Tag Archives: vancouver

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.

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Race Plans, Boston Training, & Clean Eating

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…For Boston Training that is!

I began my 16-week training plan for the Boston Marathon on December 27th.  It was a tough first week, as while I had been doing the RunStreak through Runners Soul all December, I really did not have the mileage (or speed…or skill) that I had last year at this time.  I had been taking it really easy the last two-three months (as I needed to) so getting back at it has been tough.  Those “Easy Paced Runs” aren’t feeling very easy, but I’m managing to hit my pace goals for each day so far.  This Saturday was my most impressive day, as I did 9.12 miles in 80 minutes in the nasty cold (-4F when I went out to start).

When I compare the data I have from last year’s training cycle for Vancouver to what I have so far for Boston, it is slightly frustrating as I was A LOT faster 365 days ago.  But, I was on a stretch of a bunch of races, and hadn’t taken a moment to slow down.  I took the time to slow down and BREATHE this fall, and have been managing with my foot bone-spur issue.  Will I be able to get to Vancouver 2015 shape by Boston?  Who knows.  But I do know I am going to Boston in April and I am going to finish that damn race and be happy no matter what my time is!

A better indicator for how Boston will go, time wise, will be the races leading up to it.  Other than my under-trained 5 km in November, I haven’t had a longer distance race since Labour Day weekend.  I have updated my race schedule for 2016 here.  There are quite a few unknowns, as two races I normally do (10 Mile Road Race & Rattler Run 10km) don’t have their registration up year, so I am not certain of the weekends.  I am also toying with the idea of doing the Calgary 50 km again (My husband and mom are going to yell at me when they read that).  That would in a way probably be my ‘last hurrah!’ before my foot surgery.  Or, if they schedule my foot surgery later in June or July, I would try to register for the coveted local race, LadiesFest, which is an 8km.  It is later this year than usual, as I am normally at ASAA Provincial Track & Field.  I have not done that race before!  Lets be honest, as long as my surgery isn’t until later in June, I’ll probably register for both…Might as well mess my foot up more before they cut it open!

As an unrelated (sorta?) thing….Dan (my husband) and I decided to not learn from our craziness in June 2014 and we embarked on the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge yet again.  I wrote about it twice on this blog, once at the beginning and at the end.  The beginning post from the last adventure is here.  Why the hell are we putting ourselves through this again?  Well, we did learn some great recipes the first time, we did lose some weight, and we actually had fun (in between our angry bouts due to lack of booze, sugar and salty snacks).  We also somehow convinced our friends Peter & Mac to join in on this, and they are doing it too.  We will all celebrate with pizzas and beer once the shenanigans are over.  The timing for these two weeks have been carefully planned, as we needed it to be two weeks where neither of us are too overloaded with work, as this requires a lot of cooking and time.  We did a weigh-in on Saturday and started the challenge Sunday.  Dan is documenting most of the cooking with pictures and videos on his phone, which yesterday consisted of me almost peeing myself laughing at the sheer size of the meals we were creating.  And the volume of dishes.  Lots and lots of dishes to wash…….

clean eat table

How will this diet alter my ability while training??  Not sure.  When we did it the last time, I had just finished training for and running in the Calgary full marathon.  That marathon was the first attempt I made at qualifying for Boston, and I fell way short, running a 3:46.  I was in really good shape at the start of the diet, and the diet did really clean out any ‘bad’ I had going on.  But it did wreck havoc with my system a bit.  I had one race during the diet in 2014, Millarville Half Marathon, and I certainly did not feel the best when I was done.  I have some straightforward training runs the next two weeks with some basic speed work, so I should be OK.  Pushing through the long workouts while not ‘carbing up’ will be interesting, but I think this diet tying in to me getting back at it with my Boston training couldn’t come at a better time.  I will keep everyone posted on how it turns out in the end!  Until then, time to keep on running…Boston is less than 100 days away!!!!!!!!!!

A Decade of Marathons 

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I have wanted to do this post for sometime, but haven’t found time to sit down and do it. So now I am finally sitting down and doing it! While Vancouver Marathon has come and gone, I can’t stop thinking about that race. The more I think about that race, the more I think about the races I did before it. And then I realize how long I have been actively running long distance races.  

