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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!

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10 Mile Road Race Recap 2018

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While the 10 Mile Road Race was held on Saturday, April 7th, it actually felt like Saturday, January 2893821th.  This winter has SUCKED. SUCKED!!!  Seriously, our son was born October 19th and he’s been cold ever since.  Our trip to Disney World can’t come soon enough!  But, back to the race.

Yes, it was cold.  In the morning I checked the temperature and it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit.  Ha ha ha.  But, there was no wind.  There was sun.  And there was no new snowfall.  All those things could have gone the other way and it would have been just awful.  So since our bodies have just gotten used to this perpetual winter, race morning actually didn’t feel too bad.

The cold winter was definitely the reason the participant numbers were down.  At least, that’s my assumption.  All winter has been snowy, cold and ugly so unless you’re a nut job like me….you probably haven’t been running much.  This race is actually called the 10/4 Road Race…there is a 10 mile distance and a 4 mile distance.  Last year when I was pregnant, I did the 4 mile distance because I had not announced my pregnancy yet.  I figured doing the shorter distance would trick people, I don’t know.  Last year, there were 155 participants in the 4 mile distance.  This year there were only 89.  And in the 10 mile distance, there were only 38 runners this year compared to last year’s 92.  With a much smaller field, it was hard to stay fired up during the race (especially once we got spread out in the river bottom).

I had set a goal to run a sub 1 hour 20 minute race.  This equates to an 8 minute/mile pace, which is essentially my ‘goal’ marathon pace (or at least it was when I qualified for Vancouver in 2015).  I also figured this was reasonable given my previous attempts at this race, but also a little ambitious keeping in mind I would be 5.5 months postpartum.

I had done the 10 mile distance at this race three other times.  My race times were:

1:23.14 in 2013

1:14.49 in 2014

1:12.59 in 2016

The race is out and back from Lethbridge College.  You follow Scenic Drive and head north.  Once you get to Lynx Trail by the pedestrian crossing you head down to the river bottom.  You follow the trail adjacent to the river and wind over to the bridge.  You hit the turnaround before crossing Indian Battle Road.

The racers get spread out pretty quickly, and this year it felt even more spread out with so few runners.  By the time we were heading down Lynx I could barely make out the two females who were ahead of me.  When you get into the river bottom, all the winding messes with your head and you can’t see anyone in front of you.  That is where my splits started to slow and get above 8 minutes.  The turnaround itself helped boost my morale because I was able to see how close I actually was to the ladies in front of me (and the ones behind).  I knew I needed to push.

Running back up Lynx is never fun.  Usually, I do quite well on this hill in this very race.  But I am still not back to where I was at before Andy, so I still need to get some more hill training in.  I did not walk at all up the hill, but I definitely was going slow!  Once I got to the top of the hill my vantage point of the runners directly ahead of me was much better than when we were in the river bottom.  I could see there were some runners I could hopefully catch, and maybe even move up in the female placing!

I actually caught up to one of my grade 10 students on the hill.  He was walking some segments of it, and when I caught him on Scenic I started giving him a hard time (he’s a kid I know I could without hurting his ego).  I said “You know, I was pregnant 6 months ago….are you going to let me pass you?”  He laughed and that was enough to get him moving again.  We ran the last two miles together and honestly it helped push me a ton!  I like to think that I helped push him too!  Yes, he did beat me down the final stretch (he runs 400m and 800m in track and once we had only 800m left I told him he had to just gun it) but running with him in the last bit helped me pass a few other runners and also brought me into 2nd position for women!  I finished the race 10th overall out of 38.  I was 2nd out of 16 females and then 2nd in my age group of 30-39 year olds (only 5 of us in the division).  My (rounded) splits were as follows:

7:24 (starting off a little too excited), 7:58, 7:44, 7:44, 8:02, 8:05, 9:18 (up Lynx!), 8:35, 8:10, 7:42 (nice final mile!)

Did I break 1 hour 20 minutes?  No….but I got damn close! My final time was 1:20.39.  Given the cold conditions, I’ll take it!  Also, a shoutout to my husband who ran his third 10 Mile Road Race.  He finished 5th overall with a time of 1:15.44.  And as much as he claims he doesn’t care about “the bling” he appeared actually upset that he didn’t place in his age group during awards (The top three finishers were all males in 30-39).  So he got 4th in his tough age group!

As long as I am in town, I will always do this event!  It is a well organized race and I get to see lots of people I know at it.  Hopefully next year we have a better winter and this race is actually a Spring event!

