Digital Running “Time of the Season” Challenge

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When I was training for the 2014 Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World, I was introduced to Digital Running.  The website offers a place for other runners to meet and participate in team relays, share information, training plans, and more.  You can also register and participate in online challenges.  In 2013, I registered for the Hat Trick and Grand Slam Challenge, which were completed at the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend where I ran a 5km, 10km, half marathon and full marathon.  I also registered for the Interstate Challenge where I needed to complete an event in both Canada and USA.  

   

 

Since I am a bling addict, I registered in March 2014 for the “Time of the Season” challenge.  For a full year, I needed to log an event of 5km or longer, at least one per month.  Each event would be verified, and once I completed three months in a row, I would earn a pie piece towards a giant medal.

Tricky part was finding a chip-timed event nearby once the weather got cold.  I could not find a chip-timed event in December, only local fun run 5km events.  I still did those events (Santa Shuffle and Resolution Run 5km) but they wouldn’t be officially counted.  Luckily, a one-time “free pass” was issued if you couldn’t get a timed event in.

  

My final event for this challenge was the Hyptothermic Half in Calgary, Alberta.  It was tough to find a February event in Alberta, but I am glad I did as this event was where I ran my 1:35 half personal best!  Soon, after logging this event on my member page, the final piece of my “medal” came.

  

Virtual races and challenges aren’t something I always sign up for, and they aren’t for everyone.  But when I found something fun like this, which encouraged me to compete in events each month for a full year, I couldn’t pass it up!  

 

Weekly Recap-6 Weeks to Go

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i headed into this week of training a bit nervous, as I had been sick the week before.  I really wanted this week to go well, as I needed my confidence in my ability to run a 3:30 full marathon to be strong again.  Here’s how the week went:

Sunday

My first run in three days.  It was a 55 minute run in the coulees and felt awesome.  I was still a tad sick so I was very pleased.

Monday

5.5 miles in 46:25.  8:15, 8:35, 8:35, 8:40 and 8:19. Did my last half mile in 3:58.  Was feeling great!

Tuesday

Fartleks training today.  Did 15 of 1 minute hard and 1 minute jog.  Got 3.92 miles in and felt solid.  I had been having a stressful couple days at work so this was a great feeling. 

Wednesday

I didn’t follow Wednesday training plans exactly as I run with my track kids.   This was a great workout nonetheless, as I got the kids to do a speed workout at Chinook Lake and then I finished it with my own 3 miles at my newly prescribed pace (Coach redid my pace ranges on Tuesday night since I have been doing a lot better in races this year).  Totaled 7.64 miles over a total time of 65 minutes.

Thursday

An epic speed workout!  I was nervous as my new pace times had me needing to run 3-5 miles of intervals in 6:54-7:10 per mile.  I really didn’t know if I could do this alone, so my friend Bob joined me.  We did a mile warmup and then busted out 3 miles of intervals.   6:57, 7:02 and 7:00!  I was ecstatic!  

Friday

Rest!  

Saturday 

The week was going great, and today was the icing on the cake.  Did a 16 miler with the last six miles at my marathon goal pace.  Did the first 10 all within my easy pace requirements, and then the last six came in.  I was starting to get mentally beat and was nervous I wouldn’t be able to get pace.   But I overcame and did it.  Ran my last 6 in 8:04, 8:03, 7:57, 7:47, 7:49, and 7:54.   My goal pace is 8:00 so this was fantastic!  I ran all 16 miles in a total time of 2 hours and 12 minutes.  And most importantly, I felt strong at the finish.

I have six weeks left until I put it all out there in Vancouver and attempt my Boston Qualifying run.  I am feeling stronger and faster than ever before.  I cannot wait to!

Spending a Week Sidelined with Sickness

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Last week, I was riding on Cloud 9 after my Moonlight Run 10km success.  I went into my Sunday training run (60-90 minutes easy) and did 63 solid minutes and 7.37 miles,  this was epic considering I had ran the Moonlight Run less than 24 hours before!  I decided to use Monday as my rest day (could have been rest, cross train, or 45-60 minutes easy) as my throat was starting to feel a bit sore.  I was figuring it would pass. But, come Tuesday, all hell broke loose.

