Tag Archives: canada

RunDisney Virtual Running Shorts 2017

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I’m not someone who partakes in “Virtual Races” much.  For those of you who don’t know what a virtual race is, it’s any event where you register to race the set distance but on your own course.  Some actual road races offer virtual options, which usually need to be completed and logged during a certain window of time.  And some companies put on virtual races just as events where people can log their times and earn a medal to commemorate the run.

The times I have done so was when I did a Digital Running Virtual Run to tack on to my RunDisney Dopey Challenge in 2014 (Hat Trick medal, Grand Slam medal), an “Interstate Challenge” (run a race in Canada and USA…easy!) which then led me to doing a “Time of the Season” challenge with them (run at least a km race in every month of 2014….HUGE four piece medal once done!)  I also did the Knotts Berry Farm Coaster Run 10km as a Virtual Race in 2015 solely for the Snoopy medal.  I mean, duh….

I would rather just be out running an actual race than doing a Virtual Race.  And a lot of the Virtual Races that I see people doing are through promoters in the USA, which then means its a US dollar registration fee, and since our exchange rate in Canada isn’t really that great at the moment it just gets pricey.  It has to be something special for me to consider a virtual event.

In Spring 2016, RunDisney announced their first “Virtual Running Shorts” which would take place in the summer.  There would be 3 different 5km virtual runs you could do, one for each month, with a different medal for each month plus a challenge medal if you did all three.  I was intrigued by this last year since I knew I couldn’t run that much distance in the summer, as my foot surgery was early June, but opted to not push myself post surgery with events (even if just a 5km virtual run).

This year, RunDisney offered the Virtual Shorts again and I jumped on board pretty quickly.  The price tag sort of made me contemplate if it was worth doing-each virtual race was either $40 a piece or you could pay $142 for all three plus the challenge medal and other goodies.  This was then when our Canadian dollar was really at its worse, so after the tax and fees and exchange rate, I did end up paying quite a bit for what is basically just appears to be 4 medals.  Would it be worth it?

I was impressed with that I received my package from RunDisney very early in June—even before some other people in the USA!  They mail you all four medals right away, each individually packed, plus the other goodies which was a collapsible dog bowl, dog tag, and cool towel.  The additional goodies were only for if you registered for the whole challenge, and are dog items since the mascot for the series was Pluto.  They are definitely not something on their own worth registering for, and if you don’t have a pet there really isn’t a use….but I have to say we used that dog bowl a lot this summer with all our travels to and from Calgary for Snoopy’s acupuncture!

 

I opted to keep all the medals in the box and would only remove each one as I completed a race.  What’s the point of hanging them all up right away?…I needed to earn them!


Since I wanted to be able to hang my medals early each month, I tend to chose early dates to complete my virtual run.  I also tried to choose days that were important to me, just to make them a bit more special.  I ran my June 5km on June 7th, which would have been the day of my dad’s 65th birthday.  I was 19 weeks pregnant at this point, and full of emotions, as Snoopy was not yet back to walking.  I finished this 5km in a time of 34:55.

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I opted to use the Canada Day Red Dress Run 5km event as my July digital run.  That event ended up being closer to 6km in length, but I made sure to stop my watch once I reached the 5km point so I had a time for my virtual run.  I had most fun doing this run as part of the RunDisney Virtual Running Shorts series mainly because I took the “Dress in Red & White for Canada Day” theme as the opportunity to wear my Minnie Mouse tutu!  It was also fun for it being during an event, as I pushed myself a bit more and ran a 31:45.  I was 22.5 weeks pregnant.

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I couldn’t wait any longer for my last medals, so once August 1st rolled around I went out and did my final event.  The whole month of July had been incredibly hot, but I had stuck with my 4 days a week training plan of running.  Honestly, having these little 5km virtual events each month helped keep me going through the heat and this pregnancy!  I was just shy of 27 weeks along in my pregnancy when I completed the final 5km, in a time of 35:41.

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All four medals are hanging proudly on my medal hanger, and I even made sure to hang them right by all my other RunDisney bling!  Participating in this virtual event was perfect for me, given that my last half marathon was end of May and that I wouldn’t be doing any other long races this summer during my pregnancy.  It helped keep me accountable this summer, when otherwise I may have just gotten frustrated that I wasn’t registered for any summer time 10km or half marathons.  If someone needs a little extra push, this race series may be a good option for you.  While I most likely won’t do it again next year (I’m doing Start Wars-The Dark Side and Disneyland Half Weekend, so I get the real deal!) I am happy that I registered for it this summer!

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Reflection Post-Election…

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…But nothing to do with politics!

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post, which was about my last race.  In those weeks since, I have been trying to stay away from Twitter, Facebook and the likes….because it always just gets me in trouble.  I was really good up until the night of the election and then I just ugly cried into my beer.  Then I pounded another beer.  And then I believe I made some Facebook comments angrily…..mature.

I had been avoiding Twitter even more, because I was sick of seeing anything election related leading up to the election.  For about the last month I honestly did not tweet as much as I used to.  I get too aggravated seeing things that upset me at my core, and I can’t deal with my anger well.  So, I just cut Twitter off pretty much.