Getting Back in the Game

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Its been 5 weeks since I was told I needed to stop running and 4 weeks since I was admitted to the hospital to be induced.  I will admit, that one of my biggest concerns going into labour was “when would I be able to run again?”  I know, that’s a bit selfish.  But, running is part of my identity.  I don’t plan on losing that piece of me now that I am a mom.  I need it for my health, sanity and well-being.  My husband if 100% behind me running and working out again as soon as possible post-partum, however, he was nervous because he didn’t want me to go out there too soon and do something detrimental to my body.  Fair enough.

When we took Andy to his first doctor’s appointment on October 25th, Dan wanted to talk with him about when I would be able to start running again.  Dr. Galbraith is not only Andy’s doctor but mine as well.  He is also has a sports medicine clinic here in Lethbridge.  He is well aware of my running background and what I did as far as exercise during my pregnancy.  After talking with Dr. Galbraith, he informed us that it would be safe for me to go out and run after 2-3 weeks from the date of delivery.  This obviously is not the same for everyone who just had a baby.  He took into account my previous running experience before being pregnant, how active I was during the pregnancy, and any trauma my body may have went through during the actual labour and delivery.  My labour was painful as hell due to being induced, but my delivery went very smooth.  He made it key that I needed to listen to my body when I start running again, which was something I was doing all throughout the pregnancy.  I was very happy to hear this from the doctor, and it was enough information for my husband to feel confident that I would not be doing harm to my body once I started working out.

On November 1st, I ran my first single mile since week 37.  I felt great out there.  I was cautious with my running, did not overdo myself, and was listening to the changes my body had taken.  This was just the start of the next chapter in my life as a ‘mother runner.’

My plan for the rest of 2017 is simple:  For November, I will be running 4 days a week.  Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.  The distances on those days are not set in stone.  They will often be between 1-3 mile runs, working up to maybe a 4 miler by the end of the month.  I will go to Runners Soul Run Club on the Wednesday nights it is offered and do their route.  I also registered for my first post-pregnancy race on Saturday, November 18th—The Claus Cause 5km.  I am also adding in other components to my exercise regime on the days I am not running.  On Tuesday & Thursday, I will be attending Kinetic Fitness and taking the Baby Mama Boot Camp class, which I can take Andy to!  It is a great way to meet other mom’s and get a great workout in.  And on Fridays, I will attend the free Kinetic-On-The-Go HIGH Fitness class that they hold in the morning.  I can also bring Andy to this one, as it is in the gym of an LDS church and kids are welcome.

Every day has some form of exercise scheduled in, with also room for walks (weather permitting).  Having three fitness activities that I can bring Andy along with is key, as it gets us out of the house!  And being able to run those 4 days a week helps get me back at building a base.  In December, I will continue the classes at Kinetic but I also plan on participating in Runners Soul Run Streak, where you commit to run at least 1 mile a day each day for the whole month.  There are prizes each day, so there is that extrinsic motivation.  I also hoped to get on at least one 6 mile training run before the end of the year.  Once 2018 rolls around, Half Marathon Club begins and training for  local 10km, 10 miler and the RunDisney Star Wars Half begins!

I think it’s safe to say all new mom’s long to get their bodies back to where they were before being pregnant.  Yes, I am one of those mom’s.  But, more so than worrying about a number on the scale, I long to get myself back into the running shape I was in before.  I know it will take some time, and I also know it’ll take some work.  But it is important to me to get back to the level I was at pre-baby—I worked so hard to get to that point that I don’t want it to just be a distant memory.  I hope in the near future to re-qualify for the Boston Marathon…that will be the true signifier that I’ve done it.  But until then, I will put in the time and try not to get frustrated if it takes a bit longer than I hoped.

Claus Cause 10km Recap

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I have participated in the Lethbridge Claus Cause since 2013.  I have done the 10km twice (2013, 2014) and the 5km once (2015).  I opted to register for the 10km this year 1.) because I am training for a full marathon and need distances! And 2.) I needed a challenge.

I don’t normally get anxious or nervous for 10 km events, but this one was causing some grief.  I knew before even setting foot at the starting line, my time would not be what it was back in 2013 and 2014.  Those times were 45:37 & 45:52 (2013 and 2014, respectively).  My most recent 10km times (up to this race) had been 44:10 (Moonlight Run 2016), 43:28 (Disneyland 10km 2015) and 41:30 (my personal best, Rattler Run 2015).  Those events, especially the 2015 ones, were surrounded by training focused on speed work.  It was also before my foot got the best of me.  So I was fully prepared to not run anything close to those.  But I still wanted to run something that was respectful for me.  I decided the night before the race that I would be happy with anywhere from a low 46 minutes to an upper 47 minutes.