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I ran my first full marathon in May 2005. 10 years ago! It was the Madison Marathon in Madison, Wisconsin. I trained with a plan my friend Matt had put together and was able to finish in a respectable time. I was sore and felt like junk afterwards though! My body wasn’t used to the beating it was put through. I honestly couldn’t lift my leg over the tub to get into the shower a few hours after the race! But, even with all that pain, I was hooked. It felt great to do something not everyone can do! I did my second marathon the following year in 2006, when I repeated that very event. The heat index was out of control and they actually closed the course after 5 hours and 15 minutes. Thankfully I had finished.  

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I did marathon number 3 that same year in October-The Chicago Marathon! It was my first BIG event! 40,000 runners…through the streets of a big city…amazing crowds….I broke 4 hours in this event and felt unstoppable! The next year I did Madison again, and I dropped a few more minutes off my Chicago time. Wow…maybe I can keep dropping time? Maybe in the future I could qualify for Boston? Well, reality hit when I ran the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in October 2007. I ran my second worse race, hadn’t really properly trained (I had been working at Badgerette during the summer running Pom Pon camps and not really taking training seriously in between). When I did Madison Marathon the following May 2008, I only dropped half a minute off my Lakefront time. Maybe I wasn’t meant to get any faster??

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Madison Marathon 2005—4 hours 27 minutes 38 seconds

Madison Marathon 2006—4 hours 47 minutes 48 seconds

Chicago Marathon 2006—3 hours 59 minutes 25 seconds

Madison Marathon 2007—3 hours 56 minutes 37 seconds

Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon 2007—4 hours 42 minutes 18 seconds

Madison Marathon 2008—4 hours 41 minutes 50 seconds

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Then I moved to Canada. And I trained in Lethbridge for my first marathon in Canada. While the training seemed to go well, my body wasn’t well adjusted to the elevation and I bonked. I did awful. This was the Calgary Marathon in 2009. And after this race I took a hiatus from full marathons until January 2014. This was when I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon to cap off my Dopey Challenge four race adventure! Now, I had trained extensively for this event, doing many 10km and half marathons in preparation. And during that time I had dropped down all my shorter race times and had gotten faster! And all that hard work paid off because I didn’t just break 4 hours, but I ran my fastest race yet! This got me thinking about the elusive Boston Marathon again. If I focused on training for full marathons again and took my training up a notch, maybe, just maybe I could drop enough time to make it there! I trained for the May 2014 Calgary Marathon. I ran in, running way better than I had in 2009. But it wasn’t good enough. I was frustrated. I quickly registered for the Edmonton Marathon in August 2014, hoping to shave enough time off. I faltered. And it hurt. Maybe it was time to retire after running 10 marathons…

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Calgary Marathon 2009—5 hours 3 minutes 37 seconds

Walt Disney World Marathon 2014—3 hours 50 minutes 52 seconds

Calgary Marathon 2014—3 hours 46 minutes 22 seconds

Edmonton Marathon 2014—3 hours 44 minutes 59 seconds

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I decided to give my Boston Qualifying attempt one last shot. I trained my ass off for my 11th marathon, the Vancouver Marathon held this past May 2015. I had a training plan made specifically for me, and took things more serious than I ever had before. It was all or nothing. And that attitude paid off. I not only made the 3:35.00 qualifying standard for Boston, but I smashed it by just over 10 minutes! After 10 years of running marathons, I had finally achieved what every runner wants-to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon. And while one would think that marathon 12 would be Boston in 2016, it actually was when I went back up to Calgary in the end of May 2015 for a little redemption. I ran the 50km Ultra during Marathon weekend in a time of 4:39.37….I ran 50km in Calgary faster than I ran 42.2 km in Calgary 2009! I even managed to podium in my age group! 