I had some huge training runs planned for the week—-90-105 minutes easy, 60-75 minutes easy, 8-10 Yasso 800s, and an 18-22 miler.  All of this had to be scrapped.  I attempted to do the 90-105 minute run on Tuesday, but had to end it after 23 minutes.  On Wednesday, I ran with my track and field kids for 3.55 miles, but finished with a dry-heaving attack in my classroom.  Coach Dean advised me to not do the Yasso 800s and rest on Friday, in hopes to run on Saturday.  I actually had to call in sick on Friday, as I had no voice (hadn’t sounded pretty since Wednesday) and felt like a pile of garbage.
While I started to feel a lot better on Friday night, when I mentioned to my husband about doing my 18-22 miler the next day, he lost it.  I was not close to 100% and this would do more harm than good.  I mentioned it to Dean, and asked if I should maybe do my shorter Sunday workout on Saturday and do the 18-22 on Sunday.  He told me 
exactly what I was thinking, but I needed affirmation from someone wiser in order to listen.
“…Rest is not the absence of training.  It is an integral part of training…Don’t stack the workouts.  Skip them if feeling sick.  Give yourself recovery time so you are 100% quicker.”
I ended up having three days in a row that I did not run.  This was the longest stretch in months that I haven’t run.  By Saturday night I was feeling useless, albeit healthier.  Today I felt well enough to do the planned workout—45-60 minutes easy.  I headed out early afternoon in the rain, and went down by Sugar Bowl and up the wooden stairs,  I went down some beaten up wash out paths and headed towards the river.  I eventually made it to a part that was marked off as “do not pass.”  Whatever, I did.  Yeah, I felt like a rebel…and it was great.  Ran on a portion of trail between part of the river and the Country Club before hitting a wash out, partially submerged bridge.  I climbed over it Spartan Race style and onto a really muddy trail.  I didn’t get too far before I hit 25 minutes and decided to turn back and head home.  This route, which I did not know existed until today, will be one worth exploring when it is summer!  It was an awesome run, I felt great, did not hack up a lung when I was done, and finished 55 minutes on pace!  
So this week I will be back at the it.   Back at the grind.  And I am happy about it.  Having a slow week after finishing the prior week on such a high was difficult and frustrating, because there was nothing I could do except wait out my terrible cold.  I am glad I took those rest days, as it was needed after pushing so hard at Moonlight, and I hope to stay healthy from now until Vancouver.  BQ or Bust!

Moonlight Run 2015 – 10km Race Recap

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The Moonlight Run in Lethbridge, Alberta, is the largest running event of the year.  They offer a 6km and a 10km event-the 6 km had  1739 participants and the 10km had 526.  The unique factor about the race is in its name—it starts at 8 pm at night and you run down in the river bottom with the light of the moon marking your path.  This year would be my fourth time running the Moonlight Run, and I had set some high expectations for myself.  Ultimately, I wanted to beat my previous Moonlight Run time from last year (47:27) but I also wanted to place well.  While I wasn’t training specifically for a 10km, as I am now right in the middle of my Vancouver Marathon training, I had been getting in lots of speed work and was feeling strong.  Only time would tell.




I was nervous and anxious all day.  That’s part of the trouble with a night race—-you have all day to think about it and get worked up!  I had my clothes picked out even the night before, and I was getting antsy by 6 pm.  I even attempted a nap earlier, but I just laid in bed and played on my phone.  My husband was also going to participate in the run (he said this was to show his support for my craziness) and I somehow managed to get him to leave the house around 7 pm.  We live a whopping five minutes from the race start by car, so we got there real early (but at least had a great parking spot!). I wanted time to calm my nerves—I would find some of my running friends from marathon club and chat, and I would also find students and teachers from my school who were at the event.  Our music department volunteers every year at Moonlight Run and the kids do a great job at the tasks they are given!  I also needed to find the kids who had signed up to run, as while I was nervous and anxious, I knew they would be even more so!

