Monthly Archives: February 2014

Question: Andrea-How Do I Get to “Like” Running? Answer: ……..

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Over the past few weeks, about half a dozen co-workers, friends, and acquaintances have asked me some form of that question. Apparently I have became the running guru of some kind. But, whenever someone asks me this….I kind of just pause. My answers have varied from “It takes time” to “Just keep going out there!” and “Sign up for races as a motivation to train” and also “Oh. You will like it soon enough.”

But then I reflected on this. I actually contemplated it all last week while doing, you guessed it, my training runs. After much reflection, I came to the realization that I have been lying to everyone—not everyone will like running. And honestly, there have been moments in my life that I didn’t like running. Days I didn’t love running. Days I HATED running. I do, however, think everyone has the potential to enjoy and appreciate running. Let me explain…

This is approximately my 10 year anniversary of running for me. That’s right—for me. While in middle and high school no one forced me to run on the track team, I was still part of a team. I was into events based on how I was doing at practice and how my times were at previous meets. For this anniversary, I really only take into account the 10 years from when I started training for my first half marathon in 2004. 10 years. I am 29. So 10 years is a lot of my short (yes, it’s short….I’m still not even 30!) life thus far. So in this last year, I didn’t decide to do Dopey Challenge this January after just starting to run one year ago…it had been a long 10-year process.

I have talked about it before, but there were a handful of these 10 years that I was going through the motions, signing up for one race a year. I trained every spring, ran my race, then became a lazy pile of shit in summer and winter. When I moved to Canada and thought I had trained so well for the Calgary full in 2009, but then completely bombed it with a 5:03 time, I was frustrated. WHY DID I KEEP ON RUNNING?

In those years of frustration, I tried group fitness classes–I went to Zumba, kickboxing, spinning, yoga. These didn’t work for me. I know for many people, they do. I also have gotten short-term memberships at gyms to use the elliptical. While I like the elliptical, I just became frustrated having to drive to a location in order to work out. So I always ended up back running. Running is fantastic because you don’t need a membership…you don’t pay a fee per day you work out. You put on your shoes and you hit the road.

Winter is what can be tough for new runners, and I see that now. Especially if you don’t like the treadmill! A suggestion I have for new runners is to not begin during winter. That would be a way to make you want to quit within 24 hours. Now, I have gotten my body used to the ridiculous weather conditions, and over the years I have acquired better gear. I didn’t have this luxury at the start. I was out at 8:00 AM with Runners Soul Marathon Club for a 10 miler in the 5 degree Fahrenheit weather. This is not for the faint of heart.

This last year when I kicked up my game, it was what I needed in order to get out of my running “rut.” I was not gaining anything from running anymore—my body was just sustaining it’s current state, and I wasn’t challenging myself. So my craziness I embarked on last year was needed to up my game and invoke some competitiveness in my blood. I was now starting to race again, like I did back in high school….but had the luxury of being able to be my own team.

Anyone who participates in a certain form of exercise or activity needs rejuvination. That’s exactly what I needed. I challenged myself in ways I hadn’t since my days of high school track & field, and in turn, rediscovered my love for running.

I apologize to anyone reading this who thought I would give you some scientific, or even philosophical, answer. I instead wrote 8 paragraphs and didn’t actually answer the question. Running works for me, and it may not for everyone else. Maybe for some people getting up to racing in a 5km will be the most comfortable distance. Maybe some people will be more comfortable going to a gym three times a week and working out, taking a fitness class here and there. There is no best answer for what is the best workout for everyone. But I do challenge anyone who is curious about running to give it a chance—go into it slowly, and set some goals. If you get frustrated, don’t just go and throw out your running shoes and call it quits. Take a step back, reevaluate, and try again. I am personally glad I never gave up on running the past 10 years!

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My Beef With Boston

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The Boston Marathon…THE BOSTON MARATHON. It is a prestigious race. Non-runners even have heard of it. Most runners dream of qualifying for Boston. That’s my goal this year—running below a 3:35 at the Calgary Full Marathon on June 1st, 2014, will be my ticket in….or will it?

I know this coming Boston Marathon should have a double asterisk next to it in the record books, due to the events that occurred last April, so some application procedures may have been changed or altered. But my real beef I have here is in regards to when official registration submissions were accepted for the 2014 race. What I have an something I have had on the back burner of my mind since this last September 2013—-issue with will probably surprise some people, and undoubtedly some runners won’t agree with my position. What do I have a problem with at Boston?

Charity runners.

