Friday, December 12, 2014

Gear Review! Mountain Hardwear’s Scrambler 30

When it comes to backpacks for my daily run commute I tend to have a few “must haves.” First it has to have both a chest and waist strap. Second, it needs to fit comfortably on my back and shoulders and third it needs to hold all of my stuff. Well the Scrambler 30 covers all of these things and more! My history of backpacks goes back four or five years when I used standard backpacks to run commute. The result was frequent chafe marks on my neck (not sexy) and my running shirts also often got rubbed the wrong way along the waist and the fabric would get pilly. Never mind the shoulder support would usually be non-existent, giving me sore shoulders. Eventually I wised up and got a Salomon hydration pack that fit well but the chest strap was one long piece of elastic so I would perform a funky yoga move to get in and out of it every time-oh and lord help me if I was wearing a hat too! Thankfully I never dislocated my shoulders. Then came the scrambler 30. I was dubious, I mean going from a 3 liter pack to a 30 liter pack seems like it would add a lot more weight right? Nope. The pack itself is less than a pound. It certainly covers the “hold all my stuff” requirement, and then some. I have even been able to run commute to the mall, do some Christmas shopping and keep going home (with space to spare)! The shoulder straps are not heavily padded but with the waist strap adjusted I can easily find a good weight balance so neither my hips or my shoulders get tired. And that’s one of the best features of this backpack. It has a lot of straps so you can adjust it in almost any way you need to to get a good fit. It also has straps for trekking poles (which I have yet to use) but the absolute best strap is the chest strap-it has a clip! Yay! No more yoga posing as I try to get it on. One click and I’m out! The back portion of this backpack looks almost space-age, with its strategic padding, but it makes a huge difference over running with no back plate or padding of any kind. I hardly notice I have it on and my back is so much happier not having the odd work shoe digging into my back! The one feature this backpack boasts is its waterproofing. I’ve become accustomed to having to fit a bag (garbage bag or otherwise) over my backpacks for years living on the coast. Now I don’t have to. Ever. Again. I was out in a downpour and yes, the backpack got wet…but the inside didn’t! Not a single thing!! While the outside fabric feels like any other pack the inside has a plastic-like film that keeps everything dry and the pack itself dries out in seconds once it gets indoors. I was so impressed by this I posted it on Facebook. Lol. This backpack will be with me for a long, long time. I’m not sure about it going into a race with me (it’s a bit more pack than I would likely need), but for my daily run commutes and long runs on the weekend, this bag is a must-have.

Friday, November 28, 2014

New, FREE Stuff!

My friends, yesterday this is what was waiting for me:
It has arrived! Okay, so the back story first. I applied to be one of Mountain Hard Wear's Winter Ambassadors when I saw an ad on one of my favorite websites (TAUR). I filled in the fields, wrote a few paragraphs on "How I find Winter" and pressed "submit". Then I really didn't think much of it because, honestly, I really didn't expect to get picked-but I did! So, I've got the newest and incredibly light Ghost Whisper winter coat (in midnight blue) and a beautiful pink coat and a waterproof backpack called the "Scrambler 30." With today's temperatures being on the warmer side (0 degrees Celsius) I opted for the pink coat and the scrambler made its maiden voyage with me this morning. My initial impressions? The coat is very wind proof and the high collar kept my neck and lower half of my face toasty. More to come on that one after I've taken it out for a run. The same goes for the scrambler-who I think I will name Trixie-but already its been so nice not to have to squeeze all of my stuff into my small Salomon pack-that I'm sure was never meant for the daily abuse I've put it through these past 2 years. The fact this pack is waterproof is huge for me-especially here in Nova Scotia where the weather changes on a dime. I'll certainly have more formal reviews of all three items in the weeks to come, and I'll be sharing my adventures as I am #findingwinter.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gear Review (of sorts): Buying running gear on the cheap

So I've been running regularly for about eight years now. In that time I've worn a lot of shorts, capris, shirts, buffs and socks. And, since I decided to start running during the decline of the economy I found it prudent at times to buy running gear on the cheap. That means buying it from places like Walmart and Target. This post reviews what I've experienced so far by sampling Target, Walmart, Brooks, Running Room and Nike running clothes. First, the bottoms. In this category you get what you pay for. At Walmart I bought a pair of running shorts that after one run spent with me trying to make them not ride up, they have become gym shorts only. The same goes for a pair of compression shorts bought at the Running Room. Yes, they compress, a bit too much, my legs look like sausages in them so I worry about circulation...and yet they ride up and the waist has a draw string (a draw string?!). Next I tried capris from Walmart (no possibility of riding up) and still wear them from time to time today. On the thinner of the two capris the waist band is flimsy and can roll at times. A second, thicker pair, I bought there has a small tear starting in the thigh, so they're headed to the garbage, but the fabric waist band is superior to the elastic-type band on on the thinner pair. So for $15 on average a pair, they get the job done but offer no support or warmth at all. Not bad for 5ks but I would never wear them on a long run. At Target I found a pair of shorts ($15) that although they are thicker than I normally would prefer, have been my go-to short for this past summer. The capris I bought, less so. While the fabric print is cool and a nice change from the straight up black of my other shorts and capris, they don't stay up until I have run at least a mile and have added enough sweat to make them stay put (yucky, sorry). Not so fun. For an average of $20 a pair, I wouldn't bother with capris from them, but the shorts were a nice surprise. Now for my go-to brand. Nike. I have had a pair of Nike shorts that I thought I would wear until the end of time..until my dog chewed them up :-( They were supportive and were a great base layer in the winter tempretures. I still haven't been able to find a similar pair that has the same leg length (I'm a long-short runner). For the winter I have a fantastic pair of lined tights from Nike that my husband bought me. They have seen 7 years of wear and still are supportive and warm. In fact, they are in my pack right now, waiting for a spin this afternoon. All in all, while you might have some one-in-a-million luck at the department stores, you'll probably find a lot more comfort in paying out a few extra dollars to get a pair of durable and well fitting bottoms. Shirts, on the other hand have been very tricky for me. I'm short waisted so a lot of running shirts run long in both the arms and the length. I think I have tried every variation out there. And most I should have left on the hanger, to be frank. I bought a super soft, pretty little pink t-shirt at Running Room, only to fight with it for a 5 miler to stop it from riding abs aren't THAT nice and I don't want to give my neighbors a show. Often Walmart and Target t-shirts are not a lot better than what you get a races, baggy, ill-fitting through the shoulders and not durable after a few washes. I decided to take a chance and bought a Brooks t-shirt online (I know, I didn't even try it on!-gasp!) and I wore it until it hummed all the time..even after washing. It was a fabulous t-shirt. I then took a chance and got a long sleeved shirt for the winter at Target, and while I question the amount of venting it provides (I mean really, when you buy a long sleeved shirt you want to be warm, right?) it is a pretty little purple thing that does a decent job of staying put when I run while not being too clingy. In this category Target gets a hats off for decent long sleeved running shirts at a great price. Socks are the key to keeping your feet dry, comfy and free of blisters on the run. I've bought expensive ($25+) pairs of Nike, Running Room, toe socks and Brooks socks, and only the Nike socks have been durable and kept my feet free of blisters. On the other hand Walmart sells athletic socks for 10 for $10 that have honestly performed better than some $15 pairs I've owned. So in this category Nike and Walmart tie it up. In the end I would argue that for some running clothes you can certainly get away with going cheap. But for the essentials, like shorts and shirts I really recommend you try things on before you buy so you don't spend a run fighting with your clothes just to toss money out the window. Consider it an investment, lord knows my Nike tights have been worth their weight after 7 years. Not many other articles of clothing can boast they have lasted that long.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I made the team!

