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.

Calgary Hypothermic Half-My Muddled Post-Race Thoughts

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Running a February half marathon in Calgary, Alberta, is slightly crazy. But running one with the mindset of getting a personal best is slightly insane. But, that’s how I went into the 2015 Hypothermic Half Marathon. Go big or why do it, right?

I signed up for the event in November, as I had wanted to find a chip-timed event for my Digital Running “Time of the Season” Challenge (a timed event every month from March 2014 through February 2015. This was the only event I could find somewhat in the area with official timing (other than a 50km!). I have gushed about my love of running Calgary before, as the routes are always pretty and I’ve had pretty consistent race success, so driving up for a quick weekend was something I had no issue with.

I headed up to Calgary on Saturday afternoon for packet pickup at the Eau Claire Market Running Room. Pickup was easy and seamless-received my race bib, which had the timing chip right on the back, and the swag, which was a pair of winter running gloves and Running Room’s version of a Buff (neck/head warmer piece). All were very nice! The ladies at pickup were also very nice at explaining the map to me, which I had looked at online. I was somewhat familiar with the route, as I have ran parts of it on previous races but I wasn’t completely sure where the turns at the bridges would be (more in that later).

My 7 am alarm came fast and I felt pretty lethargic. I was slow to move, but made it to Tim Horton’s to get my oatmeal and coffee for my breakfast and preparation rituals. I was staying at my friend Cindy’s house which is a two minute drive to a Tim’s, so I was able to go there and get back right away to get prepped. It was COLD out…colder than I thought it would be. I needed to layer correctly so I was warm enough….but not miserable. I hate feeling overheated. I also taped my knees and quads up, as those are always potential issues. I headed out the door at 8:20 am to attempt and find my way to Fort Calgary for the race start.

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Not much parking by the Fort, but I was able to finagle a spot for my tiny Pontiac Vibe. I was cutting it a little close as I needed to go to the bathroom and the women’s line was ridiculous. I made it out to the start with about 5 minutes to spare, and I ran out there doing some high knees and other dynamics. I was now set to go and hoping for the best. I lined myself up right in the front center and went out like I was going to own it…

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The biggest thing for any race of a half marathon or longer, for me personally, is getting in the pace groove. I had wanted to be hitting 7:25 minute mile paces or faster in order to potentially beat my September 2014 personal best time of 1:37:51. The first three miles were pretty well marked, had an occasional volunteer directing you, and was all located in the south side of the Bow River. I ran these in 7:14, 7:25 and 7:38, respectively. Because of this inconsistency, I honestly wasn’t that sure of myself at that 5km mark. I needed to get on track fast.

The part of the course I was on now was familiar. I had been here before during Run for L’Arche last March. This “comfort zone” factor helped ease me down some. Also, since this is a public trail and local runners were out running, the random runners cheering us “racers” on as we passed was awesome! This helped push me to a 7:19, 7:26 and 7:18 mile 4-6. This brought me to the clearly marked turnaround, which if this had been a 10km race, I would have gotten a personal best. I was feeling strong, so I decided to get on trucking.

Everyone else around me looked like they were freezing, but I was strangely feeling fine. It was about 10F outside and I kept alternating between having my buff covering my mouth to just my neck. So maybe I’m superhuman, I don’t know. I was grateful that I did have my running sunglasses on, though, just to protect from the bright morning sun and wind. With the paths being clear of ice and snow, I was able to keep my pace up during the tough miles of 7-10, where I ran a 7:21, 7:24, 7:25 and 7:25.

Now looking at my GPS tracking after the race, I notice that mile 10 was approximately where we crossed over from the south side of the Bow River on the way out. I was in my own world by this point, but now it all makes sense because I didn’t recognize anything around me from that day (I recognized the road parallel to me from running on it during the Calgary Marathon, but that’s not what mattered). I knew that the last part of the course was going to be on the opposite side of the river as where we started, but I really wasn’t sure for how long. The last volunteer I saw said “go until the St. Patrick’s Bridge!” Well, that’s great, but I don’t live here and don’t know what that bridge is! That is my one complaint about this event-the lack of volunteers in the later part of the race. I asked every random runner/biker/walker/human I went past from mile 10 until the bridge where this bridge was. I was running with a little uncertainty the last 3 miles because I was nervous I would miss my turn and screw up my time!

