Category Archives: races

Totem to Totem Marathon

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I don’t even know where to begin! So I’ll start with a quote regarding visitor information directly from the race webpage:

“Located off the north west coast of B.C, Haida Gwaii is as far west as you can go in Canada. It is the home and traditional territory of the Haida. It is one of Canada’s undiscovered treasures.”

 

Flying in

 

This was a family vacation that we planned around a race. It was able to happen in part that our friends, David & Heidi, live out in Haida Gwaii. We booked the three flights, shuttle and ferry and went out on an adventure! By using our AirMiles (and the fact Andy could fly for free) it cost us $100 per adult ticket for all three flights, return! Flying from Alberta to British Columbia is the lowest AirMiles flight redemption for province to province, so this was a steal considering how much all these little flight segments would have cost.

Riding the moving sidewalk in Vancouver

Almost a 3 hour delay out of Vancouver calls for a nap

Even slept through a parent transfer!

We arrived in Haida Gwaii on the Thursday. This allowed us to get settled in at our friends’ place and tour a bit the next morning. Flights were delayed out of Vancouver, and we ended up leaving 3 hours late to the island. Andy was a champ throughout this all (more so, I was getting super anxious and I think my husband was getting sick of airports). I was very worried we would be stuck in Sandspit (not where Dave & Heidi live) because technically, the last ferry would have already left. However, BC Ferries ran one more ferry from Moresby Island to Graham Island solely because of the inbound flight coming in. Phew!

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We made it to Sandspit!

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Loading it up on the ferry

Not loving it on the ferry!

On Friday morning, Dave and Heidi decided to show us how life is out there and we went crabbing. It was a lot of fun. We drove up to Miller Creek (a spot on the race course), parked on the side of the road, then hiked into the beach.(YES we bought our license to crab, which was a whopping $5 per person. You could catch up to six crabs a day per person on that…) We ended up catching a Dungeness crab and a red crab (I forget the name of this kind). The Dungeness was huge! It fed us all lunch that afternoon.

Probably my favourite picture from the trip!  Some serious sand-scooping with a sand dollar is happening.

Dave & Dan became friends in elementary school when they both took French Immersion

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Our catch

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The crew (minus Dave since he was taking the picture)

Bringing home the prize!

Later that day, we went to the Skidegate to pick up our race packages, which was located at the Kaay Centre. FUN FACT: This was an official AMAZING RACE CANADA location! Even though it was a small package pickup, you could walk a little bit inside the centre and out on the grounds to admire the totems, canoes, and the view. I was happy with the shirts, as they were the Authentic T-Shirt Company, and from my experience their shirts are not of the best quality….and often, they are only one “gender size”. Since I got a women’s small, it actually fits my proportionals correctly and is not a lost cause. The logo and the shirt design mesh well together and both my husband and I really like the colour!

 

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Family photo!

Race started at 8 am. The drive from Dave & Heidi’s place in Queen Charlotte was about 15 minutes. If you are a tourist doing the race, there are quite a few B&B options right in Queen Charlotte too! And I am sure people have Air BnB. There are just none of your typical “Holiday Inn”stuff. And that is fine! We loved the comforts offered here! Race parking was so easy, everyone was so nice. The full and half marathon would be starting at 8, with the 10km following at 8:15.

Down on the beach at the Kaay Centre

Getting ready to start

If this race interests you for a full marathon, the first thing I need to make clear is that it is an extremely small field. In the past years of running in general, more and more people take part in 10km and half marathons….full marathons still seem to be a little bit scarier of a task. I knew it would be a small field based on looking at past results. When you look at the 2019 final results, there were 21 total runners in the full marathon, 47 half marathon runners, and 128 runners in the 10km. So, coming from “a city” this is VERY SMALL. THAT IS NOT A BAD THING! For lots of distances, this is great. But I was well aware of how the marathon field would be and how alone I would potentially feel on the course.

The course is “out-and-back” style, where the half marathoners turn around at Dead Tree Point water station. The marathoners would then continue on to St. Mary Spring, then head back to Skidegate. The whole time you are running, you are on the “highway.” It’s the only road there, with one lane each way. They have tall cones on the edge for runners to stay inside of. When cars occasionally pass, most honk and wave. There are water stations approximately every 5km. If you really get frustrated with your race just look to the side and you are literally running alongside the ocean. You’ll forget your worries!

