A two month experiment

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I need to do something to my daily regime to liven up my body. While basic running is what I love, I noted in my last post that the act of finding a new route to run did wonders…but I need something more. Something that will help me see some visual results, which will in turn hopefully translate to physical improvements. Now that I have experienced one month of my 30s, I have decided to embark on a two-month experiment….

No booze….
….well, except for twice.

On Saturday, November 8, 2014, I am participating in the 9th Annual Tyranena Beer Run Half Marathon. I will enjoy my two included post-race beers after the event, and that is it. Come Christmas Eve, I will also enjoy a glass of wine during dinner. And then when 2015 rolls around I will reevaluate my training and beverage consumption, hopefully creating some more clearer goals.

This no booze will be interesting, because well one—it is well-known my husband and I love our craft beer. We even have a craft beer advent calendar that I purchase last month…but since I embarking on this experiment during December, we have decided to save the calendar for January as a nice treat (If Dan was drinking each beer on his own all through December I may crack.). But I’m curious to see what happens if I cut it out. Even without cutting it out or down last year during my Dopey Challenge training, my body composition changed rather drastically. The number on the scale lowered quite a bit, and I was surprised at by how much, even with no major diet change that was kept consistently. Yes, when Dan and I did our crazy “Clean-Eating Challenge” (Link is HERE)in June we both also lost weight, but we were tired and worn out. While I won’t be enacting another challenge like this at this point (not enough time to barely make a bagged lunch for work it seems this school year) I will be attempting to watch what I eat a bit. And with the decrease in alcohol, and in keeping up with my exercise, I am sure hoping I will see some positive changes that I otherwise wouldn’t see in winter months.

I have been trying to go into the school twice a week to work out with two friends. Yeah, I am going to admit to be failing at that. I am so not a morning person, unless it is for a race. 5:45 am alarm is ridiculous. But I liked it. So I either neither to just get my ass up. Or try something else for variety. Since I got Ali into running, I am keeping my promise and giving Crossfit a good old try. This Saturday I am going for the trial class to see what it is all about. No promises, but it will be something new.

In the end, I know I will end up mostly just running. But varying my calendar and adding new challenges for myself will be what keeps it fresh. I have a small handful of cross country runners who come run on Tuesday and Thursday with me after school—-it keeps us accountable. And also, with this “dry-streak” for two months, I decided to do a “Run-Streak” of my own. While many runners do “Run Streaks” in December as preparation for Holiday eating and cold weather, I figured I’d start now. I made a calendar and I am running every day from now until January 31st, even if one day is just a mile. One mile is the shortest distance.

I have now five events between now and the new year. Tyranena Half, Mustache Dache 5km (both in a week and a half in Wisconsin while I am home!), Claus Cause 10km, Santa Shuffle 5km, and on New Years Eve the Resolution Run 5km. Having events always keeps me motivated, and keeps me training, and even these aren’t any huge do-or-die type events, I am still motivated to do my best and reach goals in each. For instance, I will be pacing my friend Kirby at Tyranena in hopes of a personal best for her (2:15 is the magic number!). I am also hoping to get a personal best in the Claus Cause 10km (need below a 45:37!). And in the near 2015 future, I have my Spartan Race Trifecta looming (Temecula x2 and Kalispell) plus some other ideas of intense events up my sleeve.

So this two month experiment is just a stepping stone to help me see what I am fully capable of and in turn, hopefully, make me a healthier and stronger woman. I’ll be keeping you all posted in the process!

The Best Medicine….

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News Flash—-I have been ridiculously busy since the start of this school year. Yeah, I realize most people in the work force are, but this school year has really been a busy one. Our school day runs 8-3 each day, however, I am usually there by 7:40 AM, and have been staying until 6:00 PM or later each night. Planning for my new classes and staying ahead has been a priority. As for running. I have been able to do three runs a week after school with the Cross Country kids, but other than that, I haven’t been doing anywhere near what I was doing last year. My long runs tend to now just be when I have an event (Lethbridge Police Half, Bare Bones Half) and I am not really sure I am liking this. While the rest on my body is much needed, the consistency I was used to and valued the last year and a half is not there currently.

