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!

Well….

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.

Top three: outdoor winter cross training

It’s a beautiful day.

Blue sky, crazy warm temperatures, and here I am on a Saturday morning… in bed.  Still battling a cold.

I’ve been eating healthy food, drinking loads of fluids, sleeping like crazy, even took two days off work this week. The doctor claims my lungs are clear and I’m “fine” but it’s just that my body is fighting back hard, leaving me tired and sniffly. BOOOOOO on that!  I’m dying to get outside again.

Last weekend, I managed to squeeze in a whole whack of amazing winter activities.  Cross training at it’s finest.  Don’t let winter get you down – go outside and play!  This gives the bod the opportunity to use a few other muscles or parts you never knew you had.

Fat tire biking
It’s winter, only the crazies ride their bikes in the ice and snow, right? Well, I rented some fat tire bikes for me and Jim to try out, and boy –  felt like a kid all over again!  Those big fat tires make for a grippy but smooth ride whether on pavement or pathways. We hit the trails around Lac Beauvert in Jasper and had a blast zipping along the snowy pathways through the trees.  And bonus – you can burn up to 1,500 calories an hour on those suckers!  The only drawback – having not been on a bike in forever – was that my butt was totally busted after that ride due to the hard seat. Dude. Three days of aftermath for that one.

Snowshoeing
Since the purchase of my trekking/backcountry snowshoes about two years ago I’ve loved getting out both in the mountains and in Edmonton’s River Valley to explore and soak up some sunshine. This time, I tried out “fitness” snowshoes.  Streamlined, short and light, these snowshoes are ideal for walking and running.  I signed us up for a snowshoe race!  We trotted a couple of times but mostly just walked the 5K loop, stopping to snap photos and drink hot chocolate at the halfway point.  Depending on weight and terrain, you can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour snowshoeing (score!) and those hip flexors get quite the workout.

Cross country skiing
Cross country skiingDriving out to the Blackfoot Cooking Lake area for some late Sunday afternoon skiing, I should’ve known better.  I meant to just do a couple of loops on the lake near the staging area and then drive home, but the lure of the trails beckoned and soon enough I was gliding along through the trees. So fun!  Of course, being directionally challenged, by the time I checked the map I was waaaayyyy far away from the staging area, and the sun was beginning to set. While the average person burns about 500 calories an hour, I’m sure I was up at 700 just due to minor panic.  Sun setting. Coyotes howling. Wiping out on the icy trail hills where the track setting had long since been demolished by skiiers climbing up the other side.  I lived to tell the tale, and can’t wait to get back on my ratty old skis.

Which is why I have a cross country ski date this afternoon at 1:00 pm with Miz R.  And why I’m going to lounge in bed, resting some more, until that time.  Eeeeee!  Love winter!!

What’s your favourite winter cross training activity?  (And yes, cheese fondue is a correct answer…)

 

 

 

 

Race recap – Resolution Run 2016

Knowing that I already registered for a minefield of challenging races in 2016, I figured the Resolution Run was a good way to start the year off right. Set the tone for a year of running.

Otherwise, Netflix and I would be having a January 1st date that would last all day. In bed.  Nothing super great comes from that annoying message in the midst of an amazing binge: Are You Still Watching?  Um, yes, Netflix – this is my life right now. Thanks for the shaming.

I’m just wrapping up week 3 of my 19-week half-marathon training program, so I expected to run today’s 5K at my training pace, which is about 14:38 per mile, plus additional time for walk breaks. Yes…walk breaks.

The training program I’m following was designed by Jeff Galloway, who stands behind the theory that taking on a run/walk strategy right from the very beginning of a run will ultimately allow you to recover quickly, build endurance and finish strong.  It’s difficult for me to grasp the concept of walking almost right out of the gate, and the ego certainly pushes back as well (WTF? Why you walkin’, sistah?? #lame).

