Monthly Archives: March 2014

Race Recap-Coaldale Family Fun Run 5km

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Today I ran the Coaldale Family Fun Run 5km. While I ran a ridiculous 22 races in 2013, not one of these were a traditional chip-timed 5 km event! I haven’t ran a traditional 5 km timed event since my days at UW-La Crosse, and that would usually be once a year during the annual Turkey Trot. My personal best for a 5km race goes way back….wayyy back!….to August 2003 when I ran the Milwaukee Brewers Sausage Race 5 km in 22:09.

The Coaldale 5km was a small local event held to raise funds for the Coaldale Christian School. Coaldale is about 25 minutes east of West Lethbridge, so getting over to the race start was easy this morning. I had picked my packet up the day before, so I parked in a neighborhood at 9:40 and jogged to the start at the school.

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A lot of families were at this event today, which was fantastic. What was even better was that we had a strange three-hour pocket of sunny warm weather! It was around 50 degrees at start time. The race started at 10 am, with the route taking us out on a paved road towards highway 3. Not going to lie—I went out way too fast. As I pounded out of the starting gate, I knew within 100 metres this race was going to hurt. My legs and my glutes already had tension forming due to the faster threshold I was attempting to hold. I just kept telling myself it would only be 5 km….just a 5 km!

I chose to listen to my music this race, which is rare. Problem was, I didn’t have an arm band or my waist band for my phone. I held it the whole race with my headphones in. I now wish I hadn’t held it, so I could have relaxed my hands, but nothing I can do about that now. In case anyone cares, it took approximately one full play of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” to do 1 kilometer. Now you know!

I was holding my ground fairly well during the race, but could tell I was slowing down about 3/4 through. The paved road turned to gravel, and it was a little mushy. Definitely not a “fast” track. At about 4 km, a lady did pass me, and she turned out to be the 20-29 female winner. As she passed me, I gave her a thumbs up. Again, gotta keep up the good karma! There was no way I could have possibly gone any faster, so no biggie!

When I finished in 22:59 (yes, for real…just broke 23 minutes) my chest hurt and burned so bad. I felt more exhausted than I did last week at Run for L’Arche Half Marathon when I ran 1:38! I was overjoyed to be done with this race, but I couldn’t just walk it off like it didn’t hurt. I had to wander around the finish area a few minutes before my chest and throat stopped burning before I could even attempt to walk and get water! 5 km races are tough for us half marathon runners!

The awards were held shortly after in the gym of the school. They had lots of post race snacks (I had chocolate milk, an orange and coffee). One awesome thing that they did during awards was intersperse random prize draws between the age categories. They also gave awards to the youngest runner, the oldest runner, and the family with the most participants. That family got an incredible gift basket and the kids were so excited to “win” it!

I earned a silver medal in the female 20-29 category. I was 2/16 in my category, 5/125 females, and 23/225 runners overall. This “fun run” really was just that—-the energy was positive, the crowd was fired up, the weather was beautiful, the perks were outstanding. I would definitely recommend this run to anyone in the Lethbridge area looking for a Spring 5km next year!

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Race Recap-Run for L’Arche Half Marathon

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About a year ago, I tackled the Trailbreaker Half Marathon in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It was my first official half marathon of 2013. I had hoped to possibly break my long-withstanding PR of 1:54:19, but wasn’t sure if I could due to just spending a week enjoying the food and drink of Wisconsin! I managed to sneak out my first personal best of the year, a 1:52:53, and was beyond pleased.

