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. 

start line

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……
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Vancouver Marathon Recap Part 2-Desperately Seeking Boston

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I actually was able to fall asleep at a somewhat normal time (10:00 PM) the night before the race.  I only woke up once, albeit in a full body sweat (probably from nerves) but quickly went back to bed until my 5:30 alarm went.  I have never gotten out of bed to an alarm as fast as I did right then.  I went through my morning pre-race rituals, as I needed to be down to Erin’s room and set to go by 6:45.  Her friend Rob was meeting us at this time also, and the three of us would make our way to the closest transit station (a 10 minute walk) and head to the race start.  At the expo, they had given all the racers a free transit pass so we didn’t have to drive in the morning; anyone going into the station at this time on a Sunday was all heading the same place, so they didn’t even bother taking the passes.  It was a short 15-20 minute train ride, and then a 10 minute walk, and we were at the start in Queen Elizabeth Park.  Met up with Bob, dropped off our bags, and got set to head to the corrals.

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We were in the front ORANGE corral and had gotten there with lots of time.  Even after they had everyone move up to the start I never felt crowded.  The elites were let off about 30 seconds before the general runners, and once we started, we immediately had room to spread out.  That is positive thing #1—never feeling crowded on the course!  I was going to be running with Bob during the race, and we set our goal pace at 7:50 a mile.  I was a little uneasy about this, as originally I was training for an 8:00 minute a mile, but my previous races and training runs had indicated that I could perhaps push myself on this course.  The first 5 miles were very straight, all business, routes in commercial areas.  There were spectators surrounding us in area, and I was happy I was already finding my pace.  My first five miles were in 7:44, 7:50, 7:41, 7:33, and 7:44.

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At mile 6 we met the “Camosum Hill Challenge,” which was a times 1,230 metre portion of the route up the steepest incline.  This was by no means any hill like we were used to in Lethbridge, but it was a challenge nonetheless.  There was no use trying to keep my pace at the 7:50 in this spot, so we just kept running comfortably, finishing mile 6 in 8:10.  Miles 7-10 then brought us through some other commercial/residential streets, and we eventually wound over to reaching an edge over the water (which you couldn’t see yet as it was lined with trees).  There was also a little quick turnaround spot around mile 8, where Bob and I saw both Erin and Rob fairly close behind us.  We ran miles 7-10 in 7:52, 7:52, 7:48, and 7:37.

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The next portion of the race had approximately three downhill sections, which wound by University of BC, by Wreck Beach, and ended up in more residential areas right before the Burrard Street Bridge.  I was feeling very strong, but still hesitant, as there was still a lot of mileage ahead.  Bob was constantly keeping conversation with me, which kept my head in the game, and not overthinking if I was going to regret my pace.  We ran 11-17 in 7:51, 7:43, 7:34, 7:49, 7:47, 7:40, and 7:46.  It is worth noting that my half marathon split was a 1:42.08.  I was on pace to run a 3:24.16, if I could run a perfect second half.

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While we had met our hill challenge earlier, I would have to say that the Burrard Street Bridge was mentally tougher.  It was a highway bridge overpass and was quite long.  It felt never-ending.  Bob ran into his brother on this portion, who was out watching Bob’s sister-in-law, so we knew she had to not be far behind.  Bob had tried finding her at the start of the race but couldn’t meet up.  I was nearing mile 20 when I knew I had to just keep staying positive, because everything was lining up perfectly.  In Calgary, I bonked at mile 17.  Hitting my miles 18-20 all in 7:46, 7:56, and 7:50 was very encouraging.  I was starting to get nervous, though, because it was mile 22 that I broke down in Edmonton.  On top of this, as we headed towards the beaches and Stanley Park, I lost Bob.  Well, didn’t lose him.  He told me he had to stop to use the bathroom, and he’d catch up, so I kept on going.  But he never caught back up.  Turns out, yes….I could see him behind me at parts on the Seawall when I looked back, but he ended up hanging around near one of the beaches to see if he’d find his sister-in-law.  Bob said he knew he left me in good shape and he could have caught up to me if need be.  I don’t know about that, because I started doubting myself.  I quickly got my head back in the game and realized I only had a 10km left…I had ran a 10km race the weekend before.  A 10km is nothing!  The Stanley Park area was lonely and winding, but flat and had a cool breeze.  When I first started on this path by the beach, I honestly shut my eyes for a split second and took a deep breath in through my nose.  The smell of the ocean and the sand reminded me of when we used to go to the Gulf Shores in Alabama.  I grew up going there as a kid, with my mom and dad, my grandma and grandpa, and the last trip including my best friend Ali.  The Gulf Shores holds a special place in my heart, and picturing that beach and taking a moment to reflect was all I needed to push on.