It makes sense, though.  When I went in (totally lazy, totally untrained) to the SeaWheeze half marathon in August, I did just that: pushed through to 14km without a break, but then once I stopped, I’d blown my energy stores and had to walk longer and more frequently to finish the race. AND I was cooked. Totally cooked. Runners in my pack who’d been taking religious walk breaks blew past me and I never saw them again.

So, after a night battling an attack cat determined to scrape my face off while I slept (our new cat is just a little too “playful”), I woke up late and realized I needed to get to the south side of the city pronto for the Resolution Run.  Bless the Running Room for setting the start time at a very reasonable 11:00 am.  My husband dropped me off at the William Lutsky YMCA, the beginning/end of the race, and in no time at all runners were lining up at the start, kicking off the race right on time.

The course runs through a south side neighbourhood near the YMCA, and with a blue sky day warm as can be (only -2C!) it was a pleasure to be outside.  The route was a bit slick at the beginning, and I had to be quite mindful of the ice, strollers and many squirrelly dogs in the race as I navigated through the tail end of the pack to find a comfortable running spot.

I totally forgot to bring my running watch, so I was a bit clueless as to my own pace and distance as I ran.  I tried to take short, slow, “easy” steps, with a pace that felt like my standard treadmill trot.  I made an effort to take at least three walk breaks but without having a timing device I was at a loss with when I should schedule them, and went with just how I felt.  I didn’t see any mile or kilometer markers along the route. Without music, I pretty much listened to conversations around me, and my own breathing.

Five kilometers came quickly, and in no time I was crossing the finish line, which I  must liken to the bottom of a mall escalator in Dubai: packed with people just standing in the way. Ha. Sorry – but it’s true. (C’mon folks, MOVE). My time – all unofficial and according to the running clock – was 37 minutes. Way faster than I ever expected this early in my training game (what’s that, around 12:33 a mile?) – I suppose that’s mostly race/pack mentality. I did huff and puff a little, but felt great at the finish. Hello 2016!!

The Running Room had a big ole pancake breakfast underway for the finishers, and took in tabs for draw prizes.  I skipped the snacks, thanked some volunteers, and hailed the husband for a ride home.   All together a nice, feel-good way to start the year.  I’m looking forward to a good year of running opportunities!

What was/is your first race/run of the year?

 

 

 

 

This is how we do it – #3Peaks

Road map to SnowdonI swear that prepping for the National Three Peaks Challenge was more challenging than the actual hiking. Admittedly, anticipation for me is 90% of the fun!

Bagging the three highest peaks in Scotland, England, and Wales all in 24 hours sounded like an awesome test of body and mind. Miz J.’s discovery of this little gem was ever so brilliant.

We’d start in Scotland, with Ben Nevis (1,344 m or 4,409 ft) for about 6 hours of trekking up & down; followed by a mad six-hour drive down to England’s Lake District to Scafell Pike (978 m or 3,209 ft) for a night hike up the rock peak, est 4 hours; and lastly, we’d haul ourselves along for another five (or more!) hours’ drive to Snowdonia to complete the final peak, Snowdon (1,085 m or 3,560 ft) in about 5 hours. Tah-dah!

However, coordinating the adventure from across the ocean (back home in Ca-nah-da) was a complete test of patience. It was mostly done, of course, from the comfort of the couch, laptop at hand, or at our weekly Wednesday night planning meetings in a bar. But still…lots of negotiation to find the best way for us to rock this goal.

Initially, we decided to go with a company that would provide an “open bus” where we could join in with others to do the challenge on a particular set of dates. Then we realized that if we truly wanted to do this in 24 hours, the group could only move as fast as its slowest hikers (which could ultimately be us) and did we want that wrath and pressure, given we’d be paying 375 GBP per person? Hm. Maybe not. And it just seemed so expensive, even though the price was on par with most of the companies offering the same services.

