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Calgary Marathon Weekend-50 km Ultra Race Recap

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I participated in the Calgary full marathon, half marathon, and full marathon (again), in 2009, 2013 and 2014.  Calgary is only 2 hours away from Lethbridge, so the ease of access to these events is fantastic.  I didn’t want to drive up there and do the same thing again….so when it was announced that they would be having the 50 km Ultra for a second year in a row, I decided WHY NOT?!?!  I mean, I would have been only a month off my Vancouver full marathon training, so my body would be set, and I had never done an ultra.  And what’s an additional 8 km anyway?  So I registered for the race, and put it in the way back of my mind, since Vancouver and qualifying for Boston was what this year was about. I had been so busy with school and coaching in the month of May, that this race weekend snuck up on me.  I will be honest—after Vancouver, I didn’t properly keep training for this event.  My body was exhausted, and it needed recovery.  I did keep up some running in between Vancouver and the Ultra, but it was no where near what it should have been if I was training for the Ultra as my goal race.  I knew I would be able to finish the race come Sunday, May 31st…I just wasn’t sure how ugly it would be.

I headed up on Saturday morning and went straight to the expo.  The expo is at Stampede Grounds.  It is easy to access, with free parking, but the expo itself is small and nothing outstanding.  I was able to pick up my race essentials, and purchase a cute tank top, all pretty quickly.  I then headed to my hotel to check in.  I opted to book on Priceline and got a steal of a deal by ‘naming my own price’ for a 4 star hotel.  I lucked out and got the Westin for only $75!  They offered a shuttle to the start line on race morning, which was a nice perk.  I also took advantage of the rooftop pool later that afternoon.  Dan’s best friend Chris lives in Calgary with his girlfriend Ashley, and I walked a measly 3 blocks to meet them for lunch.  We threw back a few beers, had some great food, and I lamented how I didn’t really care how tomorrow would go.  When we parted and they headed out to a friends’ party, I was sad to be going back to my hotel alone.  I wanted to go out, not run!  Oh well, I would finish this race some way, some how.

race swag

I got up around 4:30 AM, and was on the shuttle at 5:30.  I was only about a mile and a half from Stampede grounds, but having this shuttle was a nice bonus.  I did my bag check, did my pre-race rituals, and was set to go for the 6:30 am start.  The half, full and ultra would all be starting together at 6:30, and the 10km event would begin at 7:30am.  There was also a 5 km that would run at noon!  So lots going on in the morning!  It was comfortable outside right before the race began, but you could tell it was going to get ugly out later on.  Ugly as in HOT.  I tried not to think about it, and when the race began I was off.  I had told myself to try and pace an 8:15 minute mile, as I did 7:49 in Vancouver, but my first mile was just that…7:49.  I knew this was too fast for this hilly, high elevation course. I decided to ease on up and just try and enjoy the race.  By 10 km, I had to go to the bathroom.  Maybe the beer the day before wasn’t a good idea.  This would be 1 of 3 bathroom stops on the course.  The later ones were more so for also having time to hydrate and eat something.  Also around this first bathroom stop I ran into Todd Myers, a teacher at Chinook High School.  He was also doing the 50 km, but he has done crazy races before.  My goal in my mind was now to just stay ahead of Todd. 

start line

A little bit later, a lady was running next to me and chatting away.  She looked very intense….I could tell she knew what she was doing and was no rookie at this.  I come to find out and realize that this is Dennene Huntley.  Now, you may not know the name, I didn’t know the name on paper…but holy crap this woman is impressive.  She had come back from doing this 24 hour championship in Italy where she ran 193 km in 24 hours.  SERIOUSLY!  And, the funny thing about running into her, is that in Edmonton last year I actually ran into her at the end of the race.  When I was struggling to finish that full marathon, she came up behind me with her friend and paced her friend in to beat me.  She recognized me because I was wearing the same thing I wore in Edmonton, and she had told her friend to ‘catch the purple skirt!’  Her friend was in a similar situation as I was at that race—was trying to qualify for Boston, but didn’t.  It was a heartbreak, much like it was for me.  But her friend, the one who didn’t qualify last year….she qualified this year.  Much like me!  Anyway, Dennene and I ran most the race with eachother from about 14 km on.  We’d lose eachother for a kilometre or two, but then be back together.  She helped me tons complete this race and it was a pleasure getting to know her.  Turns out she knows a lot of the same people as me….my run coach for Vancouver, Dean Johnson….she knows him very well!  It was great hearing her stories as we ran. I could talk about every mile in this race and what happened, but that’d be boring for most of you.  I wasn’t racing this for a record or anything, I was just now on track to really enjoy the experience.  The weather was getting progressively warmer, and the sun was shining super hard.  If there wasn’t the breeze, I would have had to walk for stretches…I hate the heat!  And I have to add, the aid stations saved me this race!  There were tons, and since you do a couple loops past the same spot as you head out and back, and do the extra loop for the 50 km turnaround, you pass some of the stations a couple times.  They had cold water-soaked sponges at a lot of them, and these were amazing.  I think I doused myself in a sponge about 20 times.  I was soaking wet by the time I was done!

