So long, Summer

summer04Soooo, running and I seem to have had a bit of a falling out.

It’s been a while. Actually, wow, more than a while since my July 2nd Forest Gump moment in the middle of Powderface where I just stopped and went home. I’ve now ditched my run club, I stopped jogging or even training on my own, and pretty much have taken up with bad boys Netflix and Pokemon Go.

I’m basically turning into mush.

Of course, I’d signed up for a million road races and trail runs this summer, and instead of being inspirational, it’s all just fizzled. I’ve sent my regrets to most of them.

SeaWheeze, however, WAS just around the corner and was still on the ticket for August. SeaWheeze is special; and it’s not because I’m a LuluLemon fan. It’s about the slick organization, the #westcoastbestcoast location and the general happiness, camaraderie and well-being surrounding the entire event. AND I was going with a FRIEND. Totally makes ALL the difference. It became a holiday. A holiday with a few fun detours. I just had to run 21km at some point during said holiday.


However, my state of mind was slightly scrambled prior to this getaway. I’d been bingeing on the The Good Wife via Netflix when (spoiler alert!) I found myself in a panic Google-ing “Is Will Gardiner REALLY DEAD???” before that fateful 5th season episode was even over. Devastation.


Now, Will & Alicia are no Fitz & Olivia, not even close to Carrie & Mr. Big, nor Derek & Meredith… but it was still WRONG. He was TAKEN TOO SOON. (Totally channeling Annie Wilkes here. I may even have called the producers “dirty birdies.”). I was so mad. I couldn’t believe it. I stopped watching.

No heart-wrenching ER saving of a life, no prolonged illness, no moving to Seattle, no extended coma with a joyful awakening, no Bobby Ewing reappearing (“it was just a dream!”) = nothing. Art imitating life. He’s dead, Jim. Everything…hanging. Unresolved. Gone.

I guess that’s how death works.

But I was MAD. Will and Alicia, my imaginary friends, had a chance! Hope! Potential! Even if they weren’t my favourite TV people in the world (and c’mon, it’s far from being the most spectacular show in the world), I only wanted the best for them. I was tuning in to see it all work out in the end.

OMG – this is just TV, right?? But I’m still mad.

Now I don’t have running OR Netflix.

Maybe I have issues. Well, ya. I also kind of lost a month of summer to Netflix – whoops!

So, I packed my bag and decided to grieve the (virtual) dead by (actually) living. I prepped for a weekend away with the possibility of extending with a few extra days in the mountains if I decided to change it up a bit.  Needless to say, I had a full backpack with a crazy assortment of stuff. Ready for anything. Like a county fair, a winery lunch, a rock concert, a half marathon, a sushi dinner, a 16-hour Greyhound ride, backcountry camping, etc.


Flying (or busing) at ridiculous hours, I had little to no sleep at all the whole weekend, which made everything all that more hilarious through sheer exhaustion.  Despite my typical “I vant to be alone”-ness I spent three days in the back pockets of friends, and it was good.


The experiences would have been nothing without them, and for their friendship and general all-round-awesomesauce, I am grateful. How else could mimosas and trout seem right for breakfast in Seattle?  Or buttering myself into a pair of LuluLemon SeaWheeze-exclusive running crops (yes – the goodies might be showing) in Vancouver? Or hanging out like a groupie after our latest Cheap Trick concert to chat with the band in middle-of-nowhere Oregon?

The latter half of my holiday – because I did decide to hop off the Greyhound 16.5 hours after leaving Vancouver – was an act of decompression in the mountains, in the woods, knee-deep in buffalo berries everywhere I went.


No, I didn’t bring bear spray; yes, I encountered a grizzly. But LOOK, I’m STILL HERE. I’m okay! The grizz is okay! I promise to bring some next time, just to make my family feel better.  Absolutely knackered from lack of sleep, too much heat (Oregon was 36C) and running silly distances, my hiking was slow and methodical, and my bedtimes were backcountry appropriate: 8:30 pm = nite! nite!

Sometimes you just need a little crazy, some ageing rockers, underwear shopping, and maybe some beer with breakfast.


