Claus Cause 2014 Recap

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Hi everyone! Only behind by one race recap, phew…so that’s what I’m going to talk about tonight! On Saturday, November 15th, I participated in the annual Claus Cause 10km. I did this event last year, and you can read about the wacky weather that occurred in my post from last year. Claus Cause 2013This year, was just as crazy….but unlike last year where the snow came in after the race, the ice and cold was already evident that morning.

I bundled up quite a bit for this race, though I knew I would end up warming up rather quickly. Midway through I would end up ditching my outer layer of mittens to just be left with stretchy mitts, but all my layering was necessary for the beginning. Maybe I spent too much time over analyzing what I was going to wear because I made my seemingly consistent mistake of leaving my house too late, thus arriving and parking at the last minute. While I am always very early and relaxed for races outside of Lethbridge, I am just apparently terrible at getting to local races early. I jogged up to the start area, dropped off my food donation for the Lethbridge Food Bank, and weasels my way into the start corral near the front…all with about four minutes to spare.

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It was cold. How cold was it?!?….I think it was around 6 degrees Fahrenheit at race start (9:00 am) which is a very, very, very cold -15 Celsius. The course was quite a bit different that last years, as we were starting and finishing at Helen Schuler Nature Centre. While we would run on the same trails as last year, there would be some different looping to make up the distance.

I started off with a vengeance, maybe because I was so damn cold and wanted to warm up, running a 7:01 mile. The 10km and 5km started at the same time, and since I had positioned myself near the front I had good spacing around me right away, which allowed me to run such a fast first mile. Mile two and three slowed, with a 7:28 and 7:19. After mile three, I was wishing I had signed up for the 5km, because breathing in the cold air just hurt.

Mile four and five was where we had split off from the pack of 5km runners to head down past the water treatment plant and to the turnaround. I wasn’t really sure where the turnaround was, but when I got to it (past Lynx Trail and before the bridge) I almost came to a complete stop going around the pylons. Ooof…it would be hard to pick the pace back up again. I ran mile four and five in 7:30 and 7:26.

The last stretch was hard. My legs weren’t really giving out on me, but I thought I had something stuck in my shoes. Turns out, when I finished, I realized I had nothing stuck in the tread but it was just that my feet were so cold they were tingling. Probably on the edge of hypothermia, who knows, but at least I had worn two layers of socks. As we headed back towards the nature centre, my one complaint about the course came up—the 90 degree turn which led to a 50foot straightaway, three pylons to turn around, and then back. I slowed so much here, because the ice was just ridiculous. I had to stutter step and it really threw off my stride. But at least I knew the finish was ahead. I pushed towards the High Level Bridge and made my way to the finish line—1st place female in the 10km was mine! I finished in a 45:50!

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I was very happy with my finish time, which was my second-best 10km time! (My 10km personal best was set last year at the same event!). I really like the 10km distance, but don’t get to do enough of them. I was feeling very positive after this race, and I already decided that after my quest for Boston and training for the BMO Vancouver Full passes, I will focus a lot more on 10km events. I would really like to break 45 minutes!

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Runners Soul presented age group awards inside (thankfully!) and raffle prizes pretty quickly after the events. They had the cute gingerbread “medals” again this year, and lots of snacks to partake in. I look forward to this event every year, as it really is the last chip-timed event of the year in town. I know the weather can always be a crap-shoot at this time of the year, but that’s fine-registering for this race gets me out the doors and running…no excuses!

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Mustache Dache 5km Milwaukee-Race Recap

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I last wrote about my Tyranena Beer Half Marathon which was held on Saturday, November 8, 2014. That race was all about fun and helping Kirby get her best half marathon time (which did happen!). The next day, because of my planning, we had registered for another race…sort of my own mini “Challenge” weekend (Dumbo Double Dare anyone?). I had found while searching through Milwaukee area events that the Nationally held “Mustache Dache” would be stopping in Milwaukee on Sunday, November 9th. Of course we had to sign up! I told Kirby we were doing it (she was a little uncertain about this given that we would have done the half the day prior) and I encouraged my friend Maureen and her husband-to-be Ryan to sign up too. Before we knew it, 8:20 am Sunday rolled around and Maureen & Ryan were at my mom’s door to pick us up and head downtown!

I was looking forward to this race for three reasons. 1) I would get to do a 5km right in downtown Milwaukee, something I never have gotten to do. 2) I would get to do it with some of my best friends! And 3) I wanted to break my 5km personal best of 22:09, which was from the Milwaukee Brewers Sausage Race 5km from August 2003.

