Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Start to July... a week of races.

I realize that I've missed posting any sort of updates for June (I ran a couple of races.. I will backtrack and post about them soon), but now it's July and I already have a few races to mention! It's been a busy, but fun week and this has the potential to be a long rambly post.

Race #1 - Great Canadian Trail Run 10K (mix of dirt, grass, asphalt, and crushed gravel trails)
On Tuesday, July 1st (Canada Day), I headed down to Brantford with a van full of runners (Deb, Dave, Heather, Lynn, and I) to run the Great Canadian Trail Run. There were 5K and 10K race options; Deb and Lynn were doing the 5K, while Dave, Heather, and I did the 10. 

We Arrived at the site about 45 minutes before race start. Obtaining our numbers, t-shirts, etc was quick and painless, so I had plenty of time to get in a short warm-up run and stash my bag under the stands at the track near the race start/finish. 

The race itself was well organized and there were no course issues this year (last year there were a couple of unmarked turns and one spot where the trail came to a T and the marshals had their backs to the course, causing me to actually have to call out for directions). The weather was far from ideal as it was quite hot, very humid, and windy. This combination did not make me want to race. I lost motivation by 6K, but at 8K when a woman passed me, motivation quickly returned. I decided that I would not drop back a place and I got back in the game. 

I finished the race in 3rd place female, running almost 2 minutes slower than my fastest road 10K, but over a minute and a half faster than the same race last year. 

Race #2 - Creemore Springs Vertical Challenge 25K (hilly, hence the name)
I had been on the fence about signing up for this race and I actually didn't decide to do it until I finally registered on Wednesday evening. I figured it would be a good training run for Stage 5 of the ENDURrun, which is coming up next month, and that's the type of mentality I took to the race. This was going to be a training run. A hard effort training run, but a training run nonetheless. 

Greg, Craig, and I arrived at 8:05, so we just missed seeing the start of the 50K, but still had plenty of time to get ourselves organized, warm up, etc before our 9am start for the 25K. Having never run this race before, I was surprised to see how beautiful the location was (the race director's property). I had heard great things, but you still never truly know until you see it. I was already glad that I had decided to do this. 

After some socializing and then stashing my stuff next to some trees on the lawn, I did a very short warm up run and hung out near the start line. A couple of very quick announcements were made, and a shot gun was fired to signal the start of the race. 

Going into this race with 'training run' mentality worked well for me to ensure that I started at a relatively conservative pace. I was running comfortably (or comfortably hardish) and it felt good. 

A race volunteer told me very early in the race (*maybe* 1 km into the race) that I was the second female at this point... I made a mental note, but I didn't let it get to me. The woman ahead of me was Jessica from my running club, and I could see her blue singlet ahead. A few km later, when I had not been passed by anyone, but I had passed a couple of runners, I decided that I would continue running at my current level of effort, but if a woman was to catch me, that I may have to kick it up a notch to not lose my position. Luckily, this didn't happen. 

As the race went on, there was climb after climb after climb, some were country roads, some were rocky trail, some may have been other types of terrain as well.. I'm not really sure... I didn't pay too much attention to the hills... I just got up them and then eventually down. There were two hills that I had to walk part of, but other than that, I was pretty consistent (effort wise... pace goes out the window on this course). 

I ran a good chunk of the race with Rick (someone I had met on the course around 7 or 8 km into the race), we had a brief chat and realized that we were of very similar running ability based on past races, so we ran together from that point until just after the final BIG climb. He had told me earlier on that after the last big climb, the final 5 or 6 km of race is mostly downhill. So, as it started to level off at the top, I said "It's run time" and I picked up the pace. The long downhill country road was incredibly fun to just open up and run down. Also at this point the 50K leaders were heading up on their 2nd loop, so it was great to be able to see them, to offer some encouragement, and even just to say 'hi' to some friends along the way. 

After the long down, there was a farmer's field, then some trail with some steep downhills that were a little tricky in spots. When I saw the rope to pull yourself up a short and steep muddy hill, I knew the end was close. I got up that hill and I was having a lot of fun running through the twisty single track in the last mile of the race. I came out from the woods, saw the wet and dry options (bouncy bridge vs water crossing - I took dry since there was nobody around me and also since I was told by some other people that it really doesn't make much of a difference time wise), turned to the right, and ran across the finish line. I had finished in 2nd place of the women. I congratulated Jessica on her first place finish, got myself a beverage, and chatted with other runners and the race director for a bit before I took a look at the results... which confirmed that I was 2nd female by 40 seconds. I had no idea that I was that close. I thought I was at least 2 minutes back. I felt great at the finish. I definitely felt like I could have kept running, which made me very happy.

