Watch Out Quebec—-Here I Come!

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Being a student and now a teacher, I always have been fortunate enough to have the luxurious week off called “Spring Break.” Lots of people go on crazy Mexico vacations, cruises, or down to Panama City Beach. I either went no where, or to Disney World. I realized this a few days ago when thinking of this blog post—three of my trips to Disney World were taken during Spring Break. One in high school, one in college and one while being a full-fledge teacher. It’s about time I go somewhere different during Spring Break!

I have always wanted to go to Quebec City; my dad was born there and I wanted to look up some family history, be a part of where he was born. In the last years, I tried looking at flights and possibilities during our February break, but the cost was something Dan and I could not take on. I bought a little Quebec City Guide book from Chapters and dreamt of going in the future. I kept looking through the old papers I have of my dad’s adoption, the handwritten letter from the nun, and the envelope with the address of where La Crèche St. Vincent de Paul once stood….680 Chemin Ste Foy, Quebec City. And finally, this fall, I was able to put our trip into official action, using my Air Miles to book us a round trip flight out of Lethbridge to Montreal.

Dan and I are flying into Montreal on Monday, staying for two nights, taking Via Rail out to Quebec City for three nights, then back to Montreal for our final night. I asked Dan this morning what he is most excited about, and he answered “the fact we don’t have every night planned out.”

Usually I am very type-A and over planned. That is best exhibited on Disney trips when I have dining booked 180 days in advance, rides booked on FastPass+, and I am on blogs multiple times a day. For this trip, after making the flight reservations, nothing else was booked until January. That is when I found the wicked deal on Via Rail for two reserved coach seats—-$133.38 round trip!

On April 5th I decided to give Priceline a try. I tried holding out as long as I could, wanting to wait as close to our departure as possible so I could get the best deal. I bid on three hotels successfully—in Montreal, we will be staying downtown at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal and Intercontinental Montreal. In Quebec City, we will be right in the heart of Old Quebec, as the Hilton Quebec. I was able to get hotels at $100, $95 and $94 a night, respectively. I am very pleased with the rates!

We have two dining reservations set while in Quebec City, both at restaurants within walking distance. On the Wednesday night, we will be at Cafe St. Molo, which is rated #30 out of 1130 restaurants in Quebec City. It serves traditional French cuisine in a casual atmosphere. The other restaurant I chose is Le Saint-Amour, which is more of a fine dining location. It looks absolutely gorgeous, the menu looks to-die-for and it is ranked #5 in the city! Along with these restaurants, we plan on eating as much random pub food as possible, and will also be trying any and all microbrews we can get our hands on. We have already been instructed to go to Dieu de Ceil in Montreal for their beer, and we will also talk to locals for their recommendations. We love good food; we really do. So I can’t wait to take part in these dining experiences!

Another planned activity was set last week, after the NHL playoff schedule came out. The Montreal Canadiens have game 4 of the playoffs in Montreal on Tuesday night, so we were able to get tickets! I have been to MLB, NBA and NFL games, but never an NHL game. Dan hasn’t been to an NHL game in a solid 10 years, and the fact we will get to see one of the original six teams during playoffs is very exciting! Timing just worked out in our favor!

I have many other things saved on Trip Advisor, as far as local attractions worth seeing, pubs to go to, etc. None of these events are booked or set in stone…just in the back of my mind! We are planning on spending an afternoon walking to those addresses in Quebec City that I have, and also going to the Musee Bon Pasteur, a museum that has an exhibit featuring the orphanage. I have no idea what to expect in regards to my emotions…will I be a bucket of water upon landing in Quebec, since this is a trip I have wanted for so long? Will the waterworks not begin until officially arriving off the train in Quebec City? How am I going to hold it together on April 25th, which marks the tenth anniversary of my dad’s passing? I have waited so long for this trip, and I have no doubt in my mind it will deliver….a memorable week is about to take place! Je Me Souviens!

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Lethbridge 10 Mile Road Race-Race Recap!

