So close, yet so far…

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So that post I did a little bit ago, about all the information I was getting close to sharing? I’m kind of stuck.

See, this blog was originally started because I was going to talk about my running, my love for Disney world, and my dad. In 2013, I did a ton of races, raised money for American Heart Association & Heart and Stroke Foundation, and trained for RunDisney races like a boss. I did this all for the memory of my dad and it helped me focus on something positive surrounding the still tough-for-me grieving process.

I always hoped we could find information about my dad’s birth family, as he was adopted. For those who haven’t followed for a long time, my dad was adopted from an orphanage in Quebec City in 1954. He was born there in 1952.

I have done DNA tests with 23 and Me and Ancestry in hopes that someone close enough in relation would pop up. 4th, 5th, 6th cousins are galore. But that doesn’t really get you anywhere.

The first week in August, a woman with the closest connection yet to me on 23 and me from my father’s side showed up.On 23 and Me I know with certainty it’s from my dad’s side, as my mom has done the DNA testing and it can sort based on us connecting as mother/daughter on the page. I messaged this woman, and then shortly after her father had results on the page too. He was even a stronger match.

I have messaged him lots in the past month. He is around 80, lives near Montreal. The predicted relationship according to 23 and Me is that he is my 1st Cousins 1x Removed. The chart on 23 and Me shows that his grandparent would be my great grandparent. He and my dad have the same grandparents!

Not just relying on 23 and Me, this man’s brother does a lot of genealogy tracking for the family on his own. I gave my contact all the dates and information that would be helpful, and in talking with his brother, they narrowed down their ‘candidates’ of family members who may have been my dad’s birth mom.

They are pretty confident they know who is my dad’s mom. I have a first name. They have sent me a few photos of the woman. They have given me bits and pieces of her past which then make sense to the whole story….born in 1926, a ton of other siblings, she was still living at home in the late 40s/early 50s when all the others had moved away. They remember her saying in 1951 she was heading to the US for a nanny position….that’s when we assume she went to the orphanage as an out of wedlock woman to have my dad in secret.

She ended up getting married in 1955/56 and had a family of her own. But then she sort of removed herself from the rest of the family. My contact said her and her husband eventually separated, but her children are still alive….but he is not sure of what their relationship with their parents has been. She passed away at some point, though her death and reason for death isn’t really known.

I am so close. The potential mother of my dad, my grandma….her kids are still alive. My dad’s potential half siblings. My contact knows where her oldest son is right now, as he put it “alive and well” and in his 60s. But he hasn’t spoken to him in around 15-20 years. He is unsure about approaching him in regards to this situation. I have offered to pay for a 23 and Me test for this potential half brother of my dad. I need answers.

I have been trying to do some digging on Ancestry. I paid for a membership again. Canadian records don’t seem as readily available as US or world records. I am just searching on my own to try to close in on some things. I am not contacting anyone. I am hoping that my contact will decide a time to talk to the one son and we can connect that way.

I don’t want anything from the family other than to have a confirmed blood-line connection to someone who is related to my dad. The closest relationship possible. My dad lived a blessed life. IT was actually a pretty privilege childhood. He was very lucky to have been raised by my grandparents and have his brother Ed. And if this life hadn’t happened for him, he would have never met my mom, he would have never had me, I would have never met Dan, and we wouldn’t have Andy. Things obviously happen for a reason. But now, I want to unlock the past.

A time bomb of information

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I have a lot I’m working on that has not been completed. It is not due to laziness But my purpose for this page is starting to come full circle.

I wanted to do a summer recap. I wanted to talk about how school startup was going in this interesting year of public education. I wanted to talk about training with no races.

But what I potentially have to find out matters more to me than anything.

#jemesouviens

Canadian COVID Chronicles

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Oh hey.   I still have a blog.   Just haven’t had time in the last three months to actually write what I’ve wanted.   COVID is the reason why.   I have time today to write something, and I want to just do a month-by-month recap on things.  Some of it family, some of it running, some of it work, some of it just whatever.  More so now, I just want this as a record of what the hell has happened since the Pandemic started!

MARCH

Yeah, so March was a chaotic mess.  On a Friday at work I frantically printed out like a dozen different study packages for my IB kids in case we weren’t there on Monday….and sure enough, school got canned Sunday night.  For the month of March, in our district we had to still be coming into work unless you were immuno-compromised.   This also meant daycare was cancelled.  Our son is 2.5 years old.  We have no family in town.  Our family are our best friends Peter & Mac and their daughter, Aria.  Since both kids go to daycare together, we figured out a way to make a cohort family and basically co-parent.  We rotated days that one adult would take both kids.  It took some planning, but we had to make it work.  And it did.

Races and events this month that were cancelled was Moonlight Run 10km (which is usually the kick-off of the race year) and we officially cancelled my mom’s trip for the month of April.  I had a hunch that she wouldn’t be able to come visit, so she cancelled her Amtrak ticket and got refunded, and then about a day or two later the borders got closed.

APRIL

I barely can remember April.  It was Easter, but we didn’t do anything special.  Actually, we were going to try and do a dinner, but then I got a sore throat and freaked out and two days later I got a COVID test.   It was negative, but I was happy at how easy it was to book.  In Alberta, we have been fortunate to have pretty easy access to testing.  At that point and time, they had expanded testing a bit, but all I had to do was go on the Alberta Health website and complete a self-assessment.  The next day, I received a call from someone and booked an appointment for that afternoon.  It was quick and easy, and it was the throat swab, not the nose jab one.  In three days I got an automated call telling me my results were negative.   At this point in time, I remember talking to a friend back home who said she wasn’t even sure how they could access a test if they wanted one.  I realized at that point how lucky I was to be where I am.

