn from it is to not get discouraged when training days are tough, and to listen to my body.  I obviously needed the rest, and those couple extra days gave me some gusto back. Now to keep at it strong for the rest of this month, and I’ll cap it off with my sole August race: The Lethbridge Regional Police Services Half Marathon.  

A Decade of Marathons 

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I have wanted to do this post for sometime, but haven’t found time to sit down and do it. So now I am finally sitting down and doing it! While Vancouver Marathon has come and gone, I can’t stop thinking about that race. The more I think about that race, the more I think about the races I did before it. And then I realize how long I have been actively running long distance races.  

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I ran my first full marathon in May 2005. 10 years ago! It was the Madison Marathon in Madison, Wisconsin. I trained with a plan my friend Matt had put together and was able to finish in a respectable time. I was sore and felt like junk afterwards though! My body wasn’t used to the beating it was put through. I honestly couldn’t lift my leg over the tub to get into the shower a few hours after the race! But, even with all that pain, I was hooked. It felt great to do something not everyone can do! I did my second marathon the following year in 2006, when I repeated that very event. The heat index was out of control and they actually closed the course after 5 hours and 15 minutes. Thankfully I had finished.  

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I did marathon number 3 that same year in October-The Chicago Marathon! It was my first BIG event! 40,000 runners…through the streets of a big city…amazing crowds….I broke 4 hours in this event and felt unstoppable! The next year I did Madison again, and I dropped a few more minutes off my Chicago time. Wow…maybe I can keep dropping time? Maybe in the future I could qualify for Boston? Well, reality hit when I ran the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in October 2007. I ran my second worse race, hadn’t really properly trained (I had been working at Badgerette during the summer running Pom Pon camps and not really taking training seriously in between). When I did Madison Marathon the following May 2008, I only dropped half a minute off my Lakefront time. Maybe I wasn’t meant to get any faster??

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Madison Marathon 2005—4 hours 27 minutes 38 seconds

Madison Marathon 2006—4 hours 47 minutes 48 seconds

Chicago Marathon 2006—3 hours 59 minutes 25 seconds

Madison Marathon 2007—3 hours 56 minutes 37 seconds

Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon 2007—4 hours 42 minutes 18 seconds

Madison Marathon 2008—4 hours 41 minutes 50 seconds

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Then I moved to Canada. And I trained in Lethbridge for my first marathon in Canada. While the training seemed to go well, my body wasn’t well adjusted to the elevation and I bonked. I did awful. This was the Calgary Marathon in 2009. And after this race I took a hiatus from full marathons until January 2014. This was when I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon to cap off my Dopey Challenge four race adventure! Now, I had trained extensively for this event, doing many 10km and half marathons in preparation. And during that time I had dropped down all my shorter race times and had gotten faster! And all that hard work paid off because I didn’t just break 4 hours, but I ran my fastest race yet! This got me thinking about the elusive Boston Marathon again. If I focused on training for full marathons again and took my training up a notch, maybe, just maybe I could drop enough time to make it there! I trained for the May 2014 Calgary Marathon. I ran in, running way better than I had in 2009. But it wasn’t good enough. I was frustrated. I quickly registered for the Edmonton Marathon in August 2014, hoping to shave enough time off. I faltered. And it hurt. Maybe it was time to retire after running 10 marathons…

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Calgary Marathon 2009—5 hours 3 minutes 37 seconds

Walt Disney World Marathon 2014—3 hours 50 minutes 52 seconds

Calgary Marathon 2014—3 hours 46 minutes 22 seconds

Edmonton Marathon 2014—3 hours 44 minutes 59 seconds

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I decided to give my Boston Qualifying attempt one last shot. I trained my ass off for my 11th marathon, the Vancouver Marathon held this past May 2015. I had a training plan made specifically for me, and took things more serious than I ever had before. It was all or nothing. And that attitude paid off. I not only made the 3:35.00 qualifying standard for Boston, but I smashed it by just over 10 minutes! After 10 years of running marathons, I had finally achieved what every runner wants-to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon. And while one would think that marathon 12 would be Boston in 2016, it actually was when I went back up to Calgary in the end of May 2015 for a little redemption. I ran the 50km Ultra during Marathon weekend in a time of 4:39.37….I ran 50km in Calgary faster than I ran 42.2 km in Calgary 2009! I even managed to podium in my age group! 