Fast forward to this year; last week to be exact. I got up at 5:30 am on Saturday, March 22nd, got myself ready and hit the road to Calgary for the 10:00 am start of the Run for L’Arche Half Marathon. This race would be my only spring half marathon, as I am saving up for the Calgary full and my attempt at a Boston Qualifying time, in June. I knew in my head I wanted to really go for a personal best and break 1:40, but wasn’t sure if it would be in the cards. An early morning 2 hour drive, an unfamiliar trail to race on, and icy cold weather would be the hurdles to tackle. But I had my inner motivation.
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The race started and finished at the Eau Claire Market near downtown Calgary. I had never been here, so was relying on my GPS to be my guide. Made it no problem, and secured a sweet parking spot right outside the food court entrance. Race day packet pickup was also a breeze! I had all my supplies by 9:00 am, so I was very grateful for the indoor seating before this cold race!
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About 15 minutes before the start, I shuttled myself outside. I positioned myself pretty near the front of the group; there was officially 236 finishers in the half marathon. It was nice that it wasn’t too crowded; I didn’t feel like I would get stuck behind anyone after the start while on the narrow trail.

The half began, and all of a sudden I was warmed up and ready to rock. My adrenaline just started pumping through but I knew I had to keep positive thoughts. The course was an out and back along the Bow River. The public trail system was not closed to the general public at any time during the race, but it was so cold that the only people out there were die-hards anyway…so I personally didn’t encounter any issue with people being in the way. The runners spaced out relatively soon, probably by the first mile. It was also at this point that I think I never passed any female runners, or had another female runner pass me. I kind of found myself in my own little world.
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Since the trails weren’t in the deep woods, and they weren’t as windy and full of blind turns like the river valley in Lethbridge, I could keep a good eye on the runners ahead of me. I kept with their pace and kept on pushing to that halfway point turn around. I was trucking along for the first six miles—7:01, 7:29, 7:27, 7:28, 7:27, 7:27. As the runners headed back after the turnaround I counted five women ahead of me. And once I did hit the turnaround, I saw everyone else closely behind. I knew I had to keep pace, even though heading back I would be hitting some wind and probably the proverbial wall.

I kept a good spirit, as I truly believe this helps during a race. I said “good job” to anyone I caught up to or passed, and exchanged “yeahs!” with people who caught up to me. Even though I was also starting to realize my body was conditioned to this bloody cold, I was really starting to tighten up! Miles 7-10 were 7:34, 7:37, 7:43, 7:37.
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When I hit the last 5 km, I knew sub 1:40 was within my reach! I even told guys around me I was gunning for my personal best, and they had to keep me energized! I slowed down a tad over the final icy bridge, and made a push to the finish. My final three miles were 7:38, 7:44 and 7:48. I slowed myself down, got my finishers medal, put my hands on my thighs, and turned around. I had already seen the timer above the finish, but I had to turn around to see it one more time. I looked at my watch and there it was…1:38:40…I had done it! I broke my previous personal best of 1:41:07 from October 2013 at the Bare Bones Half by about 2 minutes and 30 seconds!

The official results weren’t immediately available, so I got some chocolate milk and helped myself to the hot breakfast being served by the Calgary Stampede Caravan. When I finally made it inside the market, I was able to turn my phone on and search for the results. I found out I had finished 6/110 in females, and 1/32 in the 20-29 female age group!

The past year has been crazy. I can’t believe I’ve gone from a 1:50s half runner to a 1:30s. Finding the strength within to run with more determination than ever this past year has paid off. With this finish, I feel even more positive that I can get my Boston Qualifying time this June at the Calgary Full Marathon. I can’t wait to train and race through the springtime!

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Running is Good for the Soul

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I am not an “early morning runner.” I can barely get up the first time my 6:15 am alarm goes off to get ready for work.

I am also not an “evening runner.” Once I get home my eyes zero in on food, shower and the couch. I am so done for.

I have also realized over the months that on weeknights I can barely be a “westside Lethbridge runner.” By the time I drive home from work on the northside, I again just want to eat, shower and collapse.

So even though my eyes usually hurt after a day of teaching, and I want to just curl into fetal position and sleep, I have found that the best time for me to successfully pound out on the pavement is right after school. Sometimes I run with my track & field kids….sometimes I run solo.