I won’t recap mile by mile, I’ll just post a Garmin screenshot and it’ll tell you how it went. In summary: Started off strong feeling I could get that 3:30.00 but by 7 miles I was so mentally frustrated and alone (since the half marathoners had turned around) I was just in a mood. Lo and behold Meaghan and Benjy from Victoria, BC, come up to me. THANK GOD. They had ran with Dan for a few miles before the marathoners kept going, and Dan must have described me well enough to them that they knew I was his wife. At that point I thought another female runner was ahead of me. Turns out, I was the lead and Meaghan would ultimately win for the women. But without them showing up, and running with me to the turnaround point, I may have just dove into the brush and then found my way to the sand to start crabbing again because I was crabby….

Running with others is fantastic. We met up around mile 7 or 8. We all ran together until the turnaround. Meaghan and Benjy went ahead. I eventually passed Benjy. And then seeing the areas I already had once passed motivated me to keep moving and pick it up. I’m going to say GIRL POWER here because after Meaghan passed me, no other women passed me but I caught up to and passed 3 guys! It felt good! Since I was feeling the pain of the mileage (I hadn’t done a training run longer than 15 miles this season….oops) and I couldn’t see the third place female behind me, I made sure to take my time at the aid stations. They were well stocked, but I will say the first one we hit on our way out from the start was weird because they only have bottled water but no cups or jugs to fill from….so I carried a bottle of water for a while as a shower device!

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Photo credit to @jagsbean Jags Photography

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With less than 400 m to the finish! Beautiful! Follow @jagsbean on Instagram for more!

 

Finish line area was super welcoming and all the runners, spectators and volunteers were genuinely happy when someone came across. We received a beautiful finishers’ medal, the design was new this year by local Haida artist Robert Davidson. Andy was waiting with David & Heidi when both Dan and then I crossed the finish line. They caught video of Dan coming in with Andy clapping, and then when I crossed in I ran and gave him a big hug.

I finished the race in a time of 3:42.35, which is my third fastest full marathon.  This was my 15th marathon.

As a mother runner, coming across the finish line and giving that little monster a big huge is an amazing feeling!

We hung around for a bit, and then we were informed that awards wouldn’t happen until the last finishers came in, so around 2 pm. At standard races,this would not occur. But since this is such a small, community and cultural event, I understand the importance of waiting for everyone to be in attendance to receive their awards. We went back and showered, Andy took a snooze, and we came back at 2 pm. The awards were presented by the totems in behind the Kaay Centre overlooking the water.

IT WAS PICTURESQUE. I received an award for being 2nd female in the marathon (time of 3:42.35…my third fastest time!) and it is honestly, without a doubt, the best award I’ve ever received in a race. Lots of races just have finishers medals, or if there are not finishers’ medals then they do age group medals. They are pretty generic. Since we are on the edge of the damn country, it’s not like they have access to mass-produced awards….so I was given a necklace carved out of black stone, with the Haida eagle & raven on it, and the Argilllite stone that I am told only Haida are allowed to harvest (made by local artist Tyler York). It’s pretty damn special.

2nd place female award

All of the award winners from each event-Marathon, Half Marathon and 10km

After awards, the rest of our trip began. We were only staying three more nights, but we made the most of it and the best we could with a toddler. We walked 400 metres every morning to the playground. And we walked 100 metres from Dave & Heidi’s house to a trail that was a rainforest. We went to a beach, we ate good food, we had a blast!

Hiking trails right behind David & Heidi’s house

Beach before heading to dinner (Notice the monkey swinging on the rope….)

Dinner at Blacktail in Queen Charlotte

Andy approved of our meals that evening!

Berries are everywhere! Ever heard of THIMBLEBERRIES? Yeah, I hadn’t. Andy LOVES THEM. Find them everywhere! We drove out to see the site of the Golden Spruce (I had never read about this act of eco-terroism, but we found out about it whilebeing here. Well, Dan knew but I did not. It’s super interesting actually!) Wesaw ancient carved Haida canoes, we walked random trails, we did beach walks, we dined on friends’ patios that overlooked the ocean….we did as much as we could. And I know there is more to do.

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THE BERRY MONSTER!

Golden Spruce Trail is really accessible for all ages

Since I did in fact drink the water at St. Mary Springs on our last day while doing an outing, I know I will “be back”. But even before that,I know I NEED to be back. Our family needs to be back. And if you are interested in travelling to an amazing island in British Columbia, that feels a worlds’ away, you should too. Even if you don’t run. But if you do run, and want to add a bucket-list race, why not run on the Edge of Canada?