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I kept moving down that walkway taking in the surroundings.  I passed a few people along the way, as many were starting to lose it, but I kept feeling good.  One of the funnier moments in this section was the table two girls had set up with a sign that said WEED!  Only in BC, I guess.  We rounded near the parts of the Stanley Park Seawall where Erin, Rob and I had had dinner the night before and I was feeling stronger because of the familiarity.  I could see the expo building in the distance across the bay, and before I knew it, I was running by Yacht Clubs and heading into the Downtown Vancouver core.  I felt so energized coming up this small path in a garden onto the streets of downtown Vancouver.  There were more and more people lined up on this final stretch.  I honestly did start tearing up during this final half a mile, but I held it together (mostly) as I ran into the finisher chute.  I ran miles 21-26 in 7:57, 7:55, 7:52, 7:53, 7:53, and 7:52, and I crossed the finish line in 3:24.56….WELL under my Boston Qualifying standard of 3:35.00, well under my goal pace of 3:30.00, and even more under my prior personal fastest marathon time from August of 3:44.59!

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I was shaking at the finish line, I was smiling, and I was happy.  I called my husband first, and told him to post on Facebook what I did, as my fingers couldn’t type it.  I called my mom and told her too, as she was a nervous wreck since the last timing mat that was posted online was from around 37.5 km, with a time of 2:57.24.  My mom was also so confused with the kilometre distances and paces, so she was just anxiously awaiting a phone call.  I did not venture too far from the finish area as I wanted to wait for Bob, and he crossed in 3:28.55.  I was so fortunate to have him running by my side during the race, and more importantly, convincing me that hitting a 7:50 pace was possible.  I did not just hit that pace, I beat that pace!  Erin finished shortly after that too, running a 3:30.49, her personal best and a Boston Qualifier!  Bob’s sister in law also got a Boston Qualifying time of 3:29.49.  It was an overall successful day for all of us desperately seeking Boston.

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I met up with Tim and Alex, who had been waiting for me near the finish line.  Tim had brought me some celebratory beers and we headed down near the Olympic torch for photos and to find a spot to relax.  I eventually headed back to our hotel to get my post race massage, clean up, and we headed out to lunch at a pub in Kitts Beach.  I did not want to leave.  This day was beautiful weather-wise, scenery wise, friend-wise, and just plain overall one of the best days of my life.  Hard work pays off.  That’s all I can say.  I didn’t give up.  I had tried two times before and failed.  But I went out more determined than ever to achieve something that has always been a bit out of reach.  What’s next….well, I already booked my hotel for Boston, as my qualifying time will allow me to register two weeks ahead of everyone else.  I will take it easy for a bit (I am doing the Calgary 50 km at the end of the month though….) and I will enjoy the summer.  I am not sure what I want my goal to be at Boston, other than completion, but I am thinking I could challenge myself to shave a bit of time off.  Shaving a bit of time off won’t qualify me for the Olympics or become an Elite, but it will give me something to strive for and work for.

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I am Andrea Lammers-Pottage.  I am 30 years old.  I am a wife, daughter, cousin, niece, teacher, and friend.  And now I can also proudly say that I am a Boston Marathon Qualified Runner.  Je Me Souviens, forever and ever.

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Vancouver Marathon Race Recap Part 1….Before the Big Event

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I registered for the BMO Vancouver Marathon back in about November.  I was feeling really frustrated and defeated after my summer marathons (Calgary & Edmonton) as I didn’t come close to qualifying for Boston.  I ran 3:46.22 and 3:44.59, respectively, at both of these events….well off the qualifying standard of 3:35.00.  So when I decided to give my Boston qualifying attempt one more shot, I wanted to pick a race I hadn’t done before.  And a race that was known for being a good course for qualifying.  It was suggested to me by many people that Vancouver was the course for me.  Sea level, rolling downhills, late Spring, spectator support, large city….I registered, booked a flight, and started thinking about my training.