As I said before, April was supposed to be a time my mom came and visited.  10 Mile Road Race was cancelled, our friend’s 40th birthday party pub run was postponed, Dan’s yearly Guys Trip to watch NBA playoffs was a no-go, and Andy’s appointment at the US Consulate in Calgary to get him a Social Security Number (first step to get him dual-citizenship) was canned.  We had the option to start working-from-home, so I started doing that.   I became less-motivated as the month wore on.  With running and work.  With no real consistency it was very hard to stay on track.  Our friends started doing weekly trivia on Tuesday nights so that was a great way to pass the time via ZOOM calls.  I said it at some point this month that I actually felt like Dan and I were ‘doing’ more with friends, as there was a concerted effort for front lawn drinks together, quarantine wine and beer tastings and Tuesday Trivia.

MAY

This is when it got weird.  Beginning of May was just like April in that we were pretty much at home all the time.  But in Mid May, Phase 1 of the Alberta Relaunch came.  Our friends, due to their jobs, opted to have their daughter go back into daycare.  That left Dan and I with Andy on our own.  It ended up being that I basically stayed home and worked while taking care of Andy so Dan could go into work and make money.  Dan has been the busiest he’s ever been this year (we think that since everyone is just at home they decided to take care of all their yard stuff!)  By the month’s end, I was at the end of my rope.

In May, our Whitefish trip for the half marathon was cancelled.  We had a beautiful cabin booked for us and three other couples.  We hope to do it next year.  Instead, some friends and I partook in an underground race involving trail running and drinking.  That’s all I am going to say about that!

JUNE

We waived the white flag for help and my mother in law came down for a week to watch Andy so both Dan and I could actually get work done.  HUGE stress relief.  The school year was wrapping up and then thinking of the next school year was stressful in itself, as there are so many uncertainties.  The Alberta Government will make an official announcement on August 1st for the the plan in going in to the fall.   So I am just going to shut myself off in the month of July.

Phase II began in mid June and at that point Dan and I decided to try and get Andy back in to daycare, at least part time.  The month prior, I had said we could just save money this summer and wait to put him back in August….but my sanity to wearing thin.  He needs to socialization, we need him to be back.  He started back two days a week just last week and in July he will be back full time.  The protocols that they are following are very detailed and we feel confident and happy that he is back.

This month also marked some sadness.  Our beagle Snoopy had to be put down.  He had a decline occurring the previous six months, and it was just time.  His last week with us he stopped eating.  It was a cue.  We are so grateful that he made it to his 13th birthday in May, because back in 2017 was when he stopped walking for a bit due to his arthritis.  All we really were hoping for was that he would be around when Andy was born.  We aren’t sure how much Andy will remember Snoopy, but we will remember the time that he had with him.

The US/Canada border is still closed to vehicle traffic.  I understand why.  But it is now hitting me hard.  In a week, I was supposed to take the train back to Wisconsin with Andy.  We last were in Wisconsin with him during Christmas 2018.  This is the longest time that I haven’t been back.  The fact that I can’t go is hard.  I know there are worse things in life, but I am starting to struggle with this.

As I write this, it is my last day at work.  I took tomorrow off and we are heading to the family cabin at Gull Lake after school with Peter, Mac & Aria.  We haven’t ‘gone on a trip’ in some time.  To be somewhere different than Lethbridge for a few days, with our best friends, and seeing some of our family will be amazing.  COVID-19, you’ve really sucked the life out of 2020.  But, this is going to be a story to tell for the rest of our lives.

So, what are you training for?

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It’s been over two months since my last post.  I did a post about closing out on the year 2019 and talked about what was ahead.  I titled that post “2019, the New Normal”

Funny thing about that title now that we are two and a half months into 2020….

Obviously, this post comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  I live in Alberta, Canada.  I am a teacher.  We just found out a few hours ago that all Alberta schools and daycares will be closed indefinitely.  The past few weeks have been crazy following the pandemic around the world, but now there is action being taken here.  It is so surreal.

I’m not going to talk about the pandemic, give my two cents on social distancing, tag exponential graphs (but those are pretty cool.  Because in a few years there’ll be Math 30-1 Diploma Questions related to this outbreak).  But I want to talk about what this means for me personally in running.

A lot has been going on in the running world lately once this started to take off.  Tokyo Marathon limited their field to just the elite runners.  And then fast forward a few weeks and now London and Boston have been postponed.  Those are just the big races.  Tons (I’m assuming thousands) of smaller races around the world are being cancelled.  

I had originally planned on doing my first running post of this year until after our annual Moonlight Run, which was scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 21st.  I’ve done a Moonlight Run post every year, so I figured I would do one this year even though I thought the race would be ugly for me.  My training had gotten a good start in January, but some extreme cold temps made it hard to get motivated.  They cancelled the event early last week, after the Alberta government put forth an initiative to not have events of greater than 250 people congregate.  It was bitter sweet, but that’s when everything started getting real.  This year, my race schedule was actually very odd for me.  I have been reflecting on it a lot, and I realized that this year, I had no races booked where I would have a flight required.  Nothing on either end of Canada, nothing far away in the US, and nothing overseas.  Everything is drivable.