I know I said this wasn’t a post about politics.  It isn’t.  Trust me.  Because I’m done talking about it.  What I said above was necessary, though, because in my absence of Twitter I didn’t connect with the #runchat community as much.  I am not necessarily a huge contributor to the community, but a lot of the people I follow on Twitter are through Runchat.  Many of these people I have never met.  I joined Twitter initially to help spread the word about this blog.  To connect with other runners.  To read more about running.  To find out more information about RunDisney events.  To commiserate with others when I failed to qualify for Boston.  Twice.  To celebrate with others when I finally did qualify!  To be able to be part of #BQChat, and to spread the joy and recount my trip to the 120th Boston Marathon.  I joined Twitter for running.  Not for politics.  It’s just a shame that it had to overtake my Twitter feed for the past bit that it bothered me so much that I needed to just not open it for some time.

I love talking about running.  About other people and their running experiences.  About my own experiences.  About goals, plans, dreams.  But most of the time, I like to just run alone.  I know a lot of people need a group or a running partner when they go on a long run, but I still yearn for those long runs when I am by myself.  Today, I ran 14 miles in the Lethbridge River Bottom.  It is November 13th.  And it is ridiculously gorgeous out.  I wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.  And sunglasses.  I headed out at roughly 10 am.  Down to the river valley I went.  I looped through the paved paths of Indian Battle Park, down past the Helen Schuler Nature Centre, to the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands, back past the Baroness Picnic Shelter, over to Whoop-Up Drive, onto the shale and dirt filled path that takes one right underneath the iconic high-level bridge….I took breaks during this run.  I took some pictures.  I took my time.  I eventually made my way back home and took my shoes off to find new blisters on my left foot.  My right foot, the surgery foot, felt good though.  It is worth noting, though, that during this solo run I never felt alone.  I ran past tons of couples, friends, families….all out enjoying the beautiful November Sunday.  Some people I passed two times.  I ran into other runners, who as we crossed paths we gave the little head nod to acknowledge the other.  I had my mind entwined in all the crazy things I have been thinking about the past while.  And when I returned from my run, while those crazy things weren’t gone….they weren’t driving me absolutely mad.




Tension.  Frustration.  Stress.  Sadness.  Anger.  

These things were all released from the simple act of going on a run.

Happiness.  Joy.  Accomplishment.  Satisfaction.  Pride

These things were all gained from the simple act of going on a run.

I know running can’t solve all the worlds’ problems, but I know it helps a lot of us deal with them a little bit better.

 

Go run.  You won’t regret it.

 

Volunteering at the Lost Soul Ultra

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Copyright LostSoulUltra.com

For all the races I have ran in over the years, I had yet to volunteer at an event.  Until now.  Each September, Lethbridge is home to a well-known ultra marathon event-The Lost Soul UltraMarathon.  This year’s event fell on the weekend of September 9-10th, and offered three different race distances: The 50km, 100km and 100 mile.  The race winds it way through the challenging Lethbridge coulees, taking you way up on ridges that overlook the river valley, and then down along the river bottom.  The course is not just full of basic climbs and descents—it is filled with grueling hills, single track madness and rough terrain.  It is not for the faint at heart!

I signed up earlier this summer for two volunteer shifts.  I would be volunteering at the headquarters, which was located behind Lethbridge Lodge.  This is the starting and finishing point for all events, plus a transition area for different legs of the 100km and 100mile.  I would be working from 4-8 pm on the Friday evening and then a few hours later, the graveyard shift of midnight-4 am.

The Lost Soul committee put on a nice volunteer BBQ a few weeks before the event on August 29th.  We got to mingle with other volunteers, receive our shirts (I was able to get a long sleeve shirt since I signed up for two shifts) and basic information.  On race day, I reported to headquarters and found Lorelei, our station captain.  The only runners on the course at this time were 100km and 100 mile runners, as their event began at 8 am that Friday.

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Finish area by headquarters

The timing of my first shift ended up being a crazy time at headquarters.  Lots of runners from both distances were coming through transition area.  As a volunteer, we were to help these runners at the aid station.  Whether it was fetching their drop bag (all runners could leave drop bags or boxes with their race number at each aid station) or finding them food or water in the aid tent.  The aid tent was unreal-at my first shift, there was a gentleman manning the grill making bacon.  Lots and lots of bacon!  The runners needed their salt!!!  He later on made burgers for the runners.  There was hot chicken broth, various fruit, sugary candy, chips, coffee, water, pop, and a whole lot more.  Runners had to check in with the timers as their entered the aid station, and could stay as long as they needed.  We then would put their drop bags back and send them off.

I was able to see quite a few runners that I knew during this time as they came through the aid station.  It was great to cheer on friends and people I knew from marathon club.  During my first shift I even got to see the 100km lead runner crush the course record and finish in around 10 hours and 55 minutes!  My friend Bob was helping crew him, so I got to hang out with Bob and his daughter Abby as they waited to see him come in and take the title.

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Shift 1 done!  Also now sporting my Lost Soul buff I received for volunteering

I headed out to dinner with a friend after shift 1, tried to take a nap (but failed) and came back at midnight.  It was a lot quieter at headquarters then, as far as runners go.  The runners have gotten more spread out, and the amount of runners coming in to the aid station at the same time had dispersed.  But that doesn’t mean that headquarters was boring.  There were lights and music, lots of happy volunteers to keep the runners’ morale up, and more food being served.  The later shift was a lot of fun because most of the 100km runners that came through were finishing.  Some of these people were seasoned vets, and some it was their first 100km race.  My friend Aimee came in well under her goal finishing her first 100km race!  She ran the race with her Dad, who is a veteran of these types of events!  I also got to meet a lady also named Andrea, who was also from Wisconsin!  She came all this way to do this race!  I had brought some Sprecher Soda with me to the midnight shift, so I gave her a taste of home by handing her a Puma Kola when she was finished.