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Vancouver Marathon 2015—3 hours 24 minutes 56 seconds

Calgary Marathon 50km Ultra 2015, Marathon Split—3 hours 56 minutes 37 seconds

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So now what? Well, marathon #13 will in fact be Boston 2016. I register for that during the second day of rolling registrations, on September 16th, 2015. Running my qualifying time by over 10 minutes paid off! I am all but set to be running the 120th Boston Marathon. I cannot wait for marathon #13, as it will be so sweet. Spending over a decade of my life…my 30 years life….so 1/3 of my existence….running marathons has paid off. Yes, it is a hobby, but it is an important one. Running all these races have taught me determination, focus, resilience and mental toughness. I faced triumphs…and frustrations. But I never gave up. Never, ever give up.

Southern Alberta Summer Games 10 km Recap

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As a teacher, I have summers off. But every summer even since I was a kid, my summers consisted of family vacations, going to camp, working at camp, and then going on my only vacations with my friends and my husband. I usually take off quite a bit during the summer, so my training plans fall through, and I never stay consistent with my running. I mean, two years ago I went to Disney World for 16 days….in August….how was I going to keep a stable running routine while there?

Summer 2015
…turns out I am not flying anywhere, or doing much of anything. No week long trips home, no gigantic trips to Disney, no nasal surgeries, no binging in Newfoundland….nothing. So I needed to keep a training plan and have some goals to keep me motivated. My training plan from Dean (who did my Vancouver Marathon plan!) has me training for a pipe-dream time at the Disneyland 10km Labour Day weekend of 40:30. I need a challenge, might as well shoot high?! I had ran a 41:30 in the Rattler Run 10km back in April (right at the peak of my marathon training) so this seemed within reach.
In the midst of my training calendar I had the Southern Alberta Summer Games 10km race, which was held on Wednesday, July 8th. I had heard about the event from a friend, Danny, and he has done different running and cycling events in prior years. The one thing we have in common, other than running, is that we are adults. Why does this matter! Well, in my head I just always picture these provincial summer games to be for middle-college aged kids…not me. But, sure enough, they have age categories every 10 years up to 60+. The event would be held in Claresholm (45 minute drive) and since I am a teacher and have no work on a Wednesday morning in July at 9:45 am, I figured signing up was a good way to spice up my training routine!
Now, I said I wasn’t going anywhere or “doing anything” this summer. Sort of a lie. My Wisconsin mom is currently here and six days into her three week visit. I had also thought this would be fun for her to come watch, as she hasn’t been to many of my events before. I wrote about my first half marathon she ever came to here, where I did the Trailbreaker Half in Waukesha, Wisconsin, during Spring Break 2013. This would be a good day outing for us. I didn’t really know what to expect with this race, not the same way as I do with others. She asked me the night before “how many people are in it? How many are in your age group?” I was totally left in the dark. When you do a summer games event, in particular when you do a solo summer games event, it appears you don’t know who is showing up until you show up yourself.
We headed out to Claresholm at 7:30 am. My event wasn’t slated to start until 9:45, but registration would begin at 8:00 am. My first comment to the organizers is that they should have had the 10km be the first event. It was supposed to be a mass start of the 2.5/5/10km all at 9 am, but a week or so ago I noticed on the site it was changed to the 2.5 km beginning at 9 am and then the 5/10 km beginning at 9:45. A 9:45 am start for a 10km in early July? Eeeeee…..that makes me nervous.

Arrived and was happy to see Randy and crew from Racepro as the official timers!
Yay! I went and checked in, received my race number and timing chip, and then I had plenty of time to relax and warm up. Saw my Lethbridge School District cohort Todd on site as a volunteer. He informed me that the route for the 10km would start as paved road but for about 2km you would be a fresh gravel.  Also met up with my friend Danny, the one who told me about the race.  He would be doing the 5km.