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I have mentioned before I had Dean Johnson create a training calendar for me.  It was a 16 week training plan, which he took into account my previous fitness achievements and levels.  Each day had set paces I needed to achieve and unique workouts.  Dean went above and beyond and updated my training plan to reflect the success I was having in half marathon and 10 km distances in late winter/early spring.  This training plan held me accountable, as I kept a log of how each workout went in a Google Doc, and it really pushed me above and beyond what I thought I was capable of. 1

So here comes May 1st.  The day I travel to Vancouver.  I was nervous, anxious, excited, scared….basically a pile of emotions.  I had been training specifically for this event for 16 weeks, but as I drove to the Calgary airport, it occurred to me that I really have been training for this since my first half marathon in May 2004.  I wrote about that half marathon here, as it was a race I ran in a daze….it was less than a week after my dad passed away unexpectantly from a heart attack.  I have been running long distances ever since.

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So this race was important.  I have been committed to running long distances for now over 11 years.  Some years were low, some have been high.  The past two years have been a steady high, with breaking personal records, getting podium at local races, and feeling like I am in the best shape of my life.  It was also low when I didn’t get that coveted Boston qualifying time.  I was out on this run to prove to myself I was worthy of running in Boston.

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The expo was held in Downtown Vancouver at the convention centre next to the Olympic torch.  I had stayed with my good friends Alex & Tim in Burnaby the night before, and they were nice enough to drop me off down at my hotel for the night, which was near the expo.  This hotel wasn’t originally in the plans, but my cousin Erin is too nice and booked me a room.  She would be staying there too!  I wandered over to the expo, and this is when I first started getting the chills….the expo was right on the water, it was a gorgeous, crisp and clear day, and the energy was high.  Packet pickup was extremely fast, and before I knew it I was on the merchandise floor.  There were not tons of vendors, but enough things to look at.  I bought a Run Van tanktop, which I know I will wear lots in the summer, and some more Nuun tabs from their vendor table.  Included in our race package (which was a drawstring backpack) was a commemorative shirt (which I really liked….a short-sleeved charcoal grey tech shirt), our race bib, and a transit ticket for the race morning.

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I ended up going back to the hotel to nap in the afternoon, as I didn’t sleep well the night before and was a bit worn from all my travelling.  Actually, before the nap I ordered pasta for lunch via room service.  Eating that in bed while watching HGTV was fantastic.  I was wide awake then when Erin and her friend Rob were ready to go get food for supper.  We went to this sweet market nearby and bought sandwiches and salads, headed to Stanley Park, and had a picnic.  The weather was gorgeous and this was a very relaxing way to spend the evening.  We were back at the hotel somewhere around 7:30, which gave me tons of time to wind down and get prepared for the big event in the morning.  I even was able to head to bed by 10 pm and slept great!  Now I just needed the following Sunday to be the best run of my life……

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EXCEPTIONAL NEWS!

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In August 2014, my husband Dan and I were fortunate to travel out East to beautiful St. John’s, Newfoundland.  During that time, we attended George Street Festival, an awesome music extravaganza!  We were lucky enough to see Dropkick Murphy’s on one of the night’s mid-festival, and had a prime spot….front row of the patio at Rockhouse.   The show was awesome, every last bit of it.  The crowd was ecstatic.  A lot of songs I had not heard before, but many I had.  I was patiently waiting for one song to be played, though.   And it was almost like a “Name That Tune” moment, when I heard the first chord, I know exactly what it was….Shipping out to Boston!  

I recorded a video.  I took lots of pictures.  I have listened to the song lots.  I then I ran the Edmonton Marathon a few weeks and bonked at mile 21.  I cried.  I cried a lot.  I felt defeated.  I started training again specifically with the goal of hitting a Boston Qualifying time at the Vancouver marathon in May 2015.  I made THAT SONG my ringtone as motivation.  I wanted it so bad.   I ran Vancouver today as hard as I could.  And I finally can say….
I’M SHIPPING UP TO BOSTON!!
I will write a recap very soon.  There is a lot to recap.  But I wanted to write a general note of sorts to indicate that YES, I reached my goal!  And I didn’t just squeak by; I hit it hard!   I needed a 3:35.00 to qualify and I ran a 3:24.56!  My personal best before that was in fact that Edmonton Marathon, where I ran a 3:44.59.  The training paid off and I have so many people to thank.
My dad.   What more can I say.  Dad, I love you. You were with me this whole race.  I know you are so proud.  I can’t even put anything more into words right now; I am just smiling.  You would be telling everyone you know, and random strangers too, that I qualified for the Boston Marathon.  I can’t wait to go to there in April and run for you.  For us.
 