Ok. Now that I got that out of the bag and half of you think I’m a cold-hearted you-know-what….let me explain. (Be prepared….this may become long-winded). All major races have runners who are part of charity groups. I know this. My friend Matt even reiterated this when I spoke to him about my position. Charity runners do a lot for the local communities where these races are held. At my latest race, the Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World, Cigna was the main sponsor and Team in Training (Leukemia) was the head beneficiary. There were many people who ran with these groups, and other groups during the race weekend. Groups like these have a minimum fundraising requirement one must meet in order to run in the event. People in the “running world” are well aware of these charity runners. And they are also well aware that charity runners can get into otherwise “sold out” events. Dopey Challenge sold out in one week last April 2013. The marathon sold out some months after. But as late as December, people could still sign up for running via a charity group. Fundraise enough money and you’re in!

I am all for fundraising-anyone who has been following my website since it’s conception would know that. In this past year, I raised approximately $3500 for heart disease research. The monies raised went to the American Heart Association and the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. But this fundraising was done not for a race bib-I raised money for something specifically important to me and my family, and along that way I registered for a boatload of events with Dopey Challenge as the grand finale. I’m not saying this in order to make it seem like I think I am better than those who run with charity groups….I am not saying that. Not at all. But while I assume most people who fundraise for sponsored charity groups at races have a good heart and truly care about the charity they are running for, you know there are some who just happen to have rich running friends or be sitting on wads of cash themselves. One might even say they are “buying” themselves a late entry into a race.

But for Boston? This is where I take issue….

My husband’s cousin Erin is a fantastic trail runner. She does crazy races up in Edmonton and in the the one I ran the Spartan Beast with in September. Anyway, she ran the BMO Vancouver Full in May 2013 and just missed out breaking the 3:35 qualifying time. Once she realized how close she was, she did what any sane person would do and registered for the Red Deer Woody’s RV Full Marathon….which was two weeks after. I was running the half there, and after my race I went back to the final hill to watch for her. As I saw her coming, she was shaking her head saying she wasn’t going to get it. I pushed her up that ridiculous hill by Lindsay Thurber High School, and she brought herself into the finish line in 3:34:24. She had qualified for Boston! She made it!

In Erin’s words
“.…I was training for a 50mile, and my pace just naturally got faster. When I missed out on qualifying in Vancouver by those few short seconds, that’s when I became obsessed with the goal, and really started looking into exactly what this whole Boston Marathon was really about. The more I read, the more I wanted it. Boston is a Runners race. Meant to be something for those of us who have committed the time and pounded out mile after mile, giving up time with friends and family all for chasing the dream of qualifying for Boston. It was a race for people like me, who pushed their bodies for week and months, and it was like a final reward for all my hard work. To qualify and run Boston was the ultimate goal….Registration day came for Boston, and I submitted my time, and the waiting game began. I never actually received my email saying I didn’t make it in, but I checked and checked the registration list. No Erin McLaren….I was okay with it. It meant that I just wasn’t fast enough, and that’s okay. It meant that other women my age trained harder, and ran a better race….Then I found out about all the charity runners. I’m all for charity, I really am. I think races like this are an excellent way for runners to raise money for deserving cause, but the key word there, is Runners. Why is it that because someone is able to raise more money than me, they get to run in a race that others have worked so hard to get to…10% of runners are charity runners. Great. How about give those bibs to deserving runners, and give 100% of the racers a chance to raise money for charity. Are you telling me that 10% can raise more than 100%?
There are so many races out there that anyone can pay for and run. Boston should be something you earn…”

Going on the official Boston Athletic Association (BAA) website will tell you a couple things. 25,654 applications were received during the two weeks of registration. Of these, 22,679 were accepted. There is a chart on their website showing that in our age/gender group, times that were at or faster than 3:33:22 were accepted. Erin qualified for Boston, but in the end didn’t make the cut.

“…the B.A.A. Has set the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon at 36,000 official entrants. At least seventy percent of the field will be comprised of athletes who have met the qualifying standards. The balance will consist of invitational entrants, many of whom run for local charitable organizations…” [baa.org website, September 2013]

Boston is on a pedestal for me. . I think it is for a lot of runners. Especially those of us who have been running a long time. I am coming up on my ten year anniversary of long-distance road racing actually. Boston, to me…. It is the race of all races! To qualify and run in Boston is a dream.. And after this last year of training, a conceivably realistic dream at that! So when I read that statement, taken directly from the B.A.A website, I got especially frustrated…because it to me is a harsh reality that even with all my training, I may never make it there. I am going to be working my ass off this winter and spring to run my race in June but ultimately, even if I break 3:35, I still may not get in. But someone who signs up with a charity group will get to go. Someone my age who yes, I am sure will train hard, but will maybe run a 4:45 instead. They will get to run in my place…In Erin’s place…In someone else’s spot who qualified but was not accepted. Am I jealous of them? In a word-no. Sure, they will get to buy and wear that jacket with the ever-recognizable horse on it. They will get a finishers medal. They will get to run the historic course on Marathon Monday. But I’m not jealous. If I ever get to run in Boston, it will be because I raced my way there. And if I never qualify, it wasn’t meant to be.