I had peaked at the entry list numbers just to take a look at how many were in my 30-39 female category. There was a number 4 listed there. Ok. I got this. We lined up at 9:45 for the mass 5km and 10km start. The weather felt comfortable standing at this point, with a slight breeze, but I could tell the heat was hiding. We started and I felt strong my first mile, settling in to a 6:45 mile one. Right on where I wanted to be. Then, we had turned onto the never ending rural road. This was still paved but it was one of those cases like when you are on the Vegas strip and you say “it’s right there….it’s just a short walk!” And it isn’t. I slowed my second mile split to a 7:03. Still in a good place.
The 5km runners had already hit their turnaround so now it was me and a high school kid in the middle of this country road. He was slightly ahead of me and I drafted right behind him. At the turnaround for the 10km, Todd was handing out water, which I took, but slightly slowed down. He yelled at me to catch that kid. So, I drank the water (oh man it tasted so good) and kept my eye on this kid. As we ran back on the same route that took us out to the turnaround, I counted all the people behind us. There were only 11 other runners. So 13 total. Small turnout indeed. The shade on this course was non-existent, and the gravel made my feet feel like they were sinking. It was pretty fresh gravel, so there were not any substantial tire tracks sunk in. I kept weaving back and forth trying to find a track to run on, but really just got stuck kicks up more gravel. My mile 3 & 4 times were 7:15 and 7:39. I was going downhill, figuratively.

At approximately mile 4 I did gain enough ground on the teenager and passed him. As much as the heat and terrain were getting to me, I think it was getting to him worse. I steadily increased my distance from him the last two miles of the race, despite having no “rabbit” in front of me to go after. And also, despite my last two mile splits being slower than some of my full marathon splits in Vancouver. I ran mile 5 & 6 in 7:49 & 7:45. I finished in a time of 45:55.

They did the award presentation about 25 minutes later, after the final 10km runner finished. There turned out to be only 2 people in my age category in the end. I also saw a bunch of race bibs not picked up. I wonder how many people were supposed to be in the event? I picked up my gold medal and got a picture with Danny, who also earned gold in his male 30-39 category of the 10km running a time of 19:32. His goal was for under 20 so that’s awesome!



Would I do the Southern Alberta Summer Games again?
Depends. Location makes a difference. I wouldn’t drive all the way out to Medicine Hat for it, but 45 minutes or less sure. They really don’t advertise the event well at all or promote it. It would be very easy for the organizers to make a single page brochure to place in race bags at local Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and area races.  Really, as far as the City of Lethbridge team goes, they just need to not just focus on the elementary schools, but other area athletic organizations who have athletes 18 years or older.  So, not just running….but biking, basketball, etc.  The City of Lethbridge is the biggest in Southern Alberta so there is no excuse as to why we shouldn’t have the most competitors, points, and medals in these games! I’m at the point now that when I run races, I need to be pushed, so the low entry numbers was huge negative.  I’m not confident enough that I can just cruise at a my fastest race pace every time if there is not someone  for me to chase after.  I also wish the start time was earlier for the 10km. July has been ridiculously hot and we are fortunate it wasn’t any worse this morning. I know they have to make sure things don’t overlap with any of the track events happening, but I wish there was a way to make this an earlier start.

So yes, I finished the race first.
But with a less than stellar time. Between the heat, no shade, gravel, small field of runners, and how early it is in my training….I should just be happy with how I did. And I pretty much am. It puts it all into perspective on how trusting your training makes a difference, and that training works. I trained for 16 weeks for Vancouver Marathon and set a new personal best in a 5km, 10km, half and then full when I qualified for Boston at that very race. I kept trucking through the month of May and capped it off with my first ever 50km. Took two weeks off and am now back in the grind, in a way starting from one of the very bottom steps. This just means I have more work to do in order to be where I want to be.

This is Supposed to be Easy……

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I have hit a roadblock.

After the Vancouver Marathon on May 3rd, I still kept up with my training for that month, as I had the Spartan Montana Beast and the Calgary 50km Ultra. I mustered through those (pretty decently too) and forced myself to take a solid 15 days off. No running at all. My body needed some recovery time. Near the end of that rest period, I contacted Dean Johnson and asked him to make me a summer training plan, with my end goal being to get a sub 41 minute 10km at the Disneyland 10km Labour Day weekend. Training for a 10km…easy enough, right?