I often run through the northside neighbourhoods, but sometimes I head down to the river bottom trails. That’s what I did today—and I don’t regret it one bit. I started in the river bottom right off of Bridge Drive and took the trail towards the nature centre and the bridge. It was here that I mixed things up.

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I headed up those metal stairs so I was now close to eye level with the high level bridge. The wind was hitting me hard but the sun was making the wind not matter. It was gorgeous up there!

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I decided to run down the shale path towards Scenic Drive. I headed south on Scenic until I approached the Galt Museum. I had a bit longer to go before my turnaround, so I found another shale path—one I had never followed before. I kept running parallel to the bridge on a path the stretched farther and farther out…until I reached a beautiful point.

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I hadn’t even know that this staircase existed. If I had had the time, I would have descended into the river bottom here. Instead, I took some time to just take in this gorgeous day.

Someone can have a busy day. A shitty day. A grumpy day. A tough day. A disappointing day. A stressful day. But, somehow, a good run can make all that “stuff” disappear. Running is good for the soul.

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The End-of-Winter Slump

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It was bound to happen.

I’ve been training and racing pretty much non stop since March 2013. So the fact that my left knee hurts a tad and I am sort of in a slump is understandable. Coming off the Moonlight Run 10km last weekend, I was feeling pretty much on top of the world! A normal, sane human being would have taken a few days rest and slowly climbed back into training. I took two days off, then ran 4 miles Tuesday, 8.5 miles Wednesday, and a slow 5 miles Thursday. The 5 miles on Thursday were slow because this is when I really noticed the pain behind my left knee cap.

Our athletic director told me to do the “poop squat” test to see if my knee was really an issue. What is this deranged test you ask? Well, he had me squat with my legs shoulder width and my quads parallel to the ground, like I was shitting in the woods, I held this for 15 seconds. My knee didn’t have any pain as I held it. So, according to Toby, I’m alright.

Maybe it is just a mix of pure exhaustion catching up to me. Friday I was going to do 7 miles, but I opted for a 2 hour nap before attending a friend’s birthday party. I was worn out all night and yawning every five minutes. But, I did the 7 miles on Saturday, and I felt solid! I split the mileage into a 5 miler and a 2 miler—I did a route on the west side of town before going to watch our JV boys basketball team in the zone finals at the university. Then, I ran the 2 miles home. During the first portion of the run, I really pushed the limits and knocked out a 7:33 pace during mile 5. My knee felt just fine!

Today, however, I woke up around 10:00 am. My alarm was not set this morning, so I missed marathon club. I was supposed to get in a 10 miler today. But, now I am glad I didn’t. The pain in my knee is back. And I’m trying to figure out how to best tackle this upcoming week.

My only half marathon of the spring is on Saturday in Calgary-The Run for L’Arche. I really want to lay it all out there and push for that sub 1:40. The course is relatively flat, and appears to have a slight decline after the midway turnaround. It’s a 10:00 am race, and there is packet pick up for out of town runners on the morning of the race. This will allow me to sleep soundly in my own bed, get up early and trek up to Calgary.

In preparation for this event, I am planning on resting tomorrow, but then running 8 miles (Tuesday) 4 miles of intervals (Wednesday), and a very easy 3.1 miles (Thursday) before resting on Friday night. The Thursday run may even become shorter, but I need it as a shakeout run. And if I don’t feel like a complete pile, I will be attending run club on Sunday. Yes, I will have raced in Saturday…and this may be why I feel like I am hitting the proverbial wall…and maybe this is the explanation for the knee pain…but the longer distance of 16 miles is something I need to do when I have others around me as encouragement. With the Calgary Full in June as my big event this spring, I need to feel confident in the longer runs, even if I am taking it at a slow pace. I think come Sunday afternoon, I may be buying a couple bags of ice and having a big old ice bath!

That’s it for tonight. Hopefully next week I have some great news to share in regards to how the half marathon went. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel more like a normal human being again. Doubtful…but it could happen!

Moonlight Run 10km Race Recap-What a Night for a Race!

