Tag Archives: YYC

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.

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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. 

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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!

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Calgary Hypothermic Half-My Muddled Post-Race Thoughts

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Running a February half marathon in Calgary, Alberta, is slightly crazy. But running one with the mindset of getting a personal best is slightly insane. But, that’s how I went into the 2015 Hypothermic Half Marathon. Go big or why do it, right?

I signed up for the event in November, as I had wanted to find a chip-timed event for my Digital Running “Time of the Season” Challenge (a timed event every month from March 2014 through February 2015. This was the only event I could find somewhat in the area with official timing (other than a 50km!). I have gushed about my love of running Calgary before, as the routes are always pretty and I’ve had pretty consistent race success, so driving up for a quick weekend was something I had no issue with.

I headed up to Calgary on Saturday afternoon for packet pickup at the Eau Claire Market Running Room. Pickup was easy and seamless-received my race bib, which had the timing chip right on the back, and the swag, which was a pair of winter running gloves and Running Room’s version of a Buff (neck/head warmer piece). All were very nice! The ladies at pickup were also very nice at explaining the map to me, which I had looked at online. I was somewhat familiar with the route, as I have ran parts of it on previous races but I wasn’t completely sure where the turns at the bridges would be (more in that later).

My 7 am alarm came fast and I felt pretty lethargic. I was slow to move, but made it to Tim Horton’s to get my oatmeal and coffee for my breakfast and preparation rituals. I was staying at my friend Cindy’s house which is a two minute drive to a Tim’s, so I was able to go there and get back right away to get prepped. It was COLD out…colder than I thought it would be. I needed to layer correctly so I was warm enough….but not miserable. I hate feeling overheated. I also taped my knees and quads up, as those are always potential issues. I headed out the door at 8:20 am to attempt and find my way to Fort Calgary for the race start.

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Not much parking by the Fort, but I was able to finagle a spot for my tiny Pontiac Vibe. I was cutting it a little close as I needed to go to the bathroom and the women’s line was ridiculous. I made it out to the start with about 5 minutes to spare, and I ran out there doing some high knees and other dynamics. I was now set to go and hoping for the best. I lined myself up right in the front center and went out like I was going to own it…

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The biggest thing for any race of a half marathon or longer, for me personally, is getting in the pace groove. I had wanted to be hitting 7:25 minute mile paces or faster in order to potentially beat my September 2014 personal best time of 1:37:51. The first three miles were pretty well marked, had an occasional volunteer directing you, and was all located in the south side of the Bow River. I ran these in 7:14, 7:25 and 7:38, respectively. Because of this inconsistency, I honestly wasn’t that sure of myself at that 5km mark. I needed to get on track fast.

The part of the course I was on now was familiar. I had been here before during Run for L’Arche last March. This “comfort zone” factor helped ease me down some. Also, since this is a public trail and local runners were out running, the random runners cheering us “racers” on as we passed was awesome! This helped push me to a 7:19, 7:26 and 7:18 mile 4-6. This brought me to the clearly marked turnaround, which if this had been a 10km race, I would have gotten a personal best. I was feeling strong, so I decided to get on trucking.

Everyone else around me looked like they were freezing, but I was strangely feeling fine. It was about 10F outside and I kept alternating between having my buff covering my mouth to just my neck. So maybe I’m superhuman, I don’t know. I was grateful that I did have my running sunglasses on, though, just to protect from the bright morning sun and wind. With the paths being clear of ice and snow, I was able to keep my pace up during the tough miles of 7-10, where I ran a 7:21, 7:24, 7:25 and 7:25.

Now looking at my GPS tracking after the race, I notice that mile 10 was approximately where we crossed over from the south side of the Bow River on the way out. I was in my own world by this point, but now it all makes sense because I didn’t recognize anything around me from that day (I recognized the road parallel to me from running on it during the Calgary Marathon, but that’s not what mattered). I knew that the last part of the course was going to be on the opposite side of the river as where we started, but I really wasn’t sure for how long. The last volunteer I saw said “go until the St. Patrick’s Bridge!” Well, that’s great, but I don’t live here and don’t know what that bridge is! That is my one complaint about this event-the lack of volunteers in the later part of the race. I asked every random runner/biker/walker/human I went past from mile 10 until the bridge where this bridge was. I was running with a little uncertainty the last 3 miles because I was nervous I would miss my turn and screw up my time!