The weather was perfect for running on race morning!  Minimal icy spots on the paved course, and a nice brisk winter air.  I was one of the only fools wearing shorts, but I did have layered long sleeve shirts and my tall compression socks, so really there was not much skin being hit with the elements.  I made sure to arrive early enough to allow for a proper warmup.  My husband came to cheer me on (I sort of forced him because of my nerves).  Race began at 9 am, with the 10km and 5km runners heading out together.

For the first loop, all the runners were together.  This allowed us to be near other runners, but you have to be careful….those 5km runners are potentially going at a faster pace than you would for a 10km (I mean, they should be) so I didn’t want to get wrapped up with trying to stay ahead of people near me….they may be doing the 5km!  I was able to check race bibs, as the different colours signified which event you were in.  I was able to determine by mile 1.5 I was the 3rd female in the 10km.  It was around mile 2 and 3 that my mind started playing games with me, and I didn’t know if I could hold pace.  Was I going to fall apart?

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Photo Credit to Shay, who was volunteering on the course!

The 5km runners head to the finish line as the 10km runners do another loop (plus some).  I started to get my groove back, but then also got myself comfortable.  I was a bit behind runner 1 and 2, but I didn’t see runner 4 nearby.  I held my pace and then in the final straightaway pushed in the best I could.  I successfully held my position of 3rd place female the whole race, and also ended up placing 1st in the 30-39 female category.  My splits were: 6:58, 7:50, 7:40, 7:53, 7:53, 7:45 with an average pace of 7:39.  Official chip time of 47:30.

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Post race-got my sweatpants on and a water, so I’m good!

Takeaway on my splits….I ran my first mile like I was going to run a sub 43 minute 10km.  I want to get to that point again, really I do!  But that obviously hurt me in the miles after.  What would have been ideal is if I could have hit consistent 7:30 splits, but I can’t go back and change that.  I am happy, however, that I was able to reach my goal of being faster than 48 minutes.  I also was able to have a faster pace per mile at this event than I did back a month prior at the Bare Bones 9km.  A farther distance and a faster pace; I’ll take that!  My foot felt strong during the race, and I didn’t have too much pain afterward.  My cardio (and confidence) is what needs to come back.  And it will in time.  I was definitely feeling the ‘race pains’ then next day, but I couldn’t lay around….I had a 15 mile training run for the Goofy Challenge to do, and honestly….it went better than expected!  Countdown to Goofy is beginning NOW!

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After awards with Bob and his daughter Abby

Bare Bones 9km 2016

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My first real ‘race’ since my May Calgary 50km….my first race since my June 10th foot surgery….

I know, I know…my previous post was about the Lethbridge Police 5km I did on October 1st.  You may be thinking “well, wasn’t that your first race?”  I need to clarify that the 5km was my first ‘event’ since surgery…today would be my first ‘race’.  I was screwed…..(I have 3 screws in my foot now.  Get it?)

I wanted to push it and see how much my body could handle.

I was also very nervous….Would my foot hold up?  Would I be feeling immediate pain upon leaving the start line?  Would I push myself too hard and tank?  What would my cardio be like?  Would I feel like a shell of my former racing self?


I have never ran a 9km race before.  It’s an odd race distance.  I figured to try and pace at my 10 km pace…which, I knew I couldn’t hold.  My best 10km time was from April 2015, when I ran a 41:30 at the Rattler Run in Medicine Hat.  I was in my top racing form, as I had been aggressively training for the Vancouver Marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston.  I know it will be a long time until I am back in that shape.  But I didn’t want to be so far off from my more current 10km paces.  I set a goal in my mind of a 7:30 min/mile pace, but I knew that would be crazy to attain…I hadn’t ran a sub 8:00 min/mile since May.  My fastest mile time since surgery was around an 8:14.  Would I go out too fast and just fall apart?

I knew lots of people in the race (there was a 5km and kids 1km events too) and lots of runner friends were there spectating.  It was honestly helpful being in such a familiar location full of familiar faces for my first go at it since surgery.  It made it less scary.

Race start was 9:00 am.  I went out hard for that first mile, and it was a rough mile full of gravel, dirt and the view (and smell) of the water treatment plant.  I ran a 7:11.  Lucky me.  My first thought was “SHIT, I am going too fast.”  When I’m in prime shape, I try for a 7:00-7:15 min/mile in 10km races.  This 7:11 was amazing because I ran about a minute faster than my best mile time since surgery.  But I knew it probably wasn’t possible to hold it for the whole race.

At this point, my friend Glenn came up behind me.  I didn’t even have to turn around to know it was him.  Much like many people say my stride is distinct, so is his.  I could hear him coming.  He has been struggling with injuries for some time, so he was out here today for the same reason I was.  To see what he could do.  He kept me company for mile 2 and 3, which was awesome.  We ran 7:36 and 7:54 splits.  I was nervous I was going to keep slipping, but I knew my mind would help me through.  At this point I was 5km in.  I was over half done.  Glenn went out ahead of me to see what he could do for the latter part of the race, and I kept trucking along.