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April 12th, 2014, marked the 41st annual Lethbridge 10 Mile Road Race. I ran this event last year for the first time, (you can find that recap here) and really enjoyed it. Last year, this event marked the first time I ever placed in my age group-2nd place! For the first time since high school, I had actually felt like an athlete! Going into the race this year, I knew I wanted to beat last years time (1:23:14) and also attempt to still place in my age group.

I had also been quietly promoting this event at school to students, as they do a 4 mile event also. Runners Soul awards a school participation award and a high school challenge trophy. Four of my cross country athletes registered for the event! I met with them before my 9:00 am start time to chat and get them fired up to run in the ridiculously gross weather. Their event began at 9:20, so I told them we would meet up afterwards during awards.

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The wind was cold, the snow flurries were blowing, the air was crisp–for me, it was perfect running weather! It could have been worse! Pouring rain, sweltering heat or as cold as it was a few weekends ago during my Run For L’Arche in Calgary…those would have all been worse. I left the start line with a burst of energy and determination-here goes nothing!

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The course is out-and-back, taking the 10 milers down Scenic Drive to Lynx Trail, which leads you down into the river bottom. Runners would wind through the river bottom adjacent to the Old Man River, and eventually turn around once you near the High Level Bridge. The course was the exact same as last year, so I knew what I was getting myself into. As I proceeded onto Scenic Drive, I met up with fellow Marathon Club member Bob H. I have ran with him at club before—he really books it during training runs with his daughter in the jogging stroller!—and also most recently saw him at the Coaldale 5km. He ran a 1:22 last year and told me he also wanted to beat that time. I figured following him while I could would be a good pacing strategy for me! I made sure I always ran on the inside “lane” when we were side by side, because as I have said before, my 5’3″ stature doesn’t always provide the best stride length. I need to hug the curve when possible!

After the first three miles, I had ran a 6:50, 7:39 and 7:31. I was booking it, and Bob even mentioned the crazy idea that I could get a 1:15:00! I was thinking that as we descended into the river bottom, and for a moment got discouraged as a handful of people plowed past me. I am very hesitant going down this hill, as I know how steep it is. It is over half a mile downhill, and if I were to go too fast my legs would be feeling it and hurting once I hit level ground. When I made it to the bottom of the hill, I made a conscious effort to lengthen my stride and make up ground. I was able to catch mostly everyone that passed me on that downhill. I then set my focus forward to make it to the turnaround.

At the 5 mile turnaround, I felt great about my position and pace. I was able to see at that moment I was actually the 2nd place female runner! I knew I needed to keep my pace down in the valley, and really give it on the hill back up to Scenic. Before hitting Whoop-Up Drive, I saw my fellow teacher and her husband running to the turnaround. It was a great energy boost to see Amie and Morgan! When I reached the 6 mile mark, and the hill climb was my next obstacle, I had ran a 7:01, 7:23, and 7:24.

Hill training is a necessary evil. I don’t like it, I don’t think anyone really does, but man does it pay off. I have done this hill so many times before on training runs and races that I knew what beast I would be tackling. At the midway point where it flattens out a bit I even picked up my pace the best I could. I kept my head up and made it up that hill with a slight smile on my face, as I knew that now I was back on Scenic Drive and the last three miles would feel easy compared to that incline. My seventh mile clocked in at 8:52.

Even though the hardest climb was done, the last three miles had to still be tackled with gusto. I didn’t want to lose my pace, so I kept my head forward and focused on that goal. I ran mile 8 and 9 at 7:43 and 7:24. The 7:24 was a huge confidence boost because I was able to get back near to my most consistent pace times. During the last mile I knew I wanted to hold my position, but also knew I could get that glorious 1:15:00! I used everything I had left as I wound through the College grounds to the finish line, running my last mile in a time of 7:03! I finished the race not only beating my time from last year, but clocking in at a 1:14:49! I was shaking with adrenaline as the volunteer took my timing chip off my ankle-I was overjoyed!

