Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Feelin' Speedy

I had a GREAT track run yesterday. Yup. It was so good I decided to write a post about it. It actually started off rather rough. My legs felt tired, my left hip twinged a little. I walked a bit after the first mile and considered bagging the rest of my run. I felt like I was going faster than my Nike+ app said I was..wait a second! I checked my app and since my phone has just had an update the Nike+ app (for the first time ever) decided to restore the calibration back to the factory settings! No wonder I felt like I was going faster than I was-the app thought I was a 150lb man!

Sheesh. It only took 2 miles for me to figure that out-lol. After re-setting my app I was off again, this time feeling more more in-line with what the app was reporting. I quickly clocked off some great mile times-for me (9:32, 9:28, then 9:24). My legs felt better the hip thing was gone and I left the track with a nice runner's high about my run. What it taught me was not to bag the run because of a little soreness and frustrating times, stop, reevaluate how I'm feeling, if anything is hurting specifically, if something I'm wearing is affecting me/chaffing etc. and try to fix it. In the past I might have just called it a day after the first 2 frustrating miles, but then I would have missed running some decent mile splits for the last 3 miles. Sometimes just taking a second to take stock of how you feel at a given moment can make all the difference..and checking the app you're using doesn't hurt either! ;-)

Friday, December 6, 2013

My "Stay Consistent through the Holidays" Personal Running Challenge

First off; I still love my new running shoes. Really. On every run with them I have a moment of "Oh my god-why didn't I buy TWO pairs of these because they are THAT awesome?!" Alas, Black Friday is only one day and my psychic powers weren't totally in tune at that moment. Boo.

On the plus side I have no running-shoe-related reason not to run as much as I can during the next month. Traditionally, for me, December has been a month of running that slowly reduces in frequency to me struggling to get out the door of two or three 5ks a week. THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT darn it! Then there are the holiday parties where extended family always ask "Are you still running?" and I have to say yeaah..and feel guilty about not running as much as I normally do. So this year I was proactive and printed off a schedule, put it on my fridge and have been dutifully ticking off my runs to stay consistent. So good. I'm still averaging between 50-60 kms total per week, although my long runs have been only about 15kms. This weekend though, all of the programs my daughter attends have started their winter shutdown until January so I have actual time to run..for hours(!!) on Saturday or Sunday :-) Just this weekend though. Next weekend I'll be trying to fit in a run while my husband's whole family appears on our doorstep for a few days (thankfully my husband has talked them out of taking their large dog with them..5 adults, 3 kids under 10, one puppy already residing in the 3 bedroom house = no room for anything else). But fitting in runs around family holiday gatherings is what all runners try and do this time of year. I'll be as flexible as I can but I'm sure I'll have to break out the headlamp on a few early morning runs.

My husband on the other hand, has said he'll be taking some time off from running during the holidays-I tried to explain how hard it is to get back on the running horse once you get off..but I don't think he's quite as dedicated (crazy/committed-whatever) as I am about running. He does appear to be dedicated to his calorie counting app, so I'm hopeful all the hard work he's done over the past 4 weeks won't be ruined. Fingers crossed.

If you think about it, runners really should strive (ha) to be consistent through December, with all of the holidays (no matter what religion you come from) come numerous family visits, parties, food and lets not forget the hours spent buying gifts, a runner needs to stay sane and of course running is the best advice for natural stress reduction that I can give. Now if I could only find a gift for my mom!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Shoe Review! New Balance Ionix 3090 v3

Santa came early this year and I took advantage of a Black Friday sale to pick up a pair of the newest version (version 3) of the NB Ionix 3090 running shoe (at $59.95!!). I didn't go to the store with the updated version of the shoes I already own in mind, but once I tried these on and was able to get them in a slightly wider width (D width) I was SOLD.

So how does the version 3 compare to the version 2? I said to my husband, they fixed the small issues I had with the version 2. For starters the version 3 has much less inside-seam overlap/extra fabric that would cause me to get the odd hotspot on the inside of one arch in the version 2s. The ankle support in the version 3 is more cushioned without being restrictive, so it hugs my ankle nicely. The ankle is also higher than the version 2 (which is a good thing) and I found the tiny crushed gravel rocks stayed out of my shoe when I took these babies on the trail. The toe area is covered more with a plastic that should be helpful for keeping water out of my shoes once the snow and slush hits.

Other than that, it's the same shoe. The construction of the sole is virtually the same so I found the same excellent lateral support and zero heel drop I've enjoyed with the version 2. The fit through the top and side of the shoe is the same-although I did buy a wider version, my toes have even more space to splay when I hit the ground. There is no rock plate of any kind-which for some might be a pitfall, but I don't mind, it forces me to be more aware of my surroundings when I run and I like to have some kind of ground feel. My last pair lasted about 500 miles-and probably should have been replaced at the 400 mile mark based on the amount of creasing along the sides. We'll see how long these puppies last!

For a daily road/trail running shoe this is one of my all-time favorites. I even like the color better with this version, check it out:

Pretty new kicks :-)

Sole view ;-)

So far these shoes have had three runs. The first was a road and trail 5 mile combo. On the road they responded well, but I find its the trail where these shoes really shine. Without a rock plate in the sole these shoes give you excellent ground feedback on soft trail surfaces. When I transitioned to sprints these gripped the ground and responded great. The odd puddle didn't seep into these shoes, keeping my feet dry and toasty warm on a blustery day. The second run was a groggy 5 mile sidewalk run in the early morning. Again, the shoes performed great and I had no hotspots or any other issues. On the way home I cross a wooden footbridge that can be really slick this time of year. The Ionix sole pattern works great for this as I felt stable and secure (no slipping or sliding) across the whole tilted bridge (about 800 meters long). The third run was a 6 miler on an indoor track surface; here I was looking to see how they perform on tight turns since the indoor track is only about 225 meters. I had no issues at all, they responded fine to the turns and my feet stayed in the shoe securely, no slipping to the side or hotspots either.

All in all I'm quite happy with my NB Ionix 3090 v3's. I'll give them a rare 5 out of 5 stars for fit, responsiveness, and style.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I was accused of "jogging" my OWN child!

It was warmer than the previous day's run when it was the puppy's turn to head out for a run with me, sporting a bone-printed winter coat (he IS part chihuahua after all). Today I had somehow agreed (really, I'm not entirely sure why or how my daughter got me to say yes) to push her in her old jogging stroller for my 5 miler. We had just started the run when she looked up at me and said, "Ugh. You're jogging." I explained, that unlike her, I didn't start my runs by sprinting right from the beginning, that to avoid pulling anything I prefer to walk and then run slowly (NOT jog) before I get settled into my pace. Still though..I picked it up a bit after she threw out the J-word.
I don't really know why the term jogging bothers runners en mass. Maybe it is the half-ass'd meaning it gives to what we're doing, like we could but are choosing not to push harder. In this case, yes, I was jogging but when I first started running that pace would have been my average running speed. I realized then that "jogging" isn't a set pace, it changes as we improve as runners. I still decided to pop a wheelie with the stroller (to which she squealed and giggled) when we were on the trail..jogging my a$$!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Who's That Runner?!

No, it isn't anyone famous-at least outside of my small family. Nope, its my super supportive husband dressed in running shorts, an ancient (and I mean OLD) t-shirt, white cotton long socks, ASIC sneakers and a set of over sized earphones with his eyes on the family treadmill. Before I could ask, our 7 year old beat me to the punch-"Daddy-what are you doing?!"- with equally measures of alarm and curiosity in her voice. My husband, probably tired from the harassment from our child (and the odd concerned comment from myself-I'll admit) has decided to get healthy, hence, the treadmill action.
Now I can't put my finger on the hair that broke the camel's back that has set him off to "get healthy," but I'm glad something has pushed him in this direction. For the past 4 years his weight has steadily increased and his former half-marathon ready self had no motivation to run or do hardly anything active (excluding the odd round of golf). Recently, one Friday night, he declared his intentions, and then some, to get healthy. He would start monitoring his calories, run every day on the treadmill while catching up on his Breaking Bad episodes, and when he felt his fitness was up to his personal standard, he would venture outside to run. I watched for the first week to see how this would go or if it would simply be a lofty goal said and quickly forgotten. But, day after day, he dutifully tracked his calories (which he would announce his deficit each evening) and ran on the treadmill (much to the protest of our 7 year old-she's had to resign herself to the upstairs tv and give up her monopoly on Netflix).
Some evening during the second week we talked about his calories and I urged him to track his calories for eating and exercise separately so he would get a more accurate picture of his caloric intake. I had just read an article on the epic failure of these calorie tracking apps, which assume a calorie eaten is equal to a calorie burned, surprise, surprise they aren't equal. I could see that with my own adventures in calorie tracking. If all calories were created equal I'd weigh 80lbs by now with all the running I do, instead I've still got that "Mommy pouch" to work off. He didn't like that (I could sense by his silence when I burst the calorie bubble) but in the end he's started to track them separately.
So, it's now been 3 weeks of our child having two running parents again. I certainly need to get used to taking my runs in the early morning or ensuring I leave early enough for work so I can fit in a run before making supper since the post-supper run time is now dedicated to hubby. I get yelled by my 7 year old in the evenings when I come home from work sweaty from my run and my husband now gets to torture our child by chasing her around the house, sweaty after his treadmill runs. Life is good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hitting the Local Trails