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Vancouver Marathon 2015—3 hours 24 minutes 56 seconds

Calgary Marathon 50km Ultra 2015, Marathon Split—3 hours 56 minutes 37 seconds

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So now what? Well, marathon #13 will in fact be Boston 2016. I register for that during the second day of rolling registrations, on September 16th, 2015. Running my qualifying time by over 10 minutes paid off! I am all but set to be running the 120th Boston Marathon. I cannot wait for marathon #13, as it will be so sweet. Spending over a decade of my life…my 30 years life….so 1/3 of my existence….running marathons has paid off. Yes, it is a hobby, but it is an important one. Running all these races have taught me determination, focus, resilience and mental toughness. I faced triumphs…and frustrations. But I never gave up. Never, ever give up.

Southern Alberta Summer Games 10 km Recap

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As a teacher, I have summers off. But every summer even since I was a kid, my summers consisted of family vacations, going to camp, working at camp, and then going on my only vacations with my friends and my husband. I usually take off quite a bit during the summer, so my training plans fall through, and I never stay consistent with my running. I mean, two years ago I went to Disney World for 16 days….in August….how was I going to keep a stable running routine while there?

Summer 2015
…turns out I am not flying anywhere, or doing much of anything. No week long trips home, no gigantic trips to Disney, no nasal surgeries, no binging in Newfoundland….nothing. So I needed to keep a training plan and have some goals to keep me motivated. My training plan from Dean (who did my Vancouver Marathon plan!) has me training for a pipe-dream time at the Disneyland 10km Labour Day weekend of 40:30. I need a challenge, might as well shoot high?! I had ran a 41:30 in the Rattler Run 10km back in April (right at the peak of my marathon training) so this seemed within reach.
In the midst of my training calendar I had the Southern Alberta Summer Games 10km race, which was held on Wednesday, July 8th. I had heard about the event from a friend, Danny, and he has done different running and cycling events in prior years. The one thing we have in common, other than running, is that we are adults. Why does this matter! Well, in my head I just always picture these provincial summer games to be for middle-college aged kids…not me. But, sure enough, they have age categories every 10 years up to 60+. The event would be held in Claresholm (45 minute drive) and since I am a teacher and have no work on a Wednesday morning in July at 9:45 am, I figured signing up was a good way to spice up my training routine!
Now, I said I wasn’t going anywhere or “doing anything” this summer. Sort of a lie. My Wisconsin mom is currently here and six days into her three week visit. I had also thought this would be fun for her to come watch, as she hasn’t been to many of my events before. I wrote about my first half marathon she ever came to here, where I did the Trailbreaker Half in Waukesha, Wisconsin, during Spring Break 2013. This would be a good day outing for us. I didn’t really know what to expect with this race, not the same way as I do with others. She asked me the night before “how many people are in it? How many are in your age group?” I was totally left in the dark. When you do a summer games event, in particular when you do a solo summer games event, it appears you don’t know who is showing up until you show up yourself.
We headed out to Claresholm at 7:30 am. My event wasn’t slated to start until 9:45, but registration would begin at 8:00 am. My first comment to the organizers is that they should have had the 10km be the first event. It was supposed to be a mass start of the 2.5/5/10km all at 9 am, but a week or so ago I noticed on the site it was changed to the 2.5 km beginning at 9 am and then the 5/10 km beginning at 9:45. A 9:45 am start for a 10km in early July? Eeeeee…..that makes me nervous.

Arrived and was happy to see Randy and crew from Racepro as the official timers!
Yay! I went and checked in, received my race number and timing chip, and then I had plenty of time to relax and warm up. Saw my Lethbridge School District cohort Todd on site as a volunteer. He informed me that the route for the 10km would start as paved road but for about 2km you would be a fresh gravel.  Also met up with my friend Danny, the one who told me about the race.  He would be doing the 5km.