Then, we chose to switch it up and find our own van and driver, order topographical maps of the peaks, learn to use a compass, and do it all ourselves. We tried friends, or friends of friends, and no one had a spare van about or a driver willing to commit to driving like a bat out of hell through three countries and sleeping in the car parks while we hiked. We considered posting an ad on Kijiji for random lads with cars who’d be willing to take Canadian girls on a bit of a jaunt. But we never got that far.

Finally, we figured the 24-hour time crunch was the main obstacle for us completing the challenge on our own. We decided to rent our own van from Campers Scotland, and hike each mountain at our own pace over the period of a week. This way, we get to see a bit of Scotland, England and Wales (Ale! Beef pies! Tea towels bought for mum!) and the like.  Between the four of us, there’d be a driver, a navigator and a peanut gallery in the back (which would also double as the galley).

Flights and camper van booked, hiking maps reviewed and off to the mountains! Or hills. Or Munros. You get the picture. The Canadians are coming. Onward!

 

Race report – Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Women’s Run & Walk 2015

Training run = success!

The Rocky Mountain Soap Co.’s annual Women’s Walk & Run had a blue-sky day and soaring temperatures for this mountain trot through the woods.  A perfect race weekend!

So excited that I managed to run 10K (surrounded by other people) and I didn’t die.

Top three things about this race:

1) the location (location, location)
2) the super nice, easy-going people (organizers, volunteers & runners)
3) the thoughtful touches, like cold aromatherapy towels post-race

RMSC tents
Organization:
 I’d heard about the RMSC’s annual run in Canmore from a friend who’d run it last year and said it was a blast.  The event – aimed at celebrating women and in support of the charity “Rethink Breast Cancer” – included 5K, 10K and half-marathon options and was a very open-arms approach to participants of all fitness levels, babies, strollers, etc. I hovered over the keyboard when the registration opened  (January 1st!) and signed up right away.  The Saturday races (May 23) sold out first, and quite a bit later, the Sunday races (May 24).

The registration process was smooth, and all my questions were answered personally by race organizers over email – nice touch. Package pick up was in both Calgary and Canmore leading up to the race, and then on site the morning of, which was very helpful for us out-of-towners.

Being at the Canmore Nordic Centre, I had confidence in the venue and set up.  The sound system was a little squawky at first (during the warm up session my husband complained that even his “heavy metal ears are bleeding”) but it got sorted out fast enough.

The expo had the most I’d ever seen at a run, with a variety of vendors and charity groups.  Happy to see the 5 Peaks crew on hand, and they even gave me an awesome cup.  After the warm up, we had a chat about mountain animal safety and then boom! Off went the half-marathon runners, quickly followed by the 10Kers – all pretty much on time.

I truly think my only organizational observation on the down-side would be that the aid stations had trouble keeping up with water for the runners.  The first aid station was only a few km into the race and there was a bottleneck of runners waiting for water to be poured (keeping in mind the half-mara runners had already gone through, along with many of the 10K runners). Ditto with the second table. The third one was the best in keeping up to the hefty demand of thirsty runners. The volunteers were working as fast as they could – I don’t think they realized how many ladies would be stopping for water…the energy drink provided was not as popular.

After the race, each participant received a delightful cool aromatherapy towel, and a gift bag from the Rocky Mountain Soap Co. full of product! Wow – so thoughtful!  The post-race snacks were fruit and Honey Stinger organic waffles, and then inside the Nordic Centre was a buffet of penne and pasta sauces (veg options available), plus a leafy salad and bread sticks.
RMSC swag

Course: The 10K track was a double 5K loop with a sufficient number of hills for both testing your mettle and active recovery. It was all on the wide paved paths on the Nordic Centre grounds, hence one of the reasons we didn’t need to carry bear spray in this race.  The half marathon runners used the 10K course plus were out running along the road up to the centre – a long, hot slog. Much admiration for those ladies!