And after a time away from home, with way too much thought and contemplation, I decided to continue watching The Good Wife.  Hope and potential can come in other ways. Everything’s gonna be alright.

I’m a quitter & I’m okay with that today

Powderface 42It was a Forest Gump moment extraordinaire. Halfway through my half marathon trail race, I just stopped.

Sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t.

I could see the medic and the sweep carefully assessing me and my decision. It was, after all, their job to make sure I wasn’t bleeding or broken in some way. Sure, there was some minor discomfort (hey, it’s running) like swollen hands and being lightheaded in the heat, but no real emergency. I’d just had enough that day.

I was enough that day.

And so I took a knee, and dropped out of Powderface (that’s a big DNF – officially) after seven miles of straight up and straight down, flats through wildflower meadows, gradual descents through the trees and brush, slow inclines along rocky paths, and chance encounters with young elk. Beautiful day.

It was the strangest thing to do, and very uncharacteristic for me. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have a ridiculous record of finishing even if it means I’m dead last and/or the clock ran out. I just keep going. I’m a bit stubborn that way.

“Is this your first trail race?” asked the sweep, rather cautiously. I was tempted to lie. But I told her no, I’d done a 5 Peaks race before. “Where are you from?” (ie. was I a Flatlander? Had I ever seen a hill?) was the next question. The sweep was lovely – saying all the right things, and giving all sorts of helpful advice for future training. I appreciated every last bit of it, but was anxious to get on my way. I was done for the day.

While I was quite willing to walk back to the race staging area along the highway, the race crew at the aid station intervened and radioed in a medic ride. After a quick drive, I handed in my race bib at the finish line. I walked by the aid station stacked with boxes of mini pies, bowls of sweet, juicy fruit and salty chips, and past all the 5 Peaks mugs and Buffs set out for the finishers.

Me = officially not a finisher.  Pie is for finishers.

I had kind of a neutral feeling about that. No victory dance, yet no regret.  Perhaps just a little meh. [Insert shoulder shrug here]

I hopped back into my car, drove out of the mountains back to Calgary to pick up my husband, then headed north to Edmonton.  The future of me and running still to be determined.

Have you ever dropped out of a race?

Would you still wear the race t-shirt if you didn’t complete the race?

Have you and running ever taken a break?

Embracing my first DNF

Blackfoot 50K mud


DNF? Are you kidding me?

DNF stands for “Did Not FINISH.”

When I saw those preliminary results posted on Facebook, I was gutted.

I clearly recall running, cantering, trotting and walking the entire 50 kilometres. 50K. On the trail. Over the hills. Through the mud.

I just didn’t quite finish within a reasonable time, I guess. I was under the impression I’d made the cutoff time, but I appear to have been mistaken.

I know I completed 50K.

YOU (now) know I completed 50K.

I just need to work on my speed. Because yes, I was out there for a ridiculously long time on my feet.


So, I’ll see that DNF and raise you some courage.

Some confidence.

Some sore legs.

And some mild interest to do it all again next year just so I can get a legit time posted next to my name, and not a big, fat “DNF.”

Inking the 2016 race calendar

My plans, as always, happen in the fall for the following year, and then ramp up from there.

Pros and cons abound to planning ahead. I do it all so far in advance so that there is sufficient training time, but then essentially can’t pick up any last minute races, camping trips, excursions, etc. because my schedule is booked and my money is spent. Like, REALLY spent.

As well, once the race schedule is set, I dedicate myself to it: training accordingly, no turning back.  Well, I had second thoughts on a race.  I emailed organizers to pull out and be a volunteer instead.  It wasn’t an easy decision, because this was going to be my most epic challenge to date.  A 50K.  Fifty. Kilometers.

I was so excited to do this.  I had a 50K training plan, which I’d been following for months. I had a group of runners supporting me 120%. This was something big to reach for. Something bigger than me. Something that would take just as much mental drive as it would be physical.

I’ll admit, it was a mental surge that caused me to quit this training.  It was after the Hypothermic Half back in February, that I wavered.  I did the math: if it took me 3 hours to do a half marathon at my easy-run pace, it would take me more than 8 hours to do a 50K.  And do I really want to be running (jogging, shuffling, walking) for 8 hours and…potentially (assuredly?) feeling miserable?