I had peaked at the entry list numbers just to take a look at how many were in my 30-39 female category. There was a number 4 listed there. Ok. I got this. We lined up at 9:45 for the mass 5km and 10km start. The weather felt comfortable standing at this point, with a slight breeze, but I could tell the heat was hiding. We started and I felt strong my first mile, settling in to a 6:45 mile one. Right on where I wanted to be. Then, we had turned onto the never ending rural road. This was still paved but it was one of those cases like when you are on the Vegas strip and you say “it’s right there….it’s just a short walk!” And it isn’t. I slowed my second mile split to a 7:03. Still in a good place.
The 5km runners had already hit their turnaround so now it was me and a high school kid in the middle of this country road. He was slightly ahead of me and I drafted right behind him. At the turnaround for the 10km, Todd was handing out water, which I took, but slightly slowed down. He yelled at me to catch that kid. So, I drank the water (oh man it tasted so good) and kept my eye on this kid. As we ran back on the same route that took us out to the turnaround, I counted all the people behind us. There were only 11 other runners. So 13 total. Small turnout indeed. The shade on this course was non-existent, and the gravel made my feet feel like they were sinking. It was pretty fresh gravel, so there were not any substantial tire tracks sunk in. I kept weaving back and forth trying to find a track to run on, but really just got stuck kicks up more gravel. My mile 3 & 4 times were 7:15 and 7:39. I was going downhill, figuratively.

At approximately mile 4 I did gain enough ground on the teenager and passed him. As much as the heat and terrain were getting to me, I think it was getting to him worse. I steadily increased my distance from him the last two miles of the race, despite having no “rabbit” in front of me to go after. And also, despite my last two mile splits being slower than some of my full marathon splits in Vancouver. I ran mile 5 & 6 in 7:49 & 7:45. I finished in a time of 45:55.

They did the award presentation about 25 minutes later, after the final 10km runner finished. There turned out to be only 2 people in my age category in the end. I also saw a bunch of race bibs not picked up. I wonder how many people were supposed to be in the event? I picked up my gold medal and got a picture with Danny, who also earned gold in his male 30-39 category of the 10km running a time of 19:32. His goal was for under 20 so that’s awesome!



Would I do the Southern Alberta Summer Games again?
Depends. Location makes a difference. I wouldn’t drive all the way out to Medicine Hat for it, but 45 minutes or less sure. They really don’t advertise the event well at all or promote it. It would be very easy for the organizers to make a single page brochure to place in race bags at local Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and area races.  Really, as far as the City of Lethbridge team goes, they just need to not just focus on the elementary schools, but other area athletic organizations who have athletes 18 years or older.  So, not just running….but biking, basketball, etc.  The City of Lethbridge is the biggest in Southern Alberta so there is no excuse as to why we shouldn’t have the most competitors, points, and medals in these games! I’m at the point now that when I run races, I need to be pushed, so the low entry numbers was huge negative.  I’m not confident enough that I can just cruise at a my fastest race pace every time if there is not someone  for me to chase after.  I also wish the start time was earlier for the 10km. July has been ridiculously hot and we are fortunate it wasn’t any worse this morning. I know they have to make sure things don’t overlap with any of the track events happening, but I wish there was a way to make this an earlier start.

So yes, I finished the race first.
But with a less than stellar time. Between the heat, no shade, gravel, small field of runners, and how early it is in my training….I should just be happy with how I did. And I pretty much am. It puts it all into perspective on how trusting your training makes a difference, and that training works. I trained for 16 weeks for Vancouver Marathon and set a new personal best in a 5km, 10km, half and then full when I qualified for Boston at that very race. I kept trucking through the month of May and capped it off with my first ever 50km. Took two weeks off and am now back in the grind, in a way starting from one of the very bottom steps. This just means I have more work to do in order to be where I want to be.

This is Supposed to be Easy……

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I have hit a roadblock.

After the Vancouver Marathon on May 3rd, I still kept up with my training for that month, as I had the Spartan Montana Beast and the Calgary 50km Ultra. I mustered through those (pretty decently too) and forced myself to take a solid 15 days off. No running at all. My body needed some recovery time. Near the end of that rest period, I contacted Dean Johnson and asked him to make me a summer training plan, with my end goal being to get a sub 41 minute 10km at the Disneyland 10km Labour Day weekend. Training for a 10km…easy enough, right?


