Coulee Cactus Crawl

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I ran this as an unexperienced soloist in 2013, then as a last minute team member for leg 2 in 2018. This year, my husband and I opted to run as team “Danada & Miss America” for the 25th anniversary event. This event was now lengthened from 20 miles to 25 miles in length. You could choose to run the 5 legs of the race however you want between you and your relay partner(s). The interesting thing for this race that since there are 5 legs to it, you could have a relay of up to five people. Dan and I decided two would be the way to go, and I am very happy with how it all went!

I was nervous the day before the race, as the smoke from the wildfires up north had travelled south to our area. Not nervous just for us as runners, but nervous for Andy as a spectator. He would be outside with us all day at the race, as we would be trading him off at each relay checkpoint. Thankfully, the smoke cleared and all we had to battle through was the heat.

Before the race

We had originally planned for Dan to run legs 1 & 2 and I would run legs 3-5. Dan started off what with what seemed to be a conservative pace. About 20 minutes into the leg, my phone rings. It’s Dan. WTF….you should be running….He said “be ready to run leg 2.” With that statement I had no clue what type of shape he would be in coming to the transition area. He came through in a decent time, and actually had us 2nd in our category (mixed relay <40 years old). I headed off to the 2nd leg.

Playing around at the transition area for leg 2

I had messaged him before heading off stating I would run leg 2 & 3 and hope he could do 4, and then I would do 5. This is what ended up happening. Dan was recovered by the time it got to leg 4 (which was just leg 2 in reverse) and his main issue was the pressure the water belt was putting on his stomach. At the end of leg 2 we were still in 2nd place, but then during leg 3 (when presumably other teams had a fresh runner take a spot) I slid our team down to 4th place. This was the longest and most challenging leg, and I was happy to have a little break.

During these breaks we were basically just shuttling Andy and ourselves to the different transition areas. Andy was a CHAMP! It was hot out, but we kept him under umbrellas and in the shade. With the help of our friends who were also running as teams or spectating, we had such a great crew surrounding us. It’s awesome to have a random selection of people to pass your kid off to when you have to use the bathroom before heading off on your leg of the relay!

My pale-skinned men waiting for me during leg 3!

So Dan made up some epic time in leg 4. We were in 4th in our division when I came in after leg 3. When Dan tagged me off for my portion of the race he had climbed back up to 3rd place. With our friend Nick on the team in 4th place, I knew my burnt out legs (which had already ran 10 miles) would have some work to do in order to stay ahead of his fresh legs (he was running his first leg of the race).

Andy fell asleep finally during leg 5 and the post race celebration

I somehow mustered to hold on, bringing our two-person relay in with a time of 4 hours 23 minutes even. I was really proud of how Dan and I adapted the race on the fly given how he was feeling, and how we were able to hold on and place in our division with just two of us! We had so much fun that day with each other, our friends, and with Andy. We are looking forward to our upcoming race weekend in Fernie, where we will be doing another relay together. This one is a set two-person relay, and thankfully a lot of our same great friends will be out there too. Hope Andy does as well as he did here!

Post race beverages and fun!

May Races

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I had two races this month: Red Deer Half Marathon and the Willow Creek Wilderness 10km. These are both races I ran last year. And they are both races I did worse at this year.

I have done Red Deer Half numerous times. My slowest time for Red Deer is somewhere around a 1:56 (this was before I really started taking my training seriously) and my fastest is in the 1:42. Considering I ran a 1:37 and change at the Police Half in September, I was incorrectly assuming I could maybe break 1:40. Of course, I didn’t take into account how shitty my training has been going this winter and spring. I also seemed to forget that the Red Deer course is actually a bit challenging. While the city of Red Deer is lower in elevation than Lethbridge, the course winds along the Red Deer River with many sharp turns. There are also numerous little hills throughout that put a strain on your body.

I started off the race too fast (of course) but I felt good the first 5 km and thought I was settled in to keep a 7:30 min/mi pace. But mile 4 was a 7:35 and then mile 5 was a 7:49. When mile 6 hit an 8:20 and it felt like my legs had already ran a full marathon, I knew I was in trouble. My husband Dan caught up to me around mile 8.5 and he jokingly said “Don’t let your piece of shit husband beat you!” (He says he’s a POS because he does not train NEARLY as seriously as I do) Well, I was able to join him again by mile 9, and it did push me to keep on trucking. I had told him we should just run together the rest of the race, which we did, but once I got up the final hill and had the last 400 m downhill to the finish line I decided to just fucking book it. Well, he ended up passing me at the finish and I lost. This is the first time my husband has gotten a time better than me in a half marathon. And it sucked.

I ran a 1:43.20. Dan ran a 1:43.12. Last year, at 7 months postpartum I ran a 1:42.28. I know race times can change year to year. But I really didn’t think I’d be a little bit slower than last year. But then, I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have the same time to train like I did last year on maternity leave.

My body doesn’t recover from races as fast as it used to either. I’ve done back to back race weekends before, but doing the Willow Creek 10km this year after doing the Red Deer Half was maybe a poor choice. My time, just like Red Deer, was slower than the previous year. I ran a 48:25 (slightly longer than a 10km) but last year I ran a 47:48. My body was just dragging. I did have fun because our friends Chelsey and Adam were there too, and they won the female and male categories. I came in behind them in 5th place.