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Aid Station at Headquarters between midnight and 4 am

 

Volunteering was an awesome experience, and I wish I had done it sooner.  It felt great to give back to the local Lethbridge running community, as it has already given so much to me.  Honestly, running races in Lethbridge and finding Marathon Club at Runners Soul really has kept me sane as I transitioned from a Wisconsinite to a Canadian.  I have met lifelong friends.  I have been able to reach goals I never thought would be possible. Everyone who runs in races should try to volunteer at a local race to pay it forward.  I am happy I did and I know I will again.

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Lost Soul Ultra is a premier ultra marathon ran in Lethbridge, Alberta, each fall.  Runners from all over North America make it out to western Canada to tackle our beautiful coulees and river valley.  For more information about this prestigious event, go to Lost Soul Ultra

August 2016—All in One Post!

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So, I did around 3,500 miles this month!….

In my car.

I haven’t been active here lately, partly due to my roadtrip!  On July 31st, I packed up my trusty 2009 Pontiac Vibe and hit the road.  Along with the essential clothing, toiletries and podcasts to entertain, I also packed my 9 year old beagle, Snoopy.  Where were we heading?  We were going across the border south east to my hometown of Franklin, Wisconsin.  We had stopovers planned in Longville, Minnesota (my aunt and uncle live there).  Snoopy is an excellent travel companion; I honestly cannot say that enough.  He just curls up and sleeps the whole time, does not fuss, and is excited to arrive to any destination.  So I kept myself occupied by listening to a variety of podcasts and when I really started losing it I would talk to Snoopy.

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All packed and ready to hit the road!

 

We made it to my mom’s on August 4th, and we stayed until August 22nd.  During that time, I was able to see all of my family that lives in the area, attend a closing day of Badgerette Pom Pon camp (I worked for Badgerette for 5 summers), watch the State Distinguished Young Woman show with my friend Maureen (I won 2nd alternate back in it’s Junior Miss hey day), go to two travelling beer gardens, see a bunch of my friends back home, eat and drink my way through both Wisconsin State Fair & Zoo Ala Carte, go to my favourite Mexican restaurant 3 times, play in a bag toss tournament, and so much more.

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“Swimming” with Snoopy in Lake Wabedo in Northern Minnesota

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When you are in Longville, MN, you go to the Meat Raffle at the bar….and win!

 

The main reason I drove was so I would be able to bring back the remains of my childhood that was still housed at my moms.  It wasn’t that she was forcing me to take it, but I have been gone since 2008, so I figured it was time.  Yearbooks, photos, games, puzzles, Barbies, Littlest Pet Shop, etc, etc, etc….It is now all back in Alberta.  I also packed up some New Glarus Beer, a ton of Wisconsin cheese, 32 bottles of Sprecher soda, and who knows what else.  Snoopy and I arrived back in Lethbridge on August 24th.  Wow, it felt good to get back!  We both missed his daddy Dan and his brothers Woodstock and Faron.

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That’s for DAMN sure!

 

During that trip, I also started running.  I had done my first 5km run prior to the trip in a numbing time of 33:43.  I had walked and jogged a bunch during it.  That was on July 28th.  Remember, my foot surgery was on June 10th.  I had been given the clear I could start running after my 6 week post op on July 21st.  I did my first humid (SO HUMID AND HOT) Wisconsin run on August 7th.  It was a little 20 minute jaunt that average 9:40 per mile.  Oww.  On August 11th, I went out to try and beat my July 28th 5km time.  I did so handedly, running a 30:02!  So close to that sub 30!  I did a couple other 1-2 mile runs during my time in Wisconsin, but I wanted to try and get under 30 minutes.  On August 16th, I set out to do that.  I ran that 5km in 28:20!  These gains I have made in less than a month since coming back into running are huge.  I was going nuts not running for over 6 weeks, and taking this time to get my newly fixed foot used to running (and running properly) has been great.

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5km well under 30 minutes!

 

Since returning to Lethbridge, I am happy that the humidity is gone.  I have ran on August 25th, 26th and 27th, and the weather has been glorious.  The biggest highlight was yesterday, the 27th.  I went out to run a sole mile with the goal of getting between 8:00-8:15, a pace I was always easily able to obtain on my runs, and my sweet spot for my Boston qualifying pace.  I finished that mile in 8:14!  Guess what world…LAMMERS IS BACK!

And guess what today is?  Today marks the start of WEEK 1 of my GOOFY CHALLENGE training plan.  I have put together a very non-aggressive 19 week training plan with the goal of “comfortable completion” of the 2017 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge, which is a half marathon on Saturday, January 7th followed by a full marathon on Sunday, January 8th.  The even more special thing about this race is that I will be running my 2nd WDW full marathon alongside my best friend Ali.  It will be her very first full marathon!  I will be there to support her through those dark moments (especially between miles 15-23!!!)  She has run half marathons before, and I have set her up with a training plan to coincides with her Spartan Race and Crossfit schedule.  It will be a weekend to remember!

 

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The original “Pottage Pose” from the marathon portion of the 2014 Dopey Challenge in WDW

 

 

19 weeks is a LONG training plan.  When I ran the Vancouver Marathon in 2015 and Boston in 2016, I had an intense 16 week plan.  This plan does not include speedwork.  It just has two easy runs a week plus a long run on the Saturday.  Then, in late October, I add another mid distance run on Friday, which will help prepare me for the two day challenge that Goofy presents.  I am not going for any speed records at this race; I want to get my body back into running shape so I can begin to push myself again come the new year!