Well, last week Tuesday I started the plan. My first run went well, although I may have pushed myself a bit too much. On Wednesday, I was really sore and my hip flexors were in pain, but I did an awesome hill workout. Thursday, though, it started to fall apart. I opted to take off on Thursday (could take off or do 40-60 minutes easy) as I thought I would feel better come Friday. I went out to attempt my Friday run of 60-70 minutes at easy pace. Mistake 1 was doing this at noon. Holy hell it felt like hell. The heat is not my friend. Mistake 2 was trying for the lower end of the pace goal (8:15 minute miles). I should have aimed for 8:45 from the get go. I held it together the first 4 miles, but by mile 5 I had an 8:58. Then I self destructed and ran a 9:43 for mile 6. I ended up running 6.68 miles in 60 minutes and felt like garbage. This weekend, I skipped my 90-105 minute long run and took off both days. I am not even a week into this plan and I am already sliding.

The plan was supposed to help motivate me to achieve my goal of a personal best 10km time. But right now, I’m in such a weird place and having a hard time getting back in to running. Maybe it was the 16 weeks of intense marathon training this winter and spring that just has me burned out. I mean, it probably is. I guess I just thought getting back in to a rhythm would be easy, as I had such a successful first 5 months of 2015. I got my best 5km, 10km, half and full marathon times in that time frame, and I also ran my first ever 50km. I have been on Cloud 9 and flying high! But now, it’s month 6, and I am a proverbial pile of shit.
If this summer is going to be successful “running-wise” I need to get out of this funk and back in the game. I need to start establishing a routine again. Having the framework of one, with my training plan, clearly isn’t enough. I need to be getting up before work to do my runs, as if I wait until after it is too hot out. And if I run when it’s the afternoon sun blazing down, I get crabby. And frustrated. And even after this last week of school, I need to be setting an alarm each morning so I am up and have a normal breakfast and out the door doing my run by at least 9 am. If I can get into this consistency, the rest should fall in to place.

“…there are no shortcuts or paths of least-resistance on the road to reaching something worthwhile.”-Dean Karnazes “Run!”

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!

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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….

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….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

2015 Western Canada Spartan Races—Information and a Giveaway!

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Disclaimer: Spartan Race Media Canada contacted me about writing a blog post to generate buzz around the upcoming Canadian Spartan Races. Any Spartan Race Logos/images being used in this post have been used with permission on Spartan Race Media-Canada.  No compensation was received for this post, and the opinions stated here are my own.
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Coveted Trifecta Tribe member for 2015! Going for Double Trifecta with the Canadian events!

My US Spartan Race schedule has come to an end. I completed the Temecula Super and Sprint in January, and two weeks ago I participated in the epic Montana Founder’s Beast! I am so fortunate that I was able to travel to California in the early part of the year for 2/3 of my Trifecta, and being so close to beautiful Big Fork, Montana, is always helpful when the Montana series occurs each year. US Spartan Races occur all year long, all over the country. I could be flying to New York, Ohio, Idaho, Colorado….The choices are endless. I unfortunately do not have the funds to be able to travel across the USA and participate in all these fantastic options. However, I am fortunate that the Western Canada Spartan Race series is right in my backyard!

canada spartan race logoThe Spartan Race Canada series began a few weeks ago with a Super & Sprint in Montreal. Other race sites for the Eastern Spartan Races include Halifax, Ottawa, Quebec City, and Toronto. I have yet to make it to an Eastern Spartan Race, but hope to someday. The Western Spartan Race series begins in June with the Vancouver Sprint. The provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba all have confirmed events for 2015, with a Saskatchewan race also being in the works. With living in southern Alberta, I have the ability to drive just a few short hours to many of these events!

Sun Peaks Sprint Finishers in 2013

Sun Peaks Sprint Finishers in 2013

When I started doing Spartan Races in 2013, I completed my first trifecta by doing Western Canada Spartan Races. My first ever Canadian race was the Calgary Spartan Sprint, which is held right close to downtown Calgary at a local BMX course. I knew after doing this event that the Canadian Spartan Races were the real deal! Canadian events offer the same experience that the USA events have. Some of the same great obstacles are always included—rope climb, monkey bars, spear throw, sandbag carry, barbed wire crawl, traverse wall. But depending on the event, unique obstacles are added! Because of the course makeup in Calgary, there are TONS of mud pits. I’d go out on a limb and say this is the dirtiest course I have ever done! You also get the same great finisher t-shirts and some incredible bling!