I did a double take, then a triple-take before I read the rest of the email from Mountain Hardware yesterday. "Congratulations, you've been chosen to be a Mountain Hardware Ambassador" was the line I read over and over. Seriously?! Me? YES!! I had submitted an application had crossed my fingers and hoped for the best but I never really believed I'd be picked to join the blogging ranks of runners like Geoff Roes or Ellie Greenwood. Whaaaaat!? Okay, okay, so all excitement aside, this is the deal. I run (duh), wear Mountain Hardware products (all supplied to me free!) and let you all know how it all went this winter. I'll be blogging, posting or tweeting once a week with an update and I'm thrilled to have you all follow along on my winter adventures around Nova Scotia. I'll be hitting the trails, exploring new places and trying to find interesting ways to test out Mountain Hardware products. I can't wait to get started! Now, onto my day-to-day. I've had a killer week so far, logging 10 miles on Monday and 8 miles yesterday. Today is a bit tougher with having to get my daughter to dance practice when I'd normally be finishing my workday to head out for a run, but I usually manage to squeeze in 7 miles or so on these days. I'm just hoping the rain holds off, at least until after dance class! I tried running to and from work on Monday, which was less than spectacular. It showed me though that I really should be incorporating more morning runs into my training because holy moly it was a long slog. I had a much better run in the afternoon, probably because that's what I've gotten used to, so lesson learned, yesterday I grabbed Nutty (my dog) and out we went out at 8am. Yesterday's 8 miler was much better, but it was also more of a fartlek workout since I had Nutty with me (stopping and sniffing every other telephone pole). It was nice to have the company though, however hairy ;-) Have a great day everyone, and happy running!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mini Goal 40-4-40

I've been settling into "base" training for the next season. So far (knocking on wood) so good. My ultimate goal is to build up my base mileage per week so when I start actual training in January I'll have a great foundation to build on and avoid overtraining (unlike last year). My runs in August and the first bit of September were 5 miles a day, for 5 days a week with a longer run on the 6th day. Then I increased that to 6 miles a day for 5 days a week with a longer run on the 6th day. That was until last week when I increased it for the last time (until january) to 7 miles a day, 5 days a week with a longer run on the 6th. When I figured out the math I realized I'd be hitting the 40 mile mark each week (maybe more depending on that long run). I thought that coincided nicely with the fact my hubby is turning the big 4-0 this year, in 4 weeks' time, in fact. The number coincidence was too much to bear so I've made it a mini goal. Run 40 miles a week, for 4 weeks, until Richard's 40th birthday. I asked him if he wanted me to go public, and raise money for a charity that he would chose, but he declined. I think having more than a few people know he's turning 40 is enough for him..putting it out on Facebook, yeah it's a bit much. Some runners might scoff and say 40 miles a week is measly, but my lord, if I can hold onto that streak it'll give me to biggest mileage count for a 4 week period ever (160 miles/257 kms). So, one week down, three more to go.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

To post or not to post?

For the past couple of months I've been able (thank god) to break out of my funk and get some consistent training under my belt. I've aimed to get at least 50km in a week, usually more. For the second month in a row I've managed to run more than 200kms. I should be posting that on Facebook or Twitter..hell yelling it from the rooftops, but I haven't. It's not like it hasn't taken commitment or persistence (it has) but it's that I feel like I would be rubbing it in someone else's face...namely another Facebook friend. She's gotten the running bug, which is awesome. She runs 10ks and loves to post pictures of herself running. For the past couple of months she's been posting how she's gotten to 125km in a month and how thankful she is, how great her body is for doing this, how wonderful the world is because of it (not really) blah, blah..etc.. Then it's followed up by comments about how epic her effort is, how inspiring she is for doing that, etc. It gets to be a bit much when I (enviously) read my other friends’ posts about how they just ran (yet) another 100km week. So do I post about my own accomplishments, knowing they might been seen as a slap in the Facebook face by her and a pathetic attempt to gain attention by the other friends who are mileage monsters? So, I do nothing, although I'm busting my ass and achieving mileage I'd never thought possible of myself. Is there room in social media for everyone, not just the overexcited newbies and experienced mileage masters? I don't know, so I follow other, more experienced runners' lead, and don't bother posting, because really, what's most important is that I'm proud of what I did, not the social media world. I think I hear the trails calling...;-)

Monday, October 27, 2014

No DNF today! Half Marathon Race Report

Everything hurts! But it's a good hurt, really. This morning as I woke up and felt all of my achy muscles protesting it erased any doubts I had yesterday about not giving the half marathon my all. I did. I didn't get the awesome, super PB time I was hoping for, but I had gone into the race knowing that a sub 2:10 would be out of the picture given my recent training times. So, hoping to come closer to 2:30 than 3:00 I had achieved my goal with a 2:38. And wow, can I feel every minute of it today! Yesterday was overcast with a chance of rain. Bah! I said, even if it does rain I knew I'd be covered most of the way by trees so I wasn't too concerned. I did choose to wear my husband's red running coat, you know, just in case. I filled my handheld, grabbed the energy bar I was pretty sure I wouldn't need and a wad of paper towel and was good to go. My husband and daughter drove me to the start and milled around with me in the 5 degree weather as I debated another porta potty break. Then it was time to line up and I managed to get both my watch and my music started before crossing the mat (a minor miracle for me). We took a different route than the last time I had run this trail half marathon but I enjoyed the change. This course took us through a whole other section of the park before having us all double back to the start to begin the second loop. In all we did three loops, doing the first one twice, making a bow tie with the start/finish in the center. I started off with the main pack-dangerous with this crew-and noted I was running a 5:30 per km pace. Whoa! I slowed myself down to a manageable 6:30 and tried to hold on as long as I could until I got to the first turn around. The way back took us all through a section I've run in the Bluenose marathon a couple of times so I knew what to expect there. I checked my watch again and I'd covered 3 miles in 34 minutes-pretty quick for me running a half marathon. Happy with that I focused on my music (podrunner) and kept plugging along until the next turn around. While I was making my way there I came upon an older runner who was clearly having trouble. He was hobbling badly so I stopped and offered my help. After a few minutes he was sitting, assured me he'd be ok and I headed back out on the trail. Not even before I hit the second turn around did someone come up beside me and declare his cramped calf muscle had popped and he felt great-was the older runner I had just helped. Ugh I said to myself as he trotted past, clearly feeling much better. I think karma rewarded me though because when I hit the second turn around they had a huge stock of salted caramel GUs. Yum! I grabbed some and started back, trying to stay focused and determined. Then, panic took over as I suddenly needed a porta potty. In the middle of the woods there was only one thing to do, go bushwhacking to some privacy off trail. Thank goodness I had brought the wad of paper towel! Embarrassing situation over, I tried to pick up the pace but realized how much harder that is to do after 14 or so kilometers. But, I pushed on, focusing even more on the podrunner 180bpm to keep my pace on track. At 16kms in I saw that I could realistically come in before the 3 hour mark and that was all I needed to push me through the final kilometers to the finish where my husband and daughter were there taking pictures and video taping me as I made the last turn and went across the mat (with a smile). There. Goal achieved. No DNF here today!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is it taper time already?!

Alrighty, it's supposed to be taper time. Bah! I say. I've been steadily logging weeks of 60+kms with the odd scale-back week of between 40-50kms since September. The Shubie trail HM is in a week and although I don't have any plans to cut down on my running between now and..say Thursday next week I think things will work out ok. My best long runs have come after taking a day or two off and I know I can go the distance. And I've already let my husband know this will NOT be a PB at this distance, so he might as well wait 3 hours before coming back to get me. There. I think I've got it covered. Oh, and I've already got my caffeine for the race so now all I have to do is pick up a bar of some kind in case I get hungry. Remember the goal here is to finish, not PB or drop out after half (of the half) because of whatever reason. I'm getting a bit hyper focused on finishing one of these races this year, since the last one I completed the full distance was (shockingly) back in MAY! How did this happen? One DNF turned into a DNS and another DNF! Ack! This just had to stop. There's no timing chip, no bling, not even a silly t-shirt at this race, but it doesn't matter. The point is to get out there, enjoy the racing atmosphere on a course I know well and get'r done! Now that I've got my head around the race I'm already looking into next year's season. I know a wee bit crazy. Of course I'll be back for the Waskally Wrabbit 50k in May. I think my daughter's plans to run the Bluenose 10k might get squished though since I think she has a big dance competition that weekend, so I'm thinking as a family we might run the Johnny Miles races in my old hometown of New Glasgow the month following. We'll see. The race organizers around here don't tend to set their race schedule until December and January so I'll have lots of time to think about the races between now and then! But for now, I'll try and focus on not over training before this HM!

Monday, October 6, 2014

They're all gone. Sorry.