Well, last week Tuesday I started the plan. My first run went well, although I may have pushed myself a bit too much. On Wednesday, I was really sore and my hip flexors were in pain, but I did an awesome hill workout. Thursday, though, it started to fall apart. I opted to take off on Thursday (could take off or do 40-60 minutes easy) as I thought I would feel better come Friday. I went out to attempt my Friday run of 60-70 minutes at easy pace. Mistake 1 was doing this at noon. Holy hell it felt like hell. The heat is not my friend. Mistake 2 was trying for the lower end of the pace goal (8:15 minute miles). I should have aimed for 8:45 from the get go. I held it together the first 4 miles, but by mile 5 I had an 8:58. Then I self destructed and ran a 9:43 for mile 6. I ended up running 6.68 miles in 60 minutes and felt like garbage. This weekend, I skipped my 90-105 minute long run and took off both days. I am not even a week into this plan and I am already sliding.

The plan was supposed to help motivate me to achieve my goal of a personal best 10km time. But right now, I’m in such a weird place and having a hard time getting back in to running. Maybe it was the 16 weeks of intense marathon training this winter and spring that just has me burned out. I mean, it probably is. I guess I just thought getting back in to a rhythm would be easy, as I had such a successful first 5 months of 2015. I got my best 5km, 10km, half and full marathon times in that time frame, and I also ran my first ever 50km. I have been on Cloud 9 and flying high! But now, it’s month 6, and I am a proverbial pile of shit.
If this summer is going to be successful “running-wise” I need to get out of this funk and back in the game. I need to start establishing a routine again. Having the framework of one, with my training plan, clearly isn’t enough. I need to be getting up before work to do my runs, as if I wait until after it is too hot out. And if I run when it’s the afternoon sun blazing down, I get crabby. And frustrated. And even after this last week of school, I need to be setting an alarm each morning so I am up and have a normal breakfast and out the door doing my run by at least 9 am. If I can get into this consistency, the rest should fall in to place.

“…there are no shortcuts or paths of least-resistance on the road to reaching something worthwhile.”-Dean Karnazes “Run!”

Calgary Marathon Weekend-50 km Ultra Race Recap

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I participated in the Calgary full marathon, half marathon, and full marathon (again), in 2009, 2013 and 2014.  Calgary is only 2 hours away from Lethbridge, so the ease of access to these events is fantastic.  I didn’t want to drive up there and do the same thing again….so when it was announced that they would be having the 50 km Ultra for a second year in a row, I decided WHY NOT?!?!  I mean, I would have been only a month off my Vancouver full marathon training, so my body would be set, and I had never done an ultra.  And what’s an additional 8 km anyway?  So I registered for the race, and put it in the way back of my mind, since Vancouver and qualifying for Boston was what this year was about. I had been so busy with school and coaching in the month of May, that this race weekend snuck up on me.  I will be honest—after Vancouver, I didn’t properly keep training for this event.  My body was exhausted, and it needed recovery.  I did keep up some running in between Vancouver and the Ultra, but it was no where near what it should have been if I was training for the Ultra as my goal race.  I knew I would be able to finish the race come Sunday, May 31st…I just wasn’t sure how ugly it would be.

I headed up on Saturday morning and went straight to the expo.  The expo is at Stampede Grounds.  It is easy to access, with free parking, but the expo itself is small and nothing outstanding.  I was able to pick up my race essentials, and purchase a cute tank top, all pretty quickly.  I then headed to my hotel to check in.  I opted to book on Priceline and got a steal of a deal by ‘naming my own price’ for a 4 star hotel.  I lucked out and got the Westin for only $75!  They offered a shuttle to the start line on race morning, which was a nice perk.  I also took advantage of the rooftop pool later that afternoon.  Dan’s best friend Chris lives in Calgary with his girlfriend Ashley, and I walked a measly 3 blocks to meet them for lunch.  We threw back a few beers, had some great food, and I lamented how I didn’t really care how tomorrow would go.  When we parted and they headed out to a friends’ party, I was sad to be going back to my hotel alone.  I wanted to go out, not run!  Oh well, I would finish this race some way, some how.