And then. Then.  I looked at the math again. Eight hours. Even nine. Ten maybe. What’s the worst that could happen?  I’ve hiked for that long. And the trail running community is so easygoing and awesome.  I’m there to have fun and to accomplish the goal of finishing a wicked crazy 50K distance.  All ego aside.  Why not, right? Why not…Why. Not.

So, I emailed the organizers again.  They never did respond to my first email asking to step down, so I requested to keep my registration if they hadn’t already given it to someone on the wait list. I waited. I waited some more.  And then Gary emailed me back a few days later with a chuckle and a note saying they’ll keep me.  After all, they had only just read the emails.

My training suffered a hit during the weeks I pretended to be a volunteer rather than a runner. But I picked up where I left off, and I ran the Blackfoot course a couple of times to get to know those lovely hills again in addition to my city runs. I didn’t get as many long distances in as originally planned, and the training schedule was way off course, but I pushed forward.

My goals?  Have fun, finish the race and still know my name.

Yesterday, I had a 50K for breakfast, lunch and … dinner…  I was out there a long time, but I came in under the cut-off.

And all three goals?  Nailed ’em.



Race recap – 5 Peaks Terwillegar

Finisher 5 PeaksWhhhyyyy do I do this to myself?

I really don’t like this course, but I knew I needed a swift kick in terms of getting off the road and onto the trails.

Trail running is so incredibly different than road racing, and 5 Peaks guarantees that you’re going to get a course that is a big fat twisty single-track adventure when you run at Terwillegar in Edmonton.

5 Peaks seems to be experiencing a bit of a growth spurt – the first race in the 5 Peaks Northern Alberta series was  sold out!  The race had vendors, snacks, package pick-up and a social media-driven car-pooling initiative going down.  All smooth, all good.  The location is the same as in years past, at the Terwillegar dog park.

Let me just say… I hate this course. I hate it because it kills me every time. Which means I should really love it because I need to conquer it.

It starts innocently enough with flat double-ish track for a few kilometres or so, and then boom!  Up through the trees on a single track along the river where you find yourself running on what appears in the normal-person-world to be a hiking trail.  This twisty trail of fun continues through the trees with a descent, and then another section of undulating hills hugged closely by trees.  After you survive this bit, the path widens out and heads back down to the finish line. But wait, if you’re an idiot and signed up for the Enduro (14 km) course rather than the Sport (7 km) course, you get to do another loop of this foolishness.5Peaks Terwillegar course

My run
I seeded myself in the 3rd (final) wave of the start for the Enduro runners, and was in full panic mode as I covered the first few kilometres. WHY I was freaking out, I can’t tell you. Probably the same emotional rage range I experience when going to the dentist for a little drilling of the teeth. I knew what was coming. I knew it would be challenging. And everyone who signs up for these trail races are just so EPIC!  (Eeeek! Intimidating!)

Once I hit that hiking trail (yes, I will continue to call it a hiking trail) my legs turned to concrete and my heart was pounding right out of my chest.  Adrenaline carried me as my body went into WTF mode.  As we all navigated the steep, rooted trail, I played tag with a couple of ladies running together. I passed them, they passed me.  They rested, then I rested.  It was comforting to always have a someone (anyone?) in constant view. I managed to keep up an acceptable pace but soon enough the duo disappeared ahead as the real hounds caught up to me.

Released from the start gate, the Sport racers were already running up from behind. Total beast mode! I took advantage of their speed to catch my breath by stepping off the trail to let them pass, me cheering and clapping – because it WAS damn impressive.  During this time, I encountered the Enduro sweep who informed me exactly what I was: “the last one.” A little disheartening. Nonetheless, I stepped, cheered, ran, stepped, cheered ran – repeatedly – the next several kilometres as waves of runners came dashing through the woods.  AND I was also completely lapped by the leaders of the Enduro as well!  Freaking amazing!! These guys rocked.