I did keep pushing because I knew I was on pace to break my personal best. I held up mile 11 and 12 in 7:21 and 7:24. I knew I had to give anything I had left in the fuel tank the last mile to see what I was made of. There was about 1/2 mile left when I turned on that final bridge and I was feeling awesome! I gave the photographer a smile and looked way ahead for the finish. It was a winding path, heading into the Fort a different way than we had came out. I felt the strongest I had ever felt coming into a half marathon, finishing my last mile in 7:03…..7:03! My official finish time was 1:35:41, good enough to best my personal best by 2 minutes and 10 seconds. I placed 1st out of 62 in my age group, 3rd out of 216 in females, and 17 out of 426 overall. And I did this all while running in a February road race in Calgary, Alberta. And it was COLD! I thrive on the cold, I really do!

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While I usually never want food immediately after finishing a race, I did today. Maybe the cold had a hunger effect on me, who knows. But let me tell you, I am glad I did want food. The brunch that was included with our race entry was awesome! I sat with some great people—-a guy from Red Deer and some local Calgarians. The food definitely hit the spot and held me over on my drive back to Lethbridge.

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Anyone reading this blog for the first time may think that I have always been this fast. Let me stress this—–up until April 2013, my best half marathon time was a 1:54 and change. Finding a plan, finding a motivation within….that’s what I needed. If you read my older posts you will find that I started this blog to honor my dad’s life, and to try and deal with some of the things I had yet to handle since his premature death at age 51 in 2004. I took the thing that caused me so much pain for so many years and found a way to ease that pain-through running, I have found myself. I am also becoming more of an athlete, more of someone who I never though I could be. But I know my dad always thought I could be it. And I know he is proud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All I wanted to do was put on sweatpants…..

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….but I had to go run 7 miles.

Now, yes….I know….I don’t HAVE TO go run 7 miles. It’s my choice in matter because of my training. But today I had 7 scheduled, with 5 tomorrow, and then nothing for Thursday and Friday leading into my race Saturday evening in Walt Disney World. The Wine & Dine Half Marathon is this weekend….and I couldn’t be more pumped for my first ever RunDisney …. But I am in a weird flux of tiredness from work and being gone multiple weekends for other races, where all I want to do after a day at work is hole up on the couch.

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Example A.…today, I left school at 4:45. Went and got a Skinny Peppermint mocha from Starbucks, got home, and proceeded to eat black bean salsa dip I had made this weekend. The prospect of me getting out on my run by 5:30 was dwindling. Then, I put on my running tights and plopped on the couch. Not good. Then, I whined to my husband that I didn’t want to run. But I somehow mustered up the energy to get my ass out the door.

I had my headlamp on, as it was already dark at 5:45 pm. Daylight Savings Time really does suck! I made my loop on all sidewalks….out of our neighborhood and headed down to Sunridge. It was once I got onto University and nearing Riverstone that I started hearing this devil voice saying to me “you are tired….turn left now and go home. You don’t need to do all 7!” Cut it short ! See….like I have said before, I don’t run with music….so these voices kept taunting me. I had to ignore them.

The farther I kept looping out away from home, the more likely I was to actually do my whole 7 miles. I hit the point of wanting to run straight home after passing the university stadium. I wanted to turn left! But I forced myself forward, swearing in my mind. Who knows….I probably dropped an f-bomb out loud in the dark. Whatever.

Funny thing is that as I head down the far end of Columbia, with a little under 3 miles to go….I hit my happy place. I started thinking about my weekend in Disney I have ahead….I started strategizing how doing a 10pm night race in Eastern Time Zone is going to be just fine for me in Mountain….at this point in my run it was nearing 6:30 pm….that means last week it was 7:30 (and my body still thinks this!) and in Orlando right then it was 8:30! This night race with no elevation would be great! (As long as he humidity breaks!)

I got home with all 7 miles completed. And I was happy. Sure, I had a million things to mark at home (ok, more like three different class sets of assignments, but you get it) but for my own sanity, I needed this run. Even though I didn’t want it to start, I knew I needed it. I now have showered, cleaned, marked one class set of worksheets…..and am in my sweats. With a glass of red wine. And in 48 hours I’ll be waiting at the Calgary airport for my red eye flight to Disney.

…Life is good….