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Last night was the 27th annual Moonlight Run 6km and 10km. This is the largest race in Lethbridge, Alberta, and is held every year in March. Approximately 2500 runners stormed the streets of downtown Lethbridge and headed down into the dark river bottom. It didn’t matter which event you participated in, because you could not avoid the crazy hill back up to 3rd Avenue. I had written about my goals for this race in my last post, so now I will briefly recap the event and let you know if I achieved what I set out to get!

The weather the past two weeks has been, in lack of a better phrase, “bat shit crazy.” It has been at polar vortex levels, with icy, sandy snow blowing, and really what looked to be no end in sight. When I went down to do the course one more time on Wednesday, I went to check out all the icy spots. TONS of black ice, and this would become exponentially more dangerous as it got darker out. I knew everyone would have to be going a lot slower in the curves of huge trail system in Indian Battle Park.

But then a weird thing happened…we got above freezing on Friday! I don’t know the exact stats, but since Friday afternoon when that Chinook wind blew through, we have been steadily above freezing and everything has melted. Looking out my back window right now, I see no snow, and it is currently 52 degrees Fahrenheit. This balmy breakthrough helped “break the ice”, yet then turned the course into a Spartan Race. (More on that in a bit.)

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My husband Dan and I got down to the race start at CASA early, and I was able to say hi to some of my students who were volunteering. The music department has students volunteer every year at Moonlight, so I saw tons of familiar faces. I even found time to snap a photo with the one and only Susie Staples before the race! She is our music instructor at WCHS and was responsible for getting all the student volunteers!

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Race started at 8:00 pm for the 10 km and 8:15 pm for the 6 km. There were 539 runners in the 10 km this evening (this is the number I am getting from the official results). The 6km had three times the number of participants, with 1646! I positioned myself about two rows back from the front and was ready to go. The fun thing, for me at least, at this race is that they sing the national anthems for both the United States and Canada. I believe this is because of participants coming in from Montana for the race. No other race would take the time to care about something like that, so I find it very cool!

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A cannon started us off immediately following “Oh Canada.” Stampede! Dan tried to get a shot of me flying by…really you can kind of make me out as the purple blur in the right corner of the photo. We turned onto 3rd Avenue and started our slow descent. There is a natural downhill as you head west on 3rd Avenue and this natural downhill turns into a steep drop as you hit Wendy’s hill. I was booking it! The roads were clear and visibility was great for this first straightaway so I figured I’d take advantage of it. I saw fellow colleague Amie S. with her dog Roscoe at the beginning of the downhill stretch–she was there to cheer on her husband Morgan! Her “GO ANDREA!” got me smiling! Halfway down the hill the Lethbridge Firefighter’s Pipe & Drum Band was pumping out some fanatic music. I soon hit mile 1 at record time-6:21.39. Wowsa.

When I approached what I would consider a 120 degree clockwise turn in the river bottom, my vision and depth perception almost went blank. Even though I had my headlamp on, the sudden change from being on a road lit with street lamps to now being on a trail with nothing was huge. I stumbled and slowed a tad, but regained my composure. We headed towards the newly refurbished Helen Schuler Nature Centre, and an aboriginal drumming group was helping keep the tempo. Heading towards the Highway 3 overpass was when everyone first encountered what I would end up calling “ice puddles.” It was the lesser of two evils, because these puddles were black ice on Wednesday…but this is where my experience in Spartan Races helped me. Well…not really. But I can say that since I have ran through mud and crap and water before in those races, I decided to just commit to running straight through these ocean of icebergs. I first tried going around the puddle and off the trail, but that was pure deep mud and a mix of iced up snow, which was more dangerous. Wet feet and calves it would have to be.