Post race beer, pizza, sitting in the Mad River, and hanging out on the grass was fantastic. I stuck around for 5 or so hours after I was done my race, so I had lots of time to chat with 50K runners and to just enjoy the wonderful weather outdoors. All in all, it was a great day.
Creemore 25K Results

Race #3 - Dirty Dash 8K (wee bit of road, meadow, trail, water crossings, muddy hill, and finally bales of hay and a mud pit in the finishing chute)

Since I already talked so much about the other two races, I'll keep this one shorter. This morning was the Dirty Dash. There is an 8K, a 4K, and a 1K kids run. I did the 8K. One of the main reasons I like this race is the fact that the course is almost exactly the same as Stage 3 of the ENDURrun (just 1 km shorter on the loop, and ER doesn't have water crossings or a mud pit). I guess that makes this weekend ENDURrun simulation training... I did Creemore for a Stage 5 type race and then Dirty Dash for a much shorter version of Stage 3. Ok.. back to the race. At the first turn I could see that there were 3 women ahead of me, 2 turns later, I was in 2nd place female, where I stayed for the remainder of the race. I felt strong today and did not feel like I had run all those hills the day before. I enjoyed this race and enjoyed catching up with some people I hadn't seen in a while. Placing well was an added bonus.  

Race swag and prizes. The maple syrup, coffee, and bowl were all prizes from Creemore.
And now, I sit here finishing up this post, having just come home from running.... at Chicopee.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Buffalo Marathon

Last weekend was the Buffalo Marathon... my sixth marathon, my third stand alone marathon (the other three were the final (7th) stage of the ENDURrun), and my second marathon for which I had actually trained (the 2nd of the 3 stand alones was a training run pre-ENDURrun in 2012). I had set my self an ambitious, yet not outside the realm of possibility goal this year and I was flip flopping between being confident and doubting myself. My goal was 3:30.

To give a bit of background, my first marathon in 2011 was the Mississauga Marathon. I had signed up for it because I had registered for the ENDURrun and figured that I should probably run a marathon before jumping into a race where, after running all week, the final stage is a marathon. I started a training plan on my own in early January of that year and had set myself an ambitious goal of 3:50 with a secondary goal of sub 4:00 for that one. I had run several half marathons, but this being my first full, I had no idea what to expect. I finished it in 3:51:28 (and sprained my ankle in the process.... whoops! Good thing adrenaline kicks in.. no real pain until after I was done!).

 OK... back to the present.

As I have mentioned in some recent posts, my races had been going well so far this year, I'd been training with Health and Performance twice a week, and I was logging more miles than ever before. For the first time in my life, my weekly mileage was over 100 km per week for multiple weeks in a row. I felt good. I felt strong. I felt confident in my abilities as a runner (most of the time). I was definitely looking forward to this race.  

As the weekend approached, the plans were becoming finalized. Myself, Doug, Erika, and Alice were going to be heading down to Buffalo in one car and staying in two different hotels, but both only about a block away from the start/finish area.  

Doug picked me up Saturday morning, then we stopped to get the others and we were on our way. The drive went smoothly with no traffic delays and, more importantly, no delay at the border. We crossed, found our hotels, and got settled. 

The Expo:
Getting our numbers at the expo was a very smooth and quick process. Although the expo was quite small, I did manage to find a good deal on two pairs of shorts and a shirt. New purchases, race number, race shirt, pasta party ticket, and other random samples, etc in hand,  I happily exited the convention centre.

Beer Shopping:
An important part of a race weekend... especially a race weekend across the border... beer!
I had checked around online a few days before the race to be sure that I knew where I could find a store with a good selection. When I came across The Village Beer Merchant, I stopped my search. It was close to the hotel (1.2 miles away) and had good reviews. I must say... I wanted to purchase many more beers, but had to think about the fact that there were 4 people and their bags in the car and also the fact that we're crossing the border which means limits and actually.. we were less than 48 hours, so we weren't really supposed to have anything. I ended up doing a 'mix a six' and then grabbing some larger singles as well.

The Pasta Party:
The pre-race pasta dinner was included in the entry fee for the race and occurred at a nearby church. This year, runners were to choose the time that they would go to the dinner so that they would avoid having too many people show up at once. It appeared to work well, as there was no wait to get food or drinks, and while the venue had quite a number of people in it, there was plenty of space to sit. 