The day before was chilly for Tyranena, and today was no different. Add the fact the wind was coming off of Lake Michigan and it felt even colder. The race was said to be held at Veterans Park, which YES, it was. But we were all idiots and just assumed that meant starting at the War Memorial. So we assumed we would need to park in a structure. We decided to drive past the memorial to see where the race would be, and everything seemed desolate. No one was anywhere to be found. It was 8:50 am, and the race was scheduled for 10 am. We drove around a bit more and headed toward the kite stand at McKinley Marina (everyone back home knows what that is!) and VOILA! There was a small assembly of volunteers and a DJ setting up, and an empty parking lot to park in for free!

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We sat in the car bundled until we could go get our registration packets. We also spent this time trying to put on these crappy Dollar Store mustaches Maureen had bought. That at least kept us entertained and gave us some great photo ops!

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Speaking of photo ops, as Maureen and I were sticking out heads through the kite store cardboard sign pretending we were at Disney World using our Photopass, someone walked by and causally shouted “isn’t this race a little short for you Lammers??!!” Wtf. I have a buff on my head and a mustache stuck to my face, my head in a cardboard cut out….who here knows me? I sprint over to the guy who yelled at me, and lo and behold it is my Franklin Track & Field long distance coach from my senior year, Mr. Thorpe. So funny running into him, and nice to chat with him too. He would be running in the race also, but, I then found out he is in charge of the Milwaukee Movember chapter, which raises funds for men’s health and prostate cancer research. Last year they earned over $100,000! Amazing!

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Runners assembled near the start around 9:45 for the National Anthem, which to me was a tad ridiculous, as the Mustache Dache mascot Mo held the flag. Stay weird Milwaukee! Prizes were given to people with the best REAL mustaches and then for the people with the best costumes. Pretty soon we were lined up to the start and off we went!

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I ran off with a mission to complete-break 22 minutes. I would need to run 7:10 minute miles to comfortably do this. I knew mile 1 would be no issue (ran it in 7:00 flat) but mile 2 and 3 would be tough. At this point, the leader was off in the distance, but a man had ran up next to me. The only words I spoke was “I wanna break 22″. He nodded, and we would continue running together for the duration of the race. The wind was a bit tricky in spots, but when the wind was with us, I pushed extra hard to make up for the points for when it was a wall. Mile 2 was completed in 7:07….holy shit I could do this!

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The last mile of the race had you run down a peninsula that jutted out into McKinley Lake Marina, and then you turned around to head back to the finish line at the kite stand. After this turnaround I could see I was in a great spot for first place women. I kept pushing with my eyes on the finish line. Buddy who was next to me sprinted off when we hit the mile 3 marker and I tried to keep up. He got me on that last 0.1 miles, but what I got was a new personal best….21:08 to be exact! 1 minute and 1 second faster than my 11 year old record!

I was ecstatic. I not only beat my best time, but smashed it, and was able to do it while back home in Milwaukee! I got some watered, wandered around and cheered Ryan on into the finish line. He use to run cross country back in the day but hasn’t done much running for some time. Later that morning he would say that he wanted to sign up for more 5km races again!

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Kirby and Maureen had fun too. They used the “Dache” as a time to catch up and chat, as they hadn’t seen each other since my Wisconsin wedding reception in May 2011.

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They did a small award ceremony, where prize winners received a “Mustache Dache” cup. All the medals, shirts and cups were nice, but since this is a national race, they only had the national logo on it, and did not note anywhere that this was in Milwaukee. That is my only “complaint”, albeit a petty one.

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I got called up separately at the start of awards to be recognized as the first place female, so that was cool! I was hoping they would mention I came all the way from Alberta from this, but I should just be happy they could pronounce my whole last name. Funny thing—earlier on they posted printed results as people were finishing. I looked for my name and at first couldn’t find it, as I always look for the longest last name possible. Turns out that apparently on that print out my last name didn’t fit horizontally so it just said ANDREA. On the official results it has everything though!

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So glad I was able to do this race while home and get my friends to tag along too. Afterwards we headed to the Milwaukee Public Market, where I spent way too much money, and to Wicked Hop for brunch, where I ate was too much food (Virgin Bloody Mary with extra toppings, biscuits & gravy, eggs, and a bratwurst patty). But. I think it was all well-deserved!

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Tyranena Beer Run Half Marathon-Race Recap

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When Kirby came to Calgary for my full marathon in June, we came up with the great idea to fly out to Milwaukee in November and run a race together. We had found the Madison Marathon on Sunday, November 9th, but were looking for a half marathon. After a few more weeks of searching, I uncovered the Tyranena Beer Half Marathon, which would be occurring on Saturday, November 8th. I love running, I love beer, I love friends, I love Wisconsin….so we signed up!

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With the race start being 11:30, we didn’t have to leave my mom’s house in Franklin until shortly after 9 am. The drive to Tyranena Brewery is simple-head on the Interstate towards Madison and get off at the Lake Mills exit. We arrived to the brewery at around 10:15 am, and headed into the beer tent for the race packet pickup.