There I sat, for probably the tenth time, scanning the website hoping to find some sign of recognition. All out rush? No, the pattern on the side was similar but not the same. Mix Master Move Glide? No, the tread pattern used diamond shapes, not circles. Grr. I cursed myself half-heartedly again for buying a pair of running shoes at a discount place in the states and promptly tossing the box and forgetting to note the bloody name of these shoes! I think a lot of us have been there. We buy a pair of shoes, forget to remember the name of the model and by the time it comes to replace them the model is either A. Changed. Because it is six months later and that's about as long as the life expectancy of a shoe model these days, or B. Is out there..somewhere..on some website's clearance/discount page..just waiting..and so there I sat on my laptop scanning ebay, outdoor discount retailers and to track down MY shoe. It took about a half hour on before I hit the jackpot. (Why I hadn't found it in my previous three dozen attempts I. Do. Not. Know.)...but now is not the time to ask questions(!), now was the time to pray that this shoe was in my size and not going to cost regular price PLUS shipping to Canada. Now I am not a huge miracle person. I do believe they can happen, yes, but overall I think we make our own luck. I tend to think many other ultra runners would agree since we are the type of people who spend countless hours training ourselves to accomplish feats most people would rather watch from the couch with a bag of chips. There's no miracle in finishing a 50k, if you've put in the hard training, have some personal resilience and determination, you can get'r done. But yesterday wasn't a day for the pay off of hard work (well, maybe a bit since it was a lot of hard Internet searching!). No, somehow I had found the shoe, in my size, and not for a million dollars. The Mix Master Glide. Yup. I had managed to find a two year old shoe to love. No wonder it took forever to track down on a website. And to top it all off, it was the Last Pair. Period. In my size or any other. It took me a few seconds of debating but in the end they're on their way to me now. Sorry, if you're looking for a pair of Merrell's Mix Master Glides in a size 7, they'll be coming north to ride the trails of Nova Scotia in the next 5-10 business days.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Got my groove, now, about my husband!

Plan?! We don't need no stinking plan! At least, that's what I'm telling myself at the moment lol. I had a great week of running last week, managing to get in a solid 62kms, including two days where I did the single parent thing as my hubby was off at a family wedding. The thing is, I ran more than I "needed" to, given the existing HM plan I've been using, but I'm right on track with the 50km plan in the book Relentless Forward Progress. The problem is, I don't have a 50k at the end of it to run. So, I've been thinking that maybe I'll add a few weeks onto the RFP plan and extend it right out to 30 weeks-the time I have between now and the next Waskally Wrabbit Ultra. God-I sure hope Karine and Jodi put it on again! My focus this time around will be to build up slooowly so I don't overtrain like I did last spring. So, saying that I think I'll keep my current mileage in a holding pattern and try to get comfortable with 60km+ weeks in the months ahead. Currently that looks like two 7 mile days, three 5 mile days and a 14-16 miler. Last week I split up my long run into one 7 miler and an 8 miler but this week I'm cashing in my "single parent time" for a nice long run on Saturday morning. On a the non-RR note, my hubby has been told that his waistline is starting to resemble that of his grandfather's so he's got a bit of a shot in the arm to get his diet on track. I'm committed to helping, so if that means no more cookies in the evening, well, marriage has its sacrifices eh? The issue is, he has always been able to get himself on track with his diet if he tries, but finding some form of exercise that he enjoys has been a struggle, and we all know you need to do both to live a healthy life. He has a bad case of plantar fasciitis at the moment so running hurts too much. I've encouraged him to take his bike for a spin, but it still sits in the garage. He doesn't seem to see walking as exercise, since I'll head out with the dog and sometimes our daughter and he has no real interest to join us. Forget my Power 90 vidoes-he quits after 5 minutes. His golf clubs sit abandoned beside the bike in the garage. Ugh. I wish I knew what the heck would get him moving, but so far, no luck. The search continues I suppose.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumn Highlights

Okay, yes, I have been scarce recently. I have a few (really legit) good reasons for this, but they are mostly the non-running kind so I'll save those for another post. Needless to say, I am still planning on running the MEC half on October 26th and have been training my buns off recently for it..although the LSD run has been a hard one to find motivation for. Okay, update on my life. My beautiful, talented daughter has joined a competitive dance group so this means 1.5 hour practices that the parents cannot watch once and sometimes twice a week, so when she asked me what I would do for those 1.5 hours I said, "Run-of course!" The area where she practices with her team is not an area I've had any familiarity with so it has meant new places to explore-yay! I have to say, my first impressions of this area were SO wrong. I thought this area was just a bunch of subdivisions with loopy streets I'd have to plod around, killing time and miles. Instead I found an oasis of a trail system winding through gorgeous fur trees and under numerous bridges, along a lake and through a greenbelt. Bliss! So this new routine has turned out to be a blessing, my daughter gets to practice at something she loves and make new friends and I get to enjoy my 1.25 hour runs in a new and beautiful place. Win-win! We are both pretty happy at the end of her practice :-)

The Lake

I LOVE new trails!

Friday, August 29, 2014

After all this HM training, I think I like the Marathon better!

Yup. That's the conclusion I've come to after these past 4-5 weeks of HM training. While the shorter mileage is a nice break, especially during these really hot afternoons, there's something more simple about marathon training. Yesterday I had a peek at a Runner's World marathon training plan and it looked like an old friend, comfortable and simple. Just log lots of miles, then some more it basically said. None of this V02 Max workout stuff, hill sprints 'till I could hurl or tempo runs that kick my butt. Nope, just log some miles, then do some more. Ahhh. So I think I might take a brief pause from the HM stuff and jump into some marathon training for a week or two. You know, to keep things fresh. Haha.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Country roads and beautiful views - last camping trip of 2014

Big Island Road

This past weekend I went camping with the family and my in-laws in Merigomish. While the weather was cold and overcast I did manage to have a great ocean-side run between camp fires and bbqs. I had looked around Google Map to some ideas on which direction I should head on my long run Saturday morning. After a wee bit of scanning around I was able to establish two things. One, there was no trail system anywhere close to this area. Second, there WAS a cool little road (I hoped) that seemed to run between a lake and the ocean just 5kms from where we would be camping. So, Saturday morning I laced up and plodded down the dirt road to the main road, taking a left and heading out to find Big Island road which Google said was about 2km from where I was. 3km later (nice accuracy Google-sheesh) I finally spotted it and made another left onto a very old road. So far the breeze had been nice and cool but as soon as I turned onto Big Island road the skies opened up and it poured. With little else to do about the situation I hid my phone so it wouldn't get wet and tried to catch some water falling from the sky. Then, just a few hundred meters up the road the rain stopped and the sun peeked out. Just at that point I crested a small hill and was met with a gorgeous view of the ocean and the road I was aiming for. After a small downhill I was on the road with a calm lake to my left and breaker rocks and huge waves to my right. I couldn't resist the temptation of the ocean so I had to go check it out. The current was really strong but the water on my feet felt wonderful and made the 8km run back to camp so much nicer. Overall my pace was pretty good for not taking any water with me, and I was able to squeeze in a run while everyone back at camp was still waking up. When I got back my wonderful husband was cooking up a delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon. Could life be more perfect than that?!

A New Buddy

View from the beach

Beautiful view-cold water!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The HM project: Days 8 & 9...and doin' fine!

Flexibility seems to be the word of my week so far. No, not the yoga-bendy kind, but schedule flexibility so I can fit everything in. Some weeks just need more flexibility than others I guess. My Monday 3 miler went fine, but I feel like I cheated a bit by only doing a 20 minute strength session, using a workout app (Workout Trainer) on my phone. I had some serious burn but still, not the "holy-crap-sweat-my-butt-off" kind of burn I get from P90X. Yesterday I did a 2 mile warm up and then 5 hill repeats of 30 seconds each. My quads were burning big time after that and I needed the 1 mile cooldown to recover my own breath! It was a good run though, and a beautiful day for it too. My eating plan is going okay. I still manage to do really well right up to about 10pm when things fall apart. Ugh, I'm getting there. Today I've got a 4 miler with 4 x 20 second strides at the end. After I finish that it'll be time to pick up Han and then head off to get groceries for the upcoming week and camping trip to Merigomish. I've been Google-mapping the area to see if there is any kind of local trail system around Merigomish but it seems I'm out of luck. It looks like Peanut and I have the choice of banging out 9 miles Saturday morning along the country roads of Pictou County or on the beach of Merigomish. The bright side to the camping trip is the fact it's really hard to over-eat since we have limited food and resources while we're there. I'm hoping that will help me cut out my 10pm binge time. Well, today is looking beautiful again so I'm looking forward to this afternoon's run commute. Have fun out there-and don't forget the sunscreen!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The HM Project: Days 6 & 7

Day 6 was my rest day. It certainly didn't feel very restful though between a soccer tournament, school supply shopping, canvas mending (for our pop up camper), and new outdoor patio set assembling! But in the end all of our little tasks got accomplished which paved the way for a more restful Sunday, right after my long run and one more soccer game. The long run on Sunday was short by my usual standards, but it was also nice not to be out there for 2+ hours for one weekend. I grabbed the dog (Peanut is up to about 7 miles now), then we headed out to the "Moose" in Cow Bay. There were alot of cyclists but just one other runner out on the country road. I got to enjoy the gorgeous view of the ocean for the last 2 miles before our turnaround while Peanut enjoyed showing off for all the yelping dogs stuck behind fences as we passed. This week isn't too tough. Today and Wednesday I've got 3 miles + strength workouts to do, and tomorrow is a speed work session consisting of 7x400 meters at 5k race pace. Depending on the weather I'll decide if I'm going to do the repeats at the indoor track or the old outdoor track next door. Then Thursday is a 45 minute tempo run, another 3 miler set for Friday and a 90 minute "long" run set for Saturday while we're camping in Merigomish with my husband's family/my in-laws. I'm looking forward to the Merigomish long run, I'm going to do a bit of Google map scouting to see what sort of trails might be close. My expectations aren't too high though, I expect to plod along a country road for this one. Well, with coffee in hand, let's get this week started! Have a good one!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The HM Project: Day Five