My second mile clocked in at 7:05.02. I was happy with my second mile because I knew it would be tough after the sharp turnaround to keep mile 3 near this pace. After the turnaround runners had to share the already narrow path with the 10km runners who were heading towards Highway 3. Most oncoming runners were good at sharing the path; I only encountered one pairing of people coming towards me that seemed to think they could take up the whole width. We were guided off the path near the nature centre and met disgusting mud. I am glad I got through this before a bunch of people, because I’m sure it just got more mucked up later on. As we turned parallel to the train bridge, I hit mile 3 at 7:25.79.

The stretch between mile 3 and 4 was honestly the toughest for me. No, not the hill! But this portion of trail. The fact that it was dark wasn’t even the main issue…it was the fact it was now around 8:30 pm and every 100 metres or so you would hit an ice bath. These slowed you down even if you tried to just pummel on through. I’m glad I was familiar with these trails because I could prepare myself for areas I thought would be iffy. This race also further supports why I don’t listen to music when racing—if I had had headphones on and music blasting, you wouldn’t be able to use all your senses to grasp what was happening around you. There was a gentleman in front of me most of this stretch that I could see due to his reflective shirt and my headlamp—I was able to see when he hit stretches of puddles and this got me prepared for every icy submersion I hit. Mile 4 was what I consider my “slowest” clocking in at 7:57.07.

Mile 5 was more of the same, but less puddles. The trail opened up after the turn around near the water treatment plant. Street lamps were now back on the gravel road and I could start to get my stride back. I finished the 5th mile at 7:51.49. And this is when we hit what separated the men from the boys……

The hill. If you aren’t from Lethbridge, the pictures from my last blog post don’t do this hill justice. And the fact that the 10km runners had to run on the trail parallel to the actual road made it even more challenging. The pitches on this trail were insane. But I knew I could tackle this—I’d done this hill twice and in the past year I have done more hill training than my previous 9 years of running! I knew I had a woman close behind me before this hill, because I could hear her breathing throughout the whole trail system, but once we hit that hill, I made a gap. I also managed to pass three men one right after another as we started our initial ascent. Sure, my pace nosedived at this point, but I went as fast as I could up this hill. I caught up to a guy around my age at one of the steepest switchbacks. These switchbacks added a new challenge versus just running straight up the road! There were even more spots to have to slow down as you did these quick turns. Back to the guy, though…we didn’t speak other than me saying “good job!” as I met up next to him. I think the fact that a girl his age had caught up to him lit a fire under his ass, because we kept up together the duration of the trail. It was good motivation for me, and I’m sure I helped him indirectly get up that hill….who wants to be beaten by a girl?!?

Mile 6 was my slowest paced mile—-I knew it would be with that hill. It was a 9:14.68. But I am so proud of how I tackled it. I did not walk, I did not let anyone pass me, and I gained some ground. The 10km and 6km runners joined forces as we head down 3rd Avenue back to CASA. It was now hard telling who was who in the race, as all runners mingled. I kept my head forward and pushed on through the the finish. As I turned towards the finish the announcers were able to read my number and announce “….another female 10km finisher was coming in…Andrea Lammers-Pottage of Lethbridge….she’s close to top 3 in females!” I finished with an official chip time of 47:27 flat. Not too shabby considering the conditions! I immediately felt overjoyed with my time! Dan got some not-so-flattering pictures of me coming back to earth, and we headed off to find some results.

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I was so excited to see the results beginning to be posted….I placed 2nd in the females 25-29 category! I had achieved my goal of top 3 in my division! The big surprise was that I actually got 4th out of 304 women! And of the 539 total racers in the 10km, I placed 45th! Below is a snapshot of my results and a link to the official results on racepro.ca!

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Race Results for the 10km at Moonlight Run 2014

The awards started at 9:30 pm, beginning with the 6km event. They took quite a long time, but Erin from Runners Soul kept it moving as fast as possible. With age divisions being 5 years apart, and placings going 5 deep, you couldn’t move much faster! Dan joked later on that we waited twice as long for the awards than it took me to run my event. The 10km awards began sometime after 10 pm. The wait for my 2nd place medal was well worth it! It is beautiful! Honestly, this is probably one of my favorite medals. Not just because of the fact that I achieved my goal in order to earn it, but it captures the essence of Lethbridge so well!
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Well. Another Moonlight Run is in the books. It was my most successful Moonlight to date and I can’t wait until next year. The race went off without a hitch! The fact that the weather Gods decided to help us out on Friday was huge! Now I want to look if there are any nearby 10 km races this spring in an hour radius, because I am determined to break 45 minutes! With every race comes a new goal! Thanks for reading my long entry! Happy Sunday everyone!