Pickup was a breeze, and in our bags were our shirts, dinner vouchers, race bib and drink tickets. This stuff would be put away in the vehicle until after the race was done, as the real party would occur after the finish line! Kirby was starting to get nervous, as it was pretty chilly out. Even though it was about 43 degrees, I’d bet the wind temperature was much colder. Kirby lived in Arizona the last 7 years, so her body was not used to this standing around in the cold. We hid out in the tent for awhile, then the car, and then we had to get ready for the race.

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The plan for this race was to run together. Kirby would be running her fourth half marathon, with her most recent about a month ago in Nashville, Tennessee. I had been encouraging her this month that she could run a personal best at this race, and I wanted to help her. I had thought her personal best was around a 2:18, so we were going to go for a 2:15. Now, I am fast-forwarding a bit because it was somewhere around mile 10 that she admitted she sort of lied to me and that her unofficial best time was 2:18, from the Phoenix Rock n’Roll Half. It was unofficial because she paused it during a long potty stop, and restarted her watch after the stop. She kept telling me she didn’t want to admit her time to me, and I told her she was an idiot because I didn’t think any less of that time, because it’s awesome! She is a former sprinter, who used to do the 400m in high school in 57 seconds. This girl is a former sprinter now turned casual long-distance runner! I was just happy to be running a race with my good friend!

So her personal best was from the Women’s Running Series Half in Tennessee from the end of September this year, which was 2:24.20. I also told her I would shame her on here for lying to me, because I picked the 2:15 goal based on a 2:18 best time! Part way through the race, I would start making changes to our goal, to eventually just get a personal best…no matter what. Now, I am not a mean friend, really, I am not….because wait until the end of this post.

So the race started and we headed out for our first mile at a great pace of 10:00. It was actually 9:59 and change, but pretty damn close to a perfect 10. The weather was still windy, yes, and cold, yes, and Kirby was cold, though I knew she would warm up. The initial plan was to run around 10:10 min/miles for the first 6.5 miles and then see how she felt. For a 2:15 you would need approximately an average pace of 10:17 minute per mile. I decided to lighten the mood and also take a selfie with Kirby at each mile marker, and she would hold up the mile number with her frozen fingers. These ended up being VERY amusing. Here are the first three miles and some of the pretty views we saw!

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The course was very nice, with some rolling hills through some VERY nice neighborhoods. The view of the lake was gorgeous. The only major hill was at mile 4, but otherwise I found the course pretty comfortable. The wind was bothering Kirby, and the cold air was causing it to be harder to breathe. I tried to be encouraging, and our pace was still on, so all was good. When we exited the lake view and headed towards a farm, the wind started to kick in even more. Miles 4-6 looked like this:

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Kirby was starting to hurt, and I told her it was totally ok if we slowed down. We were now on a gravel path (was a bit boring at first) but I kept just talking to her to keep her occupied. We were still on pace, so slowing for a mile or two would be good for her to catch her breathe. We were now on the Glacial Drumlin Trail, so the wind was blocked from the trees a bit. Miles 7-9 are here:

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So after mile 9 is when the truth came out. Kirby is such a positive person, so she really wanted to keep going at that pace, but I could tell she was hurting. I made the decision we would slow down lots and try for a 2:20 finish, and if not that at least get her under that 2:24. I knew even if she kept a slow shuffle we were set for this because of the pace we held the first six miles. The unfortunate part of the last miles on the course was the boring scenery. You wound through an industrial park and then up into an older neighborhood, down and back up to the brewery entrance. You could not see the brewery at any point until the final turn at mile 13 so it was very tough mentally. Kirby never complained, and the meanest she was during this segment was when she made the face for our mile 12 photo. Here are miles 10-13:

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We finished the 13.1 miles in 2:21.28…new official personal best for Kirby! I was so proud of her! She beat her old personal best by three minutes! So solid! She was so happy to be done though, not going to lie there! We headed into the post-race tent which was filled with bananas, cookies, nuts, chocolate, peanut butter sandwiches and water. And, of course, our medals!

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The major perk of this race was the bang for your buck with post-race party items. We went back to the car to change into warm clothes and headed back to the beer tent. We had two tickets for Tyranena Beer (YUM!) and a catered lasagna dinner. We couldn’t remember what the registration price was, but know it was under $50! Probably around $45. So, a beautiful course, shirt, medal, dinner, two beers, live DJ and a great time at a great price was perfect! The dinner was HUGE and the beers were tasty (remember, I haven’t had a beer in two+ weeks so it was VERY yummy). This was my cheat day, and worth it. The atmosphere was fantastic and we stayed until 4:15, and then it was back to Milwaukee.

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I would recommend this race to anyone within the area. Next year will be the 10th anniversary, and I am sure they will hit it out of the park. The weather could vary from a warm, Indian-summer 61 degrees to a full-blown blizzard, given the time of year, but the show that Tyranena puts on makes it doable! This will be a race experience we will never forget!