Read the sign….I drank the water, so I will return to the Islands someday!

Dinner on our last night at a friends’ house.  THE END!

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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!

Berlin Marathon 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And we are off!

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Somewhere in Berlin between miles 20-26.2 🙂

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Focused on finishing

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

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Brandenburg Gate in the background and coming into the finish!

 

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Berlin Marathon finisher!

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

Wisconsin Race Recap

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From June 30-July 17th, I was back in my hometown visiting family and friends.  During that time, my husband and I were able to participate in a four mile race, and then I was also able to do a 5km race.

Firecracker Four

Firecracker Four is a 4 mile race held in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.  This is a suburb of Milwaukee, very close to where I grew up.  I had done this race years ago, and was excited to do it again.  It would be an 8 am start on the 4th of July.  I couldn’t think of a better way to start off this holiday!

It was HOT.  that is an understatement, actually…it was HOT AS FUCK.  The humidity was ridiculous.   I believe the “feels like” temp was in the 90s by 7:30 am.  Both Dan and I weren’t sure how we’d do since this felt like a large sauna.

We ran into my college friend Matt before race start, so it was nice to see a familiar face!  He was with his buddy Kevin, who also went to the same college as us.  They grew up in Hales Corners and always do this race every year.  They think it was the biggest turnout this year, with over 1100 people doing the 4 mile run (there was also a walk portion that had people too).  It was also the 40th anniversary of this event so that’s pretty cool.

Once the race started, I knew I wanted to just push as hard as I could.  This isn’t my normal race distance, so really I had nothing to lose.  One crazy thing was that before we even ran half a mile an ambulance had to come through.  Dan and I thought it was part of the race, but if you weren’t in the front pack you got stopped to let the ambulance through.

This route went through neighborhoods in Hales Corners.  There were a ton of people in their front yards and driveways cheering us on.  And these kind souls also had sprinklers going and hoses spraying us.  Seriously, I don’t think I would have ran as well as I did if it wasn’t for all the water being sprayed.  They also added a third water stop because of the weather.

I was able to hold on and finish with a time of 27:54, beating my goal of running 28 minutes!  I placed 99/1124 overall, 14/546 in female and 4/81 in my age group (just missed a medal!)  My splits were 6:35, 7:05, 7:11, 7:05.  And in true Wisconsin fashion there was a variety of beers at the finish line for us to enjoy.  8:30 am beers on the 4th of July is pretty damn American if you ask me!  USA!

Travelling Beer Garden 5km Race Series-Grant Park

Photo Credit to Jeff Crosby

Continuing where we left off at the Firecracker Four…..I did a 5km at one of the Milwaukee County Parks Travelling Beer Gardens.  Oh Milwaukee….you are amazing.  This park is located in South Milwaukee, right along Lake Michigan.  While it was still hot out, it wasn’t nearly as toasty as it was on the 4th.  And being so close to the lake helped because of the breeze.

Take note I had been eating like shit and drinking too much by this point in my trip.   It was July 12th and my body had been going through hell and back.  I really didn’t know how this would go, considering all the damage I’d done to my insides.  This race was a 6:30 pm start, with the “highlight” being that once you finish, you get a ticket for a free pint glass and beer at the beer garden.

I started out strong and felt like with this smaller field I would have a shot at being near the top.  The interesting thing about running races in a location you don’t normally run is that you don’t know your competitors.  When I am in Lethbridge I know who I should be pacing off of and who I am trying to catch.  Here, its a crapshoot.

I ran mile 1 in 6:30.  Alright, this is an epic pace for me.  If I kept this up, I would have a shot at a personal best.  The field had started to thin out, but there was one girl right in front of me.  I decided to draft off of her and hope for the best.  It was an out and back course, so at the turnaround I saw that I was comfortably in 2nd place, within reach of the female leader.

Mile 2 split was slower, at a 6:44.  I got my head in the game and knew I needed to push for that last mile to see what I could get.  I wasn’t sure if my body was going to give up and get another 15 seconds slower or if I could hold on.

I didn’t get slower, in fact, I got faster.  Mile 3 was a 6:36!  Holy Shit!  I kept pushing and pacing off the lead female and was able to come in right behind her with a chip time of 20:50!  The course measured 3.16 miles, so a little long, and other people also agreed that their watches measured it longer.  My time at the 5km point was actually a 20:30, which would be a personal best for myself!  I was extremely satisfied with my performance, placing 1/21 in my age group, 2/74 in female, and 8/156 overall.