I really hope that my road race times can get back down closer to where they used to be. But I may have to just start to accept that this may be my ‘new normal’ for some time.

Spring

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Well, Spring came late with winter never seeming to end. I *think* we can finally say that all the snow is behind us…even though a snowfall occurred last Saturday night and left the trails wet and muddy for the local 5km Rita’s Run this past Sunday. All of it is melted and now we can move onto Spring and Summer, right?

It’s been 3 months since my last post. That’s the longest, by far, I’ve ever had between postings. Anytime I have an idea to write, I am either busy with school work, busy with life work, busy with parent work, busy with wine-work….I just don’t have the energy to make it up to my laptop in the evenings to write a post. When it’s my ‘down-time’ I now just want to relax on the couch. So with that, I never even did a post about my Moonlight Run results from March, haven’t updated anything about how my training this Spring is going, my latest race this past Sunday, and what the next coming months look like.

Moonlight Run 10 km was held on March 23, 2019. Weather was great for this race, and there wasn’t any crazy snow or crazy cold. My overall goal for it was to do better than I did last year. Now, my husband thought this was a stupid goal because he said it was a no-brainer. Last year, I was 5 months postpartum. Of course I would be faster. But, my training had been all over the place since going back to work that I didn’t want to hold my breath.

The race went as well as it could for me. I finished with a 45:17 and was 1/52 in my 30-34 age group, 6/246 in female and then 38/455 overall. Claiming my age group award was the best feeling in the world. Last year I was 3rd with a 47:13. So shaving close to 2 minutes off is definitely on the right track for a comeback!

I opted to not do a lot of races this spring mainly to save money and to also focus on just getting the training in. Having no races in April was probably a first for me since 2012????!!!! Crazy, huh? I also during that time decided to stop my run streak. I made is 135 days straight of running at least a mile a day. I had had it in my head I would streak for a year, but I think it was running a toll on my body. I have bigger goals for this year than just running a mile a day, and getting rid of the streak will help with that.

This past Sunday I ran in the 5m Rita’s Run, which raised money and awareness for Mental Health. It was the first year this race was put on, and they had an awesome turnout for both the 5km and 10km events. there were 231 who completed the 5km and 67 who did the 10km. I think there were more registered, but the unseasonal weather that came through may have caused some people to just sleep in that morning.

The course was in the river bottom and while it was a pretty course, it definitely was not a course to get a personal best on. It started very narrow, had lots of turns, and then ended up measuring over 3.1 miles (3.24 miles on my watch). I hope they can sort those things out for next year. It made it more challenging for myself as I was running with Andy in the stroller. I’m glad I only did the 5km with him because all the sharp turns and narrow pathways did prove a challenge. The extra distance was also not fun with the stroller when I wanted to just be done. We did manage on finishing 2nd overall! 24:07 was our chiptime, and we placed 2/63 in age group, 2/169 female, and 6/231 overall.

So now what? Well, the big task this month is the Red Deer Half Marathon. That’s really what my training has been building towards this winter and spring. I would like to run a decent half marathon time for myself. I feel confident I can get under 1:40, as I ran a 1:37 and change in late September. However, I was training for Berlin right before that and had had more time to get quality training in while on maternity leave. Maybe I can run my ‘best’ Woody’s RV Red Deer Half time? 1:42.28 is the time to beat for it.

I’ve also started doing trail running during the week in preparation for my summer and fall events. I’ll have to do a different post all about my trail running trials and tribulations….hopefully that gets written in less than 3 months!

2019 Race Plans

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The kid is napping, I finished my Sunday chores, so I am going to try to push out a blog post!  It’s early February, and I will say that the last month has been tough on me for running.  With the holidays and the year end of 2018, I was getting my daily runs in for the December Holiday Run Streak that our local store puts on.  But other than that, my physical activity was going downhill.  Work has been tough, and managing work with being parents and wanting to still do the same level of running and training I did before Andy is even tougher.  And it’s not even the ‘before Andy’ that is the most challenging.  It’s the now being a working parent.  Maternity Leave was a godsend and I was probably close to the best shape of my life by mid July and August of last year.  I ran my best 5km ever, was feeling strong AF and also felt like a pretty bad ass mom.

Now, I just feel like a mom trying to swim upstream.

I am still doing the Runstreak, and have been running at least a mile a day every day since December 1st.  My first 2019 goal is to continue the RunStreak for one whole year.  It’s not a mileage goal, or a race time goal, but it gives me something to focus on every day and it something that I know can be attainable even when I am feeling overloaded with work and everything else.

As 2019 creeped into existence, I knew I needed to get back in control of my diet and exercise.  It wasn’t awful, but in the last months of 2018 I started buying chips and salsa again for at home.  And I was drinking more beer than my ‘lack of running’ body should be consuming.  The husband and I both went in for body composition appointments at Kinetic at the beginning of January.  My weight was actually better than I expected.  But, weight is a funny thing.  It’s a number to not take too much to heart.  I weighed in at 135 lbs.  The measurements for the body composition though, however, were frustrating (but expected).  I didn’t completely fall of the wagon, but comparing the results to what I had back in June at the end of the Mommy “Time 4 Me” challenge was frustrating.  My body fat percentage had gone up and my measurements had increased in total inches.