This weekend I re-discovered a local trail I haven't run on in quite a few months. It was one of those spur of the moment decisions, I had originally planned to do a big loop of both trail and road but when I approached the fork in the road to the trail system I decided to give the longer out and back trail section a go. I am so glad I did. The tall tress that line this section of the trail had changed into their orange, red and yellow color combinations, the trail itself was covered in orange pine needles and snow was lightly falling. I quickly discovered I wasn't the only runner who thought this route would be a good idea, I passed or was passed by at least 10 other runners during my 1.5 hours on the trail route. All of us had on smiling faces, happy to be out in the woods, enjoying our run. I certainly wasn't speedy but I enjoyed myself so much I found myself heading back to do the shorter out and back the next day. I jumped onto a couple of ATV trails that I followed until they became too overrun with swampy water. I know I shouldn't support the ATV'rs since their use of the trail system is frowned upon by the trail marshals, but their twisting, rocky and rolling trails are the only technical trail experience I seem to get before any of Jodi and Karine's trail races-where some technical experience can make a huge difference in a runner's race! Next weekend I'll try and venture out a bit further where there is a great side trail just another couple of miles down the trail. I think my hamstring has recovered enough that it can handle a wee bit of jumping from rock to rock.
All in all, it was a great weekend of trail running :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's THAT time of year again

In order to improve at something a person needs to be motivated and consistent. To that end I've continued my training plan even though my next race isn't until May 2014. I'm taking the lax approach to it though. If I don't finish every run during a given week I simply repeat that week so I don't do too much too soon and don't fall off the wagon completely and fall into that 3, 5k run a week rut I seem to fall into every December. Don't get me wrong, I think every runner should take a week or three of easy runs during any given year but for me, I've had more than my share of "off" weeks this year so now that I'm healthy, my feet are happy and my mileage is back up I'm don't want to lose this good base I've got.
On average I'm managing 55-65kms a week at the moment with that steadily climbing over the next couple of weeks. Now that I'm pleased with how my running is going it's time to shake up my nutrition. I've been slowly cutting out dairy simply because it doesn't make me feel great and the drawbacks outweigh the benefits of it. On top of that I'm being very conscious of my protein intake. I aim to have two meals or snacks a day with 30mg of protein each, and smaller amounts of protein in all of the other meals. My carb intake is always a struggle. If it isn't balanced properly I find myself craving 10 slices of toast at 8pm. Making sure I get enough protein helps with the carb cravings, and whenever I do succumb to carbs I try to make them multi-grained. All that said, I haven't (and won't!) given up my addiction to diet pop/soda-I think we all can have one vice!
On runs I sometimes wonder why I bother. I won't be an Olympian..I know, I know..gasp! So what the heck am I doing this for? To test my limits. Otherwise I'd be back as the person I was 8 years ago; sedentary, eating emotionally, with stress induced asthma and irritable. I look back at that period in my life and I can see how I got there and how alot of people got there and are still stuck there. School, work and normal daily life stresses just all became my whole world and I wasn't taking time for myself where I wasn't connected to some piece of technology. When I noticed I couldn't get up the stairs in my home without huffing and puffing I knew something had to change. Running has been my path back to my true self and I am forever grateful for the time I can have to work at it, the wonderful people I've met through it and the knowledge about myself that it has shown me. I haven't found my limits yet so that's why I train, that's why I pay attention to my nutrition. I'm not sure what the future will bring but I want to be healthy for it and be the best runner I can be.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gear Review! Salomon Agile 7 Hydration Pack

I had a few goals in purchasing this pack; find a pack that would fit a woman's frame well, hold 2L of water, and give me some extra space for whatever I decided to throw in it. It took a few days of comparison shopping online, reviewing forums, what other trail runners wear and like, and finding a pack that ships to Canada. Finally success, the Salomon Agile 7.

Salomon Agile 7

The Pros:

  • Ample Space: For my first run with this pack I used it for what it was designed to do, hold 2L of water and a few other trail essentials. The space in this pack is not an issue. The bladder (sold separately) gets its own compartment for easy access and the space available for other essentials is more than enough for food, my galaxy phone and a light jacket.
  • Fit: Wow. Just WOW. With my pack full I couldn't believe how light it felt on my shoulders. The arm and waist straps are adjustable giving the runner a cozy, supportive fit. I've run trails and navigated city streets with this pack, going over all sorts of terrain and never felt like this pack held me back or made me change how I would navigate a landing on rough terrain. It becomes part of you!
  • Flexibility: The straps give a great fit but the Agile 7 also has a bunch of loops and cords available on the side that are perfect for trekking poles, a light jacket or clip-on supplemental water (as if it doesn't hold enough!).
  • Safety: One surprise I didn't notice when I bought the Agile 7 is the attached safety whistle on the left shoulder strap. Nice Salomon! Now I haven't had to actually use the whistle yet but it has crossed my mind when I have to cross 6 lanes of traffic... But seriously, if I ever get hopelessly lost in the woods-see last year's Cuddly Coyote report....well, lets just say it might come in handy.
  • Breath-ability: The honeycomb vents along the back of the pack make this pack one of the more sweat-free of hydration packs I've tried. 
The Cons:
  • Lack of Front-sitting bottle holders: yeah I know Salomon has this feature on other packs but it'd be nice to see it on a pack that holds less than 5L of water, and for less than $150.00. Just sayin'.
Overall: This is my go-to pack. I use it for my trail runs of course but it is also an excellent run-commuter pack that successfully holds my gigantic wallet, office badges, phone cord, phone, pair of shoes, a complete work outfit and a light jacket (if I hook it to the exterior loops). Salomon hit a home run with this pack and I'd highly recommend it to any runner, walker or cyclist looking for something that holds more than a liter of water.

These are the runs that make other runs AMAZING

Maybe it was the turkey the night before, or maybe my shoe was tied too tight, or maybe my calf was strained and THAT is what cause my left foot to be numb for half of my run this morning. Ugh. Either way I tell ya, it wouldn't keep me down!

Okay, let me backtrack. I got up surprisingly alert for 5am this morning and after taking Peanut out for a pee break I got ready to go for my first morning run in over a week-hubby's home-yay! I grabbed his running jacket for its additional reflective highlights, set my phone to play a podrunner tune at 180bpm and headed out into the frosty air.

My legs were stiff, more than I really expected after taking a luxurious 2 days off this weekend to rest and rehab my hamstring a bit. So I kept it conservative, really conservative and went off sloooow for the first couple of miles. Once I got to the top of Briarwood I was feeling looser so I picked up the pace as I carefully trotted downhill in the dark. At about the same time my left foot became a bit numb, then totally numb after another mile. Running on a numb foot feels strange but in the dark it can also be a recipe for a twisted ankle so I stopped and adjusted my laces. That seemed to do the trick for another mile then my foot went numb again. This time I walked it out longer than before and noticed my calf became more strained as the blood seemed to rush back into my foot. WEIRD. Maybe it was that P90X Plyometrics session I did Saturday?? I was able to find some kind of happy medium just as I came to my favorite section of road, just to be almost hit by a sleepy driver too anxious to pull out onto an adjoining street (so much for those additional reflective strips on hubby's coat!)-thankfully I was paying attention and scooted around the startled driver. I checked my watch and found I was a good 7 minutes off my regular slow morning run pace. Ah well, I guess this run was my "slow 10k" on my training plan for the week. I gutted it out and got it done. It wasn't pretty, it took what felt like forever and I still have no solid answer as to why my foot decided today it wanted to run numb, but these are the runs that make other runs amazing.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Humming Hamstring

I've managed to strain my hamstring-well one of them. Ugh. Thankfully the first advice I got on how to treat it was NOT to stop running, just take smaller steps. Whew! I feel like I've dodged a bullet in the injury department. My doctor of course spent the first 10 minutes of my appointment going over my latest races, talking about how far I run weekly, shared my disappointment at missing the next couple of big races because of my hubby heading out of town, what my race plans are for next year...I love having a runner-doctor, it really helps me feel like she "gets it." So, of course when I tried to increase my speed over the past few weeks I've also increased my stride length and apparently that can lead to exactly what happened, a strained hamstring. Grrr. I feel like such a rookie. So I've got my phone (yes I run with my phone) programmed with a few podrunner 180 bpm tunes (check out so I can stick to taking tiny steps and live with the fact my running looks closer to Ray Zahab's stride than Ryan Hall's. Ah well, at least I'm running.