Looking back on my race results on this site, the last year I never needed to take an airplane to get to a specific event 2012, because in 2013 was my first RunDisney event at the Wine and Dine Half.  So everything from 2012 and earlier were just your basic, local races.  In 2014 I went back to Disney for Dopey Challenge and Disneyland for Dumbo Double Dare.  I also did the Tyranena Beer Runhalf marathon in Wisconsin and a Mustache Dache 5km too.  In 2015 I went out to California for two Spartan races with my best friend, along with hitting my dream goal of qualifying for Boston while running the Vancouver Marathon. Oh, and I did Disneylandagain.

2016 led to a small half marathon back in Wisconsin and then straight into this big race called The Boston Marathon!  WOW!  I went and had foot surgery in summer of 2016.  I recovered and went to run the Disney races again in January 2017.  I then went back to Disney in 2018 for the Star Wars races, did two small July races in Wisconsin (Firecracker Four or Beer Garden 5km).  And then my first ever international was the Berlin Marathon! Finally, in 2019 my husband and I travelled to the edge of Canada to Haida Gwaii to do the Totem to Totem Marathon and then I did my fourth Abbott World Marathon Major with the New York Marathon.

::::breathe::::

The main races we had planned this year were going to the Whitefish Half Marathon in late May (that has not been cancelled at this time.  We are really hoping we can get to it).  We are going with a bunch of friends and driving down to a cabin in Montana.  Not as fancy as New York City, but tons of fun non the less.  We are also planning on doing The Lone Wolf out in Fernie, BC again.  It was so much fun last year!  That is in June.  And in September, I am giving Lost Soul Ultra 50 km another try.  Oh, and I am most likely having a second foot surgery this fall.

I’m not sure how this all aligned, but I feel extremely fortunate of where I have gotten to travel to to do the hobby I love dearly—RUN.  I have had 7 straight years of amazing trips and memories made all surrounding running.  And this year, while those trips may look a little different, the memories are going to be there.  We have to make the most of what is given to us.  These next couple of months will suck for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but in the grand scheme of things, as long as we take care of our selves the next coming months then we have the following years ahead to look forward too.  I will in fact finish those Abbott World Marathon Majors….London and Tokyo, I’m coming for you!  I want to requalify for Boston.  I want to find small niche races all around North American to participate in.  I want to have fun running.

So, a lot of runners right now are in a weird spot.  What are we training for?  Well, we are training for the chance to come back fighting once that stage is opened for us again. 

2019…the new normal

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You can take a look at my 2019 race result link to see the events I did this year. And then, if you feel like it, you can click on 2018, 2017, 2016…and you’ll soon realize how few events I did this year in comparison to other years.

This was the first full calendar year that 1.) I was back at work full time after maternity leave and 2.) we would be now parents to our son Andy, who turned 2 in October 2019. Before a child, I could run whenever I wanted and sign up for any race I wanted (obviously within reason). There were really no constraints! Even when I was pregnant, I kept up the running and shorter events. During maternity leave, I actually did have lots of time to run and train because I was off of work and I was willing to take Andy with me to any daytime boot camps he was allowed at. We still could travel lots and my schedule was flexible. Coming back full time to work with a child at daycare and trying to manage your own activities is not for the faint of heart.

Race medals from my 2019 events

I barely remember the winter and spring of 2019, but it was me focusing on just running in general. I did start a run streak during that time to get myself motivated for the season, but stopped in late March due to just being worn out. My husband never understands it, but Moonlight Run in March is always stressful for me. The first race of the year! I ran alright, and now looking back at that 45:17 I don’t know why I was that down. Then Rita’s Run 5km in May and Woody’s Half Marathon. The half was frustrating for me because 1.) Dan beat me and 2.) my time was actually about a minute slower than the year before while on maternity leave. I just felt down about my decline.

2019 race swag

As summer hit, things got better. Switched over to trail season and I had a lot of fun. This was my first year really giving trail running an honest try. Dan and I did a two-person coulee cactus crawl team and actually placed in the mixed division, even beating teams who had up to 5 members. We also did Lone Wolf in Fernie as a 2 person team and had a blast with our friends and Andy that weekend. In July, we travelled way West to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, where I ran the full marathon. What an experience that was! It was a small field of runners, but I was honoured to place 2nd female with a pretty respectful time. With little recovery time and still a busy summer, I had to stay prepped for my first trail 50km Ultra. And I did the Lost Soul Ultra in September, even beating my goal time and placing in my age group.

Special awards

I had one more half marathon race lined up in October before the NYC marathon would come in November. That race never happened, as my world was flipped when I got a phone call late September that my Uncle Ed had passed away. This was my dad’s only sibling. I was shook. I travelled to Longville, Minnesota, for the funeral and to see family. When I came back, I could never get back into a groove. I forced my body through the NYC marathon, thankful that my only goal that race was to run with my husband and our friend and have fun. And since after NYC I’ve just lost motivation.