Yay it's Friday! I managed to avoid the rain yesterday during my 40 minute run which also meant that kids soccer would be a go. After a month and a half of go-go-go each weekend I think it's been catching up with me. But yesterday was the last kids soccer practice so I grabbed my big-girl pants and off we went. The run itself went well. I was a bit sluggish at first and then after a mile or so I had to remind myself that this was an easy run, not a tempo run. The sun was shining and warm so it was a beautiful day for a run. Today I've got 3 miles to do, but really its a rest day, I am just switching my Sunday for today so I can have a weekend day off. Tomorrow is my long run of only 90 minutes so I should be able to wrap that up before heading off to the last soccer tournament of the season for the rest of the morning. The eating plan is going along alright, certainly not as well as the running side, but I'm honestly getting there. I know if I go "cold turkey" with the snacks I like I won't stick with this plan for long so I'm trying to make small changes each day that eventually should result in what I'm looking for. One day at a time...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Race Review! Brookvale Ultra Trail Race

This past weekend I ran the Brookvale Trail Ultra Race in Prince Edward Island. It was my first out-of-province trail race so I was nervous and excited. My family hooked up our camper-trailer and off we went for a weekend of trails and beaches. We stayed in a flat (very important for the anticipated post-race soreness) campground close to the beach, so I enjoyed some laid-back tapering prior to race day. Even with the relaxing atmosphere it was hard not to think about the hills from the elevation profile. Alot of people I talked with prior to the race didn't know that PEI had a ski hill, never mind a tough trail racing course! I got up on race morning early, ate my banana and some of my bagel and tried to relax as much as I could while getting a cranky 7 year old up and at em' at 6:30am. Soon enough though we were off and, thanks to my clever husband, we had already figured out where to go after previewing the race start area the day before. We arrived at the ski hill and I check in and chatted with the other runners as we were all eaten alive by the tiny black flies. I met one of the North Face reps for Newfoundland who told me about a 67km race (single loop) around Deer Lake that he is the RD for, it sure sounded appealing! Then I ran into Karine and Jodi, the RD for the Nova Scotia Trail running series. As up-beat as ever they were both doing the 10k version. After hearing that I was seriously reconsidering changing my 50k to a 25k race! In no time at all though it was time to go. I started off really well, keeping pace with a small group of 10kers who were very familiar with this whole trail system. One of the ladies recognizied me from the trail races in Nova Scotia so we talked for a few minutes before she surged ahead up the first of many steep mountain bike hills. Then I ran with a guy whose son was running the 50k race-at the age of 12! His son had a few marathons and a multi-day tip to tip run across PEI under his belt so his dad was confident he would do fine out on the trail. Impressive! I kept my pace conservative, not wanting to overheat. My IT band reminded me to shorten my stride at about the 4-5km mark, so I slowed down a bit and tried to resist the urge to bomb down the mountain bike trails that made up the first section. At the first aid station I was feeling pretty good. The race organizers had a few kids waiting at the aid station with super-soakers if a runner wanted to be cooled down a bit-I let them have at it. And man did they ever get me good! I grabbed a cup of water, thanked the volunteers and the kids and took off again up another section of mountain bike trails. After about 6 or 7km the 10k group headed off to the left while the 25k and 50k groups went right towards the bottom of the ski hill. This section had big rolling hills on clay roads, grassy moss and single track. It was beautiful but I found the footing challenging. My IT band was giving me constant pain at that point so I took a couple of aspirin and hoped it would settle down. My new New Balance trail shoes (WT00 v2s) performed very well in this terrain, keeping me steady through it all, although I think testing them out the week before on road might have contributed to my hip pain. After the rolling hill section I found the second aid station. Again it was well supplied and manned by cheery volunteers who asked me a few questions on how I was doing. After another cup of water and a shoe-lace adjustment I was off to the woodlot area. All I can say about this area is WOW. It was gorgeous. Each section of the twisty (but flat) trail was dedicated to a different species of tree and it made for some gorgeous scenery. I had to stop a couple of times and take pictures to remember the beauty of it all. The trail section here was really rooty so my feet were a bit banged up after only a few kilometers. I was more glad than ever to have real trail shoes on as I think I would have had a few bruises on my feet had I been wearing road shoes or my VFFs. My IT band had calmed down a bit but I could still feel its dully ache. I knew as I was coming back into the second aid station that I would only be finishing one lap of the 2 lap 50k race, making this a 25k trail race for me. I knew I didn't have anything to prove, except to myself, and I realized I didn't want to push myself so hard that I'd be laid up for weeks because I kept going through the pain. I hoped this was reasonable and not just a big excuse to go back to the campground for rum and diet coke by the pool. So I made my way back up the rolling hills to the mountain bike section, which was fun but pretty painful with all the little ups and downs. I had been out there for almost 4 hours and the heat was starting to play tricks with my eyes. At one point, at the top of a very long steep hill I was sure I could make out my husband standing there looking down the hill at me. I knew that was impossible but it was a good bit of motivation to get to the top! You have to laugh sometimes at the things your mind will do during these events. After another grassy section I was back on the mountain bike trails. I wished my hip was behaving so I could enjoy it even more, but I tried to make the best of it. By then the sun was out in full force and it was heating up. Suddenly I had an overwhelming urge for a cold fountain pop. That kept me moving through the next section until I found the first aid station again. The volunteer told me I had only about 3k left to go at that point. Those 3k lasted a loong time, especially since the way back to the start wasn't the same trail as we all took out to the turnaround so it was really hard to judge how far you had actually gone. But I made it down the mountain bike section and back onto a grassy trail for the last bit of the race. After a big turn on a grassy slope I could see the finish line and I ran as best I could to the kind cheers of the people who stayed behind. Karine and Jodi were there at the finish and gave me high fives and kind words to remind me that it was okay to drop, what's most important is that I run again another day. Karine was battling her own leg/hip issues so she got where I was coming from when I said I was done for the day. It was a beautiful course with lots of tree cover and really fun mountain bike single track to bounce up and down on. I could see why people from seven provinces had all gathered to run this one! Will I be back to Brookvale? YES! I can't wait to get back there next year, hopefully un-injured and have a blast on those hills again. The RD Shawn was fantastic and put on a great event. I highly recommend this one although don't underestimate the hills!

The HM Project: Day Four

Today's workout is a 40 minute run. Ahh. That sounds like a piece of cake after the first three days of this program lol (hmmmm....cake....moving on!). I'm assuming since the description consisted of simply "40 minute run" that there isn't any specific speed I should be aiming for and I should treat this one as a recovery run, which is what I'm going to do. Besides, it looks like it's going to rain out there so 40 minutes in the rain, regardless of speed, is good enough for me. Yesterday's 3 miler went really well. I was surprised how fresh my legs felt after the previous days' training. I tried a new route, aiming to hit a small trail but when I got there the trail was blocked off for repairs. Ugh. So I improvised and went to another trail that was nice and shaded from the afternoon sun. Once I picked up Han from day camp 3 miles later, we headed home for supper and laundry-last night was chicken and pasta-while I did a mini strength workout. Overall I got both workouts in but I feel like I should have made the strength workout longer, I was just plain 'ol tired. Han asked me what I was training for when I picked her up. I told her it was for a trail half marathon in October (I emphasized it was AFTER her birthday). She then turned to me and said, "So are you going to finish this one? 'Cause last time you only did one lap." My mouth dropped then clammed shut again. Yup. I did DNF from the last race after 25km, she's got me there. I was just stunned to have this come out of my 7 year old's mouth! But when I think about it, I shouldn't be surprised by her comment. My husband and I tell her to try your best and also try to finish what you start. Since I wasn't hobbling out of the last race, obviously injured (although I did quit because of a very sore hip), she didn't understand why I DNF'd the last race, just that I had quit. I told her that this time, I will finish the whole race. Oh, kids keep you on your toes!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The HM Project: Day Three