I eventually did my warmup and got settled into the starting corral.  It was self-seeded so I wormed my way up to the second row of people…right near the front.  I knew I wanted to head out strong and by being at the front this would help out.  Plus, your gun time would be used for placings, so I wanted to be near the starting mat.




After the national anthems, the horn went off, and the 10km had begun.  The first 1/4 of a mile was a blur, as I just had my focus finding my pace and finding a space in the pack.  I knew I was going out pretty fast, plus this first mile stretch was all downhill.  Hopefully this wouldn’t come back to bite me.
As we headed down Wendy’s hill, the firefighter pipe and drum band was playing.  This is an awesome thing to witness as you are running down into the dark river bottom!  At the bottom of Wendy’s hill, after a loss of 203 feet in elevation (according to my Nike app) I hit mile one.  I ran my first mile in 5:32….what the F$&K?!?   Ok, granted, this was downhill….but this is the FASTEST I have EVER ran a mile in my entire damn life.  My high school best in the 1600 m (mile run) was a 5:47.  Yes, that was on a flat track….but still.  Holy crap.   I was screwed.  At what point in this race would I fall apart?  
The next mile heads out towards the bridge and to Tollestrup construction.  As I headed out north before the turnaround, it was very easy to find your spacing in the pack.  No one was next to me, you had room to move your elbows, and the darkness didn’t really take a toll, as there was lots of open space and the sky was clear.  Mile 2 was hit partway down this path and I ran it in a still ridiculously fast 6:35.   The fact I was able to keep up a faster than normal pace after barreling down a deep incline was a shocker to me.  There had been a small elevation loss of 66 feet during this stretch, so negligible compared to the first mile.  At the turnaround, it got to be a little tougher as now you aren’t running alone on the path.  All the other runners in the 10km who are behind you are heading north as you head back south towards the bridge.  Many have headlamps that are shining bright in your eyes, so you must look down at the ground.  And some people aren’t aware of the runners already heading back so they take up 3 people across the path.  I was sure my time would slow greatly at this point, expecting somewhere in the 7:30s.  I managed to get to mile 3 in 7:01.  I was nearly halfway done and already had a personal record breaking 5km time.  I needed to keep it together.
Since mile 1 I had been placed as the 5th female.  I knew this for sure as I counted the women ahead of me at the turnaround.  During mile 4 I had wanted to gain some ground on runner 4.  This proved to be tricky, as while I am knowledgable of this part of the course, it happens to get quite darker in this section.  The tree coverage is greater, it is harder to see the sky, and the path has many “gentle” rolls in it.  I made some ground on about three or four men, passing them while no one passed me, so that felt good.  We were heading toward Whoop Up Drive basically blind, and I was trying to move as quick as I could without freaking out in the dark.  By getting to Whoop Up there would be lights on the bridge to illuminate the sky above.  I ran mile 4 in 7:16.  
Mile 5 was when I knew I had to keep it together.  While the hill would be my last battle, this would be where I could either keep it up, or lose it all.  My body was feeling great, so I knew this would be a mental battle.  I moved on to the next turn around, near the water treatment plant, where then the runners looped back on a gravel/paved road section.  This is relatively well lit and would take us to Fort Whoop Up, and the path we needed to take back to the finish.  My feet start to feel heavy as I am on this gravel/paved/stone road.  I needed to keep it moving but was starting to get worried.  I knew I was on pace to get a personal best, and I was scared to lose that.  I was running with no one immediately in front of me or beside me…but then I heard a familiar trot behind me.  It was my friend Glenn from run club.  Glenn has a very distinctive cadence in his run, and Glenn, I mean this kindly, I think it is because you are so short that it is so obvious.  I mean, I am short too so I am sure my plodding is distinctive.  But I knew it was Glenn coming up behind me as we neared mile 5, and this gave me a huge push.  Glenn is a seasoned runner, a veteran, who qualified and ran in the Boston Marathon last year.  He works hard and trains hard.  We mumbled a couple things to each other as we approached mile 5 (which I ran in 7:27). I knew I needed to “race” Glenn up this mother of a hill for the last mile in order to achieve my goal of a personal best.
Having someone who you know is faster than you at a 10km race run next to you is some motivation, let me tell you.  This last hill is adjacent to the steady main road we headed down during mile 1.  The 10km runners got to run up this wonky, almost-too-cruel bike path that has so many pitches and switch backs that if you saw it in daylight you would laugh.  Every time we hit an incline, I powered my short-ass legs up, passing Glenn each time.  I think I pissed him off each time, because then he would pass me when it would level out.  This cat and mouse game went on for about three or four cycles as we climbed up this beast.  Eventually, Glenn surpassed me once we got to the top and away from the steep inclines, and off he went. I powered all the way up and made it to mile 6, which was right next to Galt Gardens, in 8:36.  Not too shabby for doing a 268 feet climb in elevation.  The 10km runners were now side by side with 6km runners as we headed to the finish.  I again got into a runners’ haze and didn’t pay attention to any faces around me.  I rounded that last corner and finish in my personal record smashing time of 43:47.45…beating my Moonlight personal best by nearly 4 minutes 30 seconds, and beating my regular 10km best by 1 minute 50 seconds!