Am I going to stop running? Hell no. But I need to be a little easier on myself and get back to the root of running—-to stay healthy. Dan reminded me that about two days ago. That is the number 1 reason to run. And now, our number 2 reason to run is to spend time as a family and with our friends. That is something that has changed a lot in the last year or two and I am forever grateful for our running friends. Not just the ones we see at marathon club or races, but the ones we hang out with while in NYC…at beer miles…on our patio…our friends who hosted us while we ran in Haida Gwaii…the ones who cheered me on and crewed never at Lost Soul…the ones we are running with in New Years Eve for a group pub run. The last thing is to be competitive. That may have been a higher point to me in the last years. But it shouldn’t be now. It still matters to me; I’m still going to be competitive. But I gotta remember what is more important.

So 2020, what will you bring? I am registered for the Lost Soul 50km and hope to better my time. Dan and I are also doing Lone Wolf again, and our friend and his daughter are going to come and camp with us! We also plan on having a group of us go down to do the Whitefish Half Marathon in May and making it a fun long weekend with friends. 2019 may have been different compared to my other years, but now after reflecting on it, I’m looking forward to what my running future looks like!

Goodbye 2019…hello 2020!

New York Marathon 2019

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New York City!  WOW!  What a trip this was!  My husband Dan and I were fortunate enough that our local running store, Runners Soul, was putting on another travel event.  The first one they organized was last fall when we went to the Berlin Marathon.  Since that was a success, they got on the planning train again, but this time for the New York City Marathon.  The plan is for the store to do travel groups to all the Abbott Marathon Major races, and this is helping me check off my list.  Upon completion of the NYC Marathon, I would have four of the six majors under my belt—Chicago, Boston, Berlin & New York.

We flew out to NYC on a Thursday night red eye flight.  This allowed us to maximize our time in NYC.  We would be staying four nights, and the marathon was on Sunday.  Arriving at around 9:45 AM to Newark, we were able to get right into the action of the city that day.  While we couldn’t get into our rooms yet at the hotel, we wandered with some friends around the city, got to the expo for packet pickup (the expo was CRAZY busy) and Dan and I eventually were able to sneak in a nap later in the day.

Highlights of sightseeing and tourist stuff we did while in NYC were: Comedy show at Upright Citizens Brigade, finding a sweet jazz club with ping pong tables and shuffleboard, general touring of the city, World Trade Center memorial, Grand Central Terminal, Book of Mormon (HILARIOUS!), dinner and pub hopping in Harlem with friends, seeing a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, wandering Brooklyn, and Katz’s Delicatessan.

So now onto the marathon.  I knew this would be a crazy one, being that it is the largest one in the world.  Somewhere over 54,000 runners!  When registering, Dan and I had transit options for getting to the start line in Staten Island.  You could take the 6 am ferry, which required getting to the ferry first.  Or we could choose the 5:30 am or 5:45 am bus directly to the start.  We opted for the 5:30 am bus because honestly I didn’t know how long it would take.  In retrospect, we should have done 5:45 am or just hung back for a later time because we got there so quickly and then after getting through security we had to wait in the cold for a solid 3 hours before getting into the corrals.

This was the worst part of the day, but once we started moving to get in to our corrals it was a lot better.  I was placed in a faster wave than Dan, even though we put the same expected finishing time.  I moved back to his wave so we could run together.  This did cause major congestion as we were in the second wave versus the first (there were four waves altogether) but since we weren’t going for breaking any speed records this was fine.

Funnelling through the corral up to the start was an experience in itself.  It was crazy to see how well organized all these different corrals were.  There were three corrals (orange, green and blue) in each of the four waves.  So we started separated from two other groups when our wave began!  And since the first mile was over the Staten Island Bridge, two waves ran on the top of the bridge on either side of it (we were one of them) and the third wave ran below the bridge.  It was so well orchestrated.  All three corrals didn’t blend together until around the 5km mark!

The next borough you hit was Brooklyn..  People were proud of their neighborhood!  This was the area you were in the longest.  During the race, Dan and I ran with our friend Adam-it was his first full marathon.   Our general plan was to run at a pace with a goal of sub 4 hours.  We were generally on this pace most of the time, and would only slow down during any of the various bridge climbs.  I was naïve to think this would be an ‘easy’ course.  Those bridges are challenging because of the slight incline to begin, plus there are no spectators on the bridges.

The toughest bridge would be the Queensboro Bridge, which would be located in Queens at around mile 15.  This was a long bridge that hits you at that point where you may start questioning why you are running this race!  When we crossed the bridge we kept our eyes open for our friends Nick and Nicki, who were standing somewhere in the mile 16 area.  I thought we had definitely missed them (the crowds were 3-4 people deep) but sure enough they saw us, so Dan and I ran back quickly to give them a hug!

At mile 20 in the Bronx, we got a little crazy and stopped for a shot of tequila-Patron to be exact!  Figured, WHY NOT!  People had a sign for FREE SHOTS so we took them up on it.  Our spirits were still high and we were still on pace to break 4 hours.  We were still on that pace once we made our way into Manhattan and nearing Central Park.  With about 5km left, I remember telling Dan that if we ran approximately 9:20/min miles for the last bit we could get in under 4 hours!

Then, it all fell apart.

Dan’s body just sorta seized up on him.  His legs were cramping.  He was crabby.  He felt so miserable.  We had to walk a lot in Central Park and he was not enjoying himself at all.  With two miles left, we took the peace offering of a cup of beer from a spectator.  Also, my watch died so I had no idea exactly how slow we were going.  We would walk/jog for the last 5km and it felt like it took forever.  Our final ‘push’ to the finish line was a slow meander.  We came in at 4:07.25 seconds.  While it wasn’t under 4 hours, it was pretty close and we have no regrets!  There was no way I was going to ditch Dan the last 5km; what would have been the point!?  I wanted us to finish together, and so we did.