east village

I felt fairly in control most of the race until the last 10 miles.  My right leg started to tighten up, especially near my hip flexor and my hamstring.  I wanted to keep on moving because if I stopped, I didn’t know if I would be able to start again.  After I had done the second loop of our turnaround, I had rejuvenated energy, as I knew I was on the home stretch.  I also had no clue of my time after 27.5 miles because my watch died.  We looped back into the city, through East Village a second time, and into the Stampede Grounds.  I was sore, warm, sweaty, tired, and numb…all at the same time.  I was able to cross the finish line in a time of 4 hours 40 minutes and 34 seconds.  The sun was beaming down and I just felt other exhaustion!  I also could barely feel my fingers….it took about 5 minutes to do so, but I am not sure why that happened!  They were bloated and shaking…..nice.  I had put my body through hell and back.  I initially had the thought “never doing that again” but we all know how that pans out….

50 km finisher

….because a while later I saw the official results and was surprised to find out I took second in my age group!   As they would say on “A Christmas Story”…..I WON A MAJOR AWARD!  Ok, it wasn’t major…but it is my first trophy ever!  Makes me feel pretty bad ass.  And It also makes me want to do better at it another time.  And how did I celebrate?  I found Todd in the beer tent, found out he had placed 2nd in his age group, and we toasted our personal victories!  And oh yeah….I beat him!

todd and andrea

Lethbridge 10 Mile Road Race-Race Recap!

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April 12th, 2014, marked the 41st annual Lethbridge 10 Mile Road Race. I ran this event last year for the first time, (you can find that recap here) and really enjoyed it. Last year, this event marked the first time I ever placed in my age group-2nd place! For the first time since high school, I had actually felt like an athlete! Going into the race this year, I knew I wanted to beat last years time (1:23:14) and also attempt to still place in my age group.

I had also been quietly promoting this event at school to students, as they do a 4 mile event also. Runners Soul awards a school participation award and a high school challenge trophy. Four of my cross country athletes registered for the event! I met with them before my 9:00 am start time to chat and get them fired up to run in the ridiculously gross weather. Their event began at 9:20, so I told them we would meet up afterwards during awards.

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The wind was cold, the snow flurries were blowing, the air was crisp–for me, it was perfect running weather! It could have been worse! Pouring rain, sweltering heat or as cold as it was a few weekends ago during my Run For L’Arche in Calgary…those would have all been worse. I left the start line with a burst of energy and determination-here goes nothing!

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The course is out-and-back, taking the 10 milers down Scenic Drive to Lynx Trail, which leads you down into the river bottom. Runners would wind through the river bottom adjacent to the Old Man River, and eventually turn around once you near the High Level Bridge. The course was the exact same as last year, so I knew what I was getting myself into. As I proceeded onto Scenic Drive, I met up with fellow Marathon Club member Bob H. I have ran with him at club before—he really books it during training runs with his daughter in the jogging stroller!—and also most recently saw him at the Coaldale 5km. He ran a 1:22 last year and told me he also wanted to beat that time. I figured following him while I could would be a good pacing strategy for me! I made sure I always ran on the inside “lane” when we were side by side, because as I have said before, my 5’3″ stature doesn’t always provide the best stride length. I need to hug the curve when possible!