My husband, for handling my crazy schedule and putting up with days I was probably a complete pile or bitchy crap.   Yes, I know those happened.   I used you as a punching bag many times when I was upset and training days didn’t go as planned.  I love you; I hope you still love me after these six months of training!
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My mom, who also heard the frustrations and anger sometime, but who was also there to congratulate me….after she would freak out and be anxious before I finished any event, of course.  She had never seen me run a distance road until spring of 2013, when I came home to run the Waukesha Trailbreaker Half, and beat my old half marathon best, running a 1:52.53.   She said she cried at the start of that race.  She is going to be a mess in Massachusetts.
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And of course, I love me some local YQL people/organizations/businesses/professionals.  Runners Soul Lethbridge, for a fantastic marathon club program and a fantastic store full of support and camaraderie.   Shawn & Erin Pinder are fantastic people who will bend over backwards for the running community.  And speaking of camaraderie….Bob Higgins, fellow marathon club runner and friend, who ran with my during Vancouver full marathon to help me qualify.  Wow!  Thank you so much!  You my friend are an inspiration.,,.everything you have done over these last years of running is amazing.  It was an honour to run with you for 20 miles of the race….until you had to pee.  I am proud of the fact you never caught back up!   
To Dean Johnson, who wrote me an incredible training plan and edited it partway through to reflect the changes in my race times.   Anyone in Lethbridge looking for personal gains in running, please talk to Dean!  To my doctors, Dr. Michael Galbraith & Dr. John Power (the best in the sports med business) who have helped me with knee issues and the stride problems over the last year.  I am calling you both in the morning and leaving voicemails of me freaking out.  So when you hear my Wisconsin accent blubbering, I hope you smile.  Or at least laugh.   My friends, family, coworkers….you all have handled me obsessing over this quite well.  Thank you for still being my friend.  Or at least pretending to be.  You may have to fake our friendship even longer because the next year leading to Boston I am going to be very, very annoying.  Probably close to obnoxious.  You may block me on Facebook or unfollow me on Twitter.  I won’t be offended.  That being said, I am so fortunate, lucky and happy to have moved to a city with such support and love….to have family and friends from all over be by my side.   Thank you!  
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#BOSTON2016 !!!!!!

Husband Guest Post 2 – The Night Before Vancouver 

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Andrea watches a lot, A LOT, of shitty reality television (note – all reality television is shitty, but her shows are generally, the worst of the worst).  The thing that drives me most insane about these shows is when one of the characters (usually a dumb blonde or no-longer-relevant actor) talks to the camera, and says something preposterously overdramatic and entirely untrue like “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life” or “I’ve never wanted anything so bad in my life”.  

Now I understand it’s TV, and that drama sells.  But it’s bullshit.  Complete bullshit.  In generations past, before reality TV, I think these grandiose statements were actually meaningful.  Those phrases were reserved for the few times in life that actually mattered.  So for the people in the world that actually do something of great merit, I find it insulting towards them for people clinging to their 10 minutes of fame on TV to try to bolster their appeal with this fake drama.

For Andrea’s sake, and for the sake of everybody that truly puts their heart and soul into something they love, let’s appreciate the following statement for what it’s worth, and not just take it at face value:

Andrea has never worked this hard towards something in her entire life.

That’s not just words.  She has walked the walk.

She changed her diet (among many things, she gave up ramen noodles… RAMEN F-ING NOODLES!!!).  She changed her step and stride (she went to a foot doctor specializing in athletes).  She signed up for every race possible (and won most of the local ones).  She hired a trainer to write her a training schedule (with the goal of 3:35 in mind, and the training difficulty was increased concurrently with her time improvements).  And more than anything, Andrea stuck to her training schedule and ran.   It was, and still is, unbelievable.  I honestly can’t imagine putting in the persistence, time and effort that Andrea puts into her running.  I don’t even think it’s fair for me to attempt to describe it, because I don’t know that level of grueling commitment.  It’s every damn day.  She runs, at an insane pace (usually at 7 minutes/mile… for comparison, I ran a 10 mile race at an average of 11 minutes/mile and that was giving it everything I have).  While she never does a full marathon distance during her training, it’s not uncommon for her to run 15 miles.  And then, after 15 miles, she just goes about her day, like that 15 mile run was just a 15 minute walk with the dog.  That might be the craziest part to me about her training.  She’ll run these super-long distances, and then still want to walk downtown for dinner, or walk the beagle to the dog park. 

So I am proud of my wife, and of all her accomplishments.  She has pushed herself beyond what I thought was possible.  A hobby has become an obsession, and her pace and race times reflect her hard work.

So my dear… Go.  Get it done.  You can do it, you’ve proved it to yourself.  You put in the time, you put in the work.  You owe it to yourself.  I love you, I’m with you, and he’s watching.  This is how you remember.

Dan