The course for this race was AWESOME.  Definitely a major highlight just all rolled together.  What wasn’t awesome was the ridiculously long walk from the finish line to get your medal, food and then post-race poncho.  It was an extremely long trek.  Once you got to the ponchos, everyone had them on and were walking so slow and in pain that it looked like a mass scene from The Walking Dead.  It was also a challenge to get to the closest subway station post race, as the area we were let out of for the family meet up spot was conveniently across from the one subway line we needed.  However, we could just cross the street since they had a spot barricaded.  We had to walk to two more blocks, cross the street, and then walk back.

I would definitely recommend the NYC Marathon, especially if you are working on getting those Marathon Majors completed!  I would not recommend it as someone’s first marathon necessarily, as it is very overwhelming.  We were fortunate to enjoy our time in New York with a bunch of our friends and with beautiful weather.  What more could have we asked for?!?

Lost Soul Ultra 50km

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While this is a bit delayed (2 months….)It’s official.  I completed my first trail ultra marathon!  On Saturday, September 7th, I trekked out into the infamous Lethbridge coulees on an adventure.  I felt prepared enough, I suppose, but I didn’t really get as much trial running in during the summer as I had hoped.  However, my training and completing of Totem to Totem in July must have helped as my legs felt better than expected.  And my result was better than I could have asked for.

The last two years, the weekend of Lost Soul has been HOT and smoky.  Forest fires over in British Columbia were the culprit.  On Friday, when the 200km, 100 miler and 100km runners started it was cool, overcast, and even drizzled a bit of rain.  On Saturday morning the temperatures were comfortable and great for running.

The course is split into 6 different sections, or legs.  There are also three aide stations-Headquarters (HQ, where the start and finish are), Softball Valley and Pavan Park.  Each leg varies in length and difficulty.

I had done *just enough* training this summer that I felt confident going into the race.  I had ran on legs 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 before during training.  I was not able to attend the leg 4 training night-Leg 4 is on private land and is only opened once during the summer for runners to explore and then again on race day.  I made a general race plan that I gave to my friend Aaron, who would be my crew captain for the race.  Well, he was my only crew person to be exact—I didn’t want to have to rely on Dan with Andy, because if Andy gave him any grief during the day, they may not be at a required spot when I needed them.  Aaron’s job was to meet me at each aide station around the times I was hoping to get in, provide me with any food and beverages I needed at that time, fill up my water, and then also keep Dan in the loop.

This was the general plan I gave Aaron to follow:

LSU GOAL of SUB 7 HOURS with Time of Day to LEAVE Aide Station

Leg1 -South Loop 7km, goal of 45 min, no stop at aid station T.O.D 7:45 am

Leg 2-HQ to Softball Valley 8.4 km, goal of 55 min, 2 min stop at aide station T.O.D 8:42 am

Leg 3-Softball Valley to Pavan 9.6km, goal of 1 hour 15 min, 5 min stop at aide station T.O.D 10:02 am

Leg 4-North Loop 16.4 km, goal of 2 hours, 5 min stop at aide station T.O.D 12:07 pm

Leg 5-Pavan to Softball Valley 6.6 km, goal of 55 min, 2 min stop at aide station T.O.D 1:02 pm

Leg 6-Softball Valley to HQ 6.2 km, goal of 50 min T.O.D 1:54 pm

Total time—6 hours and 54 minutes

 

RACE TIME! (My “actual times” are found on the Aide Station breakdown results from the LSU website.  I believe these are the times I came through the aide stations)

Leg 1

I knew I couldn’t get caught up in the hype.  I took it easy and paced myself off of someone I knew.  Not really much to say about this section except I did start off fast just so I knew I wouldn’t be stuck behind people on the first narrow hill climb.

Goal time-7:45 am    Actual time-7:43 am


Leg 2

I ran though the first aide station at HQ like planned.  This is also a section I was familiar with.  I have done this section many times as it is easily accessibly from our house.  The weather was still nice and cool so I focused on not pushing too hard (since it was still comfortable) and just focusing on the goal.  I also made sure to hydrate and get some calories in, even though I wasn’t hungry or thirsty yet.

 

Goal time-8:42 am     Actual time-8:39 am


Leg 3

I met Aaron at Softball valley and got a few bites of watermelon.  I also walked a bit through the station before running onward.  I didn’t have a need for a bathroom break so I decided to keep moving.  This leg was one that I had a bit of experience on the first half of it (Gun range hill, Ryan’s hill) but not as much experience in the second half as you head to Pavan.  As I was getting further along on this leg I was definitely starting to feel hungry and a bit tired.  I was also looking forward to getting to Pavan so I could go to the bathroom before hitting the North Loop.