race swag

I got up around 4:30 AM, and was on the shuttle at 5:30.  I was only about a mile and a half from Stampede grounds, but having this shuttle was a nice bonus.  I did my bag check, did my pre-race rituals, and was set to go for the 6:30 am start.  The half, full and ultra would all be starting together at 6:30, and the 10km event would begin at 7:30am.  There was also a 5 km that would run at noon!  So lots going on in the morning!  It was comfortable outside right before the race began, but you could tell it was going to get ugly out later on.  Ugly as in HOT.  I tried not to think about it, and when the race began I was off.  I had told myself to try and pace an 8:15 minute mile, as I did 7:49 in Vancouver, but my first mile was just that…7:49.  I knew this was too fast for this hilly, high elevation course. I decided to ease on up and just try and enjoy the race.  By 10 km, I had to go to the bathroom.  Maybe the beer the day before wasn’t a good idea.  This would be 1 of 3 bathroom stops on the course.  The later ones were more so for also having time to hydrate and eat something.  Also around this first bathroom stop I ran into Todd Myers, a teacher at Chinook High School.  He was also doing the 50 km, but he has done crazy races before.  My goal in my mind was now to just stay ahead of Todd. 

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A little bit later, a lady was running next to me and chatting away.  She looked very intense….I could tell she knew what she was doing and was no rookie at this.  I come to find out and realize that this is Dennene Huntley.  Now, you may not know the name, I didn’t know the name on paper…but holy crap this woman is impressive.  She had come back from doing this 24 hour championship in Italy where she ran 193 km in 24 hours.  SERIOUSLY!  And, the funny thing about running into her, is that in Edmonton last year I actually ran into her at the end of the race.  When I was struggling to finish that full marathon, she came up behind me with her friend and paced her friend in to beat me.  She recognized me because I was wearing the same thing I wore in Edmonton, and she had told her friend to ‘catch the purple skirt!’  Her friend was in a similar situation as I was at that race—was trying to qualify for Boston, but didn’t.  It was a heartbreak, much like it was for me.  But her friend, the one who didn’t qualify last year….she qualified this year.  Much like me!  Anyway, Dennene and I ran most the race with eachother from about 14 km on.  We’d lose eachother for a kilometre or two, but then be back together.  She helped me tons complete this race and it was a pleasure getting to know her.  Turns out she knows a lot of the same people as me….my run coach for Vancouver, Dean Johnson….she knows him very well!  It was great hearing her stories as we ran. I could talk about every mile in this race and what happened, but that’d be boring for most of you.  I wasn’t racing this for a record or anything, I was just now on track to really enjoy the experience.  The weather was getting progressively warmer, and the sun was shining super hard.  If there wasn’t the breeze, I would have had to walk for stretches…I hate the heat!  And I have to add, the aid stations saved me this race!  There were tons, and since you do a couple loops past the same spot as you head out and back, and do the extra loop for the 50 km turnaround, you pass some of the stations a couple times.  They had cold water-soaked sponges at a lot of them, and these were amazing.  I think I doused myself in a sponge about 20 times.  I was soaking wet by the time I was done!

east village

I felt fairly in control most of the race until the last 10 miles.  My right leg started to tighten up, especially near my hip flexor and my hamstring.  I wanted to keep on moving because if I stopped, I didn’t know if I would be able to start again.  After I had done the second loop of our turnaround, I had rejuvenated energy, as I knew I was on the home stretch.  I also had no clue of my time after 27.5 miles because my watch died.  We looped back into the city, through East Village a second time, and into the Stampede Grounds.  I was sore, warm, sweaty, tired, and numb…all at the same time.  I was able to cross the finish line in a time of 4 hours 40 minutes and 34 seconds.  The sun was beaming down and I just felt other exhaustion!  I also could barely feel my fingers….it took about 5 minutes to do so, but I am not sure why that happened!  They were bloated and shaking…..nice.  I had put my body through hell and back.  I initially had the thought “never doing that again” but we all know how that pans out….