I made some traction on miles 4 & 5 running 7:49 and 7:49.  During these splits, the 9km caught back up with the 5km runners.  This race is a benefit for the local SPCA (humane society) and it is a dog friendly event.  It was fun heading back to the finish and seeing the families with their dogs running and walking together.  It kept me motivated and moving.  Once I made it back on to the rugged part by the water plant, I just knew I had to keep moving and get this done.  I finished the 9km race (my watch said it was 5.64 miles) in 43:38.  I finished 2nd place female (2/38) and 10th overall (10/57).  I even got to run the last 20 ft into the finish with my main man, Snoopy!


And you know what?  I WAS PROUD!


First, my foot:  it felt GREAT!  I didn’t have any pain in the spot of my surgery.  The only pain I had in my foot was near the tongue of my shoe, as I tied my right shoe too tight.  Whoops!  My cardio wasn’t the best.  I was feeling winded by the 5km.  It took a lot of mental strength to hold pace for the rest of the race.  A few runners passed me in the last 2 miles, but I was able to hold my 2nd place female position, which was awesome.  Cardio it something that will come back over time.  I started week 8 of my Goofy Challenge training plan with this event, and will be adding another day of running to my regime.  I will now be running 4 days a week, plus Zumba! on Mondays.  By the half marathon & marathon in January, I will be back at the level I took for granted!


I will admit, one of my first thoughts after crossing the finish line was “I ran the Moonlight 10km in March almost faster than this” but then I snapped out of it because I know these are different circumstances.  I was thankful for my husband and my dog Snoopy being there for me at the finish.  I even laughed and didn’t get mad at Dan when I ran over to get Snoopy and run into the finish line with him, but Dan had the leash tied around him all weird, so it took about 10 seconds to get him set. I was thankful for my podiatrist, Dr. Williams, who did a damn good job fixing my messed up foot earlier this year.  I’m also actually most proud of myself for WAITING and following “doctor’s orders” this whole summer.  It drove me nuts not running for almost 60 days.  It was even harder getting back at it and having to retrain my foot how to run.  I wasn’t really sure if my racing days would be back.  Today showed me that the best is yet to come.


 

 

Boston Marathon 2016-The Run

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I’ve participated in track & field since middle school (1998-1999), ran varsity track during high school (2000-2003), started running half marathons at college in 2004, full marathons since 2005.  When I moved to Canada in 2008, I ran my worst full marathon that spring 2009.  I stopped running full marathons for a few years and focused on half marathons.  I changed my training.  I registered for more races.  I went crazy and signed up for the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge to run in memory of my dad.  And, my times started getting faster.  However, I was unsuccessful at qualifying for Boston–I tried twice in 2014.  I trained during winter and spring of 2015, and qualified for Boston that May.  Now I made it to the 2016 Boston Marathon.  To say a lot had gone in to being here is an understatement.   A huge understatement. Making it to this race is definitely the biggest achievement in my ‘running career’ but it also will rank up there as one of the biggest moments of my life.

I could go in detail about every moment of this day….from waking up, to loading the busses down in Boston Common, driving to Hopkinton, athletes village, walking to the corrals, realizing I should have worn sunscreen, running a bit ambitious for the first 7 miles, then deciding to just slow down and enjoy it….to realizing there really are people AT EVER MILE on the course…not just every mile, but every moment!…to then deciding to start giving high-fives to every little kid I could, dumping water over my  head every water station due to the heat, and giving high-fives to drunk college kids at Boston College…to finding my husband, mom and her friend at mile 24 in Brookline and stopping for a kiss, hug and a hello….and then finishing the 120th Boston Marathon.

Was this my fastest marathon to date?  No, but my 3:35.01 happens to be my second fastest.  Was I mad about my time?  Hell no.  I just had ran my dream race, and had a damn good time during it.  Will I come back to Boston to run again?  Hopefully in the future I am able to qualify and do it again.  Was it everything I hoped it would be and more?  I can’t even begin to describe that…..