After the first three miles, I had ran a 6:50, 7:39 and 7:31. I was booking it, and Bob even mentioned the crazy idea that I could get a 1:15:00! I was thinking that as we descended into the river bottom, and for a moment got discouraged as a handful of people plowed past me. I am very hesitant going down this hill, as I know how steep it is. It is over half a mile downhill, and if I were to go too fast my legs would be feeling it and hurting once I hit level ground. When I made it to the bottom of the hill, I made a conscious effort to lengthen my stride and make up ground. I was able to catch mostly everyone that passed me on that downhill. I then set my focus forward to make it to the turnaround.

At the 5 mile turnaround, I felt great about my position and pace. I was able to see at that moment I was actually the 2nd place female runner! I knew I needed to keep my pace down in the valley, and really give it on the hill back up to Scenic. Before hitting Whoop-Up Drive, I saw my fellow teacher and her husband running to the turnaround. It was a great energy boost to see Amie and Morgan! When I reached the 6 mile mark, and the hill climb was my next obstacle, I had ran a 7:01, 7:23, and 7:24.

Hill training is a necessary evil. I don’t like it, I don’t think anyone really does, but man does it pay off. I have done this hill so many times before on training runs and races that I knew what beast I would be tackling. At the midway point where it flattens out a bit I even picked up my pace the best I could. I kept my head up and made it up that hill with a slight smile on my face, as I knew that now I was back on Scenic Drive and the last three miles would feel easy compared to that incline. My seventh mile clocked in at 8:52.

Even though the hardest climb was done, the last three miles had to still be tackled with gusto. I didn’t want to lose my pace, so I kept my head forward and focused on that goal. I ran mile 8 and 9 at 7:43 and 7:24. The 7:24 was a huge confidence boost because I was able to get back near to my most consistent pace times. During the last mile I knew I wanted to hold my position, but also knew I could get that glorious 1:15:00! I used everything I had left as I wound through the College grounds to the finish line, running my last mile in a time of 7:03! I finished the race not only beating my time from last year, but clocking in at a 1:14:49! I was shaking with adrenaline as the volunteer took my timing chip off my ankle-I was overjoyed!

Two of my students were on the side of the finish line stretch, and I heard them cheering when I came down, so I went over to see how their race went. They both agreed it went well, but they hadn’t seen the results yet. When we headed inside, we ran into one of the other kids, who felt really great about his race. After finding the results for the four mile, it was awesome to see that all four of the kids did fantastic! The youngest girl in our group, Morghan, had improved her time since cross country season by a lot! Bacho has been running a lot on her own after school since cross country season and also had done the Moonlight Run, so she was quite pleased with her time too! Both Kristin and Tyler, cross country athletes who went to Provincials with our team in October, earned age group awards! Kristin placed 2nd in 16-19 females and Tyler also earned a 2nd in the male 16-19 category! The young man who captured first in his group was actually a cross country athlete at the College, and he came over after Tyler’s race to congratulate him, and was surprised Tyler was only in grade 10.

We found Amie just before the 4 mile awards, and sat as a school for the presentations. It was inspiring to see all the young kids out there doing the 4 mile event! The youngest age category was 10 and under, and there were 21 kids in total! Looking at the results, the number of kids participating that were 19 and under totaled 41! Kids made up 28% of the four mile event field! Awesome!

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The part of the awards that almost had me cry (honestly…I’m emotional) was when Shawn from Runners Soul announced the high school team challenge winners. They had started this award back in 2011, and every year the trophy went with Medicine Hat High School. He made this clear in his presentation of the awards and then made it very clear that it was staying here in Lethbridge this year! Winston Churchill High School had claimed the title! The crowds’ support of our WCHS kids was incredible, and it made me extremely proud to be a “northside” teacher.

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The 10 mile awards followed. I accepted my 1st place medal for my 20-29 age group, and then anxiously awaited my overall award. I had never placed overall before this! At Moonlight Run this year I narrowly missed out an overall award, finishing 4th out of all females. I finished 2/65 in my gender today, and earned $150 as my prize money. Not going to lie, and I am not ashamed to admit it, but I cashed that cheque at Scotiabank so embarrassingly fast after the event. I also called my husband to inform him I was making us dinner reservations at Miro Bistro that night and the dinner was on me!

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Today the sun is out, the snow is melted, and it is above freezing. There is no wind. The weather is perfect for a Sunday afternoon in April. To the average person in Lethbridge, yesterday may have looked like a terrible, rotten, no-good, very bad day. But I think it was pretty much perfect-I’d give it an 11 out of 10.

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