50 km finisher

….because a while later I saw the official results and was surprised to find out I took second in my age group!   As they would say on “A Christmas Story”…..I WON A MAJOR AWARD!  Ok, it wasn’t major…but it is my first trophy ever!  Makes me feel pretty bad ass.  And It also makes me want to do better at it another time.  And how did I celebrate?  I found Todd in the beer tent, found out he had placed 2nd in his age group, and we toasted our personal victories!  And oh yeah….I beat him!

todd and andrea

2015 Western Canada Spartan Races—Information and a Giveaway!

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Disclaimer: Spartan Race Media Canada contacted me about writing a blog post to generate buzz around the upcoming Canadian Spartan Races. Any Spartan Race Logos/images being used in this post have been used with permission on Spartan Race Media-Canada.  No compensation was received for this post, and the opinions stated here are my own.
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Coveted Trifecta Tribe member for 2015! Going for Double Trifecta with the Canadian events!

My US Spartan Race schedule has come to an end. I completed the Temecula Super and Sprint in January, and two weeks ago I participated in the epic Montana Founder’s Beast! I am so fortunate that I was able to travel to California in the early part of the year for 2/3 of my Trifecta, and being so close to beautiful Big Fork, Montana, is always helpful when the Montana series occurs each year. US Spartan Races occur all year long, all over the country. I could be flying to New York, Ohio, Idaho, Colorado….The choices are endless. I unfortunately do not have the funds to be able to travel across the USA and participate in all these fantastic options. However, I am fortunate that the Western Canada Spartan Race series is right in my backyard!

canada spartan race logoThe Spartan Race Canada series began a few weeks ago with a Super & Sprint in Montreal. Other race sites for the Eastern Spartan Races include Halifax, Ottawa, Quebec City, and Toronto. I have yet to make it to an Eastern Spartan Race, but hope to someday. The Western Spartan Race series begins in June with the Vancouver Sprint. The provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba all have confirmed events for 2015, with a Saskatchewan race also being in the works. With living in southern Alberta, I have the ability to drive just a few short hours to many of these events!

Sun Peaks Sprint Finishers in 2013

Sun Peaks Sprint Finishers in 2013

When I started doing Spartan Races in 2013, I completed my first trifecta by doing Western Canada Spartan Races. My first ever Canadian race was the Calgary Spartan Sprint, which is held right close to downtown Calgary at a local BMX course. I knew after doing this event that the Canadian Spartan Races were the real deal! Canadian events offer the same experience that the USA events have. Some of the same great obstacles are always included—rope climb, monkey bars, spear throw, sandbag carry, barbed wire crawl, traverse wall. But depending on the event, unique obstacles are added! Because of the course makeup in Calgary, there are TONS of mud pits. I’d go out on a limb and say this is the dirtiest course I have ever done! You also get the same great finisher t-shirts and some incredible bling!

Fun in the Calgary Mud in 2014!

Fun in the Calgary Mud in 2014!

While Calgary is held every August, the events that round out the Western Canada Spartan Race series happen in September. I first did the Red Deer Super, Sun Peaks Beast and Sun Peaks Sprint in September of 2013. I am heading out to the same areas again this year, but mixing it up a bit. In Red Deer, I will be participating in the Super on Saturday and the new-to-me Sprint on Sunday. Then a few short weeks later I will be capping off my Spartan Race year by making the drive out to beautiful Sun Peaks, BC, where I will participate in the Ultra Beast-26.2 miles of Spartan craziness! I love that the events have been adding enhancements each year, with different distances and new courses being offered. This makes these races very repeatable, as you won’t do the same thing twice!

Fire Jumping in Red Deer, 2013

Fire Jumping in Red Deer, 2013

Slip Wall in Red Deer Spartan Race, 2013

Slip Wall in Red Deer Spartan Race, 2013

Yes-Snow may fall during a Western Canada Spartan Race!  Sun Peaks Beast, 2013

Yes-Snow may fall during a Western Canada Spartan Race! Sun Peaks Beast, 2013

My first Spartan Race Trifecta from 2013!

My first Spartan Race Trifecta from 2013!