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Running from Anxiety

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Yesterday, I ran an 8 mile progression run as part of my Boston Marathon training.  It was a windy ass day, but not too cold, so I headed out in shorts ready to get this thing done.  I started slow, I ran a 9:02, 8:59, 8:38, 8:23 and 8:11.  By that point I was feeling pretty good, but knew I wanted my last 3 miles to be epic.  At 5.25 miles I actually stopped at the local grocery store, Safeway, to pick up my prescriptions.  This was planned ahead of time, as I had worn my AltraSpire running backpack without the reservoir in it.  Went to the pharmacy, had the tech wrap everything up nicely, and plopped it in my bag.  I headed out to get the rest of the run finished.  Everything was packed nicely, but you could still hear the steady and constant shaking of the pill bottles, almost like maracas.  I ran mile 6 in 8:10, and that is when I wanted to turn it up a notch for the final 2 miles.  As the pills acted as a metronome, I pounded down South Parkside Drive and 10th Ave with all I could.  I don’t think anything could have broken my focus.  I hit mile 7 in 7:29.  I wanted to make mile 8 something special.  Hitting STOP on my watch as I hit that final mile, I saw my split was 7:24.  My progression run was a huge success!

After my stop at Safeway, I was initially bothered by the sound of the pills in my bag.  I thought it was going to drive me nuts.  But then I started thinking about those pills and how they aren’t a nuisance that should be driving me crazy.  I have been taking Escitalopram (Cipralex) and Clonazepam since 2010.  My mother, my husband and some close friends and family have been aware of this, but not a lot of others.  It is important to talk about, and on #BellLetsTalk day I figured today would be a good time to talk about it.

Escitalopram and Clonazepam are both drugs used to help with depression, anxiety and panic attacks.  I take my cipralex daily for help with anxiety, and I take the Clonazepam as needed.  I call this one my “emergency pill.”  The reason why I was put on these medications by my family doctor was due to many compounding reasons.  I have always been a bit high-strung and anxious, even if it didn’t seem like that during my high school years back in Wisconsin.  I had good marks and was involved and on the outside, very well put together.  But then, take into account my father died in 2004….I graduated university in 2007…I moved to a new country in 2008….I didn’t have a full-time job yet in 2010…I wasn’t in a great place, as I didn’t know how to handle with a lot of the stressors around me.

In early 2010 I went and started trying to talk to a counselor about the issues I had dealing with my dad’s death.  I have mentioned before in this blog that I think during my university years I kind of went through a denial stage that the whole thing happened, and just put on a tough face to hide the emotions that I had inside.  The counselor helped a bit, but we parted ways as I didn’t really see eye-to-eye with his philosophy.  With having no full-time teaching contract going into the summer of 2010, planning my December wedding, and then still having yet to fully deal with my dad’s untimely death from a few years before that, I knew I needed to talk to my doctor about options to help.

I was prescribed the two medications and have taking my daily one religiously since then.  After about a month, I could tell it was helping calm me.  I think one of the first times I took my ‘emergency pill’ was in November 2010 when I lost my passport at the Toronto airport and basically went into a ballistic crying spell.  By the time I got into the hold zone at security to try and find out if they could locate it, I had calmed down dramatically.

Since first starting the medications, I decided to try seeing a counsellor again about my issues with my dad’s passing.  I also, in 2013, started this very blog.  While the blog started as a way to remember my dad (and fundraise for heart disease research in his memory) as I trained for and ran in the 2014 Dopey Challenge during Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, it was also a coping mechanism.  The blog, the counselling, the medication….and the running….has all helped me become more of the person I want to be.

After finishing the Dopey Challenge, I could have very well ended this blog.  I used this blog to help bring awareness to my fundraising efforts.  But I realized that this blog really helped me as a person.  And after doing the Dopey Challenge, that was when I first realized that if I focused on just training for and running a full marathon I could maybe, JUST MAYBE, qualify for the Boston Marathon.

I trained for Calgary Marathon in 2014, and missed the qualifying time.  I was frustrated, mad and didn’t want to go through the training again.  But then I signed up for Edmonton, which would be in August of that same year.  Same year, same results.  I only bested my time by about a minute, and was still over 10 minutes away from the max qualifying time for my age group.  Maybe I should throw in the towel….but after thought and consideration, I registered for the 2015 Vancouver Marathon.  I regained my focus, and put my energy into following a new training plan made specifically for me.  Registering for many local races and seeing how my times were dropping were powerful and motivating; it kept me pushing.  While I had stopped seeing the counsellor by this time, running truly had become my therapy.

And if you’ve read my blog, you now know that in Vancouver I did succeed-I qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon running 20 minutes faster than my previous best marathon time, and beating my qualifying standard by just over 10 minutes.  Running had allowed me to do something I love, all while going through every possible emotion.  It pushes me to the limit, it makes me question what is possible…and it allows me time to reflect and become at peace with what is going on around me.  Running hasn’t solved everything, but it sure has helped me along the way, and without running I am not sure where I would be right now.