I snuck in a run this morning, which was the first early morning run in a loong time, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do it for another week since hubby is heading out of town. Me and my treadmill are about to become besties again. lol. I managed to get stuck in a big downpour-you know the kind where you can barley blink because the rain is pelting your face? Yeah, well I ran for about a half a kilometer with one eye closed it was raining so hard. I stumbled into the gas station and thankfully met a nice attendant who saved my phone by donating a bag to my running cause. Ah, the things you do as a runner :-)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Should kids be allowed to run ultras?

This month's blog symposium topic is: Should kids be allowed to run ultras? I know that children do run ultras and there is alot of debate about whether or not race organizers should permit those children to participate. As a mom, a runner and mom to a little budding runner I have alot of mixed feelings about this idea. First, full disclosure; my daughter is 6, soon to be 7 years old. She started running 2 miler races when she was 4. Soon after that she wanted to try a local 5k race, then another. On average she races about 3 times a year with her longest distance so far being 5k. She loves it, usually. She's had her low points in races, just like all of us, when she questions why she wanted to run a race if it isn't going well, then I've watched her pull herself up and run her heart out and place in the top three in her age division. During these races I think she learns some pretty important life lessons (whether she knows it or not right now) about perseverance, following through with something you set out to do, self-motivation and determination.

So, what if my little 5-ker suddenly wanted to run a half, full or (gasp) an ultra? At her age now it would be a firm no, given her age, stamina and the long road of training she'd have to put time into. That's too much for my child, right now. But what if she asked when she is 10? or 13? Then I'd give it some thought. For me, it would totally depend on how much running she would be doing on a regular basis, her overall physical and mental health, and if she had the desire to take on this kind of challenge. The same things I would ask any adult if they were considering an ultra. If my child wanted to run an ultra though and she was already running 20-30 miles each week, was healthy physically and mentally, had a solid nutrition plan and was under frequent doctor supervision I think I could be okay with it. My husband on the other hand already thinks I'm nuts for running ultras so I can only imagine the horror on his face if our child wanted to run one. 

I truly think that the decision to allow your child to run an ultra needs to be a discussion between both parents, their family doctor and the child. I think with the physical demands of an ultra you can't give the same advice to a child as you would an adult. Pushing through the pain of a tough ultra shouldn't be an option for kids, in my opinion. The child should always be allowed to pull out if they don't feel they can continue. I also think if a child is going to run an ultra a parent or trusted family friend should accompany the child the whole way, for safety, security and the experience of being able to see the signs of a child pushing themselves too hard so if need be they can step in and call it quits. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

The road with no end?

I'm loving the fall temperatures around Nova Scotia. It makes my runs so much more enjoyable, it's not too hot that you feel worn down by the heat alone and not too cold that multiple layers are required. I've been keeping up pretty well with my training plan and have incorporated plyometrics into my routine after reading an interesting article from Outside magazine on the benefits of weight training and plyometrics to runners. So, the temps are good, the training is going pretty well and yet I feel...lost? For the first time in a few years I have NO goal race in the next 6 months. Sure I've looked around, but I know full well that a trip mid winter to the states is not likely to happen and around here all of the big races finish up in the next couple of weeks, which sucks for me since I'll be doing the solo-parent thing right in the middle of those races (my hubby is heading off to a friend's wedding a few provinces away)...thank god I have a treadmill!

I figured my goal would then have to be simply improving my speed until December when I can start my 50k training program again. Then yesterday a friend and I were chatting at our kid's soccer banquet and she mentioned she was doing a half marathon in a few weeks with her running friend. I had totally forgotten about the series and with the cost being only $15.00 it is certainly within my budget. Sure there is no chip timing, no medal and no shirt but it is an organized local trail race and I've even run it before so I have a PB I can try to beat. Yay!

One last thing is the latest addition to the family. Peanut is a Maltese chihuahua mix puppy that's been stealing the whole family's hearts for a couple of weeks now. He's only 13 weeks old and is super shy. I've tried to take him on a run around the block (less than 1/2 a kilometer) but he hasn't quite found his running legs yet. He's got this funny little sideways run that he does so I have to be really careful not to step on the little guy. I don't think he'll be able to run the distances Spencer was able to handle but that's okay. Running with dogs can be fun and give a sense of security (especially in the dark early mornings or out on the trails) but it also can be a bit obligatory when I'm the only source of exercise the dog gets. So far, running a few laps around our backyard seems to tire little Peanut out. Maybe a 5k in a year or so might be possible, but we'll see. Right now its just nice to have a dog back in the house and part of my family's life.

Peanut ~ @ 13 weeks

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Running on

If a runner misses a race what should they do? Most might say, pick another race..duh. But for me, the guilt I have about the circumstances around our sweet dog's passing has left me without the very desire I had that brought me to running in the first place. All that to say I don't feel like racing. Some might laugh..especially once they check out my PB times from any race and gently let me know that I'm not exactly leaving the running world without a great runner, but still, the drive to race, to get pumped up for another duel in the sun just isn't there for me right now.

The past few days I've re-read Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. I think I breezed through it too quickly the first time because this time I found a kindred spirit. Someone who strives for personal greatness only to have circumstances leave him battered and unsure. Scott picks up the pieces by going back to what he loved about running to begin with and, by the end of the book, he slowly heals. I, on the other hand, don't have the option to travel to beautiful places to run along mountain vistas and relax in canyon pools, so I've had to figure out my own way to dig myself out of this rut.

Step One. Get back out and run.
I took about 5 days off after Spencer died and then I couldn't bring myself to run the route he and I used to do or run on the track where my mind would inevitably go to the sadness I felt. So I ran while I was at work. Either at lunch or at the end of the day I dropped my stuff at the gym and hit the roads around where I work. I kept it pretty light, I don't think I even topped 5 miles, but that wasn't the point. The point was to just get out there and find peace in my running.

Step Two. Run where it hurts.
I thought alot about how/when/where to run as my first run close to home after the accident. I knew for sure I didn't want to follow the route Spence and I usually did but that doesn't leave many I ran the route in the opposite direction. Surprisingly that worked and I made it through the run without a tear. Since that first run I've been able to run most of the routes I used to run, and at a better pace than I've expected. I guess I shouldn't be surprised though, I was ready to clock out a 50k race a couple of weeks ago so I should be in top running form (for ME that is).

Step Three. Get back in the saddle.
A few days ago I printed off a new training schedule. This one is for a 50 miler in 16 weeks. Do I have a certain race in mind? Nope, but I think the act of regular training will help keep me on track, and hey if a race does eventually seem like a good idea then I should be in good shape to handle it.

Losing a great running partner sucks, especially when its your own pet, but I try to remind myself that when I started running 6 years ago I ran alone, and that most of my runs have been only in my own company so this is not the end of the world, just the end of a certain chapter. I will run on.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The race I wasn't meant to run afterall

It's been 5 days and slowly my small family is getting back into our new routine. I still look back at last week and shake my head in disbelief that so many things could go wrong at one time but the fact remains that they did and now we're moving on.

For the first time ever I had a whole week of vacation leading up to a big race. Then a quick visit to the dentist to check out an odd white spot in my daughter's mouth sidelined our travel plans for a few days so the new found "shark" tooth could be moved into its correct position. We all tried to make the best of it; we hung out around the house, went to the beach and took our time packing for our big camping trip on my husband's family camping spot in Cape Breton. I did one last training run with our dog Spencer and finally on Thursday morning we were ready to go.