Yesterday, we had parent teacher interviews from 6:00-9:00 PM. This was after a morning of teaching, and an afternoon of professional development. A few of us went to dinner beforehand, and a friend of ours (who is not teaching this year) met us. We made a comment on how tan she looked. She hadn’t been tanning, but made a comment on how she has been going on walks mid day while the sun is out. What a rare concept for us locked in a building all day-outside…..fresh air…the sun! Today, during round 2 of Parent Teacher Interviews, a colleague came and sat down by me to ask how my running has been going. I lamented on how I am not going “as crazy” as last year but have some good events coming up, and that cross country with the kiddos was awesome. We chatted about my upcoming half marathon back in Milwaukee and my Spartan Races in January. I even mentioned how I am contemplating some crazy winter races in February. My best friend Ali, who is now a glorified runner in her own right, sent me a text from the Rock n Roll 5km expo in Los Angeles—she found a head band to buy me and wanted to share it. And later today when I went to the wine & scotch tasting at Andrew Hilton, Max (the owner) randomly started talking to me about my running, asking me what distance it is I usually compete in. He had been well aware of my RunDisney events, but he wanted to know more about what I do in the local area.

All this talk of running made me feel guilty of not having a plan at the moment, calendar wise. All during my RunDisney, Calgary and Edmonton training, I had a meticulous calendar with my runs planned out, whether they were long or short, speed work or easy. I have been sort of half-ass been going forward through the motions. I have been so worn out from work that after my short runs with the cross country kids, all I want to do when I get home is shower and collapse on the couch. That was my plan for today too, as I was beat from the full day of work and interviews all night and morning. However, I decided that perhaps the best medicine for this case of the blues was to just go out there and do what everyone knows I do-Run.

I changed into my running gear, threw on my Fitletic belt, and went out with the mindset of running more than 4 miles. I knew I needed to go someplace different, to get me motivated. I decided to run out of our neighborhood over to Whoop-Up Drive, where I took a paved walking path to Bull Park Trail. I have been on this red shale path before, but not in the recent future. I did my first mile in a powerful 8:20, flying with the wind pushing my forward. I headed onto the shale path with the plan to head down to the river bottom and come back up. However, when I made it to the bottom, I decided to go off the beaten path.

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I was adjacent to the Oldman River, but on the opposite side of where I usually would run. Fort Whoop-Up and the paved trails were East, while all I had in front of my was a grey shale path. I followed this path for some time until I got to a fork in the road—stairs up, or a foot path towards the bridge.

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I decided to go for the foot path. And it rejuvenated me. If I had been walking this path I would have been having a mild case of vertigo, as this was narrow and dropped off to the river. But, I was feeling alive, running in the cool 50 Fahrenheit wind, with the fall leaves crunching at my feet. For a bit of time while on this path, I felt like a crazy-ass Ultra runner…one of the 50km participants in the yearly Lost Soul Ultra. And I was loving it. I was snapping photos every chance I could with my phone—the scenery was uplifting.

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I stopped right next to Lethbridge’s icon-The High Level Bridge. I have taken photos of the bridge before, but not from this spot. I didn’t even remember to stop my watch as I snapped photos and took in my surroundings. This was what I needed.

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At this point I was already over 4 miles into my run. I needed to turn back. Instead of doing the same route back, I opted to run through the tunnel under Whoop Up drive to the path that heads up to the University. I ran up to the university, weaved through the parking lot, and headed through Nicolas Sheran Park. By the time I reached home, I had clocked in 7.3 miles.

I hadn’t planned on running 7 miles today. All I had planned was to shower and collapse on the couch. But, I opted to head out there and muscle through to see what was possible. This run woke me up, made me realize I was in fact alive. While I have been running the past 11 years, and while I have been going crazy with races and training the last year and a half, this simple solo run was an morale and confidence booster that I very much needed. It reminded me why I love to run.

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Bare Bones Half Marathon 2014

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Last year, on the Saturday before the Bare Bones Half Marathon, I was eating poutine at Wendy’s in Airdrie, Alberta. We were on our way back from High School Cross Country Provincials in the far away land of Drayton Valley, a lovely 7 hours north west of Lethbridge. And then, I got to bed at 1 am, managed to wake up on time, and run my personal best of 1:41.07, which earned me a first in the 20-29 category, and a second overall for women.