This was all expected because I 1.) Wasn’t running as quality of workouts 2.) It’s winter and not race season so I wasn’t in the training mode for anything in particular 3.) I am not able to go to boot camp anymore (damnit, I wish I was still on mat leave!) 4.) our diet had started to creep back into the higher carb amounts.

Husband and I have decided to tweak our eating habits, using the tools I learned during the Time 4 Me challenge.  Lower carb, higher protein.  We’ve also greatly cut the beer intake, and have generally switched to red wine (except I am drinking a beer as I type this……).  I’m not making myself go crazy with this, but we are going to do another body composition early March to see what has happened in two months with some small changes.

The bigger thing is that I have my second goal of getting back into racing shape and loving to run.  I contacted Dean Johnson, who did my race training plan for Vancouver in 2015, and asked him is he’d make a plan for me for this year leading up to my big race in September (more on that later).  If someone makes me a plan to follow, I automatically make it work in my day.  It was also key that I gave him which days work best for me to fit in quality workouts (Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and then have the other days as just my minimum mileage for my runstreak.  I started this Thursday with his set workouts and even though the cold and snowy weather is absolute shit, I have to say I’m already feeling better about myself and the race season ahead.

I know I can’t necessarily have crazy time goals for my races this year, but I need to have some goal.  If I just register for random local races but don’t have a new big race or plan in sight, I’ll get into a rut.  My 2019 race schedule is shaping up to look like this:

-Moonlight Run 10KM in March

-Some local 5km races (possibly with Andy in the stroller) in April and May

-Red Deer Half in May (goal of sub 1:37, depending on how training goes!)

-Lots of trails in June (Coulee Cactus as a relay, Lone Wolf in Fernie as a relay with the husband)

-Haida Gwaii Full Marathon in July (would like to run at least faster than Berlin, with the dreamy goal of sub 3:30…but its a very small race and it’ll be mentally challenging for me).

-Lost Soul Ultra 50km in September (My first trail ultra….more on that in a much later post)

-Police Half Marathon in October (would like to beat my time from this years’ race which was 1:37.39)

-New York Marathon in November (run with the husband and just generally have a blast)

How the next two months go will determine how those 5km’s and Red Deer half goes.  Will I be competitive with the field, or even with my own times?  I’m sure as hell going to try.  When June rolls around and I start playing with trail races, I have the hope that this ignites a new fire in me.  I am really looking forward to July and August, as I will have off of work and Andy will still have daycare Monday-Friday.  I can use those days to follow a trail training plan in preparation for Lost Soul.  As that approaches, a reasonable goal for the race will be determined.  Or maybe not so reasonable.  I have one in my mind, but it may be a bit lofty.

Anyway, with second semester in full swing and a new training plan to follow, I have high hopes for the coming months of running.  And bonus—kid is still napping!

I Could Not Remember When I Last Washed My Hair

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Hey everyone. I feel like I’ve been MIA. Well, my last post was written the day before I went back to work. And since going back to work, I feel like I’ve barely had a second to breathe. I know everyone’s experiences are different, but right now as I sit passenger in the car driving home from a family weekend in Red Deer, I realize how easy the year of maternity leave was and how much work it is being back at work and being a parent.

I obviously use the term “easy” not in a way that means I was a cake walk. But looking back, maternity leave was a breeze. Sure, Andy would get up a few times in the night, but he napped tons during the day. I could clean. I could cook. I could nap too! If I wanted to go workout, I packed Andy up and we went to boot camp at Kinetic. We also did stroller boot camp at U of L. I could run with him mid day in the stroller.

Want to go out to dinner? Sure! Andy was a great baby and we could bring him in his bucket seat into places like Telegraph Taphouse and he’d sleep for two hours while we enjoyed beer and dinner.

Want to take a shower mid day? That could happen. Throw Andy in the swing or the jolly jumper in the bathroom and a shower could happen.

Now, fast forward to this weekend. Friday night we get to my in laws. My eyes hurt from exhaustion. Andy slept the whole three hour drive, but Dan and I are running on empty. I take the opportunity to take a long shower and as I get in the shower I feel my hair. It was at that point I could not remember when I had last washed it. I guessed it was last Saturday. I proceeded to take a shower, wash my hair twice, and then I laid in the tub as the shower beat down on my body. Then I flipped to my stomach and let it beat down on my back. No fucking shame in doing this. I was probably in the shower for over ten minutes.

You hear about all the new moms who don’t take showers for days or don’t get out of the house for a nice meal. This officially didn’t hit me until going back to work. Balancing working a full time job that takes a whole shitload of energy to do and then coming home to keep your 13 month old alive and well is a whole new deal.

Do we go to Telegraph any more? Not with Andy, that’s for sure. Our dinners out with him are now relegated to stupid Boston Pizza. You take him in and it’s a ticking time bomb. We order his meal of over cooked pasta and our jug of beer. You entertain him with said pasta while you chug your beer, then eat your meal fast and pay up before even finishing all your food.

My running has gone to the back burner. I’m still getting in four runs a week. But the quality and distance suck. No more boot camps.

I may sound like a complainer. Really all I’m getting at is that I was naive to think that returning back to work would be easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in a long ass time. The preparation of having a new baby and being a new parent was one thing. But being a parent with a full time job is not a joke.

I know over time I will be better accustomed to managing my work and home life. Some things are going to have to give. There are undoubtedly going to be very tough days, very tough weeks. (Like the one we just had where Andy was the final kid at daycare to contract pinkeye…we had a walk in clinic visit followed by a trip to emergency two days later).