I had never been able to catch any of the women ahead of me.  I closed in on number 4, but 1-3 were way too far ahead.  While my time this year would have gotten me 1st for women in this same event last year, that was not the case.  I placed 5th out of 292 women and 34th out of 526 overall participants in the Moonlight Run 10km 2015.  And while I could have been upset about that, I was nothing but ecstatic.  I was mainly in a state of shock when I finished, as I couldn’t believe how I ran that time.  I then found out shortly thereafter I placed 1st out of 55 in the 30-34 female age category!  An age category first place in this big of a race is a huge accomplishment for myself! 






I found some of my runner friends after finishing and we were are able to congratulate each other on our accomplishments.  I wasn’t the only one who hit a personal best, as Bob and Jeremy also achieved ones of their own.  Of the 8 of us who are part of our Waterton to Glacier Relay Team (100 mile relay from Cardston, Alberta, to East Glacier, Montana) 7 of us were at the race that evening.  Julia did not run but was an awesome volunteer yelling support as we reached the top of the hill.  The other six of us ran the 10km and 5 of us placed in our age categories.  Also placing in their age groupings were two of my students, who medaled in the 6km event!  They placed 4th and 5th in the 16-19 female group!




Moonlight Run was everything I had hoped it would be and more.  Will I run an epic personal best every year at Moonlight?  Probably not.  But will the race itself keep being as memorable of an evening?  I definitely think so.  Moonlight Run is a top-notch running event in my “new” hometown, and I look forward to it every year.  This was the 28th running of the Moonlight Run and I can only hope that I am able to run in the next 28 Moonlight Runs! 

Finding Success in Speed Training 

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I have been slacking on new blog posts.  And it sucks.  I had known I wanted to write a new post all week, had an idea on Thursday after my run, and now it is 9:39 pm on Friday and I’m trying to begin it….all while binge-watching House of Cards Season 3 with my husband. 

Last week was tough for me, as I was having trouble with my speed workouts.  I went into this week hopeful, yet nervous.  My big speed workout came on Thursday, where I would need to do 1000 metres 8-10x at Cruise Interval pace (rate of perceived exertion at an 8-9, comfortably fast) with a 200 meter jog after each.  During my lunch at work, I had calculated the mileage approximations not just for 1000 and 200 m, but what my ongoing mileage would be during the workout.  I had planned ahead to do 8 sets, as I was nervous about how my stomach would be feeling (some type of bug all week) and I would be close on time doing this workout after school (needed to start by 3:30 so I had enough time to run, shower, and be ready to be picked up at 5:00 pm for the Alberta Teachers Association New Teacher Induction dinner. (my friend Patrick and I go every year!)