I have the WCHS treadmill “friend-zoned”…

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I strongly dislike running on treadmills. Always have. I’d rather be out on the roads. Most distance runners seem to agree. I wrote about how in December I caved and bought a pass at the U of L so I could use the indoor track during my Dopey training. It was so ridiculously cold out for many days that if I wanted to get my runs in, I just had too. Some of the days I got stuck on the treadmill instead of the track because of U of L track practice.

December and Dopey came and went, my pass expired, and so did my time using the treadmill……WRONG. It again is stupidly cold outside, and since my training for my spring races is in gear, I can’t skip runs. I need to get them in…so I have hit the last resort….

…Use the treadmill at my schools’ fitness centre.

Now….you may be wondering why I didn’t just do this in December, as I have access to the WCHS fitness centre for free, since I teach there. I have found out there are a variety of reasons why I didn’t…however, now I am finding myself there a few times a week. What have been some issues or interesting tidbits since doing this?

Well….timing is one. After a day of teaching, if I want to get in the fitness centre right away, it’s packed with students….which is great because they are working out! But not great for me, because honestly I’d rather be running without the kids I teach all day surrounding me (sorry guys. You probably have the same feeling towards me!)

If I wait late and go in after the kids get kicked out at 4:30, I run into the potential issue of not getting the good treadmill.Which is the “good one?” Well…it’s definitely not the one that doesn’t even turn on. Or the one that seemingly only let’s you run 20 minutes before ending your course, thus having to restart. So the “good one” is the treadmill in the far corner next to the stereo. Omar and I seem to always now get in there around the same time and have to beat the other person to this treadmill. If he is on that treadmill when I go in there, I just pivot on out and head back to my classroom and find something to mark, or find something to avoid marking…

Now. The U of L was full of clowns in their fitness room, but it was a decently temperature-controlled room. And the treadmills were conveniently located near a big old fan. I liked that. The WCHS fitness centre reminds me of the House of Corrections gym circa 1992, as it smells like sweaty armpit and feels like a sauna. I honestly want to bring an outdoor thermometer in there and see how warm that room gets…has to be at least 80 degrees. There is a big box fan, and on Friday when I had to do 6 miles, I thought I was all smart and jimmy-rigged it in the corner near the “good one.” Too bad it didn’t even blow any air. I looked like a tomato after that run.

So, yeah. I’m complaining. I’m whining. And it sounds like I’m talking trash about where I work. But trust me…even with all this moaning and groaning…this fitness centre now has a special place in my heart. The heat—-it actually is going to help me. I know I get crabby when I run in the warm weather, so this humid cave will actually prepare me for my summer races. And today when I went to Runners Soul Marathon Club at 7:45 am, and my car said -14 Fahrenheit….I swore a little to myself.

Do I miss the indoor track at U of L?—-yes, but I didn’t push myself on that. On the “good one” I can set my speed to the pace I want to reach and it forces me to stay on it. My interval days have been outstanding…and that 6 miler on Friday was a range of 6.5-8.0 mph, finishing in 52:39. I couldn’t have done that on the snowy sidewalks of Lethbridge.

And running in my own private bubble? While it isn’t always guaranteed at the fitness centre, if I have to be surrounded by other people working out, I’d rather it be those kids I teach during the day than the whack jobs at the gym. It is great as a teacher to see the kids outside of the classroom pursuing their personal interests and hobbies, and seeing so many of them getting hooked on an active lifestyle is great. And it is great for us teachers to show the kids that we are active ourselves!

So is the “good one” ideal? No, of course not. But she will have to do for now. I will make the most of her during this training! And who knows…even when the weather warms up, I may still end up using the “good one” for those speed workouts….or I may just have to do sprints with our track & field athletes!

Race Reflection-Mad City Marathon 2006

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Last year, when I started my page, I had all these plans to do race reflections on marathon races of my past. I have only written two! So I am on my third, which I will touch on today. And my goal will be to finish the other few before the Calgary Full this June. It should be achievable, because I don’t have tons of full marathons to reflect on, and my last one before Dopey was the 2009 Calgary Full…which was a disaster. So that will be a good one to end on!

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May 28, 2006, marked my second full marathon. I drove to Madison, Wisconsin, the night before, knowing it was going to be a hot one. There were weather advisories galore and even at 7 am as I walked to the Capitol for the start you could almost cut the humidity with a knife.

I remember having it in my head to beat my time from the year prior, which was 4:27:38. And when I started the race, I totally thought
I could! At mile 2, as seen below, I felt like a million bucks!

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Well. There came a point where the heat just got out of control. Looking back, I can’t remember what the humidity index ended up being, but I know it was insanity. I kid you not that I believe the temperature did reach 100. And they did in fact shut the course down completely at 5 hours and 15 minutes. Word was that they had ran out of medics for all the people needing attention during the race.

I did finish before the cut off. I didn’t beat my time from the year before, but finished with a 4:47:48. Not bad considering the weather!

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