I encourage anyone in Canada who has thought about doing an obstacle course race to look up the the Spartan Race closest to you. Spartan Race, in my opinion, puts on the best obstacle course race in not just America, but Canada as well! I am so sure of this, that I am going to offer my readers a chance to win an entry for any Western Canada Spartan Race in 2015! The fine folks at Spartan Race Media Canada are making this giveaway possible! I will have this giveaway open for a week. You can gain entries for it by entering in my Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post!  You are able to register for the giveaway until it closes on June 3rd.   And if you already know you are going to be registering for a few Spartan Race Canada events, use the discount code AROO15 for 15% off your next race entry!

If you are interested in entering the FREE giveaway for an entry to any WESTERN CANADA SPARTAN RACE please follow the link below to my RAFFLECOPTER giveaway page. You can enter for free there!

Click HERE to enter for your chance to win a FREE Western Canada Spartan Race entry for 2015!

Montana Spartan Race 2015-The Beast!

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This is the third year that Spartan Race has offered a Montana event, with the past two years being the Sprint Distance.   This year, they kicked it up a notch and added the Spartan Beast on Saturday—12+ miles and 30+ obstacles of fun!  Dan and I had done the Sprint the past two years and loved every second of it, so when they made Saturday’s event the Beast, I registered us for it right away!  This year, we also decided to go back to where we stayed the 1st time around—Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in Big Fork, Montana.  This dude ranch has been in operation for 70 years!  It is absolutely gorgeous, and as long as we keep doing the Montana Spartan Races, we will always be coming back here!  Part of the fun for us during Spartan Race weekend is getting away from Lethbridge for the weekend, and being able to drive 3.5 hours south and be surrounded by such beauty and fun is fantastic.  Big Fork is a small vacation “town” (I even think it is unincorporated) but there are a handful of restaurants and bars to enjoy before and after the event.   We opted for the new Flathead Lake Brewery for dinner and drinks on Friday, and we’re very happy with our meals.   The beer was excellent also!  On Saturday, we went into “downtown” and ate at Kiska’s by the Lake, a Cajun restaurant that was also new.  Excellent food and drinks all around!  My Cajun pot pie was AMAZING! Now that I just gave a lodging, food and drink rundown, onto the race recap….

   

  

We had the 9:00 am heat on Saturday, which meant we wanted to be over at the course by 7:30 – 7:45.  Ok, I know I said I was done with the lodging and food talk, but the great thing about staying at the lodge is the proximity to the course.   It is two miles down the road, and since the lodge is the “host” resort you get a VIP parking pass.  If you stay in Kalispell (15-20 minutes drive) or Whitefish (even farther) you are in more of a populated & commercialized area, but you have a farther distance race morning and after the event to travel.  They do offer shuttles with parking right outside of Big Fork, which is great, but I like being able to just drive up and park.  That way we can leave things in the car to come back to after the race, and since we are so close to the lodge it makes for a nice quick trip back.  Also, breakfast is included with your stay at the lodge both mornings, and they started it up in the main building at 5:30 am Saturday.  It is buffet style, with eggs, pancakes, bacon, fruit, cereal, toast, bagels and all the beverages you’d expect.  Seriously, I cannot rave about the Flathead Lake Lodge enough.  They treat the Spartan racers very well and it is worth every penny staying here.
Packet pickup went very quickly on Saturday morning, and this was a relief, as there wasn’t the packet pickup the day before like they offered the past two years.  I assume they canned that since now they had events all weekend, and it just makes it easier to do pickup morning of.  By the time we got on the grounds, the men’s elite heart had just started, with the women right behind.  We were able to watch the men’s elite runners come through the 4 mile area, as it looped right in the main part of the grounds.   This was neat as we got to see them do the bucket brigade and Hercules hoist.  Dan and I tested out the rope climb station they had to practice on and also messed around with the slosh pipe challenge.  Before we knew it, we were checking our bag ($5 bag check) and in the starting gate.
   

  

We had an idea what we would be in for with this race, since we had prior experience running the Sprint the past two years.   I really like that they change the route up year to year, even though the race site is the same.   We started a lot farther back from the main grounds but of course, tackled a hill immediately.  This course has a ridiculous amount of elevation changes happening….calves burn so bad going straight up, then your quads kill going straight down.   I don’t even know how many times we went up to only go down and repeated this over and over again, many times on single-track trails full of rock and debris.  It makes for a good challenge that’s for sure!
 