Fun in the Calgary Mud in 2014!

Fun in the Calgary Mud in 2014!

While Calgary is held every August, the events that round out the Western Canada Spartan Race series happen in September. I first did the Red Deer Super, Sun Peaks Beast and Sun Peaks Sprint in September of 2013. I am heading out to the same areas again this year, but mixing it up a bit. In Red Deer, I will be participating in the Super on Saturday and the new-to-me Sprint on Sunday. Then a few short weeks later I will be capping off my Spartan Race year by making the drive out to beautiful Sun Peaks, BC, where I will participate in the Ultra Beast-26.2 miles of Spartan craziness! I love that the events have been adding enhancements each year, with different distances and new courses being offered. This makes these races very repeatable, as you won’t do the same thing twice!

Fire Jumping in Red Deer, 2013

Fire Jumping in Red Deer, 2013

Slip Wall in Red Deer Spartan Race, 2013

Slip Wall in Red Deer Spartan Race, 2013

Yes-Snow may fall during a Western Canada Spartan Race!  Sun Peaks Beast, 2013

Yes-Snow may fall during a Western Canada Spartan Race! Sun Peaks Beast, 2013

My first Spartan Race Trifecta from 2013!

My first Spartan Race Trifecta from 2013!

I encourage anyone in Canada who has thought about doing an obstacle course race to look up the the Spartan Race closest to you. Spartan Race, in my opinion, puts on the best obstacle course race in not just America, but Canada as well! I am so sure of this, that I am going to offer my readers a chance to win an entry for any Western Canada Spartan Race in 2015! The fine folks at Spartan Race Media Canada are making this giveaway possible! I will have this giveaway open for a week. You can gain entries for it by entering in my Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post!  You are able to register for the giveaway until it closes on June 3rd.   And if you already know you are going to be registering for a few Spartan Race Canada events, use the discount code AROO15 for 15% off your next race entry!

If you are interested in entering the FREE giveaway for an entry to any WESTERN CANADA SPARTAN RACE please follow the link below to my RAFFLECOPTER giveaway page. You can enter for free there!

Click HERE to enter for your chance to win a FREE Western Canada Spartan Race entry for 2015!

Vancouver Marathon Race Recap Part 1….Before the Big Event

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I registered for the BMO Vancouver Marathon back in about November.  I was feeling really frustrated and defeated after my summer marathons (Calgary & Edmonton) as I didn’t come close to qualifying for Boston.  I ran 3:46.22 and 3:44.59, respectively, at both of these events….well off the qualifying standard of 3:35.00.  So when I decided to give my Boston qualifying attempt one more shot, I wanted to pick a race I hadn’t done before.  And a race that was known for being a good course for qualifying.  It was suggested to me by many people that Vancouver was the course for me.  Sea level, rolling downhills, late Spring, spectator support, large city….I registered, booked a flight, and started thinking about my training.

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I have mentioned before I had Dean Johnson create a training calendar for me.  It was a 16 week training plan, which he took into account my previous fitness achievements and levels.  Each day had set paces I needed to achieve and unique workouts.  Dean went above and beyond and updated my training plan to reflect the success I was having in half marathon and 10 km distances in late winter/early spring.  This training plan held me accountable, as I kept a log of how each workout went in a Google Doc, and it really pushed me above and beyond what I thought I was capable of. 1

So here comes May 1st.  The day I travel to Vancouver.  I was nervous, anxious, excited, scared….basically a pile of emotions.  I had been training specifically for this event for 16 weeks, but as I drove to the Calgary airport, it occurred to me that I really have been training for this since my first half marathon in May 2004.  I wrote about that half marathon here, as it was a race I ran in a daze….it was less than a week after my dad passed away unexpectantly from a heart attack.  I have been running long distances ever since.

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So this race was important.  I have been committed to running long distances for now over 11 years.  Some years were low, some have been high.  The past two years have been a steady high, with breaking personal records, getting podium at local races, and feeling like I am in the best shape of my life.  It was also low when I didn’t get that coveted Boston qualifying time.  I was out on this run to prove to myself I was worthy of running in Boston.