The food itself was basic, but did the trick. Penne with marinara sauce and 3 meatballs. They didn't ask  if I did or did not want the meat, but I'm sure if I had said something, they would have just handed me a different plate without the meatballs. As you can see from the photo below, there was also plain white bread and beer (which unfortunately was Molson Canadian... I had a couple of sips, discovered what it was, and then I did not consume the rest). There was also pop, water, and maybe some juice and there were salads. For dessert. Oreo-like cookies. 
Free Pasta
After dinner, it was just time to hang out for a bit, then get some sleep. The race start was scheduled for 7am, so I set my alarm for 4:45 am (ugh) to allow some time to have a coffee, eat some oatmeal, digest.... and then heat out to the race.

Race Day:

After the above noted coffee and oatmeal, I got myself ready for the race... ran around the halls for a few minutes (I ran softly and quietly.. I wasn't waking up the whole hotel or anything), and then headed outside. It was a cool morning, but not cold. I was in shorts and a singlet and I was just fine. I think the temp was around 48-50 F.

After a very brief warm-up up and down the street between the hotel and the start, it was time to line up at the start. I was quite impressed that people seemed to actually pay attention to the pace signs posted at the sides and lined up properly according to their anticipated pace. It makes the race start so much nicer when people are lined up they way they should be. I settled in with the other 8:00/mile people and waited for the race to start. 

The start itself was pretty uneventful (which is good). We moved up slowly toward the start, walking until we pretty much got to the line. I crossed the start line after 24 seconds, but if felt like much longer.

The Race:
I started out running 8:00 pace as planned. My first mile was almost perfect.. 8:00:xx, but I was feeling crowded. I was right behind the 3:30 paces and the people who were trying to run with them were sticking right to them. I was kicked in the shins 3 times... I needed to get out of there. When I had an opportunity, I went around and settled in just in front of that group. It was great. It was myself and another girl (her name was Tracy) and nobody around us. We had a nice space in front, behind, and to each side of us. It felt so good to run like this and we started chatting. I got distracted from keeping my 8:00 pace... I looked down at my watch and.... mile 2 was 7:43... uh oh... it's WAY too early for that to happen. I needed to adjust. I thought I had, but then mile 3 went by... 7:45. Crap. I did get back to high 7:50s by mile 4, so that was good. I needed to stay there or the second half was going to be messy. 

As the miles went by, I was feeling good. The temp was still good. The sun was quite warm, but a lot of the first half of the course was in the shade, which was very nice. I passed the half point at 1:44:xx, which sounds just about perfect for what I wanted to do, but the race was far from over. 

The first half of this course is run completely with the half marathon, which then veers off to the left and marathon to the right, to complete the second (different) loop. I did not enjoy the second half of the course as much as the first (and not just because it was the second half). There just wasn't as much to look at, and although it appeared that running around a park might be enjoyable, I actually found that it felt like the longest mile in the whole race. It didn't help that I thought I was actually a mile further than I actually was. I was running along and saw mile 18. I could have SWORN I was at mile 19. Mind you, my watch agreed with the sign. So, mentally, that did not help. Pace wise, I was still OK at this point. 

The rough patch for me mostly happened from mile 20/21 to 24. At this point, my thoughts turned to doing the math to tell myself that I could slow down and as long as I kept it under 9:00, that I'd still have a good finish time. I started walking through a few water stops. This was something I did not need to do, but for some reason told myself it was OK to take these breaks... breaks which caused my pace to slow (I had one mile right at 9:00). It took until mile 24 before I told myself to snap out of it and started picking it up, and by the start of mile 25, I was back at 8:00 pace. I stayed there until I crossed the finish.

I crossed the line at 3:32:43. It wasn't quite what I was aiming for, but I was definitely happy with it. 
Official Results (splits). Chip time was 3:32:19 (not shown on here).
My finish time was just over a 19 minute PR. That was something to celebrate. There were lessons to be learned in this race (I definitely need to not let myself get distracted while running early in the race... those quick early miles were not supposed to happen!) and hopefully that 3:30 (or less) will come soon. 

3:32:18, post race beer (from my purchases), and finisher's medal

Overall, I enjoyed this race. It's a good sized race (not tiny, but not huge either) and it is well organized. 

My only real complaint was the placement of the small out and back to add on the necessary distance on the marathon course. It was a tenth of a mile from the finish. I feel that this little add-on could have been anywhere in the second half of the race, preferably at the beginning of the second loop. I know that the course had been changed this year from previous years, so perhaps they were still working out some of the kinks. 