Dan and I will make mistakes. We will be frustrated. We will be stressed. But we will figure it out. We are going to give Andy the best damn life possible and are going to enjoy every moment.

The End

One Year

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One year ago today, I was sitting in the “induction room” at Chinook Regional Hospital.  Dan and I knew that our baby boy would be coming sometime soon, and it was sooner than originally planned.  Andy was originally due November 3rd, but he made his appearance when I was 38 weeks along at 12:32 am on October 19th, 2017.

We didn’t know what the next year would really look like other than the fact that we had a small human to take care of.  What things would we be involved with as a family?  What things would Andy and I find to do during my maternity leave?  What would my post-partum running actually look like?  Sure, we were able to theoretically imagine what the next year would look like, but we really wouldn’t know what it was like until experiencing it first hand.

I have said many times before, but I am beyond fortunate enough to be here in Alberta, Canada, where I have a one year maternity leave with my job.  Also with my job, I was guaranteed my same position as long as I came back by that one year.  I had sick pay covered for the first 15 weeks (I maxed it out mainly because I ended up having the emergency appendectomy 7 weeks post-partum) and then I received unemployment insurance for 35 additional weeks.  Along with the money we saved in the year leading up to having Andy, we were able to live comfortably and take part in a lot of activities and trips.  Some of the things specifically Andy & I were able to do were:

-“Mommy Connections” 8-week programming during three different sessions

-“Baby Steps” postnatal classes at the Lethbridge Health Unit

-“Baby PACT” (Parent and Child Time) 10 week session at Lethbridge Family Centre

-Swimming Lessons!  10 classes

-Baby Mama Boot Camp through Kinetic Fitness.  We did this often twice a week during the winter and spring and then once a week in summer

-Stroller Boot Camp at University of Lethbridge for one winter/spring session

-Kindermusik Drop-In program at CASA

-Library programming like “Babes in the Library” and “Small & Tall”

-HIGH Fitness classes held at the northside LDS church

and much more!

The great thing about these programs were that they were all locally operated in Lethbridge and while some cost money, many were lower cost (Baby Steps & PACT) or FREE! (Library, HIGH fitness).  These programs were important for both mine and Andy’s well being as it got us out of the house in the dead of winter, we got to socialize with other adults and children, and it kept us active.

While it was mainly Andy & I doing specific classes together, Dan also took Andy to a few “Me and my Dad” drop in programs at Family Centre on Saturday mornings.  He plans to start doing this again when winter rolls around.  I would also often bring Andy for visits at my school, we would go to basketball games, we would do mall walks when it was brutally cold and even just going grocery shopping got us out of the house.

We were also able to do some trips this year.  Our first ‘road trip’ was Christmas, where we packed Andy, Snoopy, Woodstock & Faron (2 month old baby, beagle, and two cats) in our car and drove 3.5 hours to Red Deer to see Dan’s family.  A highlight was going to Edmonton to see Dan’s Grandpa and get a four generation Pottage men photo.  Dan’s grandpa passed away in late spring 2018 so this will definitely be cherished.

In April, we flew out to Walt Disney World in Florida to participate in the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend.  We met my mom out there and experienced our first family vacation via plane.  This helped us tons in preparation for our summer trip where we flew out to Milwaukee over 4th of July to visit my family.  We also acquired a camper in the summer and plan on using it for family camping trips.  We tested it out for one night in Beauvais Lake and it went so well!

Lets not forget about RUNNING!  Running was going to be a big part of my maternity leave year, as it is a huge part of me in general.  I knew that if I couldn’t run, I would possibly run the risk of falling into a depression.  I was fortunate enough to be able to keep running during the first  37 weeks of my pregnancy, with one week off before having Andy, and then two weeks of recovery.  I ran my first 5km race post-partum at just 1 month having Andy.  If you are interested in all my races and times in detail check out the result links at the top of this page

Then the appendectomy hit.  Ouch.  But a month later I was back.  Boot camps, walking, running….it came back slowly but it was worth the wait.  The picture below depicts all the races I was able to participate in during my maternity leave:

I was able to run in 15 different races:

Four 5km races (Claus Cause, Superhero Fun Run, Travelling Beer Garden Race, Coalhurst Family Run Run)

One 4 mile race (Firecracker 4)

One 8 km race (LadiesFest)

Three 10km races (Moonlight Run, Star Wars 10km, Fort Macleod Wilderness Run)

One 10 mile race (Lethbridge 10 Mile Road Race)

One Trail Race as a Relay (Coulee Cactus Crawl)

Three Half Marathons (Star Wars Half Marathon, Red Deer Half Marathon, Lethbridge Police Half Marathon)

One Full Marathon (Berlin Marathon)

OH YEAH….WE DID THE BERLIN MARATHON?!?!?!?!  HOW COOL IS THAT!?  If it wasn’t for being on my maternity leave at the time, it would have been very hard to make this work.  What an amazing experience that my husband and I can say we shared in together.

I was also able to run some amazing times in the last year.  I hit an unofficial 5km personal best of 20:30 in the Beer Garden race (chip time was 20:50 and course measured long) and my Police Half Marathon time was actually my 2nd fastest half marathon time EVER! (1:37.39)  Andy and I ran in a 5km race last weekend and were the first stroller across the finish and actually the first female runner too.  I won some money at different races and I also earned ago group awards throughout the year.  While I was worried on how pregnancy and postpartum would treat me as a runner, I think it’s safe to say that all my hard work before, during and after pregnancy has paid off.