I have updated my 2016 race schedule, as I have a few local events in October and November.  I will be recapping those after they occur, and I will definitely be keeping you posted on how my Goofy training goes.  Until then, I need to get ready for my first day back at work tomorrow….Teachers start this week, with students coming in the day after Labour Day.  For teachers, this is our “New Year”.  Happy New Year to all the teachers, students and parents out there! 

Hypothermic Half 2016-Why?

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imageOn Saturday, February 27th, I participated in the Lethbridge Edition of the the Hypothermic Half. This event is put on by The Running Room and held nationwide. I participated in the Lethbridge event in 2013, then the Calgary version in 2015. I wrote about those events here (Lethbridge 2013) and here (Calgary 2015)…and as you can see, they were completely different experiences. Going into this event, I had an idea of what to expect, and I was disappointed. But that doesn’t mean it was an amazing race experience.

I don’t like being negative on here, especially about races. But when an event needs some improvement, I will share my two-cents. I signed up for this local event knowing it would probably be low-attendance. In comparing the Lethbridge 2013 run to the Calgary 2015, the first thing one would notice is turnout. The Calgary Running Room in Eau Claire Market downtown seems to do quite a bit more promotion and draws more runners. That event was chip timed. It was a bigger deal. The Lethbridge event, yet again, was not chip-timed had only about 40 or so runners (tops) and was a mish-mash to say the least.

Packet pickup was both the Thursday and Friday before the event. This was nice as I could not make it Friday (would have been tight on time). However, I went to packet pickup and they couldn’t confirm race start. It would either be 8 am or 9 am. I had to write down my email so they could let me know. They also had no details on the brunch. Now, while I did receive an email late Friday afternoon, that is very odd to me that a race did not have these details for participants less than 48 hours before the event. Especially when it’s an event being put on by a national store.

In 2013 the race swag was a duffle bag (Dan uses it from time to time). Last year. I received a buff-like head gear piece and black mittens (which I actually use). This year, they decided to have everyone receive a flimsy orange backpack (I like the Colour but I is destined to tear if I put anything bigger than a pair of shoes in it) and a toque that doesn’t fit over my Afro. I like it when races change up the swag, but for the registration price, this is so-so. For the record, early bird registration was $65 up until October 1, $70 until Jan 1st, and $80 until race day. I believe I did the $70 one, knowing you get an item other than a shirt. This also includes a post-race brunch…which I’ll talk about later. Really, Running Room is making a killing because this is the same cost for the 5km or 10km, which they hold that same morning. I, just really confused on this pricing tier, as since it’s a nationwide event and all race sites have the same swag and medals, it’s all ordered in masses. Anyways, onto the race.

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Race did start at 9 am, which was what I had thought was the original start time anyway, so that was good. I signed up for this race knowing I would have a long training run this weekend, and it timed out to be the weekend I needed to do 18 miles for my Boston Training. I got up early and did a 5.5 mile “warmup” to get my legs going. The warmup miles felt good, but I was already going faster than I normally had been going on my long runs…not faster than the pace I should be going, but I was averaging 8:21 a mile. I made it to my car, drove down to the river bottom, and was at the start line with about three minutes to spare. Way to cut it close!

The route was a familiar one, as it went out past the nature centre to the metal gate, turn around, loop adjacent to the Oldman River and under Whoop Up Drive, past the water treatment plant and down to the loop right before the country club. Then head back to the start…and do it again. As a local runner, I know the segments of this route like the back of my hand…all the turns, dips, climbs, bridges, etc. But with the event having such a low number of people, keeping motivated would be tough as often I felt alone, yet still wanted to push to keep my goal pace for the race. I had in my mind I wanted to pace for an 8:00 minute/mile, as that is in the faster end of my “long run” pace, but exactly what I want for my goal pace in Boston (gives me a 3:30 full). Even though the race start didn’t have the traditional excitement I am used to at the start of a half marathon (maybe part of it was that I was still tying my left shoe when they said GO) I got fired up during that first mile. It felt GREAT to be in a race again. And to feel in shape. I did my first mile too fast, in a 7:22. I hope that I can remember what that felt like, as that is my goal half pace. I held close to that last year when I ran my 1:35.41 personal best. I have a half marathon on April 2nd in Wisconsin, and if I haven’t eaten too much cheese or drank too much beer the week leading up to it, I plan on going for that.

Back to Lethbridge. First half of the half went with a 7:22, 7:56, 8:04, 8:02, 8:05, 8:16, 8:01. It was around here while heading past the nature centre a second time I came across some tool walking his dog not on the leash. The dog was a huge Great Dane/boxer mix (maybe?) and came up to my hip. It was running in the side brush and onto the trail, and as I got closer it decided to run right toward me. It didn’t bite, but it nudged it’s damn head at my hip so I, naturally, turned my head back at the guy and yelled “THIS ISNT AN OFF LEASH PARK! YOU CAN GET A FUCKING FINE”. Then, I ran off the pavement a bit, and promptly ran into a rock. For real. And I hit it with my right foot. The one with the bone spur. Yeah, I jacked my foot into the rock, but caught myself and then kept running. The idiot owner was saying he was sorry….but yeah. That happened.

Regained myself and did the second loop with 8:16, 7:56, 8:02, 8:07, 8:12 and then the last 0.75 miles in 5:50, to finish with 1:42.15. My total distance was 12.75 miles, and I think I was so under due to the fact I really did run the tangents and hug all the curves, as I am so familiar with the route. The route did have a Garmin Connect map online that clocked it as the true 13.1 miles, but that would being on the outside curves the whole time. At 5km, for instance, I looked and was at 3.06 miles instead of 3.11…and then the gap just slowly grew. I was very happy with my finish, as my pace was a solid 8:01 minute/mile. Pretty much exactly what I wanted for the day!

