Category Archives: General Reflection

Running on the edge of Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taber Tuff 12.5km

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Saturday, July 13th, marked the inaugural “Taber Tuff” trail race. Taber is a small rural community east of Lethbridge, about 45 minutes away. In my mind, all I think about when I hear Taber is CORN. I don’t think of much else at all. And I definitely don’t think of a tough trail race. So I was very interested to see what this would be like.

The race was held at the Municipal campground in Taber. Once you get into town, you make a turn and head down the road for about 3km. What you end up at looks completely different than the town of Taber itself. The campground has lots of trees and is nestled along the water. The coulees that we are used to in Lethbridge, while not the same here, are prominently located past the trees. It was a nice surprise to see this landscape.

The race had two distances-12.5 km and 25 km. I was registered for the 12.5 km. If you chose to do the 25 km, you did the 12.5 km loop twice. The 25 km runners started at 8 am and the 12.5 km runners started at 8:15 am. This allowed for runners to get pretty spaced out which made it easier if you came up to any 25km runners and needed to pass on the single track.

It was already a very warm morning when the race started and I was happy that I was only going to be doing the 12.5 km. Heat is not my friend. Once they started the 12.5 km, I got myself set as lead female. I had no idea if I was going too fast or too slow. I was just going to try and listen to my body and see how it all played out.

The first 5 km were what I would call “deceiving.” What I mean by that is that it was pretty easy as far as trails go. You start by entering into some wooded area and then get some basic rolling coulee hills. Nothing tricky. This was going to be easy…..

Then it all started to change. In my opinion, the challenging parts of this course were between miles 4-6. This was where there were often holes in the ground or sketchy single wide paths on the face of a coulee. There was loose sand and lots of areas with erosion. For me, being someone scared of heights, I was freaked in some spots. I had to really slow my roll in order to comfortably tackle some of these areas.

I also hit some GI issues around mile 4. I honestly have no clue why my stomach got upset, as I was actually more careful than usual leading up to this race with my food and drink intake. I totally felt ready to go in the morning, and didn’t do anything weird with my fueling routine. I am putting this problem I experienced due to the heat but I also noticed that if I really coasted my way downhill fast, the jarring motion in my stomach seemed to bother me and that’s when it got more upset. These are all good things to find out now at a small 12.5 km race so I can work on them in preparation for Lost Soul 50km. Many times I had to literally stop and take some deep breaths before continuing on with my run.

You looped back to the campground at 10km and followed some cones through the campground. Lots of little kids were sitting in their camping chairs cheering us on. The last big climb was a paved path with then a nice descent back to the rivers’ edge, a stroll through some shaded area, and back at the campground base area.

I ran in a time of 1:33.36 and finished 1st female and 3rd overall. There were 27 finishers in the 12.5km race. I think if I was able to do this same course again on a different day I could break 1:30. But, between my stomach issues, the unexpected sandy and scary areas that I am not used to, and my upcoming marathon this Saturday, I couldn’t push as much I know I could have. I am pretty proud of my time though, because I did step out of my comfort zone a bit with this race. Every trail race I do now is a step in the right direction. It’s a new way of thinking and running for me and it’s going to take time to get used to. Maybe I’ll eventually get used to the heights?!?!?!….

Oh yeah. I also won a sweet Igloo cooler in a draw prize! And we needed a new one !

The Lone Wolf-Team “Lammers & the DILF”

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Father’s Day weekend 2019 was spent camping in beautiful Fernie, British Columbia….and running the trails of beautiful Fernie, British Columbia! The Lone Wolf, put on by Stag Leap Running. This was the second year the event was put on, with last year being the inaugural running. We did not participate in the inaugural event, so I cannot speak to how this was compared to 2018. But I will say that overall I was impressed!

These type of trail events seem to be a trending thing: last man standing style. For The Lone Wolf, you could either enter as a soloist or as a team of two. The idea is that every hour, on the hour, runners leave “The Den” to attack an approximately 4 mile loop. On the odd number laps, you would run clockwise and then on the even number laps, you run counterclockwise. You must finish your lap in the one hour, otherwise you are eliminated. It’s up to you or your team how much you want to push it on each lap. Run balls out on your laps, you’ll have more time to rest in between. Run slow and steady, and you won’t have much time before the next lap starts. Also, if you are a team you can decide how you want to split up the laps between you and your partner (more on that later).