By the time I reached the end of the first loop runners in front of me were veering off to the right, towards the finish line, and I couldn’t see a soul in front of me on the track starting the second loop. I’d lost the pair of ladies who were around my speed.  That first half of the race truly took the guts right out of me, and I was feeling rather alone in my great trail running baptism of 2016.

And that’s when I began to cry.  It was hot. I was tired. It was stupid, really. But it was overwhelming. I felt terrible and dumb and sad. Even the sweep wasn’t running at that point, as she’d stayed back to chat with volunteers.  And cheese and crackers, WHY do I do this to myself?? Why didn’t I just run the short course??  Well, because I knew I needed practice on a long trail run, that’s why.

However, at this point, “logic” didn’t stop the heaving, blinding, pathetic sobs.  I stumbled up the small rise at the beginning of the second loop, and when I was out of sight from the start/finish line and all the happy people, I sat down on a park bench and sipped some water. I sucked back a gel.  And then I got myself together.  Crying was NOT going to miraculously catapult me to the finish line.  I had a long way to go.

So, I kept going. I sucked air all through the hiking trail part, heaving as I climbed up the short, steep inclines, trying to make up time with fast descents. On the next part, a nice volunteer caught up to me.  He was busy plucking the markers off the trail behind me as I either ran or walked.  (Note: he could walk as fast as I “ran”)  He was retired, and we chatted about all sorts of running-related things. He didn’t start running until his 40s, and it cleared up his knee problems as his legs got stronger over the years.

The next trail angel I encountered was heading back to the finish after hanging out at an aid station post-race, and he walked/jogged with me. He gave me good advice on all sorts of trail-related things, including a walking gait to adopt that allowed me to walk faster while still being soft on the knees and providing recovery time mid-race.

My painfully clenched calf muscles (poor calves – shocked to have worked so hard!) had begun to subside by that point, but being a punk and feeling sorry for myself, I continued to walk the remainder of the course.  Every now and then I would trot, and the calves would protest, so I slipped back into walk mode. I figured last was last, and that’s all there was to it – no need to hurry.

As he and I power-walked monkey-style down the final stretch, we could hear the 5 Peaks announcers and the remnants of the crowd.  He told me this was my time now, and I needed to go ahead.  He told me to run and to throw my arms in the air as I crossed the finish line, because I’d earned it.  That made me feel both grateful and silly, mostly because I spent most of the race feeling sorry for myself. And I’m not sure I earned some fabulous finish.

Off I went, trotting across the finish line with a Forrest Gump wave to the poor volunteers who were waiting to go home.  Everyone was so kind, and they clapped, and the race announcer even gave me a Timex running watch along with my commemorative 5 Peaks pint glass for finishing the race. Awwwwww. Thanks, 5 Peaks!

The food table folks brought out a bowl of bananas they’d put away, along with a sleeve of cookies and a half bottle of diet cola. All the other snacks were gone, and as a little kid hanging out by the table lamented, he didn’t get pizza, either – lol.  I took what they could offer and went to sit and watch the dogs play in the dog park as I cooled off.Terwillegar 5 Peaks my run

All in all, this race was a great way to get back on the trails and remind myself what work needs to be done = train for the terrain.

When I got home, I scrolled through the online race results and discovered that the ladies who’d been around my pace during the first quarter of the run had only finished about 6 minutes before me. Six minutes.

On the flip side, boy, I was whiny.  I need to – again – get out of my own head, and work on the positive self-talk.  These races are learning experiences and part of the process. I mustn’t get so discouraged!

I was super grateful to run into those trail angels who offered me advice, with no judgement. It’s amazing how far a kind word will go, you know?

And lastly – oh jeez. I’m striving to gain a little more running maturity (ummm there’s no crying in running??).

5 Peaks last place






Race recap – Run Disney’s Star Wars (Dark Side) Half Marathon

Better late than never – for both childhood dreams of going to Disney and the writing of race recaps.