Fast forward a year and it was déjà vu. Saturday was Cross Country Provincials again, but this time in a city a more manageable distance away-Okotoks, which is 2 hours northwest. The kids on our team did great, and to continue the tradition of eating crap after a day of watching them run (hey, I did total 9.12 miles of walking that day cheering them on!) I decided to gorge on nachos at Boston Pizza. I was able to get to sleep by 9:30 pm, a whole 3.5 hours earlier than the year prior!

The start of my race morning did not seem promising, however. I woke up sore, with bloated feet. My legs were sore and I felt like I could sleep another 9 hours. The day prior gave my body a beating, and I hadn’t even ran yet. I somehow managed to get ready and make it to Softball Valley in time for the race….sorta.

I parked my car at 8:50 am. I jogged to the bathroom at 8:51. I did a set of skipping A’s, B’s, C’s and butt kicks before heading into the starting corral at 8:57. I sure hope I was warmed up, and if I wasn’t, well it was too late.

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Bare Bones is a small local race which has a 5km, 9km and half marathon every year. There were over 300 participants total, with 40 in the half marathon. At 9:00 AM, the 9km and half marathon would set out together. The race began and I quickly knew I was going to quick, but I wanted to get the first mile over with. The first mile is through gravel and past the always pleasant-smelling water treatment plant. As we made our way to the trail by the Oldman River, I knew there were three women ahead of me. I kept my eye on them, as I was not sure if they were 9km or half runners. At this point and time my legs had gotten warmed up and I was feeling positive, so I would do my best to catch up to each of them.

I was able to pass one of the ladies as we ran on a cross-country portion of the path, which was put in because of the wash-out by the river. I had two more to catch. We were approaching the 9km turnaround. Thats when I found out that the women I was pushing way-past my desired average pace to catch, were 9km competitors. They turned around, and all of a sudden I was the female leader, approximately 2.5 miles in. Crap-I better not screw this up!

The weaving through the river bottom helped to slow me back to the pace I should have been at. When I reached the dreaded hill climb up to Scenic near mile 5, I started to slow dramatically. I knew my pace would drop off here, as this hill is well over a half of mile of hell. My calves started to feel super heavy. This was the point where I knew the chance of a personal best was GONE. But I kept thinking about keeping my place as lead female and pushing the best I could…hopefully get a sub 1:40 still.

I made it on to Scenic Drive and it took a few minutes for my legs to loosen up. I slowly got back on track to the pace I thought would be reasonable to aim for (7:30-7:35). Distance between me and the closest male runners was spreading, and this race was starting to feel like a solo adventure. It was starting to get extremely tough mentally as I knew I needed to keep at race pace, yet I had no one around me. I was alone.

The turnaround near Tudor Estates is was saved me. The out and back layout of this course is perfect, because that hill beats you up and makes you feel all alone, but then on the way back you get to high-five other runners and in time, run down that crazy-ass hill.

The turnaround also gave me a vantage point of how close the women behind me were. There were three women within striking distance, all around 1-2 minutes behind me. If I hit the proverbial “wall”, slowed down even a little bit, or they picked it up at all, my position would be lost. I kept trying to think positively, and now my goal was to keep this position and hopefully get a Bare Bones personal best, as I wasn’t completely sure if sub 1:40 would be in the cards. Every word of encouragement I received from fellow racers as I headed back to the hill were bursts of energy that I so very much needed. And Amiee, a colleague of mine in the Lethbridge 51 School district, did an extra awesome job of giving the most energetic high-fives mid race as we would cross each other!

As I rolled down the hill, I knew I still had a decent position away from my closest female competitior, but I didn’t want to get too comfortable with that. It was down at this very trail that I lost my steam during the Police Half Marathon in September. In that race I was on time for an EPIC personal best, but gained a bunch of time during the last 5km of weaving by the river. I still nudged out a personal best (3 seconds faster, but still counted!) however, I knew I could have done better. I didn’t want to falter down here again.