Two of my students were on the side of the finish line stretch, and I heard them cheering when I came down, so I went over to see how their race went. They both agreed it went well, but they hadn’t seen the results yet. When we headed inside, we ran into one of the other kids, who felt really great about his race. After finding the results for the four mile, it was awesome to see that all four of the kids did fantastic! The youngest girl in our group, Morghan, had improved her time since cross country season by a lot! Bacho has been running a lot on her own after school since cross country season and also had done the Moonlight Run, so she was quite pleased with her time too! Both Kristin and Tyler, cross country athletes who went to Provincials with our team in October, earned age group awards! Kristin placed 2nd in 16-19 females and Tyler also earned a 2nd in the male 16-19 category! The young man who captured first in his group was actually a cross country athlete at the College, and he came over after Tyler’s race to congratulate him, and was surprised Tyler was only in grade 10.

We found Amie just before the 4 mile awards, and sat as a school for the presentations. It was inspiring to see all the young kids out there doing the 4 mile event! The youngest age category was 10 and under, and there were 21 kids in total! Looking at the results, the number of kids participating that were 19 and under totaled 41! Kids made up 28% of the four mile event field! Awesome!

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The part of the awards that almost had me cry (honestly…I’m emotional) was when Shawn from Runners Soul announced the high school team challenge winners. They had started this award back in 2011, and every year the trophy went with Medicine Hat High School. He made this clear in his presentation of the awards and then made it very clear that it was staying here in Lethbridge this year! Winston Churchill High School had claimed the title! The crowds’ support of our WCHS kids was incredible, and it made me extremely proud to be a “northside” teacher.

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The 10 mile awards followed. I accepted my 1st place medal for my 20-29 age group, and then anxiously awaited my overall award. I had never placed overall before this! At Moonlight Run this year I narrowly missed out an overall award, finishing 4th out of all females. I finished 2/65 in my gender today, and earned $150 as my prize money. Not going to lie, and I am not ashamed to admit it, but I cashed that cheque at Scotiabank so embarrassingly fast after the event. I also called my husband to inform him I was making us dinner reservations at Miro Bistro that night and the dinner was on me!

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Today the sun is out, the snow is melted, and it is above freezing. There is no wind. The weather is perfect for a Sunday afternoon in April. To the average person in Lethbridge, yesterday may have looked like a terrible, rotten, no-good, very bad day. But I think it was pretty much perfect-I’d give it an 11 out of 10.

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Spring Cleaning 2014-Some Things You Can’t Get Rid Of

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Last weekend, my husband and I participated in my annual “Purgapalooza”, AKA Spring Cleaning. I don’t know how we acquire so much crap between two people, but we definitely downsized. Value Village reaped the benefits of our clothes that don’t get worn, books that don’t get read, and other knick-knacks that we had for no reason. It feels good to Spring Clean—I get a sick satisfaction from it.

But with any deep cleaning and reorganization comes random unexpected reflection. For instance, I reorganized all the photo albums in our house and it’s great to look through old photos. I also streamlined some of my final boxes of stuff from back home in Wisconsin, and seeing my old Nintendo set with all the random games made me smile. But, there was one special thing I found that caught my eye and caused me to have very memorable flashbacks-Pass the Pigs.

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What is this? Well, it’s a travel game from Milton Bradley. My parents bought me it sometime in the mid 90s. It’s basically a dice game, but with rubber pigs. My dad and I got a kick out of it. I remember us playing it poolside at various hotel pools, like the Pioneer Inn in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, or various Embassy Suites. See, my dad rarely used his sick days and personal days and I believe he could bank them to be used later on. So there would be some weekends that my parents and I would just drive out of town to an Embassy suites for a night or two, just to go do something. We’d swim, we’d hit an outlet mall, maybe mini golf, we’d enjoy the appetizer happy hour and cooked-to-order breakfast. And my dad and I would play these silly travel games.