My run: My husband came out to the mountains for my race, and it was really, really special to have him there.  We actually went into Banff rather than Canmore for our overnight, and stayed downtown at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge.  We started the day with a visit to the Wild Flour bakery where I snarfed down a ginger blueberry muffin and a cappuccino. I’d had a banana earlier as well, and sipped my Energy&Endurance leading up to race time.

Out of tradition, I positioned myself near the back of the racers to start.  My goal for this race was to be a training run for my half marathons a few months away. Saturdays are typically my “long run” days and even though the training schedule only called for about 6K, the timing was awesome for this weekend. My “easy run” pace on the treadmill is about 13:20 min per mile. I was hoping to maintain that and get ‘er done.

Right off the bat, I could see there were little rolling hills on this course, plus a long slow descent/ascent thrown in for good measure. Last year, my tactic with hills was to walk up and run down.  This year, I’m trying to train a bit on hills, so the new method is to keep running (read: teeny jogging micro-steps) up, crest & push through keeping pace, and then letting gravity pull me down. Sounds reasonable, right?

For my first five kilometers, I hung in there always running, but on that second loop, I started to throw in some power walking, especially on that long slow hill in the middle of the course.  I was pretty much sucking wind really hard the whole race, but managed to keep moving, and totally surprised to see that my pace was not my usual 13:20 but rather moving between 10:42 and 12:45 min per mile, depending.  That’s a big deal for me.

In the end, I came in at 1:16 hrs on my Nike running watch.  Very happy with the time, as it’s a benchmark and I can’t wait to work on improving!

Would I do the RMSC women’s run again?  Well, since my latest thing is to use running as an excuse to travel and/or get to the mountains, then YES, I would do this one again. May is a great month for me to get back into outdoor races, and I can see this one being a regular.

 

Pre-race day carb loading

Chicken pastaRaces make me crazy nervous. It’s a day out and yesterday I ate, like, three bagels in anticipation.  Y’all know that’s not carb-loading…that’s just plain nerves. (Even on a good day, nobody needs THREE BAGELS.)

So, here’s a quick and easy (and a little more healthy than three bagels) pasta meal that satisfies the need for carbs and still fuels the bod on multiple levels.easy steps for supper

Grab a pan.  Chop up, then saute garlic & fresh basil; add 3/4 cup of cubed, cooked chicken & 1 cup of sliced grape tomatoes; then add 1 cup of cooked rigatoni & 1 cup of fresh spinach…stirring gently until the spinach just wilts.  Plate (or bowl) and top with cheese. Throw on some cracked pepper or sea salt to taste.

Done. And tasty!

Back to the racing nerves…I guess for me it’s the crowds, and the excitement, and the general “I’m in a race!” breathless giddiness that comes with bursting out onto the trail at a speed I simply can’t maintain.

To be honest, being surrounded by confident, trim, healthy-looking runners often hits my confidence levels.  I get sent right back to my very first 10K…it was part of the Dubai Samsung Marathon in around 2003, where a bunch of us from The Fairmont Dubai were planning to sign up and run. In the middle of the group, a snotty blonde looked me up and down and said, “Oh, YOU’RE running??” Well – I was actually only considering it, having never run a day in my life. But after she said that to me, hell YEAH I was running!!!  (Funny what fuels us…)

One thing I’ve come to learn about the running community is that 99% of the folks that run are super nice, and wish everyone well. Your biggest competition is yourself, and that’s all we need to run for. And if someone is all judgmental, just feel sorry for them…they obviously have something going on they need to deal with.  Enjoy the race day atmosphere and camaraderie along the course. All good.

Tomorrow’s race, the Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Women’s Walk & Run, is my very first race this year. And a 10K at that. But – prepared am I in my own little fashion. I’m going into the race as a training run. Slow and steady, enjoy the trails and the mountains!

Training week #2 recap:

MON: Easy run (40 min) = DONE. It was the holiday weekend, so I went back to the gym in the morning, and hit the fancy treadmill for this undulating slog through some trail on New Zealand’s south island. Then I met Miz N. for more running and a killer workout that had me laughing/crying by the end. 