So what’s next?  Well, there’ll be another year to follow.  And years after that.  And while I have ideas of things we have as plans, goals and dreams, we really can’t say those things for certain until they happen.  There will be family events, trips, races, and just family time.  A quote many of my friends have shared on Instagram and Facebook this year comes to mind right now:

“The days are long but the years are short”

To say that this past year went fast is a huge understatement.  But many days were long and tiring.  Some were filled with frustration.  But in the end, all the days created lasting memories.  Next year the days may feel long too.  I know going back to work is something I am struggling with in my mind.  Some of those days are going to feel hella long.  But when we have the free time as a family to do things, we will.  We need to fill our time with memory-making opportunities and seize the moment.

Onto year 2!

Berlin Marathon 2018

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Wow. We conquered the Berlin Marathon! What a crazy experience it was! I could write multiple blog posts, all very long, detailing the day by day events. But, it’s 9 pm on a Friday…I am worn out, sick, and have an 11 month old who may wake up middle of night! So I’m doing a small recap that’ll touch on some details I think are worth noting, especially if you are contemplating making the trek out to do this race.  update.  It is now Sunday.  I hope to finish this post today!!!

Pre-event issue…I started feeling sick on the Tuesday before the race. At first I thought it was just my body being sore after boot camp, but I think I was just wearing out. On the drive to my in laws on Wednesday, I started popping cold medicine because my nose was a running machine. Great…a transatlantic flight is upon us and I feel like trash.

I think the whole adrenaline of the trip made me feel better, because once we got to the airport I just forgot about it. But the transatlantic flight was tough. We left at 6 pm Thursday. It was my first time flying overseas and the first leg of flight was 9+ hours from Calgary to Frankfurt. Neither my husband or I slept well. But we kept pushing. By the time we got to Berlin it was 2:30 pm (8 hours ahead of home). Our only confusing transit issue in Berlin was getting from the airport to hotel. We hadn’t researched which “zone” we were travelling to, and the lineups at the machines to buy tickets were long with a lot of other confused people. We did make it to our hotel eventually…freshened up, changed, and headed to the expo.

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The expo was very easy to get to from our hotel. I booked our hotel on Priceline in December and got it at a rate of $82 USD/night. It was walking distance to the Friedrichstraße station, which could link you anywhere. And also walking to the start/finish by Brandenburg gate. We got to the expo quick, and arrived around 5pm.

I’m glad we didn’t have anything we really wanted to stop and purchase because this was the first instance we realized this event was going to a semi-organized chaos. The room to pickup your race packages were in the way back of the old airport hangers, and everywhere around you there were lines. And the lines weren’t straight, just a mosh pit of people pushing through. Luckily I had preordered us two event shirts (no shirts included in registration fee) so we didn’t have to push through people to buy them. Just had to find that line to pickup.

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We didn’t spend much time at the expo. We headed back to the hotel, went out way too late, and then slept in the next day. It was the day before the race, so in theory we should have been taking it easy. But seriously…we were in Berlin. We needed to see as much as possible.

We did a short shakeout run by the river. After changing and finding food, we then trekked around Berlin seeing all sorts of sights. Highlights included Humboldt University, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s bunker, Berlin Wall memorial, and Topography of Terror. We also had a group dinner that evening for all of us in the Runners Soul group. Ate at a fantastic Italian place called Via Nova II. By the time Dan & I made it back to the hotel we had clocked in 11.5 miles. Time to rest for the marathon!

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Marathon morning cake bright and early. But with this being a 9:15 am start time for the elites, and our hotel so close to the start, we didn’t have to get up at a ridiculous time. We had pre-bought some breakfast items the night before and I went to the McDonalds two blocks away to get coffee at 6:15 am, so we were set. The group met at 8 am for a photo and then we all dispersed.

Biggest thing to know about this race is that the Europeans “organize” things differently. 44,000 runners and I’d guess the number of pre race porta potties available were 1/10 of what was available at Boston (25,000 runners). My friend Heather waited 45 minutes to use one and missed her corral start. Dan and I stood in line for about 15 minutes and then left the race grounds to go to a cafe, pay 0.50 euros at a turnstile, and use their bathrooms. People were pissing all over the park on their way to the corrals. It was disgusting. I don’t know if the city just doesn’t have the supply of porta potties or what, but you’d think since they’ve been doing this race for 44 years they’d know it’s an issue.

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So the race itself.  Well, it was 26.2 miles through Berlin and my Garmin clocked it as 26.44 miles.  That’s bound to happen in a race this large with all the weaving going on.  Instead of going through a mile by mile recap, I want to just note some key things during the race.