The great thing about this night was that my mom and Andy came to watch (Dan had already flown home).  And while we were there, we saw a bunch of people who I knew…Mike & Christina with their kids, Lindsey who I ran with in high school, my friend Amanda and her husband Nathan….this is what is great about coming “home” to run.  I get to see people who I don’t normally see on a daily basis up here in Alberta.  I look forward to the next time we are back in Wisconsin and hope there’s a race somewhere that I can do!

May Days

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Having a kid puts a damper on being up-to-date on my blog posts.  So, since I did three races in May (a trifecta!  5km, 10km and a half marathon) and haven’t written about any of them, I am going to do a post on all three.  This may become a new way of doing things…!?!

3rd Annual Lakeview Superhero Run 5km

I have actually done this race all three years and this was my fastest one yet!  This race is always a Wednesday evening, and the past two years it was hectic getting there because I would have been working during the day.  This year it was even worse because I was trying to deal with stuff at home with Andy before Dan came back from work and  then I had to rush over to the race start.  After parking I got to the start area with less than 10 minutes before the beginning of the race.  Close call.

The weather had been gross all day long and thankfully it cleared up in the evening.  While I would not have minded some rain while running, this is a 2km and 5km race geared towards children and I know they would have been miserable had it been raining.  The 5km runners started first, and the 2km would begin shortly after.  It’s a quick loop from Lakeview School down the green strip towards Bullys, then around the east end of Henderson Lake and back.  I don’t know my splits, because in the rush around the house before heading here I realized my watch wasn’t charged.  Rookie mistake.  But I do know that I finished in a time of 21:57!  I am super proud of this as last year I ran a 25:57(albeit I was 15 weeks pregnant or so) but back in 2016 I ran a 22:16…I beat that!  This sub 22 time that I ran was my goal for my July race in Wisconsin, so now my goal for that 5km will be to beat this time!

20th Anniversary of Woody’s RV World Half Marathon in Red Deer

Dan and I often go and do this race because his family lives in Red Deer.  This would be my 6th time running this half marathon. More notably this would be Dan’s first full marathon!

The weather was the best I’ve ever experienced for this race.  The race starts and finishes right near Dan’s old high school.  I had originally made a lofty goal of running a 1:40 for this race.  When I started, I had some trouble with my legs.  They just felt heavy.  I really thought that I would be able to shake that feeling after a mile or so, but the heaviness and tightness persisted.  I ended up getting pretty frustrated at the 10km mark, but after I hit 9 miles I had a second wind so to speak.  My last four miles were very consistent and back to where they should have been all along.  Here are my splits:

7:26, 7:45, 7:46, 7:48, 7:50, 8:12, 7:54, 7:45, 8:09, 7:51, 7:50, 7:52, 7:53

My final time was a 1:42.28.  So, not in the 1:40 range like I was hoping but still pretty good.  I hope to get down into that 1:40 range or lower by the Lethbridge Police Half this fall.

6th Annual Fort Mcleod Willow Creek Wilderness Walk & Run 10km

The weekend after Red Deer was this little trail race.  My friend Angela and I headed out to Fort Mcleod in the morning.  She would be doing the 5km while I ran the 10km.  While it was advertised as a “Wilderness Walk & Run” I guess I didn’t really take into consideration that this would be a trail race, and not on paved paths.  Surprise surprise!

I would say about 90% of the route was either on gravel, pebbles, mud, dirt, or grass.  I was the leader of the 10km for the first two or three miles, which was col, but very mentally challenging.  With no lead bicyclist, I was starting to lose focus and drive to stay at my normal 10km pace.  My feet just kept sinking into the stones and I felt my pace getting slower and slower.

One guy did pass me and he stayed ahead of me for the duration of the event.  But having him in front of me helped me push a little more and get back on track.  Given the terrain of the race (and my loss of focus) my splits were all over the place.  (6:43, 7:36, 7:53, 8:05, 7:57, 7:46)  I was happy to see myself get my last mile back down a bit.  In hindsight, I probably went out too fast and had I known what the terrain would be like maybe I would have been a little less ambitious to begin.  My final time was 47:48, which was good enough for 2nd overall and 1st place female.  I got a sweet handmade ceramic mug as my prize!

So that was May!  It is already the first weekend in June, and originally I thought I only had one event this month.  But yesterday I joined a relay team for a local trail race last minute.  So who knows what else I’ll decide to do last minute….