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Below is the link to the main page of results for all events at the 2014 Moonlight Run! All categories are broken down in both the 6km and 10km
2014 Moonlight Run Results from Racepro.ca

Moonlight Run 10km—Strategy Time!

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The Moonlight Run is the annual night race held each March in Lethbridge, Alberta. This year marks the 27th running of the Moonlight Run! This race always fills up, as runners can chose between the 6km or 10km distance. The 2500 runner capacity easily gets reached! I am signed up for the 10km this Saturday, March 8th, and have set some goals for myself this year. The Moonlight Run has placings that go 5 deep in each gender-age category—but I am aiming for top 3 in the female 25-29. This is my main goal. And since I set this goal, I decided it would be a good idea to do a dry-run of the course, which I did on Friday. The course has some new additions to it this year and I wanted to set a strategy!
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Both race distances begin and end at CASA, our new community arts centre, on 3rd Ave South. The racers will head west towards the river bottom—no turns at all for the first mile. Included in the first mile is the massive downhill which is affectionately called “Wendy’s Hill” by us at marathon club. The hill goes by a Wendy’s…what more do you want in a name? The start is at approximately 913 metres of elevation (2,995 feet) and after the descent into the river bottom a runner will be at 825 metres (2,706 feet). That all happens in that first mile!
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The first mile has lots of open space to call your own, but once you are in the river bottom, it’s a different story. The 10 km runners will head towards the train bridge and Highway 3, where they will ultimately turn around just after the overpass. This then will make the course even more narrow after the mile 2 turnaround, as you will have runners going both directions. It is very important that I place myself in a good racing position well before the mile 2 turnaround, as passing will then become next to impossible.
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At mile 3, runners will turn on the path towards the river. Once I get to this turn, I will now be in an area I have raced on many times. Most recently was during the Claus Cause 10km in November when I PR’d with a 45:37. It was a course one would not consider getting a PR on, but I seem to have a thing with getting my best times on crazy winding, hilly local Lethbridge courses. It will be important to run the tangents in this segment and also hug the curve as needed. My short 5’3″ self needs to use any advantage I can get!
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From mile 3 until about mile 5.5, runners are just circulating through the Indian Battle Park trails. I know from past years it is obviously quite dark down there, but with my head lamp and the lights from the volunteers all will be good! There were some icy patches still on Friday, and the Polar Vortex temperatures from this weekend definitely did not melt these. Hopefully this week brings warmer temperatures to melt those suckers!

The last challenge to tackle is the run back up Wendy’s Hill. This year, the 10km racers will head up on the trail which is parallel to the road, while the 6km runners get the road. I have to say—this trail is a pain!. Pictures don’t even begin to show how intense it is. There are some interesting sections that get pretty steep! I’m just going to have to find the power in me and push, push, push up this climb! The faster I run, the sooner I’m done! We will join onto the main road about 3/4 up the hill, and then it’s a straight shot back to CASA.

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This is a challenging course-but really, all courses in Lethbridge are tough. The hills on Lethbridge courses are inevitable unless you are just doing a 5km. Over the last year of running with Runners Soul, my confidence has increased immensely when it comes to tackling these hills. That, along with my time drops in the past year, is why I have set this lofty goal for my first race out this year. No matter what my time and place ends up to be this Saturday, the Moonlight Run will be a great race to kick off the 2014 season!

Here is the link to the PDF map of the 2014 6km and 10km course for Moonlight Run, presented by Runners Soul!
Course Map