I finished and got my medal, which is sweet. I do like the abominable snowman/Sasquatch/The Bumble that is on it, so that is a plus. I got my layers in and waited for my friend Aimee and her friend Zita to finish, and then we headed to the brunch at Lethbridge Lodge. Now, I didn’t go to the brunch in 2013 for some reason, but I did in Calgary last year when it was at Fort Calgary and it was awesome. Tons of food, fantastic scramblers…lots of juice, coffee, beverages. Filled with people. This one…was…interesting.

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Got to the ballroom in the Lodge it was at, and it was basically empty. I think there were about 12 people in there, and no one was checking our race bibs to actually see if we paid to eat. The buffet line up was scrambled eggs, ham, plain cubed potatoes, and some Danishes. Then some poorly made coffee and questionable orange juice. Additional brunch tickets were sold online for $30 a piece…this was a $9.99 buffet. Thankfully, the company of Aimee, Zita and her husband made it worth it, as the food was a joke.

Would I recommend this race? Not the Lethbridge one. Would I do it again? Probably not anytime soon. But if it lined up in a training plan, I’ll probably throw my credit card number down and try to give it another chance, but the only be left to complain yet again. Memories! 7 weeks til Boston ya’ll!

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Spartan Ultra Beast 2015-A Race Like No Other…

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Since January 1st, 2014, I have participated in one 5 km race, four 10 km races, three half marathons, one full marathon, one 50 km ultra-marathon.  In addition to these traditional races, I also did two Spartan Sprints (5 km each), 2 Spartan Supers (14 km each) and 1 Spartan Beast (21 km).  I was in the shape of my life when I ran the Vancouver Marathon in May and qualified for Boston.  I placed in my 50 km race in Calgary in my age group and won a trophy!  I won other races, made personal bests in all the standard race distances:  a 20:42 for a 5km, 41:30 for a 10km, 1:35.41 for a half marathon, 3:24.56 for a full marathon.  So I naturally thought signing up for the Spartan Ultra Beast in Sun Peaks, to be held on September 26th, 2015, would be a logical next challenge.

I just did not know that this challenge would be my first ever DNF.

DNF is a running term for “Did Not Finish.”  No one plans to run a DNF.  No one wants to run a DNF.  Many people have, and for those people that race will always hold a sour note in their mind.  Sure, it will be a learning experience, and everyone’s reasons for DNF’ing will vary, but it’ll still hurt.  Even if it was the right thing to do.

My husband Dan and I drove out to this race on Friday, September 25th.  It is a 10 hour drive from Lethbridge.  We left early, made good time, and I felt excited at packet pickup.  I had been feeling a bit sick earlier in the week, so I have been going to bed quite early.  Like 8:00 pm early.  But I felt ready.  It was very exciting to be back at Sun Peaks-I not only ran the Sun Peaks Beast in 2013, but Dan and I celebrated our honeymoon here in January 2011 while attending the Winter Wine Festival.  I got my bags set for the morning and headed to bed.

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The morning weather was a lot better than the “Snow Fest” that was 2013.  It was cool and overcast at 7:15 am when I headed to festival grounds.  My heat of the Ultra Beast began at 7:45 am.  All 175 of us crazy enough to register for this event that would be double the length of the Beast (two loops) began at once.  I was geared up with supplies and ready to go.  The first hour of the race was a lot of switch back climbing through single track trails, which eventually brought us up to where the chairlift let spectators off at.  There were a few obstacles during this time: a wall, Hercules hoist, log carry.  Once hitting the chairlift (an important spot for me) you did the monkey bars.  Nailed it!  A few more obstacles later and we kept climbing.  And climbing.  To a section I never was at before.  “The Top of the World” was closed to us in 2013 due to the blizzard.  But I made it here this year!

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Top of the World

It was after this section that I really started to have fun.  There was a lot of downhill running in open areas and on single track trails.  The main thing was I actually could run.  I was staying hydrated with my water that had Nuun, fueling myself with carbs in the form of HoneyStingers…Feeling great.  I got to obstacle 16, the Wall of Sparta, and still felt like a million bucks.  I was the 2nd place Ultra Beast female at this point in the race, and I even asked a volunteer what kilometer we were approximately at.  She said 17km….alright, if this is a double Beast (21 km) I am getting really close to my first loop!  Podium dreams danced through my brain.

But then a close to 1.5 km hill climb came.  Wow, that burned.  Straight on up.  Forever and ever it seemed.  Eventually we got to a tire flip at the way top and then there was a split off point-The Ultra Beast Runners had to go to the left and the regular Beast runners went right.  Apparently the regular Beast runners had the rest downhill.  We had a teaser of downhill for about 4 minutes and then hit our extra obstacle:  a burlap sack carry.  This in itself was not too hard, but we had to go up a stretch of ski hill and back down.  And then had to run (or barely walk) back up another stretch of hill (MOUNTAIN) to get on back with the main course.

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While I was still feeling positive, as I still held 2nd position, I was getting weak.  I failed the parallel bar obstacle, I fell off the stupid balance beam (which I NEVER fall off of), missed my one-chance spear throw and then just didn’t even attempt the rope climb.  120 burpees total.