Race Recap & Fundraising Update-Calgary Half Marathon

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Today marked my sixth race out of eight weeks. Yes, I am sort of going crazy. But, this year is all about going big. All or nothing at all! I went into the Calgary Half Marathon riding high on my major personal best accomplishment in Red Deer last weekend (1:47:22) but this is the first time I have ever ran two marathons two weekends in a row-one week rest! I have now learned some of the limits of my own body!…but here is my experience (this will be short because frankly, I am about to fall asleep!…)

I first experienced RUN CALGARY in May 2009. I participated in the full marathon this year, and it was the worst race of my life.. I have yet to do a race reflection on this race, but lets just say my first experience racing in elevation proved to be trying to my stomach. I have always had this nervousness about trying to do a race in Calgary again. Last year even, when my husband and I did the Energizer Night Race in Calgary, my stomach hated me too. Third time had to be a charm, right?
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Package pickup was at Calgary Stampede grounds, the same location as the start and finish of the race. Well organized expo! Quick and easy package pickup, great shirts, good selection of vendors, and a great preview of the race medals! (I tried taking a photo of all five medals but since it was encased in glass, the 10km race medal got all funny looking. Sorry!

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Race morning my alarm went off at 5 am. I stayed at my friend’s place on the north end, so I was out of the house by 5:25, and made a quick stop at Tim Horton’s for my morning coffee. to the Tim’s on Centre Street down near the McKnight exit on Deerfoot….your coffee at 5:30 am should not taste like the burnt pot from the previous night at 9 pm! Day!. Anyway, made it down to Stampede grounds, parked, and killed some time. I anxiously walked around, toured the warmth of the grandstand where I found legit restrooms, and met up with my friend Krystal from marathon club.

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi of Calgary started off the race at 7 am. The full and half began together, with the 10 km at 7:30, and the 5 km not until noon. I had my hopes set on beating my half time from the previous week, and for the first four miles this seemed possible. Running in an urban setting has its benefits—heavier crowds of people and groups cheering you on, a relatively flat and fast course, and lots to look at. Krystal and I stuck together for the first 7 miles or so, but it was back at mile 6 I started feeling both my quads start to tighten. This was the issue on mile 11 in Red Deer last week, but this week is happened much earlier. I tried to muster through, but by mile 8 I knew I couldn’t keep up with Krystal and for my own wellness I needed to slow down and not race this one as fast as I had hoped.

The last 5 km of the race was a steady decline and we ran through one of the best neighborhoods, as far as local support goes. Some crazy mid 20-early 30 year olds were all lined up blasting Gangham Style and dancing like nobodies business. It is in stretches like these that I feel no pain and I just go for it. I knew way back at mile 6 I probably wasn’t going to get close to my Red Deer time, and I then spent the next 7 miles telling myself it was OK. By the time I finished at 1:54:22 (exactly 7 minutes slower than last Sunday) I had come to terms with the fact I cannot simply PR every race I run. And I can honestly admit, I was happy. I had conquered Calgary, with little stomach pain…..just a little, but I will spare the details.

I managed to find my other friend Whitney, who ran Red Deer last week also. Her race experience this week was similar to mine time wise, and hers last week was also similar to mine. We both had felt the effects of doing a two-in-a-row. Myself, Whitney and Krystal did all manage to get a picture together before funneling through the masses and onto the freebies. It was an amazing race with excellent volunteers and event organizers, gorgeous day, beautiful course….basically the perfect race!

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I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tired.. I kind of want to just go to bed right now (it is 8:15 pm and sleep till Saturday. This is what I felt like at mile 8 of my half marathon during the 49th Calgary Marathon Weekend. I mustered on through, but for once in my running life, I listened to my body and played it safe, as I knew the wear I have been putting myself through during this journey has been harder than ever before. While I am slightly disappointed in my time, I am more happy than I would have normally been if it had been any other year.

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FUNDRAISING UPDATE! If this your first time reading my we page, welcome!You will want to read the PURPOSE link at the top of my page to better understand why the hell I am doing a web page. You will also want to look at the CHARITIES tab to find out more about the two heart disease research organizations I am fundraising for (American Heart Association and Heart & Stroke Foundation. CANADA has now taken the lead over the USA in fundraising! We have now raised $655 for the Heart & Stroke Foundation in Canada, just edging out the $635 for the American Heart Association! My close friends and family know that I am a born and raised Wisconsinite, and lived there for 24 years until moving north to Alberta, Canada. This is part if the reason why I decided to issue this friendly competition as I fundraise and run in memory of my father, Andrew A. Lammers! He was the reverse, however, being born in Quebec, Canada, and then living most of his life in Wisconsin! Thanks to all the generous donations from my family, friends and co-workers!