It was a wee bit tough to get up this morning. My arms still hurt from Monday's pushups and my legs were tired from yesterday's hill workout. But-I got 'er done! My 6 miler (in three parts) went pretty darn well yesterday. My legs were sluggish for the first mile but after that it wasn't an issue. I managed to squeeze in half of my hill repeats before picking up my daughter from day camp, and then dragged her over to the park to finish off the last three. She was awesome. She practiced her own gymnastics routine while I ran up and down a dirt hill, giving me "Go Mommy GO" with each turnaround. It was too cute and made my repeats a little bit easier knowing I had a little cheerleader waiting for me. Then she and I went over to the playground where she amazed me with her monkey-bar climbing ability (I could never do the monkey bars as a kid, but Han was quick to offer me advice on how to do it correctly lol). After that it was back home to make tacos for supper and a quick 2 miler with the dog to round off the 6 miles. It felt like I'd been running for hours, splitting it up that way, but sometimes you have to fit in fitness where and when you can. (Insert soapbox here). And that's what drives me crazy about people who throw up their hands and say "Oh I just don't have time to exercise." Really? I mean, seriously, really? I don't always have a nice 2-hour block to fit in a solid workout, but, like yesterday, I just changed into my running clothes and did what I could when I could. I could have not done the 3 mile run-commute in favor of sitting on a bus and playing candy crush. I could have picked up my daughter and went straight home so I could watch tv for 15 minutes before getting ready for her soccer practice, and skipped walking the dog. But instead I got out there and I got to see my daughter being supportive and having fun and our dog got in a good run after being couped up in the house all day. Not only I benefitted, but my child and the family pet did as well. Now who shouldn't make time for that? (Soapbox moment over, thanks for your patience ;-) I've got a repeat of Monday's workout. A 3 miler (my run commute) and a strength session. I think I'll shy away from the pushups today in favor of one of the other P90X workouts, I have between now and tonight to figure out which one. As for my eating plan. Yesterday went slightly better than Monday but I still have improvements to make so I'm not carb-binging at 11pm...but I'll get there. Okay, so onward and upward, have fun out there today!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The HM Project: Day Two - bring on dee Hills!

Well yesterday is in the bag. Whew. My 3 mile run was pretty hot and humid and I had a slight tight spot in my right calf, but I made it through the 3 miles, and hey, I even increased my pace at the end..although I could have just been glad it was almost over. Then after getting supper and laundry started (yup-multi-tasker right here) I did the P90X chest and arms routine and had a moment of self-discovery: I hate pushups. Oh my god I hate push ups. I tried to do them quickly but they still burn and hurt and all that and eventually I was doing the military pushups on my knees-my KNEES! But, I sucked it up and got through that workout too. Today I've got 6 miles with hills thrown in. I'm not a fan of hills but they are like medicine, it works wonders if you actually take it. Six miles though is a bit tricky with my schedule, so this one is going to need to be broken up into two parts. The first part will be 2 miles of flat running followed by 400 meters of hills as many times as I can before I need to pick up my daughter from camp at 4:30, then finish off any remaining distance with the dog once I get back home and have finished making supper-Taco Tuesday anyone-and before heading off to soccer practice for 6:45. Yeah, thankfully there are only a few more soccer practices so Tuesdays and Thursdays won't be so crazy in a week's time. My eating plan went great...until about 10:30pm last night when my husband offered me half of a Mars bar. I could come up with really good excuses-I was under my calorie goal! I had just heard that Robin Williams died! I had just woke up from a couch nap and was delirious! But no, it was a lack of will-power that did me in..and the three chocolate chip cookies that followed. Damn it! Ah well, I'm getting too old to really beat myself up about it for very long, so today is a new day and tonight I will try harder to have more will power-or just head to bed earlier, we'll see what works. So 6 miles of hills and avoiding chocolate chip cookies and Mars bars, yup, that sounds like a plan. Tuesday here I come.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Half Marathon Project: Day One (dun, dun dah!)

Okay, maybe my title is a bit melodramatic, but hey, why not. This is the Internet afterall. So yes, today I start a 12 week half marathon training plan that will get me to the last MEC trail race on October 26th in top trail-running form. I did my research, I checked out crazy intense plans that I quickly rejected after over training this past winter, looked at some easy plans that I don't think will push me hard enough, and eventually found a somewhat-happy-middle-of-the-road plan that I'm determined to give 100% to until race day. Why you might ask? Well this year has been a disappointment in terms of racing. I've struggled, been injured and DNF'd more times than I want to count and I want to end this season off with one personal achievement, running my best half marathon. That means anything less than 2:15 would not only be awesome and take some of the sting out of my performance so far this year, but I also think it will be motivational going into the winter build-up season. The bonus side to my plan is that it's a half marathon. 21 kilometers. I can totally run 21km, I just want to do it faster, so the mental barrier of the distance isn't there for me, just getting to the speed I want to run that distance really, really well. The trail race is on familiar ground, I've run trail races and done training runs many times there so I know by Jodi and Karine's standards this trail is a very easy one. Okay, so the distance and the conditions don't freak me out, the biggest hurdle I think will be sticking to my eating plan (I think that sounds better than diet plan), for the duration. To battle that I've got a handy app on my phone to track what I eat and how much I exercise each day so I can be held accountable - even if it is just to an app on my phone! As for the fine details of my eating plan, my goal is to eat less than 25% carbs a day, keep my fat and protein ratios about even, when possible, and keep my overall calorie intake to less than 2000 a day. So here goes. Today, being day one, is pretty easy. I've got a 3 mile run and a strength session on tap. I'm doing my 3 miler during my run-commute after work and plan to do my strength session once I get home, get supper made, get the laundry done and get the next day's bags/lunches packed. I'll let you know how it goes each day and hopefully in the next few weeks I'll have that 2:10 or less half marathon in my sights!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Awesome Mix of Anticipation and Dread

One week-ish and counting until my next 50km race. This one will be my first 50km race in another province, the small and relatively flat province of Prince Edward Island. Yes, yes, I know it has hills, but no one takes them seriously. In fact, most people don't know that PEI has a ski hill! But, I've done my homework (aka reading previous racer's blogs and race reports) and then immediately emailed the Race Director for a copy of the course elevation profile to confirm what I'd read. There WILL be hills, and lots of them. The big bonus for me though is the lack of any flat-face, rope-assisted rock climbing this time around (unlike the last 50k - right Josh? :-). I'm feeling confident about my food (which actually is really surprising given my lack of serious distance long runs), and I'm taking my Salomon hydration pack with me which can hold up to 2 liters plus two extra 500ml bottles-I can't say enough how much I love my pack! My biggest issue right now is holding myself back from doing too much cross training. I keep reminding myself that there's nothing I can do right now that will make a difference in a week so I'm better off not pushing myself to exhaustion prior to the race. But it's SOOO tempting. My runs haven't improved a lot over the past couple of weeks but my speed has improved by about a minute per mile, which has been nice to see. I think my legs needed this time to do these daily, hilly, shorter (2-5 miles) runs and although they don't help my endurance I know they will help with the hill climbing to come. I have managed a couple of 10 milers (nothing close to the distance I should be running for a long run) but they've been at least some form of long distance running. The muscle pain during the second lap of the course is the part that I'm dreading as a result of my lack of long distance-specific training. But I'll tackle that monster like I usually do, and solider on. Right now I'm keeping my mind busy with logistical details; who is taking care of our dog (THANKS MOM!!), where we'll camp, how far away the camp site is to the race site, stocking up on food and Powerade, debating which shirt to wear, what clothes to put in my drop bag, if I should ask for my birthday present early and break in a new pair of shoes before the know..the usual stuff. It's keeping me from getting the taper-crazies, at least for now. Well I hope to see some familiar faces out there next week; maybe Jodi or Karine will run this one (Karine just finished a 100 miler last week so I doubt it, she's earned her rest!), Micheal (who was the first Canadian to run non-stop across PEI two years ago), or maybe my snot-rocket guru Gordon, or some folks from the Halifax Trail club, we will see. So far the 50km group has 18 runners registered, more than the other distances offered that day-Go Ultra Runners-they know where the fun is at! But no matter what distance you do this week or the next just get out there and have fun.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shoe Review! Merrell's Mix Master