The trip up was great, it even seemed faster than usual (for once). We arrived at the camping spot and setup our trailer then played a game of soccer-my daughter and I against my husband and our dog (girls vs boys). We had a great time, running and playing and enjoying a truly ideal day. If I only knew what was to come.

The next day (the day before the Lou52 race) we all got up and watched my SIL take the latest litter of pups to their new owner and tried to cheer up my niece and nephew. My FIL suggested we check out the race course which would help get the kids minds off of missing the puppies and help out my support crew coordinate for the next day. Each of the families had their own dogs on the camping spot so each dog was put into their owner's trailer. Doors shut, we headed out on what turned out to be a 4 hour tour. I was surprised it took so long but as we drove back I felt that we all had a really good handle on where and when to meet up with each other the next day. I was planning what I should do when we got back to the trailer to prepare when I saw a blond figure lying on the ground by the driveway leading to the camping spot. As we got closer I saw it was my family's dog and knowing our dog (and that he would NEVER just be lying on the driveway like that) I knew the worst had happened while we were out. He somehow got the latch open on the door and had been killed on the highway below. My husband and his father took care of the body while I tried to comfort our daughter inside our trailer as we both sat in shock and disbelief. The skies had opened up at that point and it was raining hard, almost as hard as we wept.

A few hours later my husband asked about the race. I told him I didn't know what to do. But as the hours passed I knew my heart wasn't in it anymore. I felt incredibly guilty for leaving Spencer, for not taking him with us on the route scout and for putting us all in this place and position in the first place. It was a horrible accident. The next morning I laid in bed with an hour to go before we were to head out to the race. Spencer usually slept with me on these camping trips and I missed my little snuggle buddy and my running partner.Tears streamed down my face and I knew my heart wasn't ready for this, that when things got tough out on the course I just wouldn't have the reserves to keep going. I crawled into the bunk with my husband and told him I just wanted to go home. He said he did too. So, just like that the decision was made and we packed up, said goodbye to my husband's family and headed home. The vacation was officially over.

I haven't had it in me to run just yet. As we arrived home I saw all the spots that Spencer would love to stop/run at when we were our on our training runs. The bush of flowers he always insisted on running underneath, the big bunches of grass and hay at the village corner he would crash into as we passed, it is still all a bit much. I unpacked and did what seemed like 100 loads of laundry, then saw my race pack from the Lou52 and tucked it away. I still feel guilty that it was the race that led us to make the choices that led to the accident. Maybe in a few weeks I can open it and enjoy some of the really nice kit perks that were included. But not now. As much of a pain as he could be on our runs Spencer was still my buddy, my companion, my friend. RIP Spencer. I miss you little buddy.

RIP Spencer (2012-2013)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Do you do a birthday run?

Okay, so this past weekend was my birthday (yay). I had my day all planned out; sleep in as long as possible with a 6 year old and a dog in the house, go for a long run, come home to prepared bacon and eggs (thanks of course to my wonderful hubby), open gifts, then off to a movie and dinner with my mom, daughter and husband. There. My dilemma? It was also National Lazy day. Ugh. Could there not be a more perfect storm of motivation not to run (birthday + national lazy day = run?) So I compromised. I still ran-a solid 13km-but it was no where close to the 3 - 4 hour long run I should have put in. I still feel like I earned those eggs and bacon though ;-) While I was on my run I thought about what other runners do on their birthdays. Alot of runners I know (online) celebrate their birthday by matching their age with the distance they run on that day. 35 probably would have been around what I should have run but....IT WAS NATIONAL LAZY DAY! Other runners take the day off to celebrate, knowing the roads/trails will still be there the next day. And I'm sure there are other type-A runners who simply stick to the training plan de jour and run whatever is scheduled. I came to the conclusion (as I tried to rein in my overly excited pup) that you should simply run whatever makes you happy-whatever distance or time make you-the birthday person-the happiest. It's your day, so shouldn't that be the point? So I did my run and didn't sweat the extended walk breaks I took and picked a route that gave me a scenic view, although neither jived with my training plan.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hot Weather Running Tips

Since I've spent the summer training for an ultra marathon I think I've amassed enough tried and true tips for running in hot weather. My first tip is, of course, try to avoid running in really hot weather (run in the early morning, on an indoor track or in the evening if possible). But when all else fails or you are actually trying to acclimate to the heat then maybe some of the following tips will help make your run a bit more enjoyable:

  • Keep your run to under an hour (if possible), or break it up over the course of the day into smaller chunks. This gives the sun less time to cause heat exhaustion, sun stroke or severe sun burns.
  • Wear Sunscreen. Always. Even if its a bit cloudy. Make sure you wear the "sport" or "water proof" sunscreen as any other kind will be quickly wiped away once you start to sweat.
  • Bring water with you, if you are running for an hour or less. Bring an electrolyte drink if you plan to be out for more than an hour ( a general rule). This replenishes the salt you've lost during the extended run. If you hate to take hydration with you on a run, make sure you take some change to buy some from a gas station or corner store en route. I'll usually bring both; hydration and some change-just in case.
  • Wear (or bring) some form of ID with you. Not just because its hot out-you never know what may happen out on the road so just in case you are too exhausted to remember your name this will give someone a helping hand to help YOU out.
  • Dress as if it is 5 degrees hotter than it actually is. Trust me, you'll warm up.
  • Wear a hat, a visor or something on your head. Not only does it provide sun protection but dipping it in a cold stream of water feels really nice on a hot day.
  • Do a "systems check" every half hour. How's your breathing-is it labored more than usual? How do your legs and arms feel?-are they dragging like weights or still peppy? Are you thirsty or hungry? etc. If anything doesn't pass the check consider cutting your run a bit short to avoid injury that may cost you more time down the road.
  • Run slower. By about a minute per mile-depending of course on how heat acclimatized you may already be. If you really need to get that speed session in, go to an indoor track or run on a treadmill. Speed sessions can be pretty dangerous during very hot days as you are constantly elevating your heart rate. Combine that with heat stress and you might put your heart in a bad position.
  • Find a shady don't run into the "shady" part of town, try and find a tree-lined path or road to run on. I find in the city there is usually one side of the street that gets more shade than another.
  • If you have to run hills try and run the uphill portion early on in your run. You are less mentally tired, less heat exhausted, it works better for your whole body.
Happy hot weather running!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Blog Symposium Post! Is there too much emphasis in the (trail-running) media on ultra distances?

This month's question got me thinking: Is there too much emphasis in the (trail-running) media on ultra distances?

My short, quick answer is "Yes, but of course there is." I think the media likes to put emphasis on the ultra-distances because they have the elements of what a good news story should have; an interesting narrative, in overcoming personal or technical obstacles, unforeseen circumstances (blisters, a fall, weather), maybe a personal revelation and a mighty victory over all hardships at the end. Who doesn't want to read about that?

But, in reality, the emphasis on the ultra-distance can take the spotlight away from just as spectacular shorter distance races. Unless the race is for the world championship, anything under 26 miles doesn't get the same attention as those who go really really long and hard. Personally I've found the same elements that can make an awesome ultra-distance media story can be found (in smaller amounts) in the shorter distances. Sheesh, take my last 13km trail race through the mountains of Wentworth. Plenty of hardship, overcoming adversity, laughs and life lessons taught there, and all in 2.5 hours (!) but there's something about people pushing those extreme boundaries that captivates an audience and thus garners more attention. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Peak Week Training!

OMG!!! I have only 4 weeks (including this one) before the LOU52! This week I've got three weekday runs between 55-75 minutes each and then two lovely 20 milers back to back this weekend. I'm happy the family is staying close to home for this long weekend since I doubt I'd be able to fit both 20 milers in if we were out camping.

This morning's run actually happened. Yup, I got my butt out of bed at 5:30am, grabbed the dog and out we went. Although I was still sweaty I was glad to have the early morning fog to keep me cool-ish for most of the run. I kept it simple; an out and back on pretty flat terrain. When I hit the dirt I found my legs were extra springy so I opened it up and did some strides, all the while trying to keep Spencer from darting in front of me. Spencer had some serious animal magnetism this morning. He managed to scare a cat that immediately wanted revenge and stealthily followed us for two blocks before we finally left his territory, there was something in the woods that Spencer seemed quite concerned about so I figured it must be bigger than a bird, we (of course) encountered lots of other dogs out for their morning walks which always sends Spencer into a frenzy, then back into that darn cat's territory where he followed us all the way home-lol. My training run and dog run accomplished before 6:30am...check! I totally need to do these more often, now I've got an hour at the end of my day to cross train-yes!