The short drive and fairly low entry fee (compared to races in Southwestern Ontario) makes this race a good option for a spring marathon. I may be back. We will see.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Last Weekend: The Double

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a double race weekend coming up. Well, it has now been and gone (a week ago) and I realized that I didn't write anything about it yet.

ENDURrace 8K
The first of the two races was on Saturday at 6pm. It was a chilly and windy evening, but at least it wasn't raining (or snowing). I made sure I didn't go out as ridiculously as I had done for the 5K and the race felt way better as a whole. Conditions were quite good for this race, except for the headwind for maybe a 1/4 of the course total. My goal for this race was sub-36 and I did just that. I finished in 35:53, which was a PB by 16 seconds (previous best was the Re-Fridgee-Eighter in February of this year).
H+P Team post-race - Photo by Julie Schmidt

H+P's ENDURrace Results

Waterloo Half Marathon
After being home for maybe 10 hours, I was out of the house again, on my way to my next race. I wanted to work the half into a big mileage day, and that I did.

I left my house at 6:30am to run to Bechtel Park. I wanted to arrive by 7am so that I'd have plenty of time to get my number, etc. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find absolutely no line. I walked straight up to the registration table and was done. I hung out with some other runners, watched the start of the marathon, chatted with my Health and Performance teammates for a bit, and then headed back out to line up for the half.

I had hoped to run 7:40 pace (4:46/km) for this race which would result in a finish time of 1:40:30. I wanted to give myself some more confidence for the upcoming marathon, but I didn't really know what to expect having run the 8K race the night before. I feel like at spots in the race, I used the previous night's race as a built in excuse to not achieve the goal. I actually remember at one point thinking that I was fine with anything under 1:45. I did get back into race head space near the end of the race, but not quite early enough. I finished in 1:41:56.

After the race, I ran a short cool down around the park, then hung out to eat some food and watch others finish. When there was a lull in finishers, I decided to head back out onto the course and find some friends who were running the full. I had fun running back to the park with the group and enjoyed being able to witness Sandra's new PB!

To wrap up my running for the day, I ran home from the park.
Total mileage for the day was 22.2 miles (35.7 km).

H+P's Waterloo Marathon and Half Results

All in all, it was a good weekend of racing, with a Personal Best time in both races. I couldn't ask for a much better double race weekend than that!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Start of Spring Racing

So far this spring, I’ve run 2 races: Around the Bay 30K and the 5K race of the ENDURrace series.

March 30th - Around the Bay:

I was strangely nervous before ATB this year. It’s the 4th time I’ve run this race, but this year was different. This year I had a plan for my race and this year I had goals for the rest of the season. I started to wonder how things would pan out and if they didn’t go as planned, how that might affect my race season. I was worrying about silly things, even my wardrobe… I kept checking the weather and putting out options to wear… and well.. it ended up being fantastic weather. I wore capris and a thin long sleeve shirt, but my sleeves were shoved up past my elbows pretty quick.

OK.. I didn’t come in here to write about clothes… although I could… nah… I’ll get back to running.

My plan for this race was to run it at my goal marathon pace and finish in a time of two hours and thirty minutes. Here’s how it went:

I was happy that it was a slow start with so many people in this race. It gave a bit of time while it thinned out and I could settle into pace. I hit the first km right around 5 minutes. Perfect. I just needed to maintain a steady pace. I started chatting with a couple of runners near me and they had the same goal of 2:30, so I stuck with them until the first real incline – an overpass. I ran up and over and I guess I pulled ahead a bit because I noticed that I didn’t see them anywhere… and I never saw them again.

A few minutes later, I spotted a couple of familiar runners up ahead (Joanne B and Jack K), so I picked it up slightly to catch up to them. said hi, and then ran with them for a few km until Joanne went ahead.

Jack and I stuck together until just after 21K where I had a bit of a mini-bonk… I got some sugar in me and got back on pace, but I didn’t catch up to Jack. At this point, the hills start. For some reason, I thought there was one more hill than there actually was, so I was pleasantly surprised when I hit the 27K mark and knew there were no more hills in this race. I felt good and I felt strong, a glance at my watch told me I was still on pace, so I was happy. As I crossed the the finish line, I saw the clock at 2:29:24, which meant I would get a silver medal instead of the bronze that I had received in years past. I thanked the volunteer who handed me my medal, walked around the corner and there was Jack!

My chip time was 2:28:18, which was 2 seconds shy of a 14 minute improvement over last year. I had stuck to my plan, it went well, and I had new confidence for the marathon in May.

April 12 – ENDURrace 5K:

After a good race at ATB and after training with Health and Performance for a bit, I had high hopes for this race… perhaps a little too high. I somehow let race excitement get the better of me and lost any ability to run smart. Here’s the race in a nutshell: I started too fast and then pretty much died.