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The thing that made me smile the most when I found this game was the fact that there still is a score sheet attached from the last game I played with my dad. Apparently I beat him, 61-55 points. Who knows if we were even playing it correctly, or if I was cheating keeping score. But seeing this score sheet makes me happy. I plan on always keeping that piece of paper, and I plan on always keeping this game. Pass the Pigs survived Purgapalooza 2014.

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Race Recap-Coaldale Family Fun Run 5km

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Today I ran the Coaldale Family Fun Run 5km. While I ran a ridiculous 22 races in 2013, not one of these were a traditional chip-timed 5 km event! I haven’t ran a traditional 5 km timed event since my days at UW-La Crosse, and that would usually be once a year during the annual Turkey Trot. My personal best for a 5km race goes way back….wayyy back!….to August 2003 when I ran the Milwaukee Brewers Sausage Race 5 km in 22:09.

The Coaldale 5km was a small local event held to raise funds for the Coaldale Christian School. Coaldale is about 25 minutes east of West Lethbridge, so getting over to the race start was easy this morning. I had picked my packet up the day before, so I parked in a neighborhood at 9:40 and jogged to the start at the school.

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A lot of families were at this event today, which was fantastic. What was even better was that we had a strange three-hour pocket of sunny warm weather! It was around 50 degrees at start time. The race started at 10 am, with the route taking us out on a paved road towards highway 3. Not going to lie—I went out way too fast. As I pounded out of the starting gate, I knew within 100 metres this race was going to hurt. My legs and my glutes already had tension forming due to the faster threshold I was attempting to hold. I just kept telling myself it would only be 5 km….just a 5 km!

I chose to listen to my music this race, which is rare. Problem was, I didn’t have an arm band or my waist band for my phone. I held it the whole race with my headphones in. I now wish I hadn’t held it, so I could have relaxed my hands, but nothing I can do about that now. In case anyone cares, it took approximately one full play of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” to do 1 kilometer. Now you know!

I was holding my ground fairly well during the race, but could tell I was slowing down about 3/4 through. The paved road turned to gravel, and it was a little mushy. Definitely not a “fast” track. At about 4 km, a lady did pass me, and she turned out to be the 20-29 female winner. As she passed me, I gave her a thumbs up. Again, gotta keep up the good karma! There was no way I could have possibly gone any faster, so no biggie!

When I finished in 22:59 (yes, for real…just broke 23 minutes) my chest hurt and burned so bad. I felt more exhausted than I did last week at Run for L’Arche Half Marathon when I ran 1:38! I was overjoyed to be done with this race, but I couldn’t just walk it off like it didn’t hurt. I had to wander around the finish area a few minutes before my chest and throat stopped burning before I could even attempt to walk and get water! 5 km races are tough for us half marathon runners!

The awards were held shortly after in the gym of the school. They had lots of post race snacks (I had chocolate milk, an orange and coffee). One awesome thing that they did during awards was intersperse random prize draws between the age categories. They also gave awards to the youngest runner, the oldest runner, and the family with the most participants. That family got an incredible gift basket and the kids were so excited to “win” it!

I earned a silver medal in the female 20-29 category. I was 2/16 in my category, 5/125 females, and 23/225 runners overall. This “fun run” really was just that—-the energy was positive, the crowd was fired up, the weather was beautiful, the perks were outstanding. I would definitely recommend this run to anyone in the Lethbridge area looking for a Spring 5km next year!

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Race Recap-Run for L’Arche Half Marathon

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About a year ago, I tackled the Trailbreaker Half Marathon in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It was my first official half marathon of 2013. I had hoped to possibly break my long-withstanding PR of 1:54:19, but wasn’t sure if I could due to just spending a week enjoying the food and drink of Wisconsin! I managed to sneak out my first personal best of the year, a 1:52:53, and was beyond pleased.