Okay, okay. I know I had said the NB Ionix shoes were "My" running shoes-they still are! I still have 2 identicial pairs I swear! However, during my family trip to Florida this spring I picked up a pair of Merrell Mix Master shoes because they have a bit more grip and cushion. In the past 3 months I've pretty much worn down the lugs to nothing and am now looking for a new shoe. Would I buy the Mix Master again? Yes..but as an all-around running shoe, not for the significant climbs and muddy terrain that the trail races around here consist of (right Jodi??). The Mix Master is for a minimalist runner looking for a bit more cushion and good grip on regular trails/fire roads. Alternately, they'd make a nice transition shoe for someone looking to go towards a more stripped down/miminalist shoe. Light and quick drying, they fit true to size and right away you'll notice more cushion in the forefoot if you've been running in other minimalist shoes until now. The toe box is roomy (as with most Merrell shoes) and the shoe fits well around the ankle so trail debris doesn't find its way inside very often (a problem with a lot of shoes). My biggest issue is how fast these shoes broke down. I have logged an average of around 25 miles per week (pretty low for me) these past couple of months and they broke down faster than shoes that have had twice the distance put on them. The wear pattern on the lugs is clearly visible now (most are worn down to the base) and I doubt they would offer much stability on a hilly trail in their current condition. So, all in all, I'd give these shoes a 4 out of 5. If they could have held up for another 200 miles I would have sent my Ionix shoes packing. Sadly, they didn't and I'm again searching for that perfectly lugged, minimalist trail shoe that won't beat up my feet on rocky terrain or over long distances. The search continues...:-)
Merrell's Mix Master (I have a blue/purple version)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Finding my Happy Place

Vermont 100/200 Race Course
This week I'm trying to find my "Happy Place" with my running. I am enviously watching a fellow local runner run the Vermont 100 this weekend-thanks to a live feed-GO KARINE!!-from my in-laws' place. Sadly I feel like my own possibilities of ever doing a 100 is a thousand miles away right now, so I'm trying really hard to find peace in what I can (and have time to) do right now. My daily 3-4 milers are nice. I'm never exhausted but while I feel like my speed and that weird ankle numbness have improved with the shorter distance part of me is panicked at the loss of my endurance. Last weekend I went out for a 10 miler and although it was brutally hot, it was also a slog-fest. The first hour was fine but the second was a fartlek of street posts, struggling to get to one and then another. So a few days ago I decided to try and fit in any extra fitness that I could to try and combat my less than awesome endurance feats of late. My first step was a yoga class offered just down the street from where I live. When they said I cold also bring my daughter I was sold. We spent an hour of stretching and meditiating, very relaxing at the time, but the next day I was sore in spots that haven't been sore in a while. That was a nice feeling to have. Yesterday I added a little leg strengthening routine after my 4 miler which really helped me focus on my hamstring muscles (an area of weakness in my legs). So, while I might not be scampering up to some amazing vistas in Vermont, I'm trying to keep it interesting back here at home. Tomorrow I'm set to do my first 10 mile run commute TO work (its always been from work until now), so I'm looking forward to that and am very thankful I now work at a place that has amazing facilities (shower, free body cleansing products, lockers, hairdryers, curling irons, and a kick ass cafeteria). All in all, I'm doing what I can with what I've got. My diet has been pretty good...I'd give it a 90% out of 100, given my late-night sugar cravings and a steady supply of Oreos in the cupboard...who keeps buying those anyhow?! Lol. What are YOU doing to stay active and healthy?
Just Say NO...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New job and old goals

After 7 years of working for the same company-although I have to admit-the company I started with looked nothing like what it did when I originally joined, five executive teams later-it was time for me to change and move. I thankfully found a position in a competing company that has saved me about 3 hours a day in commuting time, now that's progress! With my newfound time I get to sleep in and plan actual runs, as opposed to stumbling along like a zombie and trying to squeeze in a 30 minute scramble to the bus every day. Now that I've had regular sleep again and feel human I have tried to have a good look at my overall running plan for this year, what my goals are and what I can do to achieve them. I had my big race a couple of months ago. I had packed on a few extra pounds and hadn't gotten the runs in that I should have. It wasn't a huge surprise (or let down) to find myself checking out at the 33km mark. The next week I ran a short 10k with my husband and I saw two weeks of race pictures-yikes! Clearly I had gotten off track. The hecticness of the company being bought out, the uncertainy of the transition (who would be laid off, who would be kept on and for how long) loomed over everyone I worked with for 6 months. When I heard nothing was going to change, even though promises had been made early on that things would change for the better, I had to get out of there. Clearly the extra pounds had to go as well as my old job. I've always responded really well to a high protein and fat diet, very low on the carbs, so I decided to dust that off again. So far, 6 weeks or so has passed and I've lost about 10lbs. My running though has taken much longer than I expected to get back on track. At the moment I have a solid, consistent 3ish mile run going on every day after work, but I need to go longer if I want to step up to the 50km plate again in early August at the Brookvale trail ultra in PEI. My weekends have been less than productive on the running side. Last weekend I managed a measley 10 miles over 2 days. Seriously! Me! Ugh. So, this past Sunday I thought I had a plan. From my home to my new workplace is about 10 miles. If I did that every morning (yes, my work has a gym and a shower-AWESOMENESS is that right there!!) I could get in my whole weekly mileage in 5 days. Yeeahh. That didn't work out so well yesterday...or today. God, once you get used to NOT waking up at 4:30am it's really hard to get up at 5. So, this week I'm trying to stretch out the end of my day a bit by coming into work early. If I can get in a solid hour after work before picking up my daughter at summer day camp I might have a chance to pull this race out of somewhere (use your imagination). I want to apologize to you guys though. I haven't been posting regularly as I used to, that's something else I want to change as well. I think I was in some kind of survival mode these past 6 months, worrying I wouldn't have a job, worrying about the effect my job's commute (It changed when the company was bought-we relocated to the other side of the city) was having on my family life, I just let a lot of things go by the wayside..not good. I'm very happy at my new workplace, people are generally happy here, everyone seems to work really hard and I've even spied a few race bibs posted in some of the cubes- hey, fellow runners! On top of that they have an excellent benefits plan, tons of training to take, a GYM on site, and a great cafeteria that will make just about anything you want at a subsidized price. Sweet. Now if I can just figure out my running schedule I'll be all set...famous last words lol.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I DNF'd and I'm totally fine with it

It's the race that's heralded the start of the spring races for me these past three years. Although its been held on a different route each year, this year's format of running 6.5km loops seemed to spell success. It was Wascally Wrabbit race day. My brother had a fit of insanity on the previous Monday (I figured) when he readily agreed to run this 50k with me. I was anxious the whole week, worrying about not getting enough rest, the odd pains I was feeling in different spots on my legs, and concern for the incredible elevation gains the race route boasted...all typically pre-race worries. Come Saturday morning though I was focused and ready to do this thing! The race field was smaller this year after a longer than normal winter left many runners undertrained. We all waited inside the community building as long as possible to stay warm before heading to the start line. Jodi (the race organzier) held a moment of silence for a runner who passed away during a race the previous fall, Josh Grady. Once we noted where we could see Josh's memorial Jodi signalled for us to GO! The local trail running group took off ahead of the rest of us as my brother and I hung back, saving our energy. Not 400 meters into the race we made a sharp right turn and began to climb (literally, hands and feet) up this huge hill. The hill had a 40% grade for about 750 meters. I grabbed trees and rocks and tried to scramble my way up as fast as I could. My brother-the ever joker-was a bit ahead and took the opportunity to make me laugh my doing his best LOTR impressions. Once we got to the top we ran/hopped a single track cut out of the brush that covered the top of the hill. We zig-zagged around, jumping and slidding until we came to "the rope." I just stood there for a second, looking at it. It stretched about 20 feet above me, a shear rockface with a single rope to help. At this point (only 2 kms into the race mind you), I knew my 50k was not going to happen. I knew that after each loop all of this was going to get harder and harder (and muddier)and I seriously doubted I could haul my butt up this rope 8 times. I didn't tell my brother that, he was in such good spirits and really thought we could manage the 50k even though it was clear the route was not going to let us accomplish that. After the rope we ran along some more brush until we got to a swamp of fallen bleached trees and thick (suck your shoe off) mud. We ran as quickly as we could hopping and trying not to fall. After a few hundred meters we came to a dirt trail, that was for the most part, quite runnable for about 1.5km. Then we hit the grassy section that was probably an old riverbed since these small loose boulders were everywhere and finding sure footing was very tricky. I was kind of worried I would twist an ankle but thankfully neither my brother or I did. Eventually we got to the bottom and hit the 1.5km dirt road back to the check point, finishing our first loop in 1 hour and 12 minutes (more than 20 minutes slower than my usual 6.5km time!). In the end we managed 5 loops of the trail, finishing just before the cut-off of 8 hours, coming in at 7:30 (clearly we got slower as the day wore on!). In total we ran 32kms, just 18kms short of my goal, but I did accomplish two things; I showed my brother the trail community is awesome and he agreed to run a more "sane" 50km race with me this summer in Prince Edward Island (the Brookvale Ultra). Did I accomplish my 50k goal? Nope, but that's okay. I had a great time (the best I think in 3 years) and did manage to get in some serious trail training while surprising myself that I could haul myself up a rope! But the best take-away for me is that my DNF has given me the fuel to train hard and eat well before this next race in about 10 weeks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Race Week Freak Out!!