Friday, July 26, 2013

My First Triple!

If you run long enough or read enough about running you might have heard of runners doing doubles. No..not double doubles, like a Tim Horton's coffee, but running twice in one day. I've done it often enough but yesterday I had to do my first triple! Trust me, other working, runner Moms will relate.

This was my scenario. My husband, Richard, is going to a high school reunion back in his home town in Cape Breton, so I'm going to be having a girls weekend with my daughter, which means I won't have any time to just run off for a few hours. Sooo I realized I had to get my long runs in before the weekend hits since two 10 milers on the treadmill is torture for both my daughter and me (I get "Are you still running Mommy?!" every 5 minutes after half an hour which kills my motivation to keep going!). I'm also having trouble getting back into the morning runner mentality, especially now that I know how much lack of sleep affects me for the rest of the when the alarm goes off for 5 am I often press snooze for another hour. Yesterday though my alarm didn't go off at all and I missed my biggest window of time to get in one of my two long runs. Frustrated but not deterred I packed two running outfits and headed to work.

My first run was a five miler on the indoor track (it was raining at lunch). Feeling like a bit of a hamster on a wheel, I ran round and round until my Nike app finally declared 5 miles complete. I managed a pretty even pace throughout all of my miles so I was happy to see that. I cleaned up a bit, made sure to put my first running outfit at the bottom of my backpack and headed back to work.

Run #2 was back on the track since I only had about 30 minutes to try and get as many miles in before I picked up my daughter at day camp. I pushed the pace and really enjoyed the atmosphere as the track was now full of other runners and cross-fitters all doing their own thing. I managed three miles a minute faster per mile than my run at lunch. Then I picked up my daughter who wanted to go back to the track with me to run a few laps. Knowing she is going to defend her 2 mile title in a couple of weeks at the annual Natal Day road race, I complied. Not to brag, but my kid can run! She flew around the track in her sock feet, taking short little steps as she went. I was still making my way up the first side as she flew down the second straight-away. I'm pretty sure she managed under a 6 minute kilometer (she's 6)! I encouraged her to take a rest, so she sat and watched hockey as I finished up another mile.

My last run was back at home after having made a nice taco supper (yum tacos!) for the family. I grabbed the dog and off we went, with Spencer practically dragging me down the streets until I reached my goal of 10 miles total for the day. Then it was back home to stretch and get my family ready for the next day.

I wouldn't recommend that a runner do that kind of thing every day, or even every week, but it is reassuring to know that I can handle it mentally and physically if my schedule dictates I need to. Today is another 10 miler but this time I'm going to do it in one shot...albeit a bit slower than yesterday!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gear Review! Camelbak Charm

The Camelbak Charm was my first hydration pack. I bought it when I figured 1.5L would be the most I would need on a run (little did I realize how much I`d like 50kers!) and wanted a lightweight pack. At a price tag just shy of $50.00 it has paid for itself in spades.

Why I love this pack:
      The Charm is very lightweight and easily accommodates the 1.5L bladder that is included with room to spare for a few gels and bars. The bottom of the pack has a small separate compartment that I can fit my Galaxy phone into along with some extra change if I need a pit stop. The shoulder straps are spaced far enough apart that chaffing has never been an issue. The sides have small, adjustable straps. No matter how tight I adjusted the straps though I`ve never been able to keep the shoulder straps in place as I run. So, I grab a Velcro reflective strap (purchased for $1.00 at the local Dollarama) and use that to give the front a chest strap.
I`ve used this hydration pack on runs as long as 3 hours on every imaginable terrain (well, except a glacier or the desert). It moves with you as you run, although I won`t tell you there isn`t an adjustment period to hearing the swish, swish of the bladder. One solution I overhear at my last Ultra was to put the bladder in upside down, it totally kills that swish sound but you have to remember to flip it right side up once you get down to the last 25% - I`ve tried to get fluid up the hose but nearly gave myself an asthma attack in the process. Take a second and flip the bladder.
I`ve used this pack to hold my work outfit on run commutes home and have even used the strap at the top of the bag to hold a light jacket-with no issues!
This pack is perfect for a half marathon distance or less if you don`t want to refill the pack. I`ve recommended it for cycling as well since it sits low (and won`t interfere with a helmet) and you barely notice it`s on your back. I`ve owned this pack for 3 years and it still looks like it was bought yesterday. The bladder and hose is in excellent condition (I wash with soap and water and lay out to dry) and the pack itself gets thrown in the wash and let to air dry. I would recommend this to any woman looking to get the water bottles off her hips and have ``turn of the head`` access to water.

Why I`m looking for another pack:
    More Space! In my last trail race I ran out of water and it really sucked. It was about 40 C and I started hallucinating. While I made it out fine I nearly drank a whole 2L of pop at the finish table. I know, I know, the heat was a big factor, but I`ve been in this situation a couple of times (minus the tree-cars-see my last race report) this summer and with my birthday coming up I figure it`s time to trade up a bit. I`m currently waiting for my new pack to arrive (review to come soon) it holds 2L, with 2 bottle holders. I`m not sure if it will make its debut at the LOU52, I will need to test it out on a few long runs first. Stay tuned!

Exploring the Valley

T-minus five weeks until my longest race so far, the Lou52. Last weekend's long run in Kingston, NS (in the Valley) was probably one of my more punishing long runs since the night before I had stayed up until 1 am at the campfire then slept next to my overly-intoxicated husband who snored all. night. long. By about 5 am I started to debate the whole run vs. try to find a place to sleep for a few more hours. But when I stuck my head out of the camper and saw the sun was already up I figured I might as well suck it up, grab some GU and some water and head out for a few hours.

The beauty of heading out so darn early is there is very little traffic and even fewer people out running/ walking so I could trudge my way through the valley roads without being too embarrassed by my run/walk ratio. I had mapped out my long run before heading to the campground so I had a rough idea of where I should go. Actually, not so much. I need to work on my navigation skills. I turned left and headed straight up a flat section of road only to find the road I thought I should go up was a dirt road..odd since I expected this to take me to the next town over but okaaay. So up I go only to find another, even more steep hill around the corner, once up that I see another...this went on for about 1.5 km until I finally reached the top and realized I had totally gone in the wrong direction. I did get this nice picture though:

A view from the top

The best part about climbing a big hill (the locals call it Blue Mountain) is the run back down. 1.5 km of blissfully fast downhill running. Feeling a bit more energized from that I headed into town, texted my husband a quick message to let him know I had changed my plans and off I went in search of another trail. Luckily the signage grossly over estimates the distance between destinations in this part of the valley and I was running through Kingston before I knew it. I hopped on an old train track that had been converted to a trail system and off I went. After I had to turn around to head back to the camp site I noticed what I thought was a man off in the distance, standing beside the trail. As I got closer I realized it was a deer. He was nice enough to wait while I took a picture :-)

Meeting the locals

Gorgeous valley scenery!
After 3 hours I made my way back to the campground to find Richard had made some eggs (awesome as I was starving!) and our daughter off playing with a new friend. After a quick shower I went searching for more food then spent the day between the pool and different campground activities trying not to be scorched by the 40 C weather. Ahh, here's to summer days and early long runs. Enjoy yours!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Race Report! Sunofa Gunofa Run!

While many of the my friends and coworkers were "running" the Mud Hero 6km race at Ski Martock this weekend, my husband and I were running a much tougher version called the Sunofa Gunofa Run. No matter which run you were doing on Saturday though the weather was going to be HOT. The humidex had the temps at 37 Celsius. With my mother watching our daughter and the family dog, Richard and I headed off to the mountain we would be spending the next 2+ hours getting up close and personal with.

We managed to arrive with just a few minutes to spare, which was fine with me since I don't like waiting very long for a race to start, it just gives me more time to get anxious. We huddled in the shade of a barn while we listened to Jodi (one of the race organizers) give some good advice for navigating the trail. Then with a 10 second count down we were off!

This year's route would be in the opposite direction of the way we had run it last year, now we would find out which direction is more difficult! The first 3 km of this 12.89km trail race was a gentle uphill on a dried riverbed and single track that wound through the forest. Surprisingly the forest gave excellent coverage and seemed to hold the previous night's cool air close to the ground so the heat we experienced in the open field wasn't scorching us under the tree canopy. The further we went though the steeper it got. In the few exposed areas I tried to keep to the shaded areas as much as possible. I was wearing my hydration pack and was really pleased that the water was staying decently cool. Richard and I had brought a bunch of GUs (50mg of caffeine for him, 25mg for me) and we employed a solid system of taking one every 30 minutes. We both agreed later the GUs played a major part of getting us both through the race.