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The expo was held in Downtown Vancouver at the convention centre next to the Olympic torch.  I had stayed with my good friends Alex & Tim in Burnaby the night before, and they were nice enough to drop me off down at my hotel for the night, which was near the expo.  This hotel wasn’t originally in the plans, but my cousin Erin is too nice and booked me a room.  She would be staying there too!  I wandered over to the expo, and this is when I first started getting the chills….the expo was right on the water, it was a gorgeous, crisp and clear day, and the energy was high.  Packet pickup was extremely fast, and before I knew it I was on the merchandise floor.  There were not tons of vendors, but enough things to look at.  I bought a Run Van tanktop, which I know I will wear lots in the summer, and some more Nuun tabs from their vendor table.  Included in our race package (which was a drawstring backpack) was a commemorative shirt (which I really liked….a short-sleeved charcoal grey tech shirt), our race bib, and a transit ticket for the race morning.

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I ended up going back to the hotel to nap in the afternoon, as I didn’t sleep well the night before and was a bit worn from all my travelling.  Actually, before the nap I ordered pasta for lunch via room service.  Eating that in bed while watching HGTV was fantastic.  I was wide awake then when Erin and her friend Rob were ready to go get food for supper.  We went to this sweet market nearby and bought sandwiches and salads, headed to Stanley Park, and had a picnic.  The weather was gorgeous and this was a very relaxing way to spend the evening.  We were back at the hotel somewhere around 7:30, which gave me tons of time to wind down and get prepared for the big event in the morning.  I even was able to head to bed by 10 pm and slept great!  Now I just needed the following Sunday to be the best run of my life……

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EXCEPTIONAL NEWS!

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In August 2014, my husband Dan and I were fortunate to travel out East to beautiful St. John’s, Newfoundland.  During that time, we attended George Street Festival, an awesome music extravaganza!  We were lucky enough to see Dropkick Murphy’s on one of the night’s mid-festival, and had a prime spot….front row of the patio at Rockhouse.   The show was awesome, every last bit of it.  The crowd was ecstatic.  A lot of songs I had not heard before, but many I had.  I was patiently waiting for one song to be played, though.   And it was almost like a “Name That Tune” moment, when I heard the first chord, I know exactly what it was….Shipping out to Boston!  

I recorded a video.  I took lots of pictures.  I have listened to the song lots.  I then I ran the Edmonton Marathon a few weeks and bonked at mile 21.  I cried.  I cried a lot.  I felt defeated.  I started training again specifically with the goal of hitting a Boston Qualifying time at the Vancouver marathon in May 2015.  I made THAT SONG my ringtone as motivation.  I wanted it so bad.   I ran Vancouver today as hard as I could.  And I finally can say….
I’M SHIPPING UP TO BOSTON!!
I will write a recap very soon.  There is a lot to recap.  But I wanted to write a general note of sorts to indicate that YES, I reached my goal!  And I didn’t just squeak by; I hit it hard!   I needed a 3:35.00 to qualify and I ran a 3:24.56!  My personal best before that was in fact that Edmonton Marathon, where I ran a 3:44.59.  The training paid off and I have so many people to thank.
My dad.   What more can I say.  Dad, I love you. You were with me this whole race.  I know you are so proud.  I can’t even put anything more into words right now; I am just smiling.  You would be telling everyone you know, and random strangers too, that I qualified for the Boston Marathon.  I can’t wait to go to there in April and run for you.  For us.
 