Race photos from Raven Eye Photography

Before getting into actual race day, I want to say that if you are into camping, booking a campsite at the Mount Fernie Provincial Park campground is ideal for this race weekend. We are relatively new to the camping world, but I researched and found out I could book a campsite in mid-February. On the day booking opened, I had full selection of campsites. I chose one that I thought would be close to the Nordic Centre that the race would be located at. We came to find out that we were about 1/4 of a mile away! This was awesome for us, as we would be at the race with our 20 month old son and we knew we’d have to be going back and forth for various things. For example, in the evening once my husband was done doing his laps and threw in the towel, he took Andy back to the campsite to feed him dinner, and then he was able to return to the race site before I finished! There are lots of other hotel accommodations very close to the race, but I would strongly recommend booking early so you get exactly what you want.

Happy camper!

Race package pickup was at a hotel near downtown Fernie. It was a quick pickup, with waivers to be signed. We got our race bibs and our shirts. I really love the shirt colour and design, and they are also very soft. We headed back to the campground and were able to get a really good night’s sleep-Andy slept like a champ! With the race not starting until 10 am, we didn’t have to worry about getting up super early. If you are staying at a hotel or Airbnb you would want to get there relatively early and/or carpool as parking is at a premium. We had our friend Nick come to our campsite at 9 am and he parked his car there.

The race staging area is very large and there’s lots of spots to set up your own personal area. We had a group of us from Lethbridge put a couple of those four-sided shade tents together and had camping chairs, coolers and Andy’s pack-n-play set up in the shade. If you have a group that wants to be near one another, also get there early enough to make sure that happens.

So on to the race. Dan and I chose to do this as a relay because 1.) we aren’t skilled enough trail runners to want to try it solo and 2.) we needed to alternate who was watching Andy during each lap. Since we could choose who ran on which laps, I decided to start us off and always run the odd number laps. I can’t even remember who I paced myself off of the first lap, but I ran a conservative 51:10. What I learned during the first lap is that it was approximately 1/2 a mile from “The Den” to the base of the mountain. Then you’d get up the mountain to its peak at just over mile 2. It was then a descent all the way back to start/finish area. Knowing how long it took to get up to the peak would be helpful in later laps, because you could then know if you were going too fast or too slow.

As Dan and I alternated our laps, there was a great selection of food and beverages for the runners. Funny thing is that these items had to be relocated at one point because when I was out on lap 7 a fucking bear came right up to the finish line. It would not move away, even with bear spray and noise. The parks officials came and got it out of the way but holy shit, had I been at the group area and this occurred I would have told Dan we were quitting and done!

Racers could drop out at whatever point they chose. Obviously, soloists generally stopped before teams. The rule was that whenever the final soloist stopped, the teams must stop too. I don’t know what our true tema goal was, but since I’m competitive with my husband I knew I just wanted to run more laps than him (stupid, I know). Dan had had some back issues the week prior so he wasn’t even sure leading up to the race how he was going to feel. After his fourth lap (lap 8) he said he was done. This was at 6 pm. It worked out pretty well because I went out on lap 9 and Dan took Andy to the campsite. I was running with our friend Dylan, who was actually very injured, but it was comical at least. He didn’t want his team to quit yet. When we came after lap 9, Dan wasn’t back yet. Our friends said he was fully expecting me to run another lap. Also, had I stopped at that point I would have felt obligated to go back to the campsite and help out, when really all I would want to do it sit down and have my free finisher beer. So, I had some snacks and headed out for lap 10 with Dylan’s teammate Mark.

With lap 10 finishing at just before 8 pm, I felt like the smart thing to do was stop. I was STARVING and even though my legs felt fine for a lap 11, I knew I would probably pass out from hunger. Had I been able to get out there for lap 11, we could have placed 3rd in our mixed team category. In the end, there were 4 teams that completed 10 laps. They then calculate who ran the 10 laps the fastest to determine placings. We were the slowest of the 10 lap teams, and in the end we placed 6 out of 9 in the Mixed Under 40. The team that won were a couple who sat right near our tent. The husband was running 4 laps and then the wife would run 1. He was training for the Canadian Death Race and yeah, I think he could have lasted all night if the soloists didn’t stop.

We will definitely be back next year. It was so much fun and a really unique experience. I do have to give a special thanks to all our friends from Lethbridge who were there. They really stepped it up and helped out with Andy quite a bit. Andy is so used to everyone from all the other events we do in town and we are so lucky to have these friends who are like family. The race weekend wouldn’t have been possible had they not been there with us.

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.

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!

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.