I did keep pushing because I knew I was on pace to break my personal best. I held up mile 11 and 12 in 7:21 and 7:24. I knew I had to give anything I had left in the fuel tank the last mile to see what I was made of. There was about 1/2 mile left when I turned on that final bridge and I was feeling awesome! I gave the photographer a smile and looked way ahead for the finish. It was a winding path, heading into the Fort a different way than we had came out. I felt the strongest I had ever felt coming into a half marathon, finishing my last mile in 7:03…..7:03! My official finish time was 1:35:41, good enough to best my personal best by 2 minutes and 10 seconds. I placed 1st out of 62 in my age group, 3rd out of 216 in females, and 17 out of 426 overall. And I did this all while running in a February road race in Calgary, Alberta. And it was COLD! I thrive on the cold, I really do!

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While I usually never want food immediately after finishing a race, I did today. Maybe the cold had a hunger effect on me, who knows. But let me tell you, I am glad I did want food. The brunch that was included with our race entry was awesome! I sat with some great people—-a guy from Red Deer and some local Calgarians. The food definitely hit the spot and held me over on my drive back to Lethbridge.

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Anyone reading this blog for the first time may think that I have always been this fast. Let me stress this—–up until April 2013, my best half marathon time was a 1:54 and change. Finding a plan, finding a motivation within….that’s what I needed. If you read my older posts you will find that I started this blog to honor my dad’s life, and to try and deal with some of the things I had yet to handle since his premature death at age 51 in 2004. I took the thing that caused me so much pain for so many years and found a way to ease that pain-through running, I have found myself. I am also becoming more of an athlete, more of someone who I never though I could be. But I know my dad always thought I could be it. And I know he is proud.

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…and Winter is Here

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We had a really random weather-week here in Lethbridge. It was 67 degrees outside last week Monday. 67! On January 26th! In Lethbridge, Alberta, CANADA! Well, of course this wasn’t going to last. This Saturday blizzard-like conditions hit and I looked outside at 7:15 am saying “What the……” It was time for me to head to my first Runners Soul Marathon Club run of the year and I needed to get in 90-105 minutes at a pace between 8:02-9:23 for each mile. As much as I wanted to head back into bed, I knew I couldn’t.

Club run was 8 miles in length for those training for marathon distance, but I knew I would need more than 8 to reach 90 minutes. I ran from our house to Runners Soul (which is exactly a mile!) and got there in 8:58. The snow had started in the middle of the night, so nothing was shoveled yet, and visibility was tough. I knew this 8 mile route would feel a whole longer today.

The route brought us around the southside to the trail behind Home Depot near the coulees, past the College, and back down Scenic Drive. I won’t lie-it was rough going. I had wanted to be hitting around 8:20s for my pace, but I knew with the snow and ice I would have to lessen up, but still stay within pace parameters. I managed to do so for 7/8 of the miles in the club run, and the one I didn’t hit was only off by seconds! My miles were done in 8:57, 8:42, 8:43, 8:50, 8:41, 8:47, 9:03, and 9:26. So it wasn’t until the last mile that I fade and missed my pace by 3 seconds. I warmed up a bit in the store (which was a mistake) because then when I went outside to do my last mile home I got SO COLD SO FAST. I ran as hard as my body would let me and got home in 9:10. My feet were soaked, my fingers were numb, and my husband greeted me at the door with “I can’t believe you ran in that shit.”

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While still snowy outside today, the weather had warmed up to just at freezing. My options for today were either to take an off day, run 30-45 minutes easy, or cross train. My calves were sore from all the resistance running in the snow, so I opted for cross training. My husband and I took our nearly 8-year old beagle out to the off-leash dog park for a little hike. 3.2 miles later, we had taken Snoopy through the coulees, down stairs, through bushes, off the path….he acted like a puppy and was having so much fun. He even did some sprints with us up some hills and held his own. It wasn’t a traditional “workout” but it was a perfect way to spend the Sunday. Winter may be back, but that doesn’t mean it has to slow anyone down.

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Initial Thoughts and Rambles from my Spartan Race Weekend in California

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      spartan medal sign  pro pic 

I am still not fully recovered from my whirlwind weekend in Southern California.  I flew out at 7 pm on Friday, and then was back at LAX on Sunday by 3:30 pm.  I drove home and got into my bed by 3 AM Monday morning in Lethbridge.  I am tired, my body is tight, I had chaffing marks on my ankles from my calf sleeves, my eyes hurt, I am sunburned, and my number is still etched into my calves with permanent marker.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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This weekend I ran the Spartan Race So Cal events-Super Spartan (9 miles) on Saturday, Jan. 24th, and the Sprint (approx. 5 miles) on Sunday, Jan. 25th.  Both events were held at Vail Lake in Temecula, California.  My best friend Ali, her boyfriend, and their dogs picked me up from the airport and we headed to Temecula on Friday night.  We were at the race site nice and early for check in and to peruse the site.  I also spent a lot of money on merchandise!  I would run the Super with Ali and Kevin.  This would be Ali and Kevin’s TRIFECTA race weekend (completed the Beast the weekend before, a distance of a half marathon).  Heading out at the start of the race, I didn’t think the wind would be to bad, seeing that I am used to Lethbridge winds.  I was wrong.  These winds were just as strong at winds in Lethbridge, but add the gritty sand and dirt from the course blowing around and the sun, and that makes it a whole different experience.