My husband, for handling my crazy schedule and putting up with days I was probably a complete pile or bitchy crap.   Yes, I know those happened.   I used you as a punching bag many times when I was upset and training days didn’t go as planned.  I love you; I hope you still love me after these six months of training!
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My mom, who also heard the frustrations and anger sometime, but who was also there to congratulate me….after she would freak out and be anxious before I finished any event, of course.  She had never seen me run a distance road until spring of 2013, when I came home to run the Waukesha Trailbreaker Half, and beat my old half marathon best, running a 1:52.53.   She said she cried at the start of that race.  She is going to be a mess in Massachusetts.
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And of course, I love me some local YQL people/organizations/businesses/professionals.  Runners Soul Lethbridge, for a fantastic marathon club program and a fantastic store full of support and camaraderie.   Shawn & Erin Pinder are fantastic people who will bend over backwards for the running community.  And speaking of camaraderie….Bob Higgins, fellow marathon club runner and friend, who ran with my during Vancouver full marathon to help me qualify.  Wow!  Thank you so much!  You my friend are an inspiration.,,.everything you have done over these last years of running is amazing.  It was an honour to run with you for 20 miles of the race….until you had to pee.  I am proud of the fact you never caught back up!   
To Dean Johnson, who wrote me an incredible training plan and edited it partway through to reflect the changes in my race times.   Anyone in Lethbridge looking for personal gains in running, please talk to Dean!  To my doctors, Dr. Michael Galbraith & Dr. John Power (the best in the sports med business) who have helped me with knee issues and the stride problems over the last year.  I am calling you both in the morning and leaving voicemails of me freaking out.  So when you hear my Wisconsin accent blubbering, I hope you smile.  Or at least laugh.   My friends, family, coworkers….you all have handled me obsessing over this quite well.  Thank you for still being my friend.  Or at least pretending to be.  You may have to fake our friendship even longer because the next year leading to Boston I am going to be very, very annoying.  Probably close to obnoxious.  You may block me on Facebook or unfollow me on Twitter.  I won’t be offended.  That being said, I am so fortunate, lucky and happy to have moved to a city with such support and love….to have family and friends from all over be by my side.   Thank you!  
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#BOSTON2016 !!!!!!

Husband Guest Post 2 – The Night Before Vancouver 

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Andrea watches a lot, A LOT, of shitty reality television (note – all reality television is shitty, but her shows are generally, the worst of the worst).  The thing that drives me most insane about these shows is when one of the characters (usually a dumb blonde or no-longer-relevant actor) talks to the camera, and says something preposterously overdramatic and entirely untrue like “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life” or “I’ve never wanted anything so bad in my life”.  

Now I understand it’s TV, and that drama sells.  But it’s bullshit.  Complete bullshit.  In generations past, before reality TV, I think these grandiose statements were actually meaningful.  Those phrases were reserved for the few times in life that actually mattered.  So for the people in the world that actually do something of great merit, I find it insulting towards them for people clinging to their 10 minutes of fame on TV to try to bolster their appeal with this fake drama.

For Andrea’s sake, and for the sake of everybody that truly puts their heart and soul into something they love, let’s appreciate the following statement for what it’s worth, and not just take it at face value:

Andrea has never worked this hard towards something in her entire life.

That’s not just words.  She has walked the walk.

She changed her diet (among many things, she gave up ramen noodles… RAMEN F-ING NOODLES!!!).  She changed her step and stride (she went to a foot doctor specializing in athletes).  She signed up for every race possible (and won most of the local ones).  She hired a trainer to write her a training schedule (with the goal of 3:35 in mind, and the training difficulty was increased concurrently with her time improvements).  And more than anything, Andrea stuck to her training schedule and ran.   It was, and still is, unbelievable.  I honestly can’t imagine putting in the persistence, time and effort that Andrea puts into her running.  I don’t even think it’s fair for me to attempt to describe it, because I don’t know that level of grueling commitment.  It’s every damn day.  She runs, at an insane pace (usually at 7 minutes/mile… for comparison, I ran a 10 mile race at an average of 11 minutes/mile and that was giving it everything I have).  While she never does a full marathon distance during her training, it’s not uncommon for her to run 15 miles.  And then, after 15 miles, she just goes about her day, like that 15 mile run was just a 15 minute walk with the dog.  That might be the craziest part to me about her training.  She’ll run these super-long distances, and then still want to walk downtown for dinner, or walk the beagle to the dog park. 

So I am proud of my wife, and of all her accomplishments.  She has pushed herself beyond what I thought was possible.  A hobby has become an obsession, and her pace and race times reflect her hard work.

So my dear… Go.  Get it done.  You can do it, you’ve proved it to yourself.  You put in the time, you put in the work.  You owe it to yourself.  I love you, I’m with you, and he’s watching.  This is how you remember.

Dan