So, yes.  I am someone, like many, who takes a prescription daily to help deal with daily life.  I also take high doses of endorphins whenever possible, because that along with the adrenaline that racing produces has helped me heal, slowly but surely.  This isn’t something to be ashamed about, so I wanted to share it today.  You now know a little bit more about my crazy, imperfectly perfect life.

Disneyland 10km Recap (Better late than never…)

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I’m sitting in the basement at 8:30 pm aimlessly switching between HGTV and the Sunday Night Football game. This is a first since August. School has been so busy that I have fallen behind on my posts. I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon and 10km back over Labour Day weekend…yes, first week in September…and haven’t written the recap yet. Well, it won’t be as long and glamorous of a recap as usual, but I’m getting it done tonight!

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I went out to California Labour Day weekend of 2015, much as I had the year prior. I was going to do the RunDisney DumboDouble Dare Challenge. My BFF lives in Redondo Beach, so accommodations are easy! I booked the direct flight from Calgary on Thursday evening of the weekend knowing I’d be back before work started again on Thursday….but, oops. Misread the school calendar. While I knew I’d be taking a day off of teaching on the Friday, I thought it was just a work day (year prior classes hadn’t started yet). But I would miss a teaching day. And I hate missing teaching days. Especially since we only would have had one regular class day before I bailed. But I had the days planned to use, so it was what it was, and I went on my way.

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Now, as a RunDisney veteran (so to speak) I knew what to expect with this weekend. I knew the lay of the land. But this weekend was different as my goal was to place in my age group in the 10km, beat my personal best of 41:30 in the race, and help my BFF crush her half marathon personal best.

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Summer training went alright…but I was burnt out. I spoke in previous posts that I was feeling the burn and needed to rest. But with this 10km goal I didn’t want to stop. 10km race day came and I was anxious. And warm. It was by no means hot in Anaheim this particular weekend but the air is just different than Alberta and I was feeling clammy. I also had just had a sub par performance at a local Lethbridge half the weekend prior, that while placing and winning prize money, I had felt like garbage with stomach issues. I was nervous this would happen again.

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Racing Disney races with a goal time in mind is so different than just doing them for fun. If you do them for a goal with the first corral you are in the DARK the whole race. I mean, it starts at 5:30 AM after all. I began with a dead on split at mile one of 6:31. If I held this I could well beat my goal. But my legs were already feeling a bit woozy and my body warm, so as I entered California Adventure I slowed to a 6:48 for mile 2.

imageNow, note…I am writing this recap a month and a half after the fact. I cannot remember the details but I knew I was counting women in front of me from the very start and trying to peg if they were my 30-34 age group. I just wanted to be top 3 in that.  

Between mile 3 and 4 I was still trucking along but slowing. A lot. And I was getting frustrated. I had been at an extreme level for myself in April when I ran my 41:30 and felt like I should be able to match that here…low elevation, happiest place on earth….but as I ran down Main Street, through Tomorrowland, around Small World and through the back stage, I slowed to a 6:51 and 7:00. Damnit. What is going on? I had had mile repeat workouts at 6 am this summer that were fastest than this. I was running at “my happy place” but not happy.


I knew I was still in an OK position to hopefully place in my age group. I pushed on what I could for the last two miles. I got really scared as one woman passed me with about 800 left because she looked my age and I wasn’t sure how that would make the results look. Miles 5 and 6 were 7:23 and 7:18. I finished with an official time of 43:28. I was mad. Frustrated. I felt like I was better than this.  

image image imageIn the end, this was good enough for 3rd out of 1046 in my age group. Yeah, I realize how that sounds, and now it looks like I’m looking for a pity party….but while I reached my goal of placing in a RunDisney event, I didn’t do it to the caliber I know I am capable of. Maybe I have now set myself into a bad spot, as I spent the first six months of 2015 breaking my own personal bests and thus, maybe I think I can keep up with that?

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Second week of October I received the email from RunDisney verifying my address and where to send my age group award. And this weekend I just finished coaching five amazing grade 12 runners at Alberta Cross Country Provincials. These things put it in perspective. 1.) I did reach a goal. I set a goal to place in my age group at a RunDisney event. And I did. 2.) All weekend I told my girls to go out and run the best race they could. That every day is different. That every course is different. And that just because they ran a certain time on a 4km course in Medicine Hat, Alberta, didn’t mean they could get that or beat that, or beat the same girls for that matter, while running on a new course in Grand Prairie, Alberta.

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Every race is different. Some don’t turn out exactly how you hope, but that’s why I just keep running. After being around all these amazing young athletes this weekend, I realize how stupid I was to get mad that I didn’t get my time goal. Getting a personal best isn’t going to happen every race you run; I realize that. But I had a convoluted idea in my mind that while in Disneyland, anything can happen. I’ll just have to set that time goal off to the side burner for now, with the heat on simmer, and I’ll stir it occasionally until it’s time to taste it.  