  1. I was in the second wave of runners, in corral E.  You could just jump into any corral with no one checking your bib…I didn’t have an issue with people around me being in an incorrect corral (up too far) and I was able to weave myself pretty close to the start of our corral.  I was about 10 deep to the left of the start area.  It was an awesome feeling at the beginning with thousands of runners being let off at once!
  2. I kept on perfect pace through the half marathon point.  I actually had a 1:47.30 once I crossed the timing mat, which if I were to have replicated that exactly in the second half I would have had my goal of 3:35.00
  3. My legs started to cramp and tighten in my hamstrings and quads around mile 9.  I am guessing due to transatlantic travel and the ridiculous amount we walked the days prior while touring
  4. Water stations were plentiful, and were also stocked with gels (which I heard tasted disgusting) and fruit later on.  The issue I had with these water stations is that it was not like when you run a race in North America….no “excuse me” or “sorry” or people being aware of those around you.  I got smashed into by no less than a dozen sweaty men during the course of the race as they plowed into the water stations.  Even when I would raise my hand up once getting water to signal I was walking someone would plow into me.  The etiquette I am used to was not present here.
  5. On the website, they said there were 40,775 runners representing 133 nations who finished, with 12,332 being women and 28,443 being men.  So while we are used to races in North America being pretty closely represented by women and men, this european race was not.  Also, while all of Berlin seems to speak English, the race participants I was around did not.  There was no one I could have a conversation with when I started to struggle at mile 16.  Everyone was so serious.
  6. Once I got to mile 16, I knew I needed to slow up and try to just enjoy the last 10 miles.  That’s when I started getting more frustrated with the lack of people around me who I could talk to while running, and all the pushing and shoving by the water stations.  I will say that the course is shaded pretty well in areas throughout, with no long stretches of blazing sun.  This was important because it was actually quite warm compared to what I would be used to doing a marathon in.
  7. For better or for worse, I stopped at the bathroom after mile 20.  Then, lo and behold, Marissa from our Runners Soul group came up behind me.  She was having frustration also and just wanted the race to be “fucking over.”  I now had my person to talk to the last 6 miles!
  8. We had a ton of fun in the last stretch, stopping for water and fruit when we could.  Just past mile 25 someone had a makeshift beer station so we stopped for a beer too!  Finishing as strong as we could in the final stretch through Brandenburg Gate was awesome, because each of us started to just pure on race one another to try and beat the other person.  Marissa’s chiptime came out on top by about 3 seconds.
  9. The finishing area was pretty well organized compared to the whole mess getting to corrals.  I wish I had selected “Poncho” instead of “bag drop” because the poncho that people got was nice.  And I was getting chilled in the shade as we waited for people from Runners Soul to finish.
  10. My husband came in about an hour later.  He started in a farther back corral than me.  I am so proud of him! He finished his second marathon with a 4:00.35 run, beating his first marathon by over 4 minutes.  Since the course ran long, he could have been under 4 hours if it had been less crowed.  And he also, along with four other guys, helped a Brazilian woman across the finish line.  And by help, I mean they carried her because she was passing out.  They just wanted her to finish.

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Below are a selection of the professional race photos (which I bought).  I will say that these photos are of higher quality than the Marathon Foto ones I am used to from North America races.  I wish I had seeked out more photographers for pictures before and after the race so I could have had some with Dan.

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And we are off!

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Somewhere in Berlin between miles 20-26.2 🙂

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Focused on finishing

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Probably my favorite photo, having an on course beer with less than a mile to go.  The tossing of the cup totally captures how we feel.

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Brandenburg Gate in the background and coming into the finish!

 

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Berlin Marathon finisher!

THIS WAS AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE!  My husband and I would have not been able to take part of this if it wasn’t for Runners Soul in Lethbridge putting together a travel group.  Also, if I was not still on my sweet 1-year Canadian maternity leave (sorry Americans) then we could have not left the country during this time of year…teachers have a great amount of days off, but you can’t just take time off at random times!  Oh, and if my in-laws couldn’t have watched Andy for a week then this trip would have been impossible..We want to do more races overseas, particularly finishing the Abbott World Marathon Majors.  We have New York (yeah, not overseas), London and Tokyo left for myself.  Dan still needs Chicago and Boston too.  We hope that Runners Soul does more travel groups to these races and that we are able to attend.  Dan still does not love running.  However, he loves these experiences of seeing new places and being with friends.  On our drive back to Lethbridge we talked about races in the future we want to travel to.  It is awesome that we have a common hobby that we can enjoy together. Until the next race…..Auf Wiedersehen!

Next Stop…Berlin!

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So. The time has come. My husband Dan and I are all trained and packed and ready to head on a whirlwind trip to Germany. The Berlin Marathon is this Sunday, September 16th! Friends have been asking “are you excited?! Are you nervous?!?” Of course I’m both, but I already feel more relaxed as I sit here in the car and we head up to Red Deer for the night. At this point, everything is packed for us an also everything is packed for Andy for his week at Nana & Gramps’ house. If anything has been forgotten, we’ll just have to go to a store.

A few weeks ago I was really starting to think about how this race will go for me on Sunday. While you can’t predict with certainty how it will play out, with my experience I am able to pinpoint pretty well reasons why this race will either 1.) be a success or 2.) be a mess.

Let’s start with the pessimistic view first:

Why it Could be a Mess

1.) This is the longest race I’ve ran since Spring 2016

While I trained all during my pregnancy and pretty damn quick after it, I didn’t put miles of over 13+ on until maybe late June of this year. And those were just training runs. And to go with that…

2.) I didn’t get in as many long runs as I would in previous training cycles

For this training cycle, I loosely followed my plan that was made for the Vancouver 2015 marathon. I did, however, adjust the weekend long run distances to align with what Dan and I would do together with the Runners Soul group runs on Saturdays. For distances over 15 miles, I had one 16, 18, and 20 miler during this cycle.