At about the 5 km mark we began sliding down one side of a hill to reach the river below. This part of the race is run in the river-not beside it-IN the river. It felt wonderful to jump knee-deep into the cold rushing water. I splashed and threw water over my head as I tried not to slip on the rocks on the bottom. Richard and I happened upon a nice couple who Richard chatted with as I made my way more gingerly up the 400 meters of river. I managed to get my foot stuck so I had to catch up with Richard a few meters down the river where I found him sitting on a rock with his feet in the water. Then we found the next marker and started making our way up a hill, doing a fair bit of bush whacking as we went.

"So. You wanna run up this part?" My husband said sarcastically as we looked up the side of a hill face covered in loose dirt. "I was thinking more of a hands and knees approach" I replied as I extended my hand up to him and grabbed a small tree to hoist myself up the first bit of the hill we were climbing. It was the half way point and one hour into the race. The dirt was cool and felt kind of nice as I clambered up the hill, slightly dismayed that just a few minutes earlier I had gotten cleaned up in the river below only to be covered in dirt now. Ah, the things you do for a good trail race!

I'll admit it; I wasn't having my best race. I found it really difficult to catch my breath after each steep hill climb and even though I had my hydration pack, I could have used another liter of water. So I tried to get my heart rate down as much as possible after each climb and run the downhill and flatter sections. After the steepest climb we had a wonderful kilometer long decent down some single track. By then another runner had caught up to us, he turned out to be a volunteer who was prepping for the VT100 (yeah-100 MILER race) coming up later this month in the US. So Richard and I didn't feel too out of shape when he caught us. He also gave Richard some very motivating news-we were NOT last. There were at least 6 or 7 runners behind us so Richard stood a good chance of finishing well if he kept up his pace.

Our eyes were set on the next marker-the Lookoff-at the 10 km point. From that point Richard and I both knew it was about 3 km to the finish and most of it would be downhill. Richard took off a bit ahead and then another couple passed me as I was going down another decent. I caught up to the couple at the Lookoff where they were admiring the gorgeous view of the Wentworth valley below. We stuck together for a kilometer or so before they got ahead of me. I figured that Richard had decided to make a go for the finish; he was feeling much better than I was and was having a great run so I couldn't begrudge him for that. It was then that my dehydration started to really kick in. I was thinking if I came upon another stream that I'd take some water-screw the possible parasites. Unfortunately I only came on some standing water, which I wasn't too keen on taking since that's the stuff mosquitoes like to chill in. I enjoyed the single track as much as possible while trying to keep myself upright as the trail had become really rooty. I turned one corner and thought I saw a car behind a tree. I tried to figure out of a road somehow came up the side of the mountain and boy was I grateful it was there..maybe whoever was in the car would have water! But then I ran a bit closer and realized my so-called "car" was actually a bunch of tree branches bleached in the sun. "Oh man." I said out loud as I realized my delusion and then re-focused on getting my butt to the finish as soon as possible. Clearly my dehydration was starting to affect my mind!

I recognized the trail section that laid ahead of me and knew I had only 1 kilometer left to run until the finish. I pushed as hard as I could and found myself catching up to the guy Richard had chatted with in the river. There was no sign of the woman he had been racing with and he was looking about as bad as I felt. We exchanged a few words and wished each other luck as I found one last reserve of energy to push to the finish. I ran through the last checkpoint at the train tracks and waiting there were Jodi and Micheal. Micheal had run with me and my friend Andrea for part of the Cuddly Coyote back in October-and he had completed the second only known run across Prince Edward Island last summer. Jodi cheered for me then said Richard was ahead of me. I was happy to hear Richard hadn't gotten lost but then another realization occurred to me-I had created a monster! Richard had done so well that now he thinks he actually races better if he doesn't train at all! Oh frig.

I held my pace down the last grassy section where a sweet girl was waiting and cheered me on as I ran the last few hundred meters. Then out of the bushes popped Richard who ran the last few feet to the finish with me. We congratulated each other and then frantically started to share a bottle of water between us. Richard had finished 48th out of 54 finishers. I finished 50th. And hey, this time we weren't last ;-)

Post Race Runner's High

After the race it was back to Tatamagouche to pick up the rest of the family and then back to the campground we were staying in for the weekend. Rum and diet coke by the fire never tasted sooo good.

Getting ready for supper back at the camp site

The evening fire-time to relax after a great race!

Will we do the Sunofa Gunofa run again? I hope so. Richard had sworn off that race last year, but after his epic come back this year he might actually consider doing it again in 2014. As for me I'd love to do it again. It's a true trail race to its core. Running it I experience every emotion out there; the highs of running well through stunning forest scenery, struggling up the steep hills laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, the lows and self-doubt that require strong mental fortitude to overcome and keep going and the camaraderie of my fellow trail runners all out there doing the same crazy thing. So...yeah I'll be back. BIG Thanks to Jodi and Karine for another epic race. You guys rock!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Anticipation of the Next Trail Race!

Oh my, I didn't realize it had been a couple of weeks since I had written a post, wow time flies in the summer, even with crappy weather! I've been training and cross training in preparation for the big LOU52 trail race in August and so far so good (knocking on wood), things have gone pretty well all things considered. As I mentioned the weather in June really sucked. Wet and wild, it caused my husband and I to cancel a family camping trip last weekend so we're making up for it this weekend and combining it with a great trail race-what could be better?! Long runs have not gone beyond the 15km mark, which I'm not stressing over...just yet. I know this weekend's race, the Sunofa Gunofa Run, while it's short (12.5km), it will take at least 2 hours since it's more of a mountain trail race. My weekly mileage has been pretty much on target but I've been splitting up my long runs so I don't have to spend too much time out in the rain.

So, this weekend's race should be interesting! My husband and I ran it last year-he was so thankful to have survived it he waved at everyone on our drive back home..a true Runner's High lol. It is a very challenging course. Essentially you spend about half the race running up a mountain until you're screaming-"Really, MORE Up?" then you careen down the side of a hill until you hit the river-which you must run through (not beside) or you face a time penalty if you're caught. Last year I took an unintended dive into the river water-which felt pretty nice actually, but cut up my arm. Then up the other side of the hill to run more uphill, then a loooong downhill to an amazing look-off that showcases the gorgeous scenery of the Wentworth Valley and then down through a hobbit-like forest of ferns to the finish. And yes, my husband, in a drunken commitment, has agreed to go again :-)

A group of runners climbing out from the river below-there is more hill ahead!

This year we're adding on the camping aspect so there won't be a nice cushy bed to crash into once we're done. The campground's pool will have to suffice I guess. With temperatures expected to be around the 30C mark we will definitely need to cool off a bit. Wish us luck and look for my race/camping report early next week! I hope the sun is shining (finally) wherever you are and Happy Independence Day to our American neighbors!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Race Report! Johnny Miles Race Weekend

The sun was (finally) shining Sunday morning as I stepped out of my family's new-to-us camper trailer that we had set up in my father's backyard. I was back in my old home town of Pictou, only a few kilometers from the beautiful town of New Glasgow where the Johnny Miles races would begin in a couple of hours. I got my daughter set up inside my father's house, happily crunching at froot loops as my husband Richard and I pinned on our bibs and brushed our teeth.

We managed to score a parking spot less than three blocks from the start line and quickly found what was left of the complimentary breakfast on the main street. The event had sold out so 4000+ people and their families filled the otherwise sleepy main street of New Glasgow in eager anticipation. Music boomed and runners adjusted their fuel belts, laces and hats, some people looked around nervously, others with determination. Richard and I bumped into a friend who was running her first 10km race and wished her luck as she joined the porta-potty line. We stood around in the shade, waiting patiently for the 10km race to begin.

The Johnny Miles started the marathon runners first, the the 5k starting just 5 minutes after, then the half and 10k runners together, 5 minutes after the 5k runners. Even with the short start intervals there didn't seem to be any issues, everyone was very respectful and there seemed to be very little pushing in the narrow downtown streets. One gentleman, who was celebrating his 99th birthday (!), was walking the 5k race with a huge support crew of family. They all wore green "99 club" shirts as the walked en mass. The course itself had to be changed this year as there was road construction. This year we would go through the north end of New Glasgow, then into Abercrombie, then to Trenton and back to New Glasgow in one large rolling hill  loop.