 

Goal time-10:02 am    Actual time-9:53 am


Leg 4

This is where I will definitely need to find room for improvement.  The fact that I had no first-hand visual of what this route looked like was a mental struggle for me.  It was also starting to get warm and we were pretty spaced out on the course.  I felt very alone on this long segment.  I did not realize how many late-in-the-first-half of this loop coulee climbs there would be.  I think there were at least 3 that I didn’t expect to happen.  My stomach was bothering me and I was crabby.  I really thought I would be falling being my goal here and I was starting to come to terms with it.  As soon as I realized we had crossed the bridge to the other side of the lake and were heading BACK to Pavan, my spirits were lifted.   I also found a fellow runner who was training for NYC Marathon with us on the weekends, Steven, and we ran a bit together which was nice.  It was also a huge mental boost coming in to the aide station and seeing Dan with Andy.

 

Goal time-12:07 pm    Actual time-12:05pm


Leg 5

Apparently, I looked like hell when I got in to the aide station.  I think I spent a solid 10 minutes or more going to the bathroom, getting ice, drinking fluids and eating watermelon.  I couldn’t stomach any other solid foods other than watermelon or gummi chews.  I got my body heat cooled down and headed out.  With this being a shorter leg than the last, I knew I could focus on the fact that I wouldn’t be out there as long as the North Loop.  And, the first part of this loop had shade!  I tackled it the best I could, and as I head in to Softball Valley for the final time, I was feeling a burst of energy!

 

Goal time-1:02 pm    Actual time-1:07pm


Leg 6

I didn’t even stop for Aaron at Softball Valley.  All I did was ditch my hydration backpack and I didn’t even take the water belt.  I knew I could get this last leg done efficiently.  It is the easiest leg on its own, but after doing 5 prior it could still be a challenge.  I had a goal and I was going to reach it.  I had planned on trying to do this leg in 50 minutes….I ended up crushing it in 41 minutes!

 

Goal time-1:54 pm    Actual time-1:48 pm


 

I BEAT MY GOAL!  Holy shit it was a ride.  And to be honest, as I finished, I felt like I could have run another 5 km.  With the strategy of ultra running being a mix of running on flats and downhills, power walking on inclines, my body actually felt incredibly good.  Aaron was there at the finish line with my single tall-boy can of Blindman Longshadows IPA on ice.  Dan and Andy were not there immediately because they didn’t think I’d be there by that time!

I ended up finding out that I placed 3rd in my age group!  I knew it would be close, but I did in fact place 3rd in the 18-39 female category with an official time of 6:48.11.  I placed 3/17 in my age group, 5/61 women and then 15/137 overall.  The coveted LOST SOUL ROCKS were awarded to all finishers this year, as it was a special 20th anniversary year.  However, I earned a special age group rock which I received sand-blasted about a month later.  This means so much to not only finish this bucket-list race, but also earn an age group award!

 

Will I do this again?  YES!  Now that I have a baseline, I would love to try and beat my personal best.  I think with more trail training and experience, I could definitely break 6:40, and maybe head down to the low 6:30s.  I have a lot to learn on the trails, especially work on my downhill descents, fueling, stomach issues, and just overall trail experience.  I don’t know if I will be out there in 2021, as a lot revolves on a possible 2nd foot surgery, but I will be back!

Brief hiatus

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Hey everyone

I know it’s usually a gap between all my posts anyways with work, all our family commitments and etc. I was starting to write my recap on my Lost Soul Ultra experience (the recap was already delayed) and a family emergency happened last week. I need some time to decide what to write next.

Street art from Europe, circa 1965

Totem to Totem Marathon

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I don’t even know where to begin! So I’ll start with a quote regarding visitor information directly from the race webpage:

“Located off the north west coast of B.C, Haida Gwaii is as far west as you can go in Canada. It is the home and traditional territory of the Haida. It is one of Canada’s undiscovered treasures.”

 

Flying in

 

This was a family vacation that we planned around a race. It was able to happen in part that our friends, David & Heidi, live out in Haida Gwaii. We booked the three flights, shuttle and ferry and went out on an adventure! By using our AirMiles (and the fact Andy could fly for free) it cost us $100 per adult ticket for all three flights, return! Flying from Alberta to British Columbia is the lowest AirMiles flight redemption for province to province, so this was a steal considering how much all these little flight segments would have cost.

Riding the moving sidewalk in Vancouver

Almost a 3 hour delay out of Vancouver calls for a nap

Even slept through a parent transfer!

We arrived in Haida Gwaii on the Thursday. This allowed us to get settled in at our friends’ place and tour a bit the next morning. Flights were delayed out of Vancouver, and we ended up leaving 3 hours late to the island. Andy was a champ throughout this all (more so, I was getting super anxious and I think my husband was getting sick of airports). I was very worried we would be stuck in Sandspit (not where Dave & Heidi live) because technically, the last ferry would have already left. However, BC Ferries ran one more ferry from Moresby Island to Graham Island solely because of the inbound flight coming in. Phew!

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We made it to Sandspit!

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Loading it up on the ferry

Not loving it on the ferry!

On Friday morning, Dave and Heidi decided to show us how life is out there and we went crabbing. It was a lot of fun. We drove up to Miller Creek (a spot on the race course), parked on the side of the road, then hiked into the beach.(YES we bought our license to crab, which was a whopping $5 per person. You could catch up to six crabs a day per person on that…) We ended up catching a Dungeness crab and a red crab (I forget the name of this kind). The Dungeness was huge! It fed us all lunch that afternoon.

Probably my favourite picture from the trip!  Some serious sand-scooping with a sand dollar is happening.