Darth Run DisneyI’d heard about RunDisney but didn’t pay much attention until the words “Star Wars” came up.  Running the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side races at Walt Disney World (the light side having been run in California at Disneyland) sounded too cool, and hey, it was Orlando – I love you! Orlando! Sea World and Disney and putt-putt golfing! But I digress. Jim and I joined 43,000 other registered runners for the 2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend—The Dark Side.

We also totally made a holiday out of it this past April, staying for a week at Disney’s Pop Century hotel.  Talk about havin’ a time!  From the pineapple beer at the race expo to crossing the finish line at the half marathon = all was amazing.

With 19,500 runners registered for the half marathon, it’s the largest race I’ve ever participated in. And it was STAR WARS.  How absolutely nerd-tastic was this??  I’m hands-down impressed by the sheer logistics of the races hosted by Walt Disney World in Florida.  Despite my coping issues with crowds, for some reason I didn’t really feel the sheer humanity present at the race. (Disney seems to have this skill down to an art form, races or parks in general).

To give you an idea of the people-moving skills required, it was suggested you be on the bus out to the race launching area by 0330 hrs at the latest.  So, I was up by 0230 hrs (having gone to bed by 2300 hrs) and on the bus leaving my Disney hotel by 0300 hrs.  After a dark 10-minute walk from the bus drop off to the  launch area, the parking lot had transformed into a massive party with John Williams’ finest pouring from the speakers, a big screen & stage with pre-race hosts and epic movie clips from all the Star Wars films, tents for last minute coffee, snacks and runner’s fuel and stacks and stacks of port-a-potties! (My fave mash-up tune was “shotz, shotz, shotz, shotz-shotz” in tune with blaster fire…)

Walking from the launch area to the starting corrals must have been another 20 minutes – I kid you not!  I was down in corral G – I believe it went all the way to J or K.  The start time was 0500 hrs.  The temperatures – even in the wee hours – were deliciously balmy.  For a Canadian accustomed to freezing pre-race and having to bring coats or throw-away tees, this was a pleasure.  Fireworks heralded the start of every corral’s gun.  It was all just so epic.

RunDisney half marathon courseThe half marathon course snaked it’s way through three Disney parks – Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom – with the finish line at ESPN.  All pavement. Barely any grade to the course. LOTS of distractions!  Epcot sparkled in the dark night as we ran through the back lots and onto the main route around the lake and past all the pavilions.  There was only one super-tight walkway where faster runners were getting bottlenecked (and one rather mouthy guy pushing his way through with rude comments was booed – long live ‘merica), but otherwise it was easy going.

Every park had Star Wars music booming from the sound systems, and spacious boulevards connecting the parks were dotted with giant screens playing Star Wars movie clips; plus there were photo opps with R2 and Chewie (long lines for these!).  Hollywood Studios sported a whole selfie station with tons of beloved Star Wars dark side characters like Boba Fett, Storm Troopers, Imperial guards, etc. hanging out. As the sun rose (remember – I’m a slow runner) the road in and out of Animal Kingdom seemed the longest, but it also had movie screens, and a special aid station with tubs of serve-yourself pump-action BioFreeze (lifesaver!).  ESPN welcomed runners to the finish with loads of cheering and supporters, snack boxes, aid stations and the opportunity once again to take more photos with Darth Vader, Darth Maul and all their dark side buddies.

My run
Despite the staggering amount of people and production behind this event, I didn’t really have my usual run-freak-out.  Pretty relaxed, I went into this with a certain giddy merriment, and it seemed like everyone else was there to have a good time as well.  Tons of runners were using the Disney-endorsed Jeff Galloway walk/run methods, as confirmed by the endless interval beeping from watches, and runners throwing up their arms indicating they were about to walk (I’d never seen that done before).

Stocked with plentiful aid stations, the course kept runners hydrated with loads of water and I guzzled H2O and electrolytes at every opportunity. RunDisney material reminded runners that the heat and humidity impacts your bod and your time, and I’d been seriously worried that hydration was going to do me in. Instead, I ended up drinking enough that I even used the loo 4 times along the route (port-a-potties plus open washrooms in the parks: thank you, Disney).  As the sun climbed into the sky, it became more challenging for me due to the heat, but I just kept trotting along.  The Star Wars music was ridiculously inspiring.