I came in after loop 1 under the cut off time, with the 3rd place woman coming right in with me. No 4th place female in sight at all.  We got in to the transition area somewhere between 4 hour 30 minutes and 4 hour 40 minutes.  Dan was waiting with some now luke-warm soup for me.  He was almost laughing in disbelief at how long it was taking me, considering I guessed a first loop of 3-3:30, based on how it was 2 years prior and the better shape I was in.  Holy shit this was a hard course.  I ate my soup, had a fruit bar, refilled my water, and checked out of transition.

That’s when it started to crumble.

In retrospect, I should have spent more time fueling and getting mentally prepared while in the transition area.  Maybe finding someone else leaving transition who seemed to be in a good place mentally and physically and sticking with them.  I ran off and before I knew it I was on these ski and mountain bike trails alone.  No other runners around me.  Just the forest.  And bear poop.

Other runners would catch up and fall back, but we all looked worse for wear.  Looked like we were part of a zombie apocalypse.  My foot was burning with pain where my bone spur is.  Any time I went downhill and landed on even the smallest of rock, if it was on the ball of my right foot it felt like it would shoot through the top of my foot.  I was soaking wet and cold with mud encrusted on me.  I neglected to change my clothes in the transition area because I knew getting my compression socks off would be hard enough.  I was starting to cough and sneeze.  While the weather at the start of the race was pleasant, we had ran into rain, sleet, snow flurries, sun, and repeat during that first lap.

I started thinking more about if completing this race was worth the potential risks.  At this rate, I would be alone in the dark with no headlamp at some point.  My body was hurting, my mind wasn’t in the right place, and for the most part I wasn’t enjoying myself any longer.  Yes, I had ran a ton of different races this year with grueling distances and circumstances, but I was always having fun…even if I was in pain.  This race, the pain wasn’t quite maxed out, but if I had kept going on I was worried what could happen to my body and effect my upcoming events.  Boston kept going through my head.  One wrong land on my foot could have immense damage and possibly nix my ability to compete in the marathon I have always dreamed of.  When I registered for this Spartan Ultra in December 2014, I registered for it because I knew I would have been training for other events that could help me out with it.  I was not training specifically for it, so my weight training/cross training was lacking to non-existent.  But my training I had done did pay off and help me make my goal of qualifying for Boston.  I didn’t want to ruin Boston.

At that chairlift, round 2, I borrowed a volunteer’s cell phone and phoned my husband at the bottom.  This was an hour after I had left the transition area.  I asked for him to come up on the chairlift and get me.  I sat in the chairlift lodge and Spartan Race workers came over to check on me.  I wasn’t wincing in pain, I wasn’t hurt, and I wasn’t breathing ridiculously hard.  I was just done.  A lady gave me her tea, and when I talked to these workers the tears started flowing.  I just felt defeated at that moment, and while the course was literally steps away and I could have gotten back up, I just knew the right decision was to pull.

Dan got up there about 15 minutes later.  We got on the chairlift down (which he said I would hate since I hate heights) and I just put my head on his shoulder.

“I feel like such a fucking loser.” 

“Losers don’t qualify for Boston”

After making it to the bottom, retrieving my bag, taking a shower and a nap, I knew we had to make the most of the night.  It wasn’t worth staying in the room sobbing about it.  We went out that evening and had a hell of a time (probably spent a bit too much money).  During that time I ran into a few people who had similar, yet different, fates on the course.  Two girls didn’t even make it to the transition area in the cut off time (over an hour late) so they weren’t allowed to continue on.  They own a gym in Red Deer, so they were definitely in excellent physical shape.  Another guy we sat by at the bar had his hand all taped up.  During the Beast, he fell during an obstacle about 2 km out of the finish.  His hand gashed open, blood everywhere.  He had to pull from the race and go to the hospital to get it stitched.

I found out yesterday of the 175 that started, only 55 finished.  Only 3 of those 55 were women.  The fastest time for a male was 7:02:04 while the fastest female was 9:59:59.  It also said in the email the course for the Ultra Beast, including the extra loop with obstacle, was 52.87 kilometers….that is over 10.5 km more than I thought we would have!  I know Spartan Race wanted to make something challenging, and I by no means am trying to say that I would have completed it if it was without that extra loop, but that extra loop really wasn’t necessary to make it that “Ultra.”  Hell, I may have even bailed if that loop hadn’t been there but the extra loop just must have taken more out of me.  And I am sure a lot of others.

Will I be going back again in the future?  Not really sure.  I always did Spartan Races as my ‘fun-filler’ around my other races that I put my training focus on.  I think my husband and I will continue to head down to Montana each May for the race weekend, as it is a close enough getaway for us and an awesome time.  But other than that, I may be putting Spartan Races on the shelf and focus on my recovery from all the other races I did this year and then my training for the 120th Boston Marathon.

…and Winter is Here

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We had a really random weather-week here in Lethbridge. It was 67 degrees outside last week Monday. 67! On January 26th! In Lethbridge, Alberta, CANADA! Well, of course this wasn’t going to last. This Saturday blizzard-like conditions hit and I looked outside at 7:15 am saying “What the……” It was time for me to head to my first Runners Soul Marathon Club run of the year and I needed to get in 90-105 minutes at a pace between 8:02-9:23 for each mile. As much as I wanted to head back into bed, I knew I couldn’t.

Club run was 8 miles in length for those training for marathon distance, but I knew I would need more than 8 to reach 90 minutes. I ran from our house to Runners Soul (which is exactly a mile!) and got there in 8:58. The snow had started in the middle of the night, so nothing was shoveled yet, and visibility was tough. I knew this 8 mile route would feel a whole longer today.