Dave & Dan became friends in elementary school when they both took French Immersion

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Our catch

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The crew (minus Dave since he was taking the picture)

Bringing home the prize!

Later that day, we went to the Skidegate to pick up our race packages, which was located at the Kaay Centre. FUN FACT: This was an official AMAZING RACE CANADA location! Even though it was a small package pickup, you could walk a little bit inside the centre and out on the grounds to admire the totems, canoes, and the view. I was happy with the shirts, as they were the Authentic T-Shirt Company, and from my experience their shirts are not of the best quality….and often, they are only one “gender size”. Since I got a women’s small, it actually fits my proportionals correctly and is not a lost cause. The logo and the shirt design mesh well together and both my husband and I really like the colour!

 

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Family photo!

Race started at 8 am. The drive from Dave & Heidi’s place in Queen Charlotte was about 15 minutes. If you are a tourist doing the race, there are quite a few B&B options right in Queen Charlotte too! And I am sure people have Air BnB. There are just none of your typical “Holiday Inn”stuff. And that is fine! We loved the comforts offered here! Race parking was so easy, everyone was so nice. The full and half marathon would be starting at 8, with the 10km following at 8:15.

Down on the beach at the Kaay Centre

Getting ready to start

If this race interests you for a full marathon, the first thing I need to make clear is that it is an extremely small field. In the past years of running in general, more and more people take part in 10km and half marathons….full marathons still seem to be a little bit scarier of a task. I knew it would be a small field based on looking at past results. When you look at the 2019 final results, there were 21 total runners in the full marathon, 47 half marathon runners, and 128 runners in the 10km. So, coming from “a city” this is VERY SMALL. THAT IS NOT A BAD THING! For lots of distances, this is great. But I was well aware of how the marathon field would be and how alone I would potentially feel on the course.

The course is “out-and-back” style, where the half marathoners turn around at Dead Tree Point water station. The marathoners would then continue on to St. Mary Spring, then head back to Skidegate. The whole time you are running, you are on the “highway.” It’s the only road there, with one lane each way. They have tall cones on the edge for runners to stay inside of. When cars occasionally pass, most honk and wave. There are water stations approximately every 5km. If you really get frustrated with your race just look to the side and you are literally running alongside the ocean. You’ll forget your worries!

I won’t recap mile by mile, I’ll just post a Garmin screenshot and it’ll tell you how it went. In summary: Started off strong feeling I could get that 3:30.00 but by 7 miles I was so mentally frustrated and alone (since the half marathoners had turned around) I was just in a mood. Lo and behold Meaghan and Benjy from Victoria, BC, come up to me. THANK GOD. They had ran with Dan for a few miles before the marathoners kept going, and Dan must have described me well enough to them that they knew I was his wife. At that point I thought another female runner was ahead of me. Turns out, I was the lead and Meaghan would ultimately win for the women. But without them showing up, and running with me to the turnaround point, I may have just dove into the brush and then found my way to the sand to start crabbing again because I was crabby….

Running with others is fantastic. We met up around mile 7 or 8. We all ran together until the turnaround. Meaghan and Benjy went ahead. I eventually passed Benjy. And then seeing the areas I already had once passed motivated me to keep moving and pick it up. I’m going to say GIRL POWER here because after Meaghan passed me, no other women passed me but I caught up to and passed 3 guys! It felt good! Since I was feeling the pain of the mileage (I hadn’t done a training run longer than 15 miles this season….oops) and I couldn’t see the third place female behind me, I made sure to take my time at the aid stations. They were well stocked, but I will say the first one we hit on our way out from the start was weird because they only have bottled water but no cups or jugs to fill from….so I carried a bottle of water for a while as a shower device!

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Photo credit to @jagsbean Jags Photography

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With less than 400 m to the finish! Beautiful! Follow @jagsbean on Instagram for more!

 

Finish line area was super welcoming and all the runners, spectators and volunteers were genuinely happy when someone came across. We received a beautiful finishers’ medal, the design was new this year by local Haida artist Robert Davidson. Andy was waiting with David & Heidi when both Dan and then I crossed the finish line. They caught video of Dan coming in with Andy clapping, and then when I crossed in I ran and gave him a big hug.

I finished the race in a time of 3:42.35, which is my third fastest full marathon.  This was my 15th marathon.

As a mother runner, coming across the finish line and giving that little monster a big huge is an amazing feeling!

We hung around for a bit, and then we were informed that awards wouldn’t happen until the last finishers came in, so around 2 pm. At standard races,this would not occur. But since this is such a small, community and cultural event, I understand the importance of waiting for everyone to be in attendance to receive their awards. We went back and showered, Andy took a snooze, and we came back at 2 pm. The awards were presented by the totems in behind the Kaay Centre overlooking the water.

IT WAS PICTURESQUE. I received an award for being 2nd female in the marathon (time of 3:42.35…my third fastest time!) and it is honestly, without a doubt, the best award I’ve ever received in a race. Lots of races just have finishers medals, or if there are not finishers’ medals then they do age group medals. They are pretty generic. Since we are on the edge of the damn country, it’s not like they have access to mass-produced awards….so I was given a necklace carved out of black stone, with the Haida eagle & raven on it, and the Argilllite stone that I am told only Haida are allowed to harvest (made by local artist Tyler York). It’s pretty damn special.