Fast forward to this year; last week to be exact. I got up at 5:30 am on Saturday, March 22nd, got myself ready and hit the road to Calgary for the 10:00 am start of the Run for L’Arche Half Marathon. This race would be my only spring half marathon, as I am saving up for the Calgary full and my attempt at a Boston Qualifying time, in June. I knew in my head I wanted to really go for a personal best and break 1:40, but wasn’t sure if it would be in the cards. An early morning 2 hour drive, an unfamiliar trail to race on, and icy cold weather would be the hurdles to tackle. But I had my inner motivation.
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The race started and finished at the Eau Claire Market near downtown Calgary. I had never been here, so was relying on my GPS to be my guide. Made it no problem, and secured a sweet parking spot right outside the food court entrance. Race day packet pickup was also a breeze! I had all my supplies by 9:00 am, so I was very grateful for the indoor seating before this cold race!
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About 15 minutes before the start, I shuttled myself outside. I positioned myself pretty near the front of the group; there was officially 236 finishers in the half marathon. It was nice that it wasn’t too crowded; I didn’t feel like I would get stuck behind anyone after the start while on the narrow trail.

The half began, and all of a sudden I was warmed up and ready to rock. My adrenaline just started pumping through but I knew I had to keep positive thoughts. The course was an out and back along the Bow River. The public trail system was not closed to the general public at any time during the race, but it was so cold that the only people out there were die-hards anyway…so I personally didn’t encounter any issue with people being in the way. The runners spaced out relatively soon, probably by the first mile. It was also at this point that I think I never passed any female runners, or had another female runner pass me. I kind of found myself in my own little world.
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Since the trails weren’t in the deep woods, and they weren’t as windy and full of blind turns like the river valley in Lethbridge, I could keep a good eye on the runners ahead of me. I kept with their pace and kept on pushing to that halfway point turn around. I was trucking along for the first six miles—7:01, 7:29, 7:27, 7:28, 7:27, 7:27. As the runners headed back after the turnaround I counted five women ahead of me. And once I did hit the turnaround, I saw everyone else closely behind. I knew I had to keep pace, even though heading back I would be hitting some wind and probably the proverbial wall.

I kept a good spirit, as I truly believe this helps during a race. I said “good job” to anyone I caught up to or passed, and exchanged “yeahs!” with people who caught up to me. Even though I was also starting to realize my body was conditioned to this bloody cold, I was really starting to tighten up! Miles 7-10 were 7:34, 7:37, 7:43, 7:37.
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When I hit the last 5 km, I knew sub 1:40 was within my reach! I even told guys around me I was gunning for my personal best, and they had to keep me energized! I slowed down a tad over the final icy bridge, and made a push to the finish. My final three miles were 7:38, 7:44 and 7:48. I slowed myself down, got my finishers medal, put my hands on my thighs, and turned around. I had already seen the timer above the finish, but I had to turn around to see it one more time. I looked at my watch and there it was…1:38:40…I had done it! I broke my previous personal best of 1:41:07 from October 2013 at the Bare Bones Half by about 2 minutes and 30 seconds!

The official results weren’t immediately available, so I got some chocolate milk and helped myself to the hot breakfast being served by the Calgary Stampede Caravan. When I finally made it inside the market, I was able to turn my phone on and search for the results. I found out I had finished 6/110 in females, and 1/32 in the 20-29 female age group!

The past year has been crazy. I can’t believe I’ve gone from a 1:50s half runner to a 1:30s. Finding the strength within to run with more determination than ever this past year has paid off. With this finish, I feel even more positive that I can get my Boston Qualifying time this June at the Calgary Full Marathon. I can’t wait to train and race through the springtime!

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Running is Good for the Soul

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I am not an “early morning runner.” I can barely get up the first time my 6:15 am alarm goes off to get ready for work.

I am also not an “evening runner.” Once I get home my eyes zero in on food, shower and the couch. I am so done for.

I have also realized over the months that on weeknights I can barely be a “westside Lethbridge runner.” By the time I drive home from work on the northside, I again just want to eat, shower and collapse.

So even though my eyes usually hurt after a day of teaching, and I want to just curl into fetal position and sleep, I have found that the best time for me to successfully pound out on the pavement is right after school. Sometimes I run with my track & field kids….sometimes I run solo.