The route brought us around the southside to the trail behind Home Depot near the coulees, past the College, and back down Scenic Drive. I won’t lie-it was rough going. I had wanted to be hitting around 8:20s for my pace, but I knew with the snow and ice I would have to lessen up, but still stay within pace parameters. I managed to do so for 7/8 of the miles in the club run, and the one I didn’t hit was only off by seconds! My miles were done in 8:57, 8:42, 8:43, 8:50, 8:41, 8:47, 9:03, and 9:26. So it wasn’t until the last mile that I fade and missed my pace by 3 seconds. I warmed up a bit in the store (which was a mistake) because then when I went outside to do my last mile home I got SO COLD SO FAST. I ran as hard as my body would let me and got home in 9:10. My feet were soaked, my fingers were numb, and my husband greeted me at the door with “I can’t believe you ran in that shit.”

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While still snowy outside today, the weather had warmed up to just at freezing. My options for today were either to take an off day, run 30-45 minutes easy, or cross train. My calves were sore from all the resistance running in the snow, so I opted for cross training. My husband and I took our nearly 8-year old beagle out to the off-leash dog park for a little hike. 3.2 miles later, we had taken Snoopy through the coulees, down stairs, through bushes, off the path….he acted like a puppy and was having so much fun. He even did some sprints with us up some hills and held his own. It wasn’t a traditional “workout” but it was a perfect way to spend the Sunday. Winter may be back, but that doesn’t mean it has to slow anyone down.

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2014 Running Recap

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It is almost a wrap on 2014…what a year! Ok…I hate that I used that as my first sentence, but I am currently going on my 26th hour in a sleeping car on the Amtrak and am not thinking straight. So maybe writing my recap now isn’t the smartest idea, but I don’t have anything else to occupy my time with really (or that I want to be doing?) so I may as well type this on out!

The numbers

My total of unique race events (ranging from 4km, 5km, 10km, 10 milers, halves and full!) in 2014 is currently at 24, and my 25th event will be on New Years Eve when I run the Brita Resolution Run 5km in Red Deer, Alberta. Last year, I finished with the Lethbridge version of the Resolution Run and that made for my 22nd event. So I will be up three events from 2013 when the clock strikes midnight! Doing the Dopey Challenge (4 individual events) and Dumbo Double Dare (2 distances) in 2014 made the yearly total add up quickly, that’s for sure! And in the process, I ran personal best times in the 5km, half marathon and full marathon distances. Now, will I be trying to “beat” that total and “feats” next year? Not exactly…

This year actually could have been a few races less than 25, especially since before Dopey, I didn’t even have another full marathon planned. After Dopey, I had gotten the bright idea that I could maybe push for a Boston Qualifying time. While I did drop my time in the two latter races I ran (in Calgary and Edmonton, June and August, respectively) it wasn’t enough to qualify. Looking back, I probably did too much in between if Boston had been my main focus for 2014. Going into 2014, Boston wasn’t even close to being on my radar…but my mind started going after seeing some of the possibilities. Was I frustrated I didn’t qualify for Boston last year? You bet I was….but now, I can look back and realize that looking at the progress in my full marathons is something to be proud of. My old personal best before 2014 was a 3:56 full from 2007. In 2014, I ran a 3:50, 3:46 and 3:44 over the course of my jam-packed year. And now I know what I need to work on more of while I prepare for 2015.

Boston qualifying is the main focus for 2015, as I am going to officially start my training program on January 11th. I will be running in the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 3rd, and my events leading up to Vancouver will help supplement my training, while not overdoing it. I have been able to get the half marathon distance down pat (running sub 1:40 now three times in 2014) but will need to work on building distance/endurance in my training.

In addition to Vancouver, I am currently registered for 8 additional events. Six of these events are Spartan Races. I will be doing the Temecula Super Spartan & Sprint on two days back-to-back in January, alongside my best friend. Then in May, my husband and I will be making our way down to Montana for their yearly Spartan Race! Only this year, we aren’t doing the Sprint….we are doing the newly added Beast! This means I will earn Spartan Race Trifecta Tribe Status by May! So I should be done with Spartan Races then, right? Of course not, as that is a Trifecta in the US, so I also want to earn a Trifecta in Canada! September will be the Red Deer Super and Sprint, and then off to Sun Peaks for the Beast! But not just the regular Beast….the Ultra Beast! I have already tackled the Beast in Sun Peaks in 2013, so I needed to take it up a notch and give the 26.2 miles of hell a shot. I guess that’s the main thing that’s bound to happen once you start trying all the different types of races out there…you want to keep pushing yourself beyond the proverbial limit.

I know I will pick up other smaller, local races throughout 2015, but my focus is on my full marathon in May and the Spartan Races. And oh yeah, I do have some things to worry about in addition to running…we have a new house to put sweat-equity in, an old house to sell, and I have a killer schedule for second semester that will take up all extra energy I have. Spring will be very busy for myself (and my hubby!) and while the training takes up time, and one might say I should “go relax or something”, I think I can beg to differ, as my running, training and racing is how I, in the words of Aaron Rodgers, R-E-L-A-X !!!

Cheers to 2014 and here’s to looking forward to 2015! And GO PACK GO!

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…It is Time for a New Age Group…

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I am a 29 year old female runner. But, on Wednesday, I jump an age group. I turn 30 years old on October 1st. In the running world, this is a big deal. Age groups at races are usually 10 year groupings. I have been in two major age groups during my time running road races. The first was when I was in my teens, and my first official event I ever participated in (that can be found still online for all to see) was the 2002 Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis. I was 18. I jumped up into the 20-29 age group when I ran in the Madison Full Marathon 2005. Other than larger events that have age groups every 5 years (20-24, 25) I have been sitting comfortably for the last 10 years.