TUE: Pilates/Yoga – PiYo “drench” (45 min) = sort of DONE.  About 20 minutes in, I’m all “These aren’t the Pilates/yoga combos I’m looking for…move along.”  And I switched that sucker off. (Jedi self-talk.)

WED: Run w/ hill intervals (40 min) = DONE, mostly. I made it to 32 minutes, with 6×60-second intervals. It was hard.

THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “cardio fix” (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min) = half DONE. Did T25 lower focus and an 8-minute ab workout (my core strength is lacking).

FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time = well, not really done. Just regular walking, but no stairs.  

Off to the mountains in a few hours!  Woohooooo!

 

(Long) weekend update: cookies & running. And more cookies. And maybe rum.

The beauty of a long weekend…perfect excuse to eat every delicious BBQ food in the WORLD.

It started quite innocently (let’s invite cousin Matthew & Martina for dinner) and ended in a new BBQ purchased, eighteen thousand full-fat side dishes to accompany chubby cheddar smokies, and pina coladas made with our fancy-dancy new blender thingy from Air Miles… (Bacardi makes pineapple and coconut infused rum. Just for the record.) Oh – AND – the baking of some crazy good (read: addictive) cookies. To eat with ice cream, of course. A few raspberries thrown in to avoid scurvy.

I mean, who doesn’t want Dulce de Leche Stuffed Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies?  Hello? Besides, it was an excuse to go buy a jar of dulce de leche… and try something new. I came across the Wright Family Table blog via foodie pic posts on Instagram and HAD to try these cookies. Yum.

Hot chocolate cookies

So, as you’ve guessed, the weekend tear through BBQ food world was delicious but not exactly on track.  My hands were even swelling two days later. (Sodium?  Lack of rum?) Training, however, was actually decent, and am quite proud of sticking to my little workout schedule leading up to my 10K run this Saturday.

Last week’s training plan and results:

MON: Easy run (30 min) = DONE. Ran outside for the first time in a year, and it was an all-singing, all-dancing panic attack. Every muscle in my body seized up and it was the hardest run in the world hitting the pavement in my neighbourhood.  I did get a high-five from a toothless guy having a smoke outside a local bar. That kept me going for two blocks, and then I had no choice but to keep motoring because the ladies on the next corner, like, OWN that corner and I am not permitted to stop.  In the end, my legs were rock and I could barely lift my feet. I counted the seconds until the 30 minutes were up.

TUE: Yoga – P90X2 “X2 yoga” (67 min) = mostly DONE. Beachbody on Demand streaming died two-thirds of the way through, and I could only hear Tony Horton, not see him. And then the stream kerplunked all together, so I surfed around in BOD looking for alternative stretchy clips. Found some “classic” (aka cheesy) old ones to do.

WED: Tempo run w/ speed intervals (30 min) = DONE and AWESOME. Went inside on the treadmill and calmed down (compared to Monday’s run) and got ‘er done. This was after a 0500 hrs workout and a night of stair walking in the River Valley. #crushedit

THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “dirty 30″ (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min) = DONE, mostly. Did the Dirty 30 but not the Lower Focus. I was beat after yesterday’s workout extravaganza.

FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time = RESTED. Needed it. Got in a short walk outside but that was it.

SAT: Long(er) run (4.5 miles/~7KM) = DONE, mostly. I had aimed for 4.5 miles, but managed 4 miles at my mellow, “easy run” pace on the treadmill. It took an hour…I am not winning any prizes with my pace, but I know if I keep up the training, my easy run pace will slowly increase over the next few months.

SUN: Easy run (20 min) + Sunday morning Yoga (Meadows Rec Centre) = DONE! The yoga instructor at the Meadows on Sunday is AH-MAZE-ING. She teaches so many lovely lessons about body and life throughout her yoga flow hour.