I kept my composure and kept on pushing. When I got to the metal gate that exited us from the Nature Reserve, a volunteer was yelling to me I was the first female. I mustered out the words “how far back is she?” The volunteer guessed 45 seconds. Crap. I made it 12 miles in first place. I wasn’t going to screw it up the last mile.

The last mile is tough as you are running through the same gravel area as the beginning and it just feels like a quarry. You couldn’t see the finish line or hear any spectators. It is a mentally draining stretch. As you finally round the corner where the new road from Scenic was put in, the finish line awaited. I lengthened my stride the best I could and rolled on in. 1:40.43—first place female and a new Bare Bones Half personal best for myself!

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Just like in September at he Police Half, when I stopped after the timing mat for the workers from RacePro to removed my chip, my calves were shaking. Not just a little, but pulsating like they were going to explode. My left knee was twitching. My body felt like a wreck. I walked a bit for about two minutes, grabbed some water and a coffee, and did the one thing a runner should never do after running a half marathon—-I sat down on the ground. Glenn and Grace (local runners whose children go to WCHS) both yelled at me to not sit down and I quickly responded “I don’t care!” The ground was what I needed!

I didn’t stay down for long, as I knew I needed to keep moving. I wandered back and forth to my car, to layer my sweats and long sleeve back on. I got more coffee and snacks and stretched. I cheered in the rest of the half finishers—former student of mine Kristin finished her second half marathon in under 2 hours, a new personal best for herself! And Aimee and her dad came running into the finish line together, hand in hand, and it made me smile. It made me laugh later when she told me he was giving her a hard time the whole way that she needed to pick it up.

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The age group awards were presented, and I received a white with gold glitter dog bone medal. When I came home, I promptly wrote my time on the back with a black permanent marker, and my overall place. I also made sure to write “1st place female 30-39″ because while I did place 1st female overall, this race will always be the first half marathon of my 30s, and I am going to remember it fondly. Who ever said getting old meant you had to slow down? I know I am definitely not ready to slow down!

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Run for the Pumpkin 4km-Recap

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Saturday, October 4, 2014, marked my shortest race since I was 18 years old—a 4km. The local 4km was in its 27th year, and was put on by Lethbridge Track & Field Club. The thing that made this race extra special was that 7 of our WCHS Cross Country athletes would be running in it too. This would be a great pre-zone race for our kids, as two of them had NEVER done a race yet in their life!

The day was gorgeous and perfect for running, We met as a team at 11:00am, which was the start of the 2km race for the younger kids. Our race packages were all nicely grouped together in a WCHS bag, which made it easy to sort and hand out bibs/shirts to my athletes. We had a few age corrections to make and that was quickly changed by Matt K. in the registration tent. The kids were either in the 15& Under or 16-18 age groups. I was in 19 & older.

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Glenn, a local runner whose daughter I have taught (he was volunteering that day) kind of laughed at me running this 4km because he knew it wasn’t “my distance”. He told me to go out comfortably the first lap, and take the second lap like the last stretch of the biggest race of my life. Those words were very wise, but I did the reverse. I ran out of the starting area in a sub 6 minute pace. The up and downs over the rolling inclines were a challenge for myself, as I am used to running on asphalt, and the grass just drains your legs! Cross country is tough! By the time I reached mile 1 on my watch, I had hit 7:04. Holy shit, I wonder if I could keep that for the next 1.36 miles?

The nice thing about this course and how it looped was that I could see my athletes running as I ran. I yelled at a few of them a couple times and it kept me pushing. My chest was hurting and my throat was feeling dry. Holy crap, I am not cut out for a 4km! I kept my eye on a younger girl ahead of me, who I couldn’t tell if she was over 18 or younger, and it made it my goal to pass her before the finish. This kept me pushing and I finished in a time of 17:23. My second mile had been a 7:47, and my average pace was back to my old faithful of 7:30. Go figure!

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After I finished I caught my breath and turned around to watch the kids come in. One of our boys had finished well before me, placing 2nd in his 16-18 age group with a 15:12! The other six did awesome too! Two of the girls earned ribbons in their 15& under group with a 1st and a 3rd. And another boy earned a 3rd in his 16-18 group! Our one girl who had done junior high cities on September 25, which was a 3km, ran her 4km at a faster pace per kilometer than she did at the city race! And our other two girls completed their FIRST EVER race! It was an excellent day all around.