I often run through the northside neighbourhoods, but sometimes I head down to the river bottom trails. That’s what I did today—and I don’t regret it one bit. I started in the river bottom right off of Bridge Drive and took the trail towards the nature centre and the bridge. It was here that I mixed things up.

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I headed up those metal stairs so I was now close to eye level with the high level bridge. The wind was hitting me hard but the sun was making the wind not matter. It was gorgeous up there!

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I decided to run down the shale path towards Scenic Drive. I headed south on Scenic until I approached the Galt Museum. I had a bit longer to go before my turnaround, so I found another shale path—one I had never followed before. I kept running parallel to the bridge on a path the stretched farther and farther out…until I reached a beautiful point.

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I hadn’t even know that this staircase existed. If I had had the time, I would have descended into the river bottom here. Instead, I took some time to just take in this gorgeous day.

Someone can have a busy day. A shitty day. A grumpy day. A tough day. A disappointing day. A stressful day. But, somehow, a good run can make all that “stuff” disappear. Running is good for the soul.

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The End-of-Winter Slump

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It was bound to happen.

I’ve been training and racing pretty much non stop since March 2013. So the fact that my left knee hurts a tad and I am sort of in a slump is understandable. Coming off the Moonlight Run 10km last weekend, I was feeling pretty much on top of the world! A normal, sane human being would have taken a few days rest and slowly climbed back into training. I took two days off, then ran 4 miles Tuesday, 8.5 miles Wednesday, and a slow 5 miles Thursday. The 5 miles on Thursday were slow because this is when I really noticed the pain behind my left knee cap.

Our athletic director told me to do the “poop squat” test to see if my knee was really an issue. What is this deranged test you ask? Well, he had me squat with my legs shoulder width and my quads parallel to the ground, like I was shitting in the woods, I held this for 15 seconds. My knee didn’t have any pain as I held it. So, according to Toby, I’m alright.

Maybe it is just a mix of pure exhaustion catching up to me. Friday I was going to do 7 miles, but I opted for a 2 hour nap before attending a friend’s birthday party. I was worn out all night and yawning every five minutes. But, I did the 7 miles on Saturday, and I felt solid! I split the mileage into a 5 miler and a 2 miler—I did a route on the west side of town before going to watch our JV boys basketball team in the zone finals at the university. Then, I ran the 2 miles home. During the first portion of the run, I really pushed the limits and knocked out a 7:33 pace during mile 5. My knee felt just fine!

Today, however, I woke up around 10:00 am. My alarm was not set this morning, so I missed marathon club. I was supposed to get in a 10 miler today. But, now I am glad I didn’t. The pain in my knee is back. And I’m trying to figure out how to best tackle this upcoming week.

My only half marathon of the spring is on Saturday in Calgary-The Run for L’Arche. I really want to lay it all out there and push for that sub 1:40. The course is relatively flat, and appears to have a slight decline after the midway turnaround. It’s a 10:00 am race, and there is packet pick up for out of town runners on the morning of the race. This will allow me to sleep soundly in my own bed, get up early and trek up to Calgary.

In preparation for this event, I am planning on resting tomorrow, but then running 8 miles (Tuesday) 4 miles of intervals (Wednesday), and a very easy 3.1 miles (Thursday) before resting on Friday night. The Thursday run may even become shorter, but I need it as a shakeout run. And if I don’t feel like a complete pile, I will be attending run club on Sunday. Yes, I will have raced in Saturday…and this may be why I feel like I am hitting the proverbial wall…and maybe this is the explanation for the knee pain…but the longer distance of 16 miles is something I need to do when I have others around me as encouragement. With the Calgary Full in June as my big event this spring, I need to feel confident in the longer runs, even if I am taking it at a slow pace. I think come Sunday afternoon, I may be buying a couple bags of ice and having a big old ice bath!

That’s it for tonight. Hopefully next week I have some great news to share in regards to how the half marathon went. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel more like a normal human being again. Doubtful…but it could happen!