It was cold out and windy and a traditional winter afternoon.  I wasn’t really feeling it getting ready, probably because I was rushing myself to get out and get started.  I managed to get through the first two sets alright, but as I waited at the light on Mayor Magrath and 7th Ave I was cursing my coach Dean.  I was tired, and scared, and mad. I wanted to turn back home and quit.  I eventually crossed to Henderson Lake and South Parkside Drive and ran fueled with anger. And somehow, that anger was enough to push me on.
I did a good loop around the outside of Henderson Lake, then I went back onto the path around Henderson Lake before timing it right and heading home.   I kept my “cheat sheet” in my hand the whole time, referring to it so I knew when I had hit each 1000 meter split.  By the time I got home I had done the predetermined 6.08 miles, and had done it in 46:43.  I couldn’t actually clock what my times were for each of the 8-1000 meter splits, since I wasn’t on a traditional track, but I do have my mile splits.  They were 7:41, 7:51, 7:52, 7:28, 7:31 and 7:37. And I was very, very happy with my negative split!  

Having this training calendar made has been the best decision going into this race season.  While I have had some days that haven’t been that successful, the strong days outweigh the weak. And completing speed workouts that I previously would have never thought to be possible is pretty damn sweet too!  

A Failed Training Run….and How it Actually Ties to Teacher’s Convention!

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I have had off of work since last Friday. Had our regular weekend, however, ours was busy with my in-laws coming down to visit. It was Family Day on Monday (same day as US Presidents Day) so no work for everyone. Then, our district had the Tuesday and Wednesday off. South Western Alberta Teachers Convention was held at U of L today and will continue tomorrow. And then another nice weekend before back to the grind next Monday.

This is all fine and dandy. But….my sleep schedule has been out of whack since the start of this break. I find it necessary to stay up till some ungodly hours watching shitty television. This morning, I had to get up at a somewhat respectful time of 7:15 am so I could get ready for convention. Fast forward to coming home, I laid in bed with Snoopy at 3:15. In my head, I was going to take an hour nap and then go on my run….

5:59 pm. Snoopy decides it time to finally wake up, which in turn, gets my ass out of bed. The plan of no alarm and relying on Snoopy’s internal food clock failed me. I quickly got up, fed the dog, and headed outside. I was supposed to do 6-8 800 meter repeats with a 400 meter jog in between. The 800 meters were supposed to be at a sprint in good form. I was planning on doing the first 800 as I ran to the Civic track by the curling club, then I would do the 400 m jog, do 4-6 repeats in the track, and head back with my 800.

I went out strong on my first 800. This was on sidewalks and slightly uphill, but I powered through. I felt good, not great, when done, and then went into the 400 m jog. I had gotten to the track just before my second 800 was about to begin. The shale track, which I have successfully ran Yasso 800s on before, was wet and squishy. Footprints were all over and footing was not great. I started the second 800 on the back stretch of the track, but I only made it 3/4 around at full speed when I had to slow down.

My footing was off. It was getting darker as it was 6:30 pm. My hip, which I had loads icy hot on, was in a lot of pain. I was tired, my legs were heavy….I went into a slow jog, and then headed back home. I completed a measly 1.65 miles and had only done 1 of the 6-8 sets.

I’m pretty let down right now with how this went. I have had a tough week and a half coming off of my 1:35 Hypothermic Half. My recovery hasn’t been going to best and I haven’t been able to do all my workouts to the best of my ability. While my longer runs have been successful, these speed workouts since the half marathon have been a mess. The varied sleep schedule and the “vacation” time have seemingly thrown me off. I am hoping this is just a phase and that this Saturday’s 16-20 miler going off without a hitch. My goal Saturday is to get in 18 miles, all within that 8:06-9:23 sweet spot. Then, hopefully getting back into my normal routine next week will sort things out naturally.