I've got my favorite race of the year coming up this week; which is actually kind of a funny thing to say since the trails have changed location from one year to the next, so I guess this is a compliment to the race organziers (Jodi and Karine) who keep the atmosphere of the race welcoming and fun each year regardless of the trail. Yup, its Wascally Wrabbit time! If you're a fellow runner you know the ups and downs of the last taper week before a big race. Waves of excitement followed by feelings of panic ("Oh my god-what have I gotten myself into" thoughts frequently pass in my mind). The best countermeasure to the negative thoughts is to review your training. If you've had a solid training block, it gives you the confidence to step up to the line. This year, I have had much more consistent and injury free training than I had last year. I've also learned a few new things this year, especially how fast I should increase my overall weekly mileage before I burn out. One big boost to my morale this year is that my brother, Joshua, is going to join me! He and I have finished a few half marathons, a full marathon and a bunch of 10ks together. He's great at keeping the mood light for the majority of a race and I try to keep us on track strategically. With both of us spending our childhoods running through the forest by our home, and then he experienced the trails of BC these past few years, I know he can handle this trail...just how much of it though remains to be seen. I'll certainly fill him in on the fact that the first 30k or so (for me anyway) is about my training. If I've trained well enough I don't start to feel the miles until the 30k mark. At that point the race turns mental-no not "crazy" mental- but the challenge isn't that you'll finish (physically if you're not hurt you can walk it), but staying focused and positive mentally until the end. Last year I totally lost it with 3km to go. Feeling sorry for myself, I cried and stomped my way into the last check point before trying to shake it all off and head out for the last 2km. I remember having next-to-tunnel vision, knowing 2km stood between me and the finish. Every bone and muscle hurt. I shuffle/walked with my husband and daughter to the end with a time I'd rather not repeat. When I look back at that race I know I did the best I could with the horrible training I had (months of blistered feet, bad shoes and inconsistent runs), coupled with the fact I had spent the previous week on a work trip, socializing late into the night and flying home the day before the race. So, this year I have more confidence going into the race and the new format will also play to everyone's benefit as well. This year we're doing loops of 6.4km. So, if my math is correct I'll need to do at least 8 laps to get 50km or more. Last year we did loops of about 13km, and the year before (my first 50km) we did one loop of 6ish km followed by a larger loop of about 9km, we did both loops 3 times and the 6km loop a fourth. This new format will not only allow people to rest a bit between loops, but if I manage to complete all 8 loops I'll have run my furthest distance yet of just over 51km. The goal is in my sights. So what do you do the week before a big race? Rest. Sleep as much as possible, hydrate as much as possible without overhydrating, make sure you have all of the supplies you think you'll need for race day, don't run a lot, walk if you have the pre race jitters and for god's sake don't eat anything different the night before the race...and don't forget..breathe. ;-) Here goes..again!

Friday, March 28, 2014

What is YOUR Everest?

When I was a kid my Everest was the Ironman. Yup. I would watch it on NBC at home with my father and I would always be amazed watching the people finishing, some crawling, others rolling like a dog on a sunny day, anything to get to that finish line. Most of them would be crying and falling into their loved ones arms, relief washing over their faces. I sat in awe of these athletes. I was a competitive swimmer at the time so I had an appreciation for the 2.4 mile distance of the swimming portion. Add onto that 112 mile bike ride and a full marathon and I thought these people were super-human. And I wanted to join their ranks, someday. What's YOUR Everest?

Monday, March 17, 2014

I finally found "My" shoe ;-)

Ever since I began running over 6 years ago (as a regular fitness/adventure thing), I've read tons of shoe reviews. Alot of these shoe testers swear by a particular brand or model that just seems to have been made for their type of feet. Me..not so much. I've been searching for my perfect shoe for 6 years and until this past fall I've had some shoes that I've loved but when it came time to buy a new pair I would try something new for one reason or another. This past weekend was one of my favorite times of year; the "Source for Sports Loonie Sale!" (collective cheer inserted here). This usually means I get a new pair of running shoes since both my husband and I have a problem rationalizing away a good deal...especially on shoes. So I went through the shoe department with near perfect precision (I think I said "no thank you" ten times when offered help-really guys, I've got this), my daughter assuming her standard "shoe waiting mode" with her father's cellphone, half lying down over a chair, while my husband and I try on 6 or 7 pairs of shoes (don't worry my daughter doesn't always get snubbed on these trips, this time though she didn't need new shoes, she has tons..literally). Finally I was down to one New Balance shoe (the 480s) with the one I already owned (but have since destroyed) the NB Ionix 3090v3 (in the D width). The 480s were very cushy and wrapped around my foot but with spring and summer coming I know I need more ventalization, not less, so I stuck with my Ionix 3090s. They aren't the best when it comes to trail running, but when I put on one of those strictly trail shoes I find they are generally too stiff for my feet. So I give up a bit on the grip I can get but I also don't have to suffer blisters, black toe nails and arch pain the way I have had to with other shoes. The best part was watching my husband try on the mens version of the NB Ionix shoes. He was surprised at the lightness of them but also quickly found they had no support for his feet. I was very impressed with the sale clerk, Bright, who cautioned my husband on buying minimal shoes when he is usually running in well cushioned, stiff Saucony shoes. I had to chuckle when my husband nodded his head and rolled his eyes as the clerk sounded like me on one of my "minimalist shoe are really better for your feet, but you have to work up to them" soapbox speeches. He ended up with another pair of his trusted Sauconys. So that was that. We both walked away with new, yet tried and true shoes. Our daughter did end up getting a treat at the sports store for putting up with us, a set of colourful UnderArmour headbands.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vibrams and ice don't mix

This past weekend's long run was cut back a bit after the weird leg pains and achy legs had me going a bit slower than usually the last two weeks, so feeling much better and with a warm breeze in the air I decided to head out on my planned 12 miler with my Vibram Sprints on. I took it pretty easy, walking alot of the hills out of fear of re-igniting any hamstring or calf pain, and thankfully none really developed. The streets were covered in melting slush so wet feet were inevitable. I jumped, scrambled and climbed around huge sidewalk puddles, trying not to fall into any of them (or the traffic!). Finally I reached the Dartmouth Commons where I usually enjoy some off road plodding but today the slush was hard packed to the trails. I went up one hill and I saw the downhill covered in ice so I thought I would be more secure on the grass. Not so much. As soon as one foot stepped onto the grass I had a sinking feeling I made a bad call as my foot slid out from under me. I stepped down with my other foot to try and stop myself but gravity took over and I was doing a crazy Roadrunner spiral down the side of a hill. It's funny how many thoughts you can have in the space of a few seconds, especially when trying desperately not to fall on your butt. My first thought: "Oh SH@T!!!" 2nd thought: "Don't fall, don't fall" 3rd thought: "Okay, if I fall I don't want this handheld attached to my wrist, I can't sprain my wrist. Handheld must go." And with that I chucked my handheld (very dramatically) as I tried to cut off any objects that might hurt me if I fall. 4th thought: "Holy crap, am I going to stop anytime soon or should I just fall to make myself stop?" 5th thought: "Maybe if I step down hard..oh I stopped. Whew. Thank god." The of course my next thought was, as I looked back up the hill I just slid down, "where the hell did I chuck my water bottle?!" I still had another 3 miles left to go so I had to shake off my nerves and keep going, although now I was nicely covered in mud and a bit of grass. I managed to finish my not-so long run and met my hubby and daughter for her weekly swimming class (I showered before I interacted with other parents, I swear). Next week I've got a nice 16 miler planned, on my way to build back up to 26 miles before the big May Ultra. I think this week though I'll leave the Vibrams at home ;-)