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Going Back to the Original Purpose…

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When I wrote my first blog post on January 6th, 2013, I stated some information about who I was, what I was about, and what I was planning on doing over the course of the next year.

My first “real” blog entry

In those initial purpose and goal statements, running a Boston Qualifying race time was never an initial goal.  I ran more races than I ever had before, I raised money for a cause important to my heart.  I even started breaking my own personal best times and realized I could become a contender in my own right.  I went and achieved all my original goals.  The thought of Boston came after I completed the Walt Disney Full Marathon in January in 3:50:52.  It was a late-in-the-game goal.  I figured I might as well try.

 

As you know from my post yesterday, I didn’t achieve that goal.  But, as you also know from that post, I am not going to let it get me down and ruin me.  I think back to everything I have been able to complete and achieve this past year and it makes me smile.  It makes me happy.  And being happy is the most important thing to me right now.

 

Tonight, I head out California where I will be participating in something else that wasn’t in the original plan.  I am participating in the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend, and partaking in the “Dumbo Double Dare Challenge.”  Not as daunting as the “Dopey Challenge“, but still challenge enough, I will run 19.3 miles over the course of two days:  A 10km on Saturday (with my best friend Ali-her first 10km ever!), and a half marathon on Sunday.  Upon completion, I will not only receive the gorgeous Dumbo Double Dare medal, but I will also be the proud owner of the Disney Coast 2 Coast medal.  I will have completed two RunDisney events of a half marathon or longer on both coasts in one calendar year. 

 

I didn’t plan on this when I first started my blog.  But, plans change.  The Boston challenge was a stressful, demanding one.  I could have really let that get me down after not getting in at both Calgary Full Marathon in June and in Edmonton Marathon this past Sunday.  But I didn’t.  And now come the exciting change, that helps me bring this back to what it was all about.  It says so right at the top of my page:

 

Running, Disney World & Dad….How do they connect together? Follow my journey this year to find out.

 

It has now been well over a year since I first started that journey.  If you have been following me since then, I think you may better realize how they all connect.  I know I have a deeper understanding myself.  I am looking forward to doing this race weekend in Disneyland not only for myself, for my best friend, for my family members, but most importantly, for my dad.  If he could see me smiling running through Disneyland, that would be more important to him, even now as I near the age of 30, than me making Boston.

 

I love you Dad.  Je me souviens.

Edmonton Marathon Recap

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This past Sunday I participated in the Edmonton Marathon.  I had signed up for this event in hopes to qualify for Boston, as I failed to in June at Calgary.  I felt better trained and prepared; my head was in the game.  And the weather, other than the mugginess, was perfect-it did not feel like an August day!  Starting race temps were around 50 F, and only got up to just above 60 F.  However, this story did not have the exact fairy-tale ending I was hoping for….  

 

Here’s the story.

 

My husband and I headed up to Edmonton Saturday morning.  We had stayed in Red Deer the night before so this drive was relatively short, compared to the 5.5 hour straight drive from Edmonton back home to Lethbridge would be come Sunday.  After checking in to our hotel (Coast Plaza Edmonton) we walked the ½ mile to the Shaw Conference Center where packet pick up was.  This was a new location this year, and the facility was very nice.  I don’t know if it was crowded the first day of pickup, but by Saturday at 2:00 pm the place was dead.  Not tons to look at either.  I picked up my race bib, got my shirt, and back to the hotel to get things settled.

 

 

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I made a plan with my husband of spots for him to try to be at during the race.  I focused a lot on the second half of the course, as that would be when I would really need the help.  I had pasta for dinner, laid out my clothes and food items for the morning and went to bed around 9:00 (didn’t fall asleep until 10:00).

 

We walked back to the Shaw Conference Center that morning, as the start and finish lines were located here.  I felt mentally and physically set for the challenge ahead.  After kissing my husband, and my dog Snoopy, good-bye I filed in to the starting corral near the 3:30 pacer.  I knew I had to start of strong and find my pace quickly, so when the race began, off I went.  I got into a great groove and I was feeling positive about my pace.  My first five miles clocked in at 7:41, 8:04, 7:52, 8:10, and 8:03.  I was more than set!

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I had seen my cousin Erin and her friend about mile 3, and that was a great boost of energy.  I had been hoping to see my husband at mile 7 or 8, but he was nowhere to be found.  After we did the turn-around, he still wasn’t there.  I was still doing great at my pace, running miles 6-9 in 7:51, 7:55, 8:13, and 7:58, but I needed a familiar face.  The course is indeed flat, but you are curving through some neighborhoods quite a bit, and the streets aren’t lined up with spectators.  I started getting a leg cramp in my right leg (the leg that hasn’t been causing me issues!) and there was a pain in my IT band area.  I tried to avoid thinking about it.