3.) The Stroller made my training runs a lot more challenging

I couldn’t get to the paces I wanted to hit as easily during training runs when I had to run with Andy.

4.) Training in the summer sucks

See above. That’s enough of a description

Now a bit more optimism…

Why it Could be a Success

1.) My consistency with training during pregnancy and postpartum has been awesome

37 weeks of prenatal running, a week where I couldn’t run before Andy was born, and then two weeks to recover…then back at it. I think that speaks for itself

2.) My August workouts were on point

Late in the training game workouts boost my confidence. The 20 miler went well (we even had Alyssa watch Andy so no stroller was needed!), I had some good goal pace workouts, and I got help from my friend Heather on speed workouts. The positive physical output gets my mental game set.

3.) The Stroller made my training runs a lot more challenging

So, since I’ll be running sans stroller on Sunday that should make it feel like a breeze, right?!?

4.) Training in summer sucks

I hate the heat. But it’s prepared me for if it’s a toasty day on Sunday!

All in all, I am set. I can’t change any of my bad training runs in this training cycle. I need to just move forward and do the best I can come Sunday. Maybe I’ll meet my ultimate goal for that race, but I need to recognize that even if the time doesn’t match up with what I’d like, the fact that I’m going out there to complete a full marathon just shy of 11 months postpartum is pretty bad ass.

You Look Fantastic for Just Having a Kid

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…Thanks…?

PREFACE: I have thought about doing a post like this for some time, but always shyed away.  But, in the last week a few things triggered me to do this.  If you are looking at the title of this and are thinking one thing about what I’m about to say, either stop reading or maybe read all the way though.  And I’d also suggest holding comments until you’ve read the whole post….or maybe after reading it you’ll just keep your comments to yourself….

And now onto my post….

I’ll be honest-I am one of those mom’s who get the random comments about “how great you look for just having a kid.”  And I will say it now, that I do feel pretty damn great about how I look right now.

 I’m sure some of you are thinking “Andrea you arrogant bitch, why are you writing about this?”  But bear with me.  

The trouble with this comment is that it comes unsolicited from strangers.  I most recently had a mom say it to me yesterday at Andy’s swim lessons.  She was watching her two kids in the lessons, while the youngest sat on the side with her.  Yes, it was nice that she said this to me.  But what do I say in response?

If I say a simple “thanks” and walk onward, do I not look appreciative?  I am not the most exuberant person out there, so sometimes my responses seem cold.  Is she expecting me to unload about how I got myself to look like this?  What is my workout regime….do I follow a special diet….maybe I am one of those mom’s who can just bounce back to a good figure…

But what if Andy was my adopted son?  And I never was even pregnant with him?  Then really it’s a stranger commenting on a postpartum body when maybe it was never pregnant at all.  What would an adoptive mother do in a case like this?  Do they just lie and say “Thanks” or do they go on a whole story about how this isn’t actually their biological child.  Then the stranger is in for an earful and really they probably didn’t want to hear your whole life story.

You’re probably still thinking that I should just smile and say thanks and move on.  But really, it’s bothering me.

The whole fascination on postpartum bodies is a topic in itself.  But every body is different.  And for strangers to go up to new mom’s and make comments on their bodies, even if they are in heart “positive” is just a little invasive.

If a stranger comments to me about my body, do they really want to hear the whole story?

Here is the bullet-point timeline

  • Always felt awkward looking in grade school due to bad haircut and fro
  • Didn’t like that I was taller than most of the girls growing up (funny, I know…I’m 5’3)
  • Was on Pom Pon Squad and Track & Field in high school.  Naturally muscular and never “skinny”
  • Wanted to be “skinny”
  • Bad couple months in grade 12 where I dropped close to 15 pounds with the stupid goal to get under 100 pounds
  • Hit puberty late after high school probably because of my intense exercise all those years and the body issues.
  • Dad dies end of freshman year in college in 2004
  • College is a yo-yo of bad food and lots of drinking
  • Started running long distance, however, it was maybe one race a year
  • Graduated college and met Dan
  • Moved to a new Country less than a year later
  • Did the crazy ‘pre-wedding diet’ before our wedding in 2010
  • Started taking anxiety medication mainly related to the death of my father
  • Slowly gained weight after wedding and tried to figure out what I wanted to do for exercise
  • Started this blog in 2013 and signed up for a shitload of running events
  • Kept running in 2014 and realized if I put my focus on running I could get a whole lot faster
  • Tried to qualify for Boston Marathon twice in 2014.  Failed.
  • Tried to qualify for Boston Marathon once in 2015.  Success
  • Decided to wait to try to have a kid until after Boston Marathon
  • Ran Boston Marathon in 2016.  Yay!
  • Foot Surgery in June 2016.  Can’t run until August.
  • Start trying to have a kid in fall
  • Find out we are pregnant!
  • Have a miscarriage
  • Get pregnant six weeks later
  • Run four times a week for the first 37 weeks of my pregnancy until I can’t run due to elevated blood pressure.
  • Have Andy on October 19, 2017!!!
  • Cleared to run two weeks later
  • Sign up  for 2018 Berlin Marathon
  • First week of December have an emergency appendectomy.  Can’t run again until January
  • Would have to be going back to work if I was still a teacher in the USA. However, I have am fortunate to be taking a year off here in Canada
  • Slowly get back into running and going to various stroller/baby mama boot camps
  • Run my first half marathon postpartum in April 2018 (farthest distance I had ran since June 2016)
  • Keep going to boot camps and training for the Berlin Marathon all while using a running stroller
  • Proud of my postpartum body but realize that my body did not become this way overnight

So you may still be thinking I should just say “Thanks” and move on.  What the issue I have is that strangers really should be mindful of both pregnant women and mothers before making comments.  Really, people should be mindful of just people in general before they make comments.  Its one thing to make these seemingly innocent comments to close friends or family, but why do people find the need to say it to strangers?