This has happened to me before in the past…And I felt like a failure. While I am upset at how tonight’s attempted speed workout went, I am not calling myself a failure. A lot of my optimistic view comes from growth and maturity over the years, but most of it today was in part from a presentation I was at this morning. Our keynote speaker, Debbie Silver, at teacher’s convention today talked about how kids need to experience failure in order to find success. She has a book entitled “Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8″. She explained her points with personal stories and experiences. It all resonated well with my experiences as a high school teacher, and many of the children and students she brought up in her presentation reminded me of students I have taught. It also reminded me of me and this training. It reminded me of how far I have come with my running, how many successes I have had, and how these do in fact outweigh the failures. But the failures are just as important. I fell down tonight, but I got up. And it’s going to be ok.

Strength Training as Cross Training…and More…

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I mentioned a while back that I was attempting to get into the fitness centre twice a week to do weights and strength training with my friends from work, JJ and Shannon. I figured this would be helpful for my Spartan Races….which it has! I have had a tough time sticking with going on both Monday and Wednesday morning, partly because I get lazy in the morning. Unless it is a race day or a long run with Runners Soul Marathon Club on a Saturday, I love to SLEEP. This week, I could not pull myself out of bed on Monday for our workout (I felt just exhausted and beat from my half marathon the day before). But, I did get myself up and out of bed in time for our Wednesday workout…..but OUR workout turned out to be just a ME workout.

JJ and Shannon ditched me Wednesday. Alright, alright, they didn’t ditch me…just on Monday when I ditched them, they decided they wouldn’t be coming in Wednesday (Shannon was going to be at Curling Zones that day). I just didn’t find out about this until I got to work at 6:50 am and no one was there. For a split second, I was tempted to just change into my regular clothes and bail. Then, I thought of just going in and doing the elliptical. It wasn’t until I actually walked in the doors of the fitness centre that I realized I should just stick with what I was going to be doing all along—arms and abs.

I still am not wise when it comes to being in a weight room, but I had luckily remembered 7 of the 8 exercises from the circuit we did the Wednesday prior. We did this circuit three times, with a short break in between. I laid out the mat for bicycle abs, the Swiss ball for the other thing of abs, got a plate ready for whatever the thing is where you are inclined on your stomach and lift up….got barbells set for lunges and bench press…got a bar out with light weights for what I think is called “Military Press” and some other squat thing…and since I couldn’t remember the 8th thing, I took out a box to out under the hand grips by the chin up bar so I could reach and do hanging abs. Wow….I am such a fish out of water in the weight room, can you tell? I seriously don’t know what any of the proper names of things are…I just follow JJ and Shannon around.

It would be boring to go on and try to explain everything I did, because it would also be painful to try to interpret what the hell I’m saying. But I will say this—immediately upon starting my first set in the weight room solo, I thought of my dad. And I couldn’t stop thinking about him. The weight room was his place of worship. It was his safe haven. I had these images in my head of heading into our basement to go ask him a question and stopping outside the back room…his weight room. If he was in the middle of a set I knew to just stand and wait and then talk to him after. I remembered the random home video from the late 1980s we have of him doing bench presses in the basement while I’m dribbling a basketball next to him. I have mentioned before that he would mention to me on occasion about trying to lift, and I always shot him down. He never pushed, though, because he wasn’t like that. As I grew up, he could clearly see it “wasn’t my thing” so we left it at that. But having all these thoughts in my head early on a Wednesday morning made me push myself.

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I never pictured myself in a million years in a fitness centre, alone, doing a weight training circuit. But this Wednesday, I was. I started this blog to honour the memory of my dad, I started all my crazy running to help deal with my loss…and now I have found that being alone in the weight room is another way to reflect and just live. I felt alive. And I felt like he was there with me. He always is.

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The pictures of my dad before the last paragraph are from 1995. He had undergone triple bypass surgery in June of that same year. These were taken in November. He was 43 years old. Heart Disease can effect anyone.