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I enjoyed all the obstacles on the course—some that are the same as previous years’, and many that are new.  Seeing that this is my 3rd year doing Spartan Races it is appreciated that they change things up.  Like the Traverse Wall—while they still had one, instead of this one going in a straight line, it now zig-zagged.  The terrain of Vail Lake also just added new natural obstacles that reminded me of the Montana Sprint.  Ali and I finished this race together in a time of 4:40.06.  I know I have said this before, but considering this girl wouldn’t even run 900 metres last year at this time and was now doing 9 mile obstacle course races is amazing!  I am so proud!

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That night I realized when we went in the hot tub how sunburned and wind burned my thighs had gotten.  It stung like HELL getting in the hot water.  Whoops. That being said, I still decided to go out and push myself during the Sprint.  Seeing a preview of the course the day before was a huge help, and I was able to tackle those hills just like I would if I were in the Coulees in Lethbridge.  I even nailed the Spear Throw obstacle!— a Spartan Race FIRST for me, and this was my 9th Spartan Race ever!  I still move quite slow over any height obstacle, as my fear sets in, but I made them.  I fell on the Monkey Bars, Rope Climb and also made it 3/4 of the way on the Traverse Wall….so 90 burpees for me.  Even with those burpee penalties, I finished in a 1:21.52, which was good for 33/1655 females in the Open Division!  My running came in handy for my lack of upper body strength!before sprintI knew what to expect coming into a Spartan Race, but I am very happy to say that I feel the organization is back bigger and better in 2015.  The obstacles did not disappoint, the race swag was new and improved (finisher shirts that are specific for each distance, instead of a general shirt!), and incredible medals!  I am very excited for my Spartan Beast in Montana this May so I can become a member of the USA Trifecta Tribe!  AROO, AROO, AROO!!!!

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Vancouver Marathon Training-Week 1 in the Books!

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Oh man—it is Tuesday night and I didn’t get my blog out on Sunday. It really has been crazy around here since, let’s say, Christmas. The semester wrapped up at the high school I teach at on Monday, and we have now entered exam week. This is a great time to get prepared for second semester and just BREATHE! I need to work on some relaxation techniques because this past week was so stressful, as we were working down to the wire to get possession of our new house. All worked out and we got the keys Thursday! To our friends who helped us move this weekend-THANK YOU! It went seamlessly in Saturday and it was all because of you guys! Peter, Mac, Matty, Toby, Patrick, Morgan, Amie….thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

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In the midst of this craziness, I began my Vancouver Marathon training. The first week or three of any official training program is always a bit interesting, as often it takes a step back in total distance one has been perhaps doing on their own, but adds intensity. The intensity was something I was definitely missing the past year as I trained for my fulls, and I am grateful I contacted Dean Johnson of Run Dean Run.

I was pretty nervous, honestly, to be starting the plan he created for me….would I not be able to hit the pacing requirements set for me on each training run? Would I not be able to complete one of the days? Well…so far so good. And yes, I am already trying to mentally prepare myself for that day during this plan that I hit a wall and perhaps break down and cry….that I mess my run up….it may happen. But that chance of pain and frustration is worth it—having a coach and a plan never felt so good.

My plan is on a Google Doc and every day after my run, I log my details into the document. It is linked between Dean and I, and we will be going over my progress after my Hypothermic Half Marathon in Calgary on February 8th. If need be, adjustments will then be made. My first week consisted of a variety of training runs—easy pace, Fartleks, steady state, and long runs. Below are my comments on each day:

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I know each week will obviously get more challenging, but the plan set in place will allow me to be able to make the transition to each week. In fact, the speed work I did at Henderson Lake today (30second sprint, 1 minute jog, x12) felt solid, albeit having to dodge walkers and strollers and ice!

On weeks that I don’t have a race or something earth-shattering to let out, I will be talking about my training. Not as exciting perhaps as old posts, but training is important right now. In the past two years while doing this blog I have became a more confident long-distance road racer and have been able to tackle distances and meet times I never thought I could. But I need to take it further. And this training is the key!