Many of the obstacles are the same at all Spartan Race courses….monkey bars, walls to climb, cargo nets to crawl over, rope climb, barbed wire crawl, tire flip, traverse wall, spear throw, sandbag carry….the traverse wall was like how it was in California, where instead of being just a single straight wall, it made the shape of a Z.  I was very proud that I was able to make it across this obstacle in Montana all on my own….something I couldn’t do in California!
The unique obstacles in this course we’re ones that were really made from the terrain itself.  There was also logs EVERYWHERE!  Logs to climb over, logs to climb under, logs to carry back and forth with chain link handles, and two separate log carries.  One of the log carries even went out through some mud and water before coming back.
I forgot to mention the injury I faced when Dan and I approached the first log carry, about 2.5 to 3 miles in.  After doing an 8 foot wall, I noticed I had blood coming out of the back of my shoe.  My heel had been rubbing against the back of my shoe pretty bad, as my sock had fallen.  I skipped the blister portion and went straight to open raw wound.  We stopped for a good 10 minutes at the medic to try and clean it up, when in the end Dan just spit on his shirt and wiped it off.   We put a bandaid on it, but it stayed for about 30 seconds.   It hurt like hell the whole race but I wasn’t going to let it stop me.
Dan was in really good spirits for the first 8 miles or so.  We were making jokes and having a great time.  I even remember Dan saying something crazy along the lines of “I love running on trails compared to roads!” and during all the log carryies “I do this at work every day!!”  Once we got to the 10 mile marker, though, Dan hit a wall.  10 miles is the farthest he’s ever run, and that was a few weeks prior at the 10 Mile Road Race.  He never got snappy at me (thankfully!) but he was hurting.  The elevation changes and the distance on his legs was getting to be too much.  We took this photo on my disposable camera at about mile 12 (or so we were told) and then Dan told me to go ahead.  I did jog ahead, because cardiovascular-wise I was feeling great.  Didn’t matter in the end because Dan caught up to me during the barbed wire crawl that never ended, as I was struggling to figure out how to do it with the water back pack.
 
In the end, Dan and I finished together in 5 hours and 11 minutes.  The pain of the race would hit me hard the next day, but for Dan he just had utter exhaustion on the day of.  We picked up our bag and Dan didn’t even bother rinsing off.  He put on his layers of clothes and got a ton of food from the food trucks that were set up.  After gorging himself, he promptly fell asleep for about 45 minutes on the grass in the food truck area.  So I was left to eating and drinking beer by myself.  The nap was needed for him though, because he woke up a lot happier and less crabby :)
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One glitch in the race day was that the Beast finisher shirts had not arrived.  So everyone that completed the Beast would have to wait to receive their shirt via mail.  We did get an email explaining more about this shortly after, and I was able to confirm our shirt sizes and new mailing address.  Once we receive them and they are the correct sizes, I’ll be fine with this mishap, but if there are errors or delays it will be even more frustrating.  When you pay fees like this for these events and aren’t even given all of what is included on the day of the event it is unfortunate.  Hopefully something like this doesn’t happen again.
That being said, Dan and I will be back next year.  For the Beast?  Probably.  I assume they will have a Beast and a Sprint again, as the Beast was very well attended.  The Sprints always have more participants, but I think it is worth their time having both.  The location is ideal!  Basically, whatever event is offered in the Saturday we will do.  And while I have done back to back Saturday & Sunday Spartans before (Sun Peaks Ultra/Sprint, Temecula Super/Sprint and in September the Red Deer Super/Sprint) I don’t think Dan and I will do that for Montana.  We enjoy coming down the day before, having great food and beer, taking in the resort before and after the event, and having a great night out on the town Saturday.
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Oh yeah….and this race was my Trifecta event!  By doing the Super and Sprint in Temecula and now the Beast in Montana, I have completed my first Spartan Race Trifecta of the year!  I will be doing my second in September when I do the Red Deer events and then the Sun Peaks Ultra Beast……omg, I signed up for the Ultra Beast.   Crap……
trifecta