When my knee hurt, I pushed through. When I was tired, I gave myself a minute walking break.  When I was hot, I thought about the finish line.  When I felt soooo middle aged wearing a sun-visor (hey! It’s Florida!), I pretended I was… in costume.  I’d kind of decided that I didn’t want to feel like crap at the end of the Dark Side half marathon – I wanted to feel good about the run.  I took off performance pressure (knowing full well that I am just soooo slow this year) and in the end, finished at 3:26:59.  I came in, like, 14,522nd place. Hahahahahaaa. SO MANY PEOPLE!  But it was FUN.

And, just FYI, I’d have to run another 31 half-marathons to lap the second Death Star.

Competitive me, of course,  must point out that this is my longest ever half marathon time. EVER.  I’m still struggling with weight and performance. I still hate that I’m not improving upon my best half marathon times from two years ago. But I know this is all a work in progress. And another “but” —> but I know this has to remain fun to some degree or why do it?  I’ll keep working on it.  Summer has barely started – plenty of time to train. RunDisney

Would I do it again?  YES!  RunDisney is a pretty slick operation and registration – while not cheap – sells out quickly.  It makes for a great holiday and a fun, fun, fun experience. I totally felt like a kid all over again from the costumed runners, collectible medals and snagging exclusive RunDisney/Star Wars stuff at the runners’ expo to the overall holiday experience where there were wild rides, mouse ears and ice cream. And bonus: it’s a great family thing – Jim and I also did the 5K together, which was cool.  Next time, I’ll have to make sure we time it so the boys will join us!


3 behaviours I don’t want to repeat from my first half marathon of 2016

Disclaimer and/or fair warning: this entire post is a big, fat WHINE about why I didn’t do better on my first half marathon of 2016.

I hadn’t planned to run the Hypothermic Half in February, but the distance fell in nicely with my training plan so I decided to sign up so that I could see how things were shaking down, performance-wise.

Day of the race, the weather was beautiful – a balmy 4 degrees Celsius with sunny skies – and I knew the course from volunteering two weeks prior.  The race had three start times, and I chose the SleepyHead start at 10:00 am.  Ready to run!


1. I went out too hypothermic half 2016fast. SUCH a rookie mistake. I got completely sucked in to keeping up with the Joneses.  Even the back-of-the-pack Joneses.  Fueled with adrenaline, the first 3 miles were a pleasure – wow – look at me! All that training has paid off! I can run faster than I thought!  The next 3 miles slowed down a bit – very realistic though, and still feeling strong. The following 3 miles were back to my normal, distance-training pace. The last 4 miles? Crash cart required. Wheels came off. Walking, walking, ridiculous amounts of walking.

2. I was obsessed with time. It’s my first half mara of the year and I’ve been training for the distance, not for time, so why I expected to beat my other half marathon road race times…I don’t know.  Mostly a lot of hubris, I suspect. Throw in that over the winter I packed on weight, and boom! I came in the slowest I’ve ever done a half. My chip time was 2:58:41. Yep. Time to get over it. It’s part of the training process. I must move forward trusting the process.

3. I dropped the motivation ball. In the latter half of the race, I got lazy and my brain totally talked me out of any ambition. Albeit, I was tired, too, but instead of sticking to my walk/run pace, I started to just walk…a lot. In the last 3 miles, I saw a very fit-looking couple just up ahead of me who were walking for ages, and figured if they could do it, I could do it. I would run when they would run – which was not much.  And why bother trying to pass them?  What a silly goose decision on my part. I needed to stick to my training methods and I didn’t.

Hypo run mapTrust, motivation, determination…time to dig deep!  I actually have nothing to whinge about. I completed 13.1 miles when the training schedule only called for 12 miles.  I lived.  I got a tan that day.  I burned a crapload of calories.  I drank a lot of free orange juice post-race.  My only sore bits were my left hip and right calf (related?).

However, since that race, I’ve only been out running twice. I’ve completely allowed the (perceived) poor race results and stresses of life to scuttle my training schedule, putting me two weeks behind now.  I think the pity party is over.

Back to it.