 

I finally made it on a busier street, heading back towards the downtown Edmonton core, when I spotted Dan, Snoopy and Erin.  This was a huge boost that I needed at that point to bring me to the halfway!  I was still on track, though the pain was still there.  I told Dan I needed pretzels and more Nuun tablets the next time I saw him, and off I went.  Miles 10-13 were 8:05, 8:07, 8:15, and 8:16.  I was beginning to slip, but I was still on pace.

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Miles 14-17 was when my mind started going.  In my head, I wanted to keep going for that 8:00 minute mile pace.  I was telling myself to go get it, but I started to waiver in my pace consistency.  It was like what happened in Calgary at the start, but was happening now.  Miles 14-17 were 8:00, 8:27, 8:25, and 8:10.  I still was on pace to be under 3:35:00, but no longer under 3:30:00.  I could do it, and I felt pretty proud of my mile 17 time, because that was the mental mile I needed to get past.  The pretzels I had received from Dan during these miles helped, however, they couldn’t make me fly…

 

Mile 18-22 were a struggle, but it was at mile 21 that I just became unglued.  I knew I wouldn’t quit, but I realized that as each mile passed, Boston was slowly slipping away.  Miles 18-22 were ran in 8:31, 8:28, 8:21, 8:42, and 9:41.  Those miles began after I saw Dan, Snoopy and Erin for the 3rd time, and as I ran by I yelled “I need you to run with me.”  Neither of them had a chance to get out there and help me at that point, and I don’t think it would have done any good.  I knew with how the route was, I would be looping back over to where they were stationed, so I hoped one would join me for the home stretch.  Running through those neighborhood loops with my legs tightening up and being alone was extremely tough.  When I made it back that way, I had about 4 miles left to run.  I was hurting.  Bad.  Dan joined in with me as I was running, and he really thought I had a chance to still get Boston.  If my legs weren’t in the pain they were in, I could have potentially made up time.  But I was slowly coming to the realization that my body just wouldn’t let me do that.

 

Dan ran with me the rest of the raceIn his blue jeans.  And brown North Face canvas shoes.  I use the term ‘run’ loosely because we had to walk at points, I had to stop at points, and I gimped at points.  He kept telling me I couldn’t quit—I wasn’t going to quit.  I was going to finish.  As I realized Boston was gone, I did also come to the realization I could still get a personal best.  It would be close, but I could.

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I managed to get my last mile back under 10 minutes, which helped me get in to the finish at 3:44:59, beating my previous best by 1 minute and 23 seconds.  Those final four miles were run in 10:50, 10:21, 11:30 and 9:50.  I never full out lost it with tears that day, but as I came in to the finish my eyes swelled.  I was thinking about my training, about this race, about how much my legs hurt, about how close my time had been to the correct pace, about the last 2 years of running, about my dad…There was so much going through my head.   Sure, I didn’t make the time I had come out to get, but I had calmly talked to Dan as we jogged the last 4 miles that I would be OK with it.  I think he was actually surprised how calm I was, how I wasn’t throwing a fit.  Four years ago, when I was still all out of sorts about personal losses in my life, I would have lost itBut I am in a better place now.

 

This wasn’t a true failure or defeat, though.  I did not ‘lose.’  Hell-I got a personal best!  I’ll take that any day of the week!  As for Boston-Boston will always be there; I have the rest of my life to qualify for it.  I will qualify for Boston and run in Boston someday.  I will, I can promise you that.  It just didn’t work out in the cards this weekend that I would be running in 2015. 

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The full marathon is a different type of beast, and it’s very hard to tame.  They have a mind of their own.  I can barely move today, and my body feels like it is just shut down.  I want to curl up in fetal and sleep for 24 hours.  I am going to continue with my half marathons, 10 km races, Spartan Races, and other distances I can find.  Maybe I’ll do another full marathon in the near future, but it won’t be for a Boston attempt at this time.  There would have to be a special reason for me to sign up to do the 26.2 miles again anytime soon.  I will keep searching out new races in the area to support and try, and also keep heading back to my old favorites.  I am also hoping to get more people into the act of running, because it is something EVERYONE can do.  I love coaching cross country, I love getting kids excited about long-distance running, and I love getting friends and family members involved who maybe otherwise wouldn’t have.  Running makes me happy, even when I am in as much pain as I am after doing 26.2 miles.  The pain I feel in my body is worth it, because if I didn’t keep running, I would be in more pain than this.

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