I have fallen more and more in love with this sport. Yes, I myself am now a “long-distance runner.” But, I never got to be a high school cross country runner. Back when I was in high school, I was on the Pom Pon Team (which I would not change for a second) but this took up three sports’ seasons-Summer, Fall and Winter. One could not do two sports in a season, so cross country (fall) was out. And Cross Country was (and still is) huge back home in southern Wisconsin. I love being part of this sport and this community, and I love even more being able to get kids being excited to run. Our Cross Country South Zone Meet was yesterday, and we brought 15 athletes. 8 qualified for Provincials, which is hosted by Strathcona-Tweeds unit on October 18th. I am so excited to take these kids up there and run in the big show! And even though our regular season is done, I spoke with a bunch of the kids today after school and we are going to do a “Run Club” every Tuesday and Thursday to keep the momentum going. The kids are even asking about what local 5km races there are and which ones I do. I love where this is going and I can’t wait to see what happens.

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…It is Time for a New Age Group…

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I am a 29 year old female runner. But, on Wednesday, I jump an age group. I turn 30 years old on October 1st. In the running world, this is a big deal. Age groups at races are usually 10 year groupings. I have been in two major age groups during my time running road races. The first was when I was in my teens, and my first official event I ever participated in (that can be found still online for all to see) was the 2002 Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis. I was 18. I jumped up into the 20-29 age group when I ran in the Madison Full Marathon 2005. Other than larger events that have age groups every 5 years (20-24, 25) I have been sitting comfortably for the last 10 years.

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I am not someone who is “dreading” turning 30. Actually, I think the fact that running has taken over a large part of my life the last two years helps the aging shock. Yes, it is an age group jump, and as someone who runs events regularly I will constantly be reminded that I am now 30. When I register for any event now, my “age on race day” will be 30. But it is exciting as for some events, it will present new challenges. I will be against different competitors in the local races I run regularly. I may place higher than I would have in the 20-29…and sometimes I may place lower. I am looking forward to the new age bracket, and will be running two races this month where my age on race day is in fact 30. We will have to wait and see if I am this positive about the aging process come the next age bracket….

Lethbridge Regional Police Services Half Marathon 2014

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September 13th, 2014, marked the 2nd annual Lethbridge Regional Police Services half marathon. I had ran in the inaugural race the year prior, loved the downhill course, and set a new personal best of 1:46:42. Signing up again was a no brainer!

The night before, I decided to partake in my standard pre-race beers. Now, I don’t write about this often, because I know it is not scientifically proven to be helpful, but for me, having beer the night before a race that is a half marathon or less works wonders. I went for some happy hour beers with my friend Jaclyn after work (2 brews) and then later that night after showering, eating plain pasta, and taking a nap, I went for some drinks with co-workers after the football game (4 brews). I went to bed by 1am, woke up at 6:45 am, and was ready to go.

It was just above freezing at the start of the race, so I ditched my layers the last possible second. The half, 10km, and 5km were all starting together at 8 am, and would be on the same route for about the first mile. Then the 5km and 10km would turn down Lynx Trail into the river bottom as the rest of us continued south in Scenic Drive. When the 5&10km runners split off, I had positioned myself pretty well, and I thought to be around the 6th female runner. I was going for broke, and had nothing to lose, so my first three miles were 7:25, 7:33 and 7:19.

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After mile three, we ascended out of the Sugar Bowl and onto the 20th Ave greenstrip. I had moved my way up to 4th female, and closed in on securing the 3rd position shortly after. I was still feeling really strong, and new I could keep pushing. I wanted to keep third and possibly moved up, since this meant prize money. Miles 4-6, which took me to about hallways around Henderson Lake, clocked in at 7:28, 7:19, and 7:27.