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I am not someone who is “dreading” turning 30. Actually, I think the fact that running has taken over a large part of my life the last two years helps the aging shock. Yes, it is an age group jump, and as someone who runs events regularly I will constantly be reminded that I am now 30. When I register for any event now, my “age on race day” will be 30. But it is exciting as for some events, it will present new challenges. I will be against different competitors in the local races I run regularly. I may place higher than I would have in the 20-29…and sometimes I may place lower. I am looking forward to the new age bracket, and will be running two races this month where my age on race day is in fact 30. We will have to wait and see if I am this positive about the aging process come the next age bracket….

Calgary Spartan Sprint 2014 Recap-Not Just ANY Spartan Race for Me…

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The 2014 Calgary Spartan Sprint was my 7th Spartan Race event. I have previously ran this event last in 2013, along with the Montana Sprint (2013, 2014), the Red Deer Super, and the Sun Peaks Beast & Sprint. But more important than reaching number seven was the fact that my best friend Ali would be competing in her first EVER Spartan Race…and this Spartan Race would also be her first EVER timed running event!

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We headed up to Calgary the morning of the event. The weather reports were a little nerve wracking, with chances of thunderstorms all day. We arrived to the race site, Wild Rose MX Park, about two hours before our race time. Pre-race packet pickup was a breeze! The last time I did day-off packet pickup for a Spartan Race was Red Deer last September, and that was a nightmare. Perhaps having a later in the day heat was helpful, because we honestly filled out our waiver and walked right up to a volunteer to get our packets. Took one minute! Before we knew it, we were getting marked with our bib numbers and were ready to go!

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We walked the festival grounds, and I have to say I quite enjoyed the setup compared to the year before. All the food trucks, displays, merchandise, and bag check were above and away from the actual racing area. This alleviated congestion down below. Ali purchased an awesome long-sleeved burnout shirt as a souvenir, and then it was off to check out the course.

We could see quite a bit of the course before actually racing. The vantage points at this Spartan Race are awesome, and as a spectator you can actually view your family and friends quite easily in many spots. Without even venturing that far into the race venue/spectator areas, we could see the following obstacles: Unders, Under a Container, Over Under Thru, Monkey Bars, Container Crawl, 8′ Wall, Rolling Mud, Mud Pit/Barbed Wire, Traverse Wall, Slippery Wall, Rope Climb and Fire Leap.

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What couldn’t be seen from spectator viewing, and what would become Ali’s least-favorite part of the course, were the switchback hills! These were tough! Ali lives in Redondo Beach, California, which has an elevation of 62 feet above sea level. She was now running an obstacle course race in Calgary, Alberta, at an astonishing elevation of 3,428 feet above sea level, and you can tell why the hills may have been a ‘small’ issue!

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When our heat started at 1:00 pm, we barreled out with the stampede. For the first 1/3 mile or so (I’m guessing because I didn’t have my GPS) we were trucking it. Then between bottlenecks and crazy hills, we had to slow down. If we had to power walk up hills, we did that. But whenever there was an opening that we could gain ground on, we ran it.

I am most proud of myself being able to do the monkey bars at this race. This is an obstacle that is sometimes hit-or-miss for me. My hands were clean, the bars were dry, so I got my momentum going and across I went. Ali had major shoulder surgery sophomore year of University, so obstacles like this were a challenge. However, she tried every obstacle out there—she never just walked past it, giving up without trying and just succumbing to the 30 burpees penalty.

The 30 burpees penalty is something Spartan Race does. Now, even though the event is timed, unless you are in the Elite Heat there are not age group awards. Reason why, I would say, is because many people out there have little to no integrity and don’t follow the rules. Dude I saw cut under the plastic tape to skip a section after the Tractor Pull—you’re a loser. And the three people, two women and one man, who failed the Rope Climb and came next to Ali and I at the burpee area, did 3 each and said “That’s good enough”—why did you sign up? If you’re going to sign up for something like this, and you start cheating it, what does that say about your personal mantra? I know it’s not a major event like the Olympics or anything, but don’t do this shit half-ass. Yes—you do have to train. If you don’t and you plan on taking easy ways out, you should just drop out. You are not a true Spartan.

Away from that rant, the course itself was incredible. The volunteers were great. Ali’s best obstacle was the Tire Flip, and she even opted to take on one of the “guy tires” with no issue at all! Special shout-out to the lady at the Traverse Wall giving everyone help and insight on how to help each other across the wall, as it was caked with mud beyond description. Ali and I both got across it thanks to her help!

We finished the course side-by-side in 1:44:01. I cannot wait to see the official photos that get posted, as I know there was a photographer not only at the finish line Fire Leap, but also at the Sandbag Carry and Barbed Wire. We received our kick-ass Spartan Race Canada medals, a finisher shirt, and then I ran up to bag check to get my camera. We needed post-race photos, to go along with our “clean” pre-race ones!

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We enjoyed the lovely delicacy of Coors Light in the Beer Garden (I would never drink this by choice, but it was free, and tasted surprisingly refreshing after that course!). Ali later would tell me that this Spartan Race was the hardest thing she’s ever done…but that she wants to do more. And, she also said she feels extremely confident going into the Disneyland 10km on August 30th! I am so proud of Ali and all the work she has put into Crossfit the past year (hello Crossfit 310)!and the fact that this former swimmer has become a runner.

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UPDATE FROM TUESDAY, AUGUST 19
Pictures! Just a few!

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