Richard and I started off a bit faster than I thought we should go, averaging about 6:44 per km, so I spent about 1.5 kms trying to get him to slow it down a bit so we could aim for a more even pace of 7 mins per km. After 2kms he did, I think simply because the slow grade hills through the north end of New Glasgow eventually took a bit of a toll. We enjoyed the crowds on the side of the course through Abercrombie and thanked the volunteers and police officers who kept us all safe and hydrated. Once we came to the 4km mark we made a turn towards the town of Trenton. We passed the Trenton power station and enjoyed some cool breeze as we headed into town again. Richard and I took only 2 walk breaks on the hot course, both at steep hills later on in the race. I enjoyed touring my old high school stomping grounds as we weaved through Trenton and back to New Glasgow. There were ample water stations and it was very rare that there was an area that didn't have at least one person cheering us all on. As the finished neared Richard said something like, let's give 'er, and I took off, cruising down the last hill and through the huge crowds lining the finish line. Richard finished seconds after me and we grabbed our medals and sat down to catch our breath. We didn't get a PB-far from it for both of us-but I think Richard would agree we had a great time on a challenging course. We eventually stood up again, grabbed out bagged complimentary lunch and headed back to my father's house. Mission accomplished :-)


Friday, June 14, 2013

Back on Track..err..Trail

After a couple of weeks of "rest" where my overall weekly mileage was cut by about 50% I decided to try out some cross training activities to fill the void of the usual running time. I printed off a triathlon plan, although I have no plans to actually do one in the near future, but I thought it would give me some parameters to follow for some decent swimming and cycling workouts. I did this last summer and found it to be a great way to keep things fresh, strengthen my upper body a bit and cut a few pounds.

My cycling skills are pretty weak but I've found cycling is a great compliment to running hills. Whenever I feel myself red-lining as I run up a hill I remember what I would do if I were on a bike and I "gear-down" so to speak, slowing and taking shorter steps. This usually gets the job done and I'm up and over the hill before I know it. With all the rain we've had in Nova Scotia this spring I have developed a fondness for the bikes in the gym across from my work. My favorite-of course-are the ones that allow you to pick a scene to ride through on a big display screen right in front of your handlebars. I still haven't beat the pacer!

My swimming has certainly slowed since the good-'ol-days in my youth of swim meets and time trials, but I still enjoy jumping in and getting in some laps. I've found, since I started going beyond 42.2kms, that my shoulders don't get alot of attention, which has caused them to be a bit stiff after really long runs. Swimming has been a great solution for that. I've also found it's great for keeping up my ankle flexibility, a huge plus when I'm on some of the tougher technical trails.

The best part about scaling back these past few weeks is the lack of pressure to get a certain amount of mileage in during a run, and I've run more for time than distance. The other day, during one of the very few sunny, hot days we've had this spring, I took off down a common walking trail in my neighborhood and was happily surprised to find a new trail some ATV-ers had made. It led into some low brush and pretty cool geology than was fun to scramble up and down. Eventually the dips in the trail became filled with water and when I finally hit a spot (about 2 miles in) that had ducks swimming around I figured it was time to double back. I had misjudged my water needs though, and even though I was only about 4 kms from home I knew I would need something to avoid over heating. Luckily one of the small rivers that cross the trail was empty of fishermen so I jumped in, shoes and all, and splashed around surprised at how freaking cold the water still is. Refreshed I climbed back up to the trail and headed home, squishing shoes and a big smile all the way ;-)

Ah, but now it's back to training time. I've skipped the build phase of my 52 km training plan, since I'm confident that with my recent (albeit slow) trail race of 50 km I have the endurance factor in check. This time around I'm focusing on overall speed and dong alot of speed intervals. Jodi and Karine's races require almost super-human quad strength to handle the massive climbs and descents of their courses but the Lou52 has only a few short hills, much more similar to the trail terrain close to my home. Of course I'll still fit in a few of my favorite trail and road races until the big Lou52 race in August. The next one is this weekend in fact, the Johnny Miles 10km race in my old hometown of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. This year the route has been changed so instead of the beautiful trail you normally run on for half of the race the runners will get a tour of the North side of New Glasgow, prior to heading into Trenton and coming into New Glasgow again for the finish. I'll have my  "I don't train, I race" husband beside me as we celebrate Father's Day. Stay tuned for a race report early next week:-)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Master of the Farmer's Blow

June's TrailRunner blog topic is: Tell us about someone awesome you've met through trail running.
The first person that comes to my mind is Gordon Warnicka, who I met during my first 50 km trail ultra. I had just finished the first 6 km loop and was in the process of peeling off my arm warmers when he came running past saying "Let's get going Sarah-time to run!" I grabbed my fuel from my husband and caught up to Gordon and his awesome dog Tess as they climbed the first significant hill of the 9 km loop.
Gordon told me he was in his sixties and had gotten into running a bit later in life. He told me stories of how he through-trekked the AT with another guy, how they had met up with a young woman doing the trek by herself and how they had trekked together for a few days before she went her own way. He told me about being the only Canadian kayak team to do the 100+ mile Alaskan race two years in a row and the amazing scenery up north, how he had helped start-and still helps organize-the Rum Runner's relay on the province's south shore...all after the age of 55! Aside from his entertaining stories and solid pacing he also gave me some very helpful advice when it comes to tackling trail ultras:
1. Always do a quick shoulder check prior to performing the "Farmer's Blow," slightly bend your head, turn to one side-hopefully away from any other runners you are with-and with one finger on one nostril, blow hard. Repeat on the other side.
2. If you can't see the top of a hill-walk. Running the really steep hills will only tire your legs and make you slower overall.
3. Pick up your feet! He recommended this one after I did a face plant as we ran through some tall grass...all good advice.
The most important lesson I learned from Gordon though was that just because you hit retirement age doesn't mean you can't still get out on the trails and have an awesome time. Here he was, at age 65, still rockin' the trail and having a blast. I found Gordon to be quite the inspiration and realized that I want to still be out here when I'm his age, and heck, through-trekking sounds pretty fun too.

Gordon and me at the 21 km mark - WWTR2012

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shoe Review! New Balance Ionix 3090V2

With a week to go before the 50 km race I knew I had to get my shoe situation sorted out..and quick. Since my feet had healed enough to try on shoes again, off my husband and I went to the big Cleve's Source for Sports store in Burnside. All of my fingers and toes were crossed for luck.
Once we got into the store I tried to focus on shoes that were as close to me NB minimus shoes as possible, which meant less than a 6mm heel to toe drop, near feather-light (less than 8 oz.), material that wouldn't hold water and decent cushioning under the forefoot for those looong miles ahead. My husband was really helpful finding different shoes and brands that all pretty much met the requirements I had, but more often than not these shoes seem to be stripped of all other cushioning around the heel and had a rigid feel about them. Shoe after shoe came and went and then I finally tried on the NB Minimus Ionix 3090V2. "Well, if I fall and hit my head at least the other runners will be able to find me on the trail with these bright shoes!" I exclaimed as I tried them on. I did a little jog around the store and decided that while they could be a bit bigger in the toe box they fit every other requirement I had. SOLD.

Pretty in Pink..dig the funky sole tread pattern!

The next step was to run in them at least three times before the big race. I started on a treadmill and they worked out fine, a little hot spot on my right heel, but nothing that couldn't be managed. Then came two outside runs around where I work, I tried to get on the trails as soon as I could, so up and down through the Dartmouth Commons I went and even into the graveyard for some grass running. No issues. Giddy up. I debated taking a spare pair of shoes along for the race but then changed my mind and just made sure I had lots of blister repair stuff in my drop bag in case I had an issue.
On race day I was very pleased with how well these shoes drained after going in and out of uncountable puddles, rivers and muck. Only one hot spot really developed on my left arch, so I stopped and threw on one of the super tough new Band aids and was good to go. As a preventative measure I had put a strip of duct tape on the heel I figured would give me problems from the hot spot I had felt in earlier runs.
Of course after 50 km of mud, water, sand and grass my pretty pink shoes weren't so pink any more but after I threw them in my front-load washer they came out brand new again :-) My feet are still a bit swollen from the race so it'll be a few days before I put them on again but I think they've made the cut into my regular shoe rotation. Nice job New Balance  I'll give these 4 out of 5 stars, only because I'd really like to see more room in the toe box and the cushion around the heels didn't do much for comfort but probably prevented alot  of small rocks getting into my shoes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Race Report! Wasskally Wrabbit 50km Trail Race

It was Saturday morning and my alarm was going off at an ungodly hour; 4:45 am. For a brief moment I wondered why it was going off, then I bolted out of bed realizing..This Was It! This was the day...Race Day! I had carefully laid out everything I could possibly need the night before so I went through my usual ritual of getting washed, applying gobs of Vaseline to places better off not mentioned, and getting dressed. Then it was upstairs to grab a banana to eat and my drop bag that weighed a ton. Meanwhile my superstar husband managed to rouse himself and our daughter up out of bed and they had themselves ready just as I was running around doing a last 'sanity' check for items I'd forgotten. Sometimes miracles do happen and we were actually out the door right on schedule!