Because of the openness of huge route, the visibility of the runners ahead of you was very open. I had my eye on the woman in 2nd for quite some time, and could also clearly see the first place female with her friend biking next to her. There was a long straightway coming up down 7th Ave South and I knew I needed to make a move if I wanted a chance at 2nd position. This road also had a slight downhill to it, so I kept rolling as fast as I could. Miles 7-9, which went from Henderson down 7th Ave, all the way to the top of Scenic Drive, were 7:31, 7:33, and 7:28. I had locked down 2nd position in the process too!

The steep downhill of Lynx Trail was next. I have done this downhill before in other races (10 Mile Road Race, Bare Bones Run), but usually you have to run back up it. Not today, as you just had to barrel on down to the river bottom. This is about 3/4 mile of steep paved trail, so I lengthened my stride and started actually closing in on the first place runner. She was starting to look tired, and her legs weren’t going as fast as mine down the hill. Mile 10, which took me down the trail to the Water Treatment Plant, was my fastest at 7:13.

You know that openness I spoke of from earlier in the race? Well, since everyone was pretty spaced out by now, except for female #1 and another male runner between us, you couldn’t see much in the winding trails. And there were no spectators along this part of the route. So while the trails are familiar to me, the strain I had been putting on my body for the first 10 miles was catching up, and my mental game was cracking. I kept focusing on female number 1, but anytime I sped up, she did too. When she slowed, I couldn’t overcome the numbness in my quads to get up next to her. Miles 11-12 were really slow at 7:44 and 8:10. My time was 1:30.10, and I could still make a personal best, even with my legs starting to give out. I pretty much had added an extra minute to my previous pace from when we were on flat straight-aways. And while I was still in 2nd position, I was nervous my body would crash and burn.

At mile 12, though, something happened. To east of the trail, I heard a voice yell “ANDREA!!!” On the metal stairs going down from the coulee was Haley, one of my cross country runners from WCHS. She had been doing hill training with her dad that morning. I yelled back to her “COME RUN WITH ME!” and about 30 seconds later I had an eager 16 year old by my side. I told her I was in 2nd place with less than a mile to go, but was wearing down. I needed her to push me to the finish, and make sure no one passed me.

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Haley saved me at the end of that race, as I not only held my 2nd place female position, but I finished in 1:37:51—-a new personal best by 3 seconds! First place clocked in at 1:37:00-If I hadn’t slowed down so much after the downhill, it could have been mine! But, honestly, I was giving it as hard as I could leading up to those last 5km, and the mix of sharp turns, no straightaways, and no crowd to cheer you on, made it tough. Finding my own personal pacer the last mile was key for me finishing as strong as I did!

The woman who beat me actually turned out to be a friend of a friend! She knew who I was from talking with my friend and co-worker Amie, and Amie had told her I was pretty intense and to look out for me! Marissa, the woman who took first place, is not only a few inches taller than me, but a few years younger than me. So, since this was my last race in the 20-29 category I felt pretty proud as I enter my 30s! This race also gave me the confidence that it is possible for me to keep ticking time off my personal best. I have the goal set in my mind to be in the 1:36’s by next year. Considering last year I was running 1:46, and the year before that I was doing 1:56, I am very proud of my progress.

Awards came at 10:00 am, and I was the recipient of a $100 cheque from the police. It is funny to me because the day prior I had went to the courthouse to pay an $89 speeding ticket. Irony. Marissa and I chatted some more, then I went and had a free 20 minute massage from students at the Lethbridge College. The race day started and ended perfectly! I was so excited to share with everyone how I did, so I spread the word on social media. In doing so, I also found out from Amie later that day that Marissa and I share more in common than just running—she also loves herself some craft beer. Maybe she will partake in my pre-race tradition next time? Or at least go have some celebratory beers after? Your move Marissa!

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Dumbo Double Dare Photo Recap-Official MarathonFoto Pictures!

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Finally got around to ordering my Disney Dumbo Double Dare race photos from MarathonFoto. I knew I had to purchase the download package as the pictures of me and my best friend in the 10km were incredible, and the half marathon shots weren’t too shabby either.

Below are some of my favorite shots from the Disneyland 10km, held on August 30th, 2014!

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And now, here are my personal favorites from the Disneyland Half Marathon, held on Sunday, August 31st, 2014.

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What a great weekend! Loved that this event capped off my Coast to Coast adventure!

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