Now for the full version: run like an idiot to the first corner, notice that I’m running the same pace as people who are way faster than me, drop it back slightly, but still keep running too fast to the first km mark where they were calling out the times… I hear a 3… crap. I should not be running under 4 min Ks… 3:54 was my first km… it went downhill from there… not the elevation… just me. I got slower and slower. It did not feel good. I just wanted to stop. I didn’t, of course, but I wanted to.

I finished the 5K in 22:13, which was a PB for me, so I am happy about that, but I’m disappointed in the way I ran. I know better… and had I run like I know I should have, I most likely would have ended up with a faster time. Lesson learned, I guess. Or at least I hope I’ve learned my lesson!

Up next is a double race weekend, a little mini-ENDURrun if you will… well.. not really. Saturday evening is the 8K portion of the ENDURrace and then Sunday morning is the Waterloo Marathon (the half for me). I WILL run smarter this time.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A late first post of 2014

It’s a good thing I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions… If I did, more regular blogging might have been one of them and I would have failed miserably!

Since it’s been a while, this will serve mostly as a brief summary/update of the past few months with a wee bit of what’s coming up.

A Change:

After running with the Runners’ Choice marathon group for the past several years, I decided a change was in order. I definitely enjoyed my time with that group and am appreciative of everything I got out of it, but it was time for something new.

In the fall, I started sporadically showing up for Health and Performance training runs, but I became an official member of H+P in December 2013.

Races Past (what’s happened over the winter):

  • Santa Pur-Suit 5K – I don’t remember a lot of the details of this race since it was back in early December, but I do know that the weather was good. I ran it in 22:36, which is my 2nd best 5K time so far. Not too shabby for running in a Santa Suit!
  • Frosty Trail 6 hour – The very tough conditions this year caused everyone to cover significantly less distance than previous years.
    I ran 40.1 km, which placed me 4th overall (male and female), with only 2 runners completing more than a marathon in the 6 hours.
  • Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8K – The first race in the 2014 Waterloo Running Series and also the first in the brand new Battle of Waterloo.
    I didn’t expect much from myself in this race, since it was my first one coming back from a lower leg/ankle injury, but I surprised myself with a new 8K PB of 36:09!

Races Future (upcoming spring races):

So there you have it… a brief update. Now, bring on spring with clear roads and sunshine!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Super Quick Update

It appears I've been slacking in the blogging department again, so I thought I'd throw something together super quick as a bit of an update from the last post in October to now.

I've only run 2 races since my last post and both were short races in the Waterloo Running Series.

October 20, 2013 - Oktoberfest 5K
There are both 5K and 10K options for this race and I would normally choose the longer distance when given those options, but since the Oktoberfest 5K was my very first race ever back in 2006, I always run the 5K at this one.

This race went relatively well... the end result was good (a new PR), but the race itself didn't go that well. I went out too fast and had an absolutely miserable 4th km. Luckily, I was able to pick it up a bit again in the final km and finish in a chip time of 22:22.

December 7, 2013 - Santa Pur-Suit 5K
This was the 2nd annual Santa Pur-Suit, which was a fun event where my mom, sister, niece, and nephew also took part. All participants must wear the entire suit of pants, jacket, belt, beard, and hat. In looking at the photos, I was one of the few who kept their beard on properly for the duration of the race. Actually, my whole family did, so I guess we were raised to play by the rules!

This race went pretty well for me. I went out too fast again (or... I didn't keep up that pace like I should have... I will try to work on that) and slowed a bit later on, but finished in a time of 22:40 (chip 22:36), which was my second fastest 5K and was good enough for 4th place woman overall and a default 1st in my category (2 out of the top 3 female were also 30-34).

Other Running: This past Sunday was the annual Run to St Jacobs, which is organized by Runners' Choice in Waterloo. It snowed a lot from Friday right up to Sunday morning, and the roads were not cleared well, so it was more difficult terrain than usual. I was running the 19K route (which turned out to be just about 20K) after running 4km from my house to the store. Let me tell you, it felt more like 34km than it did 24km. The run was completed at Stone Crock in St Jacobs, where we had a well deserved buffet brunch. It was a great morning with lots of good running friends.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Views from the Run

I’ve taken some photos recently while running and I haven’t written a blog post in a while, so here are some photos from my phone.

The first was taken last Thursday evening at Columbia Lake and the last 3 were taken yesterday along the Grand River.

20131010_18554820131014_180430 20131014_18072520131014_182958