The new route for the Wasskally Wrabbit had us travelling down Peggy's Cove Road until we came to a turn off. I was so nervous I barely remember getting there, but after a second port-a-potty visit I stood at the back of the pack feeling oddly calm as Jodi (one of the race directors) went over the route and any other important tidbits of information we might need to know. Then it was a simple, ready-set-GO! And the group was off. Most people had signed up for the much more reasonable 12 or 24 km distances, which meant one or two laps through the course. Me and a few other "crazies" had signed up for either the 50km or 50 mile distances, which in my case equaled out to 4 laps plus a 2 mile out and back section.

The first lap I managed to stay with the group for the first 4 km. This part of the course consisted of an old dried river bed. For the most part it was a mix of dirt and sand, but as you got closer to the 4 km mark it became more and more riddled with river stones, small boulders that required alot of quick feet to make sure you didn't go flying. The trail was scenic, with big trees lining either side and a river that ran the left side of the course. Then it was a short uphill and there stood our first turn, manned by a kind gentleman who told us that we were almost there-just this small hill to climb-HA! The trail narrowed to a single track that consisted mostly of ankle deep mud that only became deeper as the day-and the runners-went over and over it.Up, up we all went. I hit the mid point that seemed reasonably flat so I started to run, just to turn a corner and find another steep mud hill to climb. Up, up again. When I finally reached the top I was able to catch my breath and push on to a tiny section of dirt road. Then the trail started again and I went back into the mud. This section was much more rolling, lots of smaller ups and downs.

One of the flatter sections

At the 6 km mark (or so) I came up to a fallen tree. Since it was chest height I had no other choice but to dip under it. That worked out okay for the first 3 laps...the fourth lap however my quads were so shot that I thought I might need to crawl under it. I continued on, going up and down the hills until I reached the so-called "short-cut" which was like scaling the side of a mountain. I took a picture but it does not do the steepness of the hill justice. The rest of the single track was really beautiful; moss lined the sides of the trail that was mostly made up of pine needles and leaves. I find that kind of trail really calming and tried to appreciate the shear beauty of it all. After one last downhill I reached the dried river trail again and back to the start I went. Of course it wouldn't be a 'Jodi and Karine' (the race organizers) trail race if I didn't fall at least once during the race so I was kind of glad to get it over with early after I tripped on a rock and went flying, my handheld smashing into a river stone that would have likely broken a bone had I not had the handheld bottle on to break the impact. Bruised but not bleeding I dusted myself off and kept going, I still had over 40 km to run.

During my second lap I came across a man and his daughter trying to navigate the hillside in their ATV. He was kind enough to pull to the side for me, when I thanked him he said something about all of us runners sure picked a tough place to run. I laughed and said we have a sadistic course designer. He seemed to chuckle and I thanked him again and was back on track. I completed that lap a bit faster than I expected (I was aiming to complete each lap in about 2 hours), but having to take a bio-break and fix a developing blister ate up any extra time that I had gained.

My third lap went pretty well. My quads, arms and calves all started to complain a bit but I kept pushing to stay on pace. The hills affected me much more on that lap and by the end running downhill was starting to hurt-usually downhills are my strength so I had to really focus on relaxing my quad muscles to run properly downhill.

The fourth lap was completely about getting to the finish. I celebrated each minor milestone and pushed as hard as I could up the hills-I swear they got steeper as the day went on! By the time I was back on the 4 km river bed section I was reduced to a slow shuffle run/walk. I tried to run through the sections that weren't peppered by river stones but by then every muscle was complaining loudly. Near tears-part out of joy for completing the race and part because I was so sore-I saw the finish and heard everyone calling my name.

The "finish" was short lived as I still had a short out and back to complete before I could call this race done so I dropped my handheld, crossed the line and turned around focused to finish this race. Jodi asked if I needed anything and I said no thanks, and I think he saw that I just wanted to finish. My husband and daughter had left the car to join me for the last 2 miles and out we went. Pretty soon after we started my husband asked if I wanted to finish alone, I told him NO! I wanted nothing else than to have him and our daughter with me for this last section. I went over the day with him as I shuffle-ran, describing the highs and the lows, as with any Ultra there were plenty of both.

This 50km was technically much harder than the first 50 km because all of the elevation was packed into 4 kms rather than spread out over 15 kms as it was last year but I think I enjoyed the first three laps-or 30 kms much more than I did last year. I certainly have lessons that I've learned from this race that I will ensure I take with me to my next Ultra in August. Sure I'm sore, but in lieu of a race medal I wear my sore muscles with a sense of pride, I finished this epic adventure in one piece and will continue to attempt to better my time at this distance. In the end, even though this took longer than I ever thought it would, I finished. My first 50 km was not just a fluke, I can do this about that 50 miler....;-)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Why Run an Ultra?

When non runners find out I've run 50k and plan to do it again (and again-and maybe even further) they usually ask "Why?" with this expression of uncertainty-maybe they are trying to figure out of I've lost my marbles? I am usually caught of guard and fumble with a sane-sounding answer. Saying "it's fun" doesn't seem to make any sense to people since how can running for a full work day or more actually be fun? What I realized it that I should be explaining why I decided to try in the first place.
The social anthropologist in me tends to look at life in terms of societal levels-the bigger picture view so to speak-in North American society we live pretty cushy lives. We sleep in comfortable homes, with big tvs and computers to entertain us, ample food to keep us from starving or dehydrating, walk 20 steps to sit in a car that takes us from A to point B. Yeah, we don't really have much in our lives that really challenges us on a physical level any longer. Running Ultras gives me the chance to do something epic. How many people can say they've done something epic? To test my physical limits, go beyond what I think is possible and achieve something few other people manage to do makes an Ultra an epic adventure. You learn alot about yourself during an Ultra; make no mistake there are tons of ups and downs emotionally and physically. This is such a universal feeling that there is a common saying in Ultras "if you're feeling good, just wait a minute." The same goes if you're feeling bad, eat something or drink something and in a few minutes you'll feel better again. It truly is a roller coaster ride. Sure you're sore after the race and the days to follow but at some point a runner will realize the shear magnitude of what they have completed and let me tell you, it is an amazing feeling of pride, confidence, happiness, and personal satisfaction that can last for a few weeks if you're lucky.

Staying Positive: Key to Success

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Taper Madness Hits!

Unless you have trained for a race longer than 10km you may not have heard of the term "taper madness," well, my friends, it has finally hit me. That hard to describe feeling of wanting to run but knowing you need to rest the legs in preparation for a MUCH longer run to come, that feeling of  "I should be doing something right now..." the "oh crap what have I signed up for?!" thoughts, it all came calling. At first I thought it was simply me freaking out about not having shoes to wear for the Ultra-NEXT WEEK-but then I realized I actually more freaked out about my lack of preparation and the lack of time I have to make up any long runs. The whole training block is staring me in the face, telling me how under-trained I am for this.

Last night my husband had to deal with the full force of this realization-tears, apologies, negotiations, you name it. I was a blubbering mess to put it mildly. His is the voice of reason in these kinds of moments, he assured me he and our daughter would be there to cheer me no matter how far I managed to go..but that I should really be able to handle at least 2 laps of the 12km lap course (he's right). So we hatched a plan; I will just DO MY BEST. I'm going to take this thing one lap at a time. If I do three-that's okay, if I manage to do all four and the 1km out and back-awesome. If it takes all day, well, he and Hannah will manage to entertain themselves.
Today it feels like half of the pressure is off, I'm not worried about disappointing them after our talk last night, but-damn it-I need to get this shoe thing figured out. Saturday I'll have to subject them to yet another trip to the shoe store. My fingers and toes are triple crossed for luck.