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Return to Form

This week sucked. Sorry, I know I usually start off more positive, but when you have a house full of sick people and every training run has been a slog you tend to lose that positive vibe. Yes, the flu/a cold/whatever hit the house this week so one or all of us have been walking around like a dry-cough-hacking-snuffling-zombie. Thankfully we are all on the mend. And yes, of course I ran through it-racing heart beats, snotty nose, hacking cough and all. My runs have been sooo painful this week it's just been hard to find the motivation to get out there. Something funky is going on with my lower legs, to the point where my calf muscles tighten and the front of my shins just plain hurt after about 2 miles. Of course Googling this pain gives me everything under the sun as a possible condition; diabetes, blood clots, compartmental syndrome, stress fractures, shin splints. etc. The list goes on and on. I tried a few at-home ideas, none of which actually helped for more than a mile or two. So then I just stopped. No not running, well, sort of. I stopped the taping, bandages, compression gear, extra shoe padding...all that and went back to basics. I grabbed my indoor track outfit, my vibram sprints, a pair of toe socks and off I went to try another 6 miler. When I got to the indoor track I saw lots of other runners and walkers. The cold and wet weather has made for almost impossible walking conditions outside so the indoor track has become a haven for mile-obsessed runners like me and normal people just looking to stay healthy year round. I got changed and went to put my toe socks on when I encountered one of the pitfalls of owning lots of toe socks-I had grabbed the same "foot" for both socks from my dresser drawer! I looked suspiciously at the baby toe sock and my big toe, and prayed the bit of cotton in the sock would give alot of stretch! With a push and a pull the wrong toe sock was on the right foot. Shaking my head at myself I went out to the track, set my podrunner music to a steady 180 bpm song and off I went. After about 2 miles of circles I self assessed and realized that going back to a strict 180bpm step combined with my Vibrams had my legs feeling better than they had all week. My calf pain was still there, just much more localized, and when I changing what part of my foot I was rolling through I was able to relieve the pain. My shin pain was also more localized to one leg. I noticed it seems to cause a bit of swelling that extends down to the side of my ankle. After another 2 miles though the pain was almost gone completely. So was it all just a matter of correct form? I'm not sure, but I know by wearing my vibrams I couldn't heel strike so my legs were not only hitting the ground with less force but my stride was also shorter by running to the 180bmp music. Combine those and it seems to have reduced the weird leg pain. What caused the pain to begin with? I think it was a combination of doing too much too soon, in my case, too many miles too quickly. I should have transitioned a bit more slowly between December and January and I ignored the extra tiredness I was feeling for adding on extra miles and the stress at work. I should have dropped back to the 50 mile/week plan sooner than I did, but that's all part of training, learning what you should and shouldn't do and what worked for me. So, I've dropped back my weekly mileage a bit and decided that if my runs are indoors I'll use my Vibrams, at least until the sidewalks are clear, and save my zero drop running shoes for my long runs and race day when a wee bit of extra cushion is greatly appreciated.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Typical Me

Yesterday, as I was lacing up my New Balanace Minimus shoes I prayed for a running miracle. The past two days had been a dreadful slog through two 5 milers and I was really wishing for a change in luck. I had fuelled properly, drank enough water, ate enough protein, but my legs kept yelling at me to take a walk break, and when that would get too painful, I would run, which felt bettter for a while, then walking would be better. Needless to say it was very frustrating. I can't say any one thing was wrong; my legs would tighten up then relax, my feet would have a weird pain that would disappear, my ankle would get stiff. Ugh, just miserable. Some runners (and the smart ones) probably would have taken this as a sign and taken a couple of days off. Me? Not so much, which is why I found myself lacing up for a 6 miler, praying for happy legs as I headed out into a rain storm. Yup. Typical me. The happy news is that my legs felt great, better than they had in, well, days. Whew. The rain storm hadn't fully developed yet so the weather was manageable, although really really windy. I took my time and was grateful for every pain-free/stiffness-free step. I know what's going on with my legs. I'm a wee bit overtrained at the moment so I've decided to scale back my training to the 50 miler training plan in the book Relentless Forward Progress. I've run long enough now that I know the signs; sluggish legs, unusual tiredness, loss of motivation..they are all there so one thing or another needs to change to re-fresh my training. I still have 2.5 months before Wasskally Wrabbit, so I'm comfortable with my decision. I'm taking solice in the fact that I'm still training more miles than I did last year, and even more than for the previous 50k, so I should still be capable of running my goal pace in May. Today I've got a nice little 8 miler to do, which I hope to squeeze in between work and going out to dinner for Valentine's Day. We do our gifts first thing in the morning (everyone gets a surprise) so now the evening can be more relaxed and full of good food and too many chocolates. Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wishing for Spring

I know, I know, we are ALL wishing for spring to arrive, but none of us so much I think as my fellow runners. I've tried to embrace the winter and all that it brings; new challenging terrain, the cold temperatures that mean I don't get quite as sweaty, the bad ass feeling you get when you're out on the roads with your baklava on, running in -15 degree weather. Yay..and I've had enough.

I'm dreamin' of clear sidewalks that lead to dirt trails, trees giving cover to the bright sun, not having to split up long runs because of the fear of frost bite and enjoying not wearing four layers of clothes. Is that too much to ask Mother Nature?! Sheesh. It usually is about this time of year that I wonder why I live in this part of the world..and its really for all of the other seasons in the year.

Today is a special day though, but not really for me. Today is the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. This time, four years ago, I was honored to be part of the Torch Relay that brought the Olympic torch to Vancouver when we hosted the Winter Games. This time I'm sitting back watching the torchbearers share in that special feeling I know all other torchbearers have when they carry the torch and finally bring it to the opening ceremony. And even though there isn't a running-specific game in the Winter Olympics I still have my favorite sports that I'll be cheering for; skiing, snowboarding and skating. Go Team Canada! I only hope they can survive their accommodations..check out these pictures from our athletes:

No Fishing for our athletes?! And for god's sake can someone explain the last image??

The team that trains together...well this says it all.

And hopefully nobody trips on their way to compete....

Or smells the "grass"!

I mean really Sochi-is it THAT hard to put a toilet together correctly, then give each person their own stall (complete with toilet paper) that asking too much? Really??

Monday, January 20, 2014

My 100th Post and a new Weekly Total Distance PB!

Yup, this week I ran longer in training than I have ever run before thanks to the training plan I'm following from the book Relentless Forward Progress. And this week, I get to do it again. I have one of those half-hearted "yay" feelings about it. You know the kind-where you want to do it but at the same time you know, at some point(s) things will really suck but in the end you'll be glad you did it-kind of moments about the up coming mileage.

Last week I had two runs that are what I'd call (gut'em out) kind of runs, where there were moments when things went well but overall it hurt more and I was slower than I wanted it to be. The other three runs were pretty darn good, and that even includes the 16 miler I did on Saturday. In total it was 46 miles. This week I'm aiming for 50 miles (80km)!

When you're training for a race, and as you progress through your training plan, you'll quickly notice what works and doesn't work from a nutrition stand point. On Saturday I took a GU and a Cliff bar with me for my 3+ hour run. I quickly learned that I had NOT ENOUGH FOOD. The GU propelled me through miles 3-9 but by mile 10 I was really hungry and the little bites of cliff bar weren't helping so I ate the rest of what was left...and realized I don't really like cliff bars anymore. That got me through the end of the run but I would have liked to have been more comfortable throughout the run so I'm going to take an extra bar with me this Saturday. Trial and error. You might ask why I just don't replicate what I've done for other races, but I've found that what worked for me a year (or two) ago won't necessarily work for me now. We are all constantly changing, and although I'm not a hell of alot faster or lighter I can handle a much bigger training load than I used to and this has brought with it new nutritional (and time management) challenges.

Thankfully, on the time management end, my husband and I have been able to figure out a plan that works for both of us. We both need exercise time so we both do our best to fit this into our schedules as best as we can, with the other person supporting by taking care of our daughter and/or household chores.

This week's total distance will be a challenge, but one I'm ready for. I'm very glad that I've decided to push myself to train harder using this plan, it goes to show, you can push past your own perceived limits if you try!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Protein Bar Review! Oh Yeah! Almond Fudge Brownie

As far as protein bars go, this is my all-time favorite. Oh Yeah! bars can be found in two sizes, the half and full bars. Walmart and other smaller pharmacy and grocery stores seem to sell the half size, which is about 170 calories and 15 g of protein. I tend to buy the full sized (85g bars and split them over two days, or if I have a longer run than 6 miles planned I'll eat the whole thing for the 30g of protein.If I have it in the morning it tastes like a real treat with coffee!

The Oh Yeah! Almond Fudge Brownie bar looks and tastes like a real candy bar. This bar is loaded with almond chunks wrapped in chocolate surrounding a delicious brownie center. You should feel down on yourself for having one but you don't because it has no trans fat, is gluten free and (as I said before) its really high in protein. I've found it to be an excellent source of pre-run fuel so I can feel satisfied for my hour + long runs. 

Here is the nutritional info for the full sized bars:

Calories: 350 (I know this sounds like alot, but if I replaces a meal I don't think 350 calories is very much)
Total Fat: 13g
Sodium: 90mg
Potassium: 170mg
Total Carbs: 27g
Fiber: 4g
Protein: 30g
Calcium: 15%

My personal favorite - Almond Fudge Brownie - YUM!!

I give Oh Yeah! protein bars 5 out of 5 stars, now go try one yourself!