A friend of mine posted an article that had to do with someone asking a new mother the question “Are you Breastfeeding?”  I can see now, as a mom, why this question can cross the line especially if a stranger asks.

IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Sure, maybe we are breastfeeding.  Great.  If I answer yes to you, are you going to say “Congratulations?”  Maybe I tried to breastfeed but my baby was born so early that my hormones were all jacked and my milk never came in.  Maybe we chose from the start to feed our baby formula.  Maybe we are choosing to exclusively pump, which by the way counts as breastfeeding.  But then maybe that stranger will look at your cluelessly to why you are doing that.

I recognize that a lot of the times these innocent comments from strangers are meant with the best of intentions.  I am fortunate that I did not receive a lot of unsolicited advice while I was pregnant, and really I haven’t had a lot of that postpartum either.  But I know of friends who have felt the “mom-shame” before and I can imagine it sucks.  While the title of this post does not particularly seeming ‘mom-shame worthy” it is still putting a mom in a weird situation that could just be avoided.

Being pregnant with Andy and now being a mom has taught me a lot.  But honestly, one of the main things is to just bite my tongue.  When you are around new mom’s in a “mom group” and you don’t necessarily agree with someone’s parenting technique…is it really worth arguing about?  Same thing goes with social media:  someone says something you don’t agree with, say, in the political arena.  I’ma math teacher, not a social teacher….I’m not a political science expert. I keep my mouth shut and don’t chime in my two cents. (I do possibly hide some people from my newsfeed just so I don’t have to keep seeing our opposing views)

So next time you feel the need to say something, anything, to a stranger (or even a close friend or family) take a second to think if it is really a necessary comment.  Are you saying it to just make yourself feel better?  Are you saying it to incite turmoil?  Why do you feel the need to say it at all?  While we may have been brought up with the ideal that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it…maybe even save some of those seemingly innocent “nice” comments or questions to yourself.  You never know what the whole story is about a person.  And if you ask, you may open up a whole new can of worms.

My next World Marathon Major

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So, since I’ve been so scattered with my recaps and blog posts, I am not even sure of when the last time I mentioned the fact that I am training for a full marathon.  Not just any marathon, but the Berlin Marathon in Berlin, Germany.  Yes, this is one of the six Abbott World Marathon Major events.  The others are Chicago (completed in 2006), Boston (completed in 2016), Tokyo, London and New York.

I was not planning on running a full marathon this year.  When I was pregnant with Andy, I had told myself that the first year after having him would be just focusing on getting back with running and try to do some decent half marathons.  Fast forward to November 2017, approximately one month after Andy was born.  Dan comes home from race team and tells me that Runners Soul would be doing a travel group to the Berlin Marathon next September and that we should do it.  That’s right—my husband was the one who said we should do it (mind you he hadn’t ran a full marathon yet at this point…)  I would still be on maternity leave, so really…..we couldn’t say no!

I did my winter and spring running, getting my legs back at it and began to feel more confident in my postpartum body.  The training for Berlin would begin a week after the Red Deer Marathon weekend.  I decided to roughly use my same training calendar that I used when I ran Vancouver 2015 and qualified for Boston.

Pushing the running stroller is no joke.  It is definitely helping me with resistance training!  I usually run with the running stroller 3 times a week.  On my speed workout days, I try to wait until Dan gets home from work and then do those runs on my own.  And when we do our long runs on the weekend, Dan and I run together and alternate every mile or two with the stroller.

Berlin is less than 2 months away.  I feel ready, yet I don’t.  The reason why I didn’t want to do a full marathon in my first year postpartum was because I knew I would be hard on myself with the actual result.  Yes, I realize I had a baby less than a year ago, but I don’t want to go out there and be a shell of my former self.  My dream goal is to qualify for Boston again.  The weekend Berlin falls can count for the 2020 Boston Race, and at that race I am 35 and will be up an age group.  So the fact that I get an extra five minutes to my qualifying time makes me think there actually is a sliver of hope that I could do it.

I need a sub 3:40 to qualify.  My personal best is a 3:24.56, which was a 7:49 pace.  I am setting my sights on a sub 3:35 in Berlin, which would be a pace of about 8:11.  I can run 20 seconds slower per mile than I did back in 2015 and be able to qualify for Boston.  Seems doable, right?

But I also need to mentally prepare myself for if it doesn’t work out.  I can’t let potentially not qualifying ruin the rest of the trip.  I also do need to keep telling myself that YOU JUST HAD A BABY IN THE LAST YEAR and the fact that I am even going out there to do this event is pretty bad ass.  I am just going to keep picking away at my training calendar and hope that all the running I did while pregnant and all the running I am doing pushing Andy in his stroller will help me achieve the dream result-a return to Boston.