2nd place female award

All of the award winners from each event-Marathon, Half Marathon and 10km

After awards, the rest of our trip began. We were only staying three more nights, but we made the most of it and the best we could with a toddler. We walked 400 metres every morning to the playground. And we walked 100 metres from Dave & Heidi’s house to a trail that was a rainforest. We went to a beach, we ate good food, we had a blast!

Hiking trails right behind David & Heidi’s house

Beach before heading to dinner (Notice the monkey swinging on the rope….)

Dinner at Blacktail in Queen Charlotte

Andy approved of our meals that evening!

Berries are everywhere! Ever heard of THIMBLEBERRIES? Yeah, I hadn’t. Andy LOVES THEM. Find them everywhere! We drove out to see the site of the Golden Spruce (I had never read about this act of eco-terroism, but we found out about it whilebeing here. Well, Dan knew but I did not. It’s super interesting actually!) Wesaw ancient carved Haida canoes, we walked random trails, we did beach walks, we dined on friends’ patios that overlooked the ocean….we did as much as we could. And I know there is more to do.

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THE BERRY MONSTER!

Golden Spruce Trail is really accessible for all ages

Since I did in fact drink the water at St. Mary Springs on our last day while doing an outing, I know I will “be back”. But even before that,I know I NEED to be back. Our family needs to be back. And if you are interested in travelling to an amazing island in British Columbia, that feels a worlds’ away, you should too. Even if you don’t run. But if you do run, and want to add a bucket-list race, why not run on the Edge of Canada?

Read the sign….I drank the water, so I will return to the Islands someday!

Dinner on our last night at a friends’ house.  THE END!

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Running on the edge of Canada

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I moved to Canada in December 2008. I started working as a substitute teacher in January 2009, landing my first 1-year contract for the 2009-2010 school year. I was teaching 4 grade 9 math classes and a grade 10 class. It was a new curriculum year for Math 9, and we had a new textbook. As I worked through my notes in the text, when I got to the Chapter 6 on Linear Relations there was a section on interpreting graphs. There is an example problem, that at the time, meant nothing to me. Here it is:

I’ve been teaching math 9 on and off since 2009, and this example comes up when we talk about extrapolation and interpolation. Even though I’ve always been keen on maps, I never took the time to look where the hell this actually was in relation to the rest of Canada. Fast forward 10 years from my first time teaching Math 9 and I am actually going to Queen Charlotte Islands.

Note where Lethbridge is in the bottom right of Alberta. Head due west towards Vancouver, then follow up the coast and you’ll see Queen Charlotte Islands. We are basically almost going to be in Alaska.

My husband’s friend David and his wife Heidi moved out to Queen Charlotte about a year and a half ago. Dan met David when they took late French-Immersion during Elementary through High School in Red Deer, Alberta. David and Heidi eventually moved out to Vancouver Island, then Vancouver, and now have left the big city to live a more simple life. So we decided to make our family summer vacation to be flying out to Queen Charlotte!….and doing a race of course!

Flying out there isn’t an easy task. I was able to use my Air Miles to get our flights covered (just paid $100 each for taxes) and Andy still flies free since he is under 2 years old. We will be leaving Lethbridge and flying to Calgary. Then Calgary to Vancouver. And lastly, Vancouver to Sandspit. Once we land in Sandspit, we have a shuttle arranged that takes us about 20 minutes to the ferry. We get on the ferry, ride it for 20-25 minutes, and then will be dropped off at David & Heidi’s doorstep. It’ll be a full travel day for sure.

Since I am always looking for unique races to participate in, when I found out that the Totem to Totem Marathon occurs in July in Haida Gwaii I knew we had to come out during that time. It is a relatively small race, however, it is still a Boston qualifier. It appears the race began in 2010 (that’s the earliest results they have on their site) and there were 5 full marathoners, 12 half marathoners, and 12 who ran the 10km. Last year, there are results for 14 marathoners, 28 half marathoners and 128 runners who did the 10km. Considering the remote location, the growth in this race (particularly in the 10km) is great to see.

The race appears to be an out and back. No course map is provided on the website. But I think it is paved and pretty much along the water the whole way. I really will be running “on the edge” of Canada so to speak. I have no clue if there will be a bike pacing the lead runner. I have no clue how many spectators there will be. I am preparing myself to be mentally challenged because with so few marathon runners (I count 21 registered marathoners on the confirmation page through Running Room) we will all get spaced out pretty quickly. I am going ot be running my own race.

What do I hope for? Well, in a perfect world I nail that 3:30.00 I was going for back in Berlin this September and qualify again for Boston. But, I honestly feel like this is the least prepared I’ve been for a marathon in years…..

Yes, I have been running. I have been racing. But my training just hasn’t been “right” since being back at work. I’ve been dragging, having back pain, legs hurt. I have been meeting with my doctor, getting chiro done, going for massages. I haven’t ran longer than 15 miles straight all of 2019. So everything after mile 16 is going to be hella interesting.

I just need to trust myself in knowing that I’ve done this before. This isn’t my first rodeo. This will actually be my 15th full marathon! And the last time I ran a marathon in British Columbia I ran my best time ever. Sea level and cool temperatures are a good thing for me! I’m doing a race on an ISLAND!! How cool is that?!?! Either way, I am very much looking forward to not only this race, but the experience of exploring and learning about Haida Gwaii, because I honestly know NOTHING about the history of the area or the area itself. I can’t wait to right this race and trip report!