In a week from tomorrow, Dan and I will be sitting at the Calgary International Airport (most likely at Chili’s Too enjoying some beverages) waiting to board our red eye flight to Orlando. In the next week I will be writing up an overview on this year and everything I have done to prepare for this culminating event, but it is so crazy to even think that we will finally be heading down to Disney for the Dopey Challenge!
The last week has been a whirlwind of Christmas celebrations and holiday cheer. Dan and I headed to Red Deer, Alberta, last Saturday for a whopping six nights. In those days, we became Godparents for our niece Norah, met up with some dear friends who now live in Vancouver, went to the Pottage family Christmas in Edmonton, had 12 meatless Ukrainian dishes at my brother and sister-in-laws on Christmas Day, went shopping on Boxing Day, and slept 10-12 hours each night. In those days, I also spent next to no time looking at crap related to RunDisney. I have had that consuming my daily thoughts the last few months, and it was a good break to get away from being anxious for Dopey. But while we were away, I did manage to get some training runs in….some more successful than others….
…Saturday, December 21st was miserable. Absolutely gross in Lethbridge (cold, brisk wind chill) and even more gross in Red Deer. I attempted to start my 20 mile run in the morning before we hit the road, but I ran a whopping 0.68 miles before I realized frostbite was a legit possibility. So we hit the road. Red Deer is three and a half hours north of Lethbridge, smack dab between Calgary and Edmonton, so you can imagine what December may feel like. I went to the Collicut Centre in Red Deer that night to attempt 20 miles indoors. While the track was more favorable than the one in Lethbridge (a 300 meter track vs. 200 meter) I just couldn’t do it. At mile 11 I just hit a wall and had to stop. I did 9 miles on the bicycle and called it a night.
Two days later I bundled up and hit the trail system in Red Deer, where I did manage to do 6 miles. It was a good confidence booster after my failed long run on Saturday. But I knew I had to get a long run in before I started my taper. 6 wasn’t enough.
I had planned on attempting a 20 miler on Saturday, December 28th, but when December 26th rolled around, I knew I had to go for it then. Weather in Red Deer was a few degrees above freezing and the sun was out. And there was not an ounce of wind. Dan and I went on our annual Boxing Day shopping spree with his Grandma, and then at 11:15 am I head out from Bower Mall to conquer 20 miles. I am familiar enough with Red Deer to not get lost, but as far as how their extensive trail system links from piece to piece…..I’m a novice. I have ran the Red Deer half marathon three times, so I am familiar with that route. Also, we did a Spartan Race in September up there, and this covered 8 miles over on the opposite end of town. So with these routes mashed in my mind, I went and winged my 20 miles.
I knew I needed to complete a successful 20 mile distance solely for my own state of mind. I have done a ridiculous amount of training all year, and while I know I could run a full 26 miles on the day of the race, I was psyching myself out. I haven’t ran more than 20 miles since the Coulee Cactus Crawl in Lethbridge this June when I did a painfully slow 21 miles in the dreaded coulees.
The nice thing about the trail system was that much of the snow was packed down, which made it easier to navigate and run on. I even went off to some smaller footpaths that offered absolutely breathtaking winter views underneath the evergreens. After running the trails by Kerrywood Nature Centre, I found my way down the Red Deer River over to Heritage Ranch, which was the site of the Spartan Race. I went down some gorgeous cross country ski trails and spilled out by Bower Pond, where TONS of families were ice skating. Music was piped in outside and the energy was fantastic. I looped back on the other side of the Red Deer River and extended my route a bit farther past my end point to reach my goal. After 3 hours 19 minutes and 21 seconds I had completed 20 miles.
Finishing that 20 was a huge weight off my shoulders. I can now officially start to taper and slow things down. It has also fired me up and gotten me even more anxiously excited for Dopey Challenge. Right now, all I can say is BRING IT!