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Fly, Run, Fly, Run, Repeat….

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I am in row 2A of this 18-seater aircraft which is about to leave the Lethbridge Airport. Where am I heading? Milwaukee, of course! It is Remembrance Day long weekend, and we have Monday and Tuesday off of work, so this is the perfect getaway weekend. I did the same thing last year when I headed to Disney World for my first RunDisney event-The Wine & Dine Half Marathon. So in order to get the most out of this weekend, I used a half personal day for today (Friday), and now I get to enjoy twelve fun-filled hours of travel. Getting to Milwaukee via air from Lethbridge is such a pain….but I am happy I can use my Airmiles for this flight (trip cost about $160 in taxes only. Round trips!) even though it requires an early flight from Lethbridge (5:20 am), a dumb layover in Calgary and leaving at 10:15 am, then leaving Toronto at 6:20 pm. What a day ahead….

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…But it is worth it! This weekend was first discussed back in June when my friend Kirby came out to Calgary for the marathon. She flew in and did the 10km, while I did the full, and we had a great weekend. Kirby is a friend from my University of Wisconsin-La Crosse days, and was one of my bridesmaids. She grew up about 40 minutes from me, so she is also a Wisconsin girl. We wanted to head back not just for a Wisconsin weekend, but a run weekend!

On Saturday, we will be running in the Tyranena Beer Half Marathon, out in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Kirby has ran 3 half marathons, with her best time around 2:18, so we will run together on Saturday as I try to get her to 2:15! She is nervous about the cold, because while she grew up in it, she has been in Arizona since we graduated University! She is already in Wisconsin as I type this, and she told me she grabbed any clothing she owned that is remotely close to cold-weather wear! I told her that the cold will make her run faster as she will want to get more layers on!

In coinciding with my food/beverage overhaul, I am allowing myself the splurge of two beers after the race Saturday. Oh my god, those beers are going to be delicious. The beverage portion of my two-month experiment has actually been going smoothly—it is the food that isn’t. I am great with my whole-grain cereal/fruit/coffee breakfast and packed lunch…but dinner is a disaster. This week has been all over the place, with late nights at work and first aide recertification in the evening, so my dinners have not been the healthiest. And let’s be honest—a weekend in Wisconsin is never full of healthy food. I eat anything and everything I can’t get my hands on here.

Back to the running—so we are not just doing the Beer Half on Saturday, but we are also doing a 5 km on Sunday! It’s like a reverse RunDisney challenge, with a race two days in a row, but the longer distance first! A little over a week ago, I found some information about a 5km run down at Milwaukee’s lakefront—The Mustache Dache. It is a nationwide event, with runs happening in about a dozen cities. The name says it all-mustaches are encouraged, and this is a fun 5km! Since it is Movember, this run fundraised for prostate cancer research. I am really looking forward to this, as I have not done a “themed” run outside of Disney! And it won’t just be Kirby running on Sunday, but my friend Maureen and her fiancée Ryan are too! Kirby and Maureen are going to walk it, while Ryan and I push ourselves. He is like 6 ‘5″ though….so one of his strides will be 8 of mine.

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If you had read my Two-Month Experiment post, you would have also remembered I said I am doing a run-streak until Jan. 1st. So far so good….and yes, even today, on this day of travel. While I could have just maybe waited to get my single mile run in when I got to Milwaukee, I boldly set my alarm for 3:45 am today, and was out the door at 3:55. I ran a 9:01 minute mile and got ready for my flight. When I woke up my groggy husband at 4:25 am to drive me to the airport, he said I was dumb. Whatever Dan! I made a plan and I stuck with it!

Lastly, while my Twitter followers and friends on Facebook would have seen this, a casual reader may not have. I will argue with my husband that I am “dumb”, but I wouldn’t argue if he said I was crazy. Why? Because I have decided to give my quest for Boston one more shot. On Sunday, May 3rd, I will be running in the BMO Vancouver Full Marathon. You know how I said I am using AirMiles for this weekend worth of flights? Using them again for Vancouver, as I can head out Friday after work and be home Sunday evening, without missing a day at school. And going away for a race is always more fun, as a change of scenery and variety never hurts anyone, I have heard fantastic things about running in Vancouver, whether in this race of the SeaWheeze Half in August, so I became intrigued and investigated further. The fact I will be running at sea level is most exciting, and I know this can be used to my advantage since I live at 3,000 feet above! I figure with my diet change, my easy & consistent running in the last two months of 2014, and a training plan overhaul in 2015, I can make some real progress. I will be talking about this adventure more in the new year, but I figured I would let everyone know that I can wait to run in Vancouver, with the fantastic ocean views and more….Take Me to the Sea!

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A two month experiment

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

No booze….
….well, except for twice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Medicine….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bare Bones Half Marathon 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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