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.

summerseawheeze

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.

summergoodwife

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.

summercheaptrick

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.

summerwine

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.

summercamping

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.

summergeneral

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.

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.

Organization
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.

Course
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

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!

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.

Race report – SeaWheeze 2015

For people who like bright shiny things, never-ending youth and quirky west coast vibes, SeaWheeze is the half-marathon for you.  With 10,016 registered (and in the end 7,640 participants who chipped their shoes and ran) this is the largest race I’ve ever been a part of. And it was fun.SeaWheeze 2015

Organization
Given the sheer size of SeaWheeze I was suitably impressed by the swift, smooth organization and bunches of happy volunteers. Registration for this race goes down almost a whole year in advance, and sells out in less than an hour after opening. Lulu keeps runners hooked with fun prep including a pair of Lululemon shorts in the mail (for training!) and an app that covers a half-marathon training program and other interactive goodies.

On the ground in Vancouver, sponsors included Saje and Kind, among others, and there was a lot free stuff given out pre-race through social media (gift cards) and even upon arrival (a few lucky participants randomly had their hotel paid for). Key Van City hotels had room blocks, and some kicked it up a notch by jumping on the SeaWheeze band wagon – Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, for example, gave us a welcome card, Evian and house-made granola bars, plus a comp runner’s continental breakfast the morning of the race.

Festival
That’s right, folks. This isn’t just a run (aka half marathon) in the park, this is a full-on weekend festival with yoga sessions, shopping* and an after-party in Stanley Park. The day before the race, pick up your package at the expo and you could get your running up-do on, take in some yoga classes, brand yourself Lulu with a temp race tat, and get your nails done all SeaWheezical. You could even buy race beer, SeaWheeze’s own Curiosity Lager at the Sunset Festival or at select liquor stores across BC and Alberta.

Course
The course was a 21-km delightful tour of downtown Vancouver, complete with a snazzy bridge (did you know bridges could go uphill?) and a loop of Stanley Park. Along the route there were any number of cheerful distractions from drag queens and mermaids, to pianists and scientists.

My run
Should you go into a half-marathon untrained?

Not advisable.

Did I do that?

Yes.

And I will make no excuses. I was lazy. I’d booked so many hiking trips this summer that running really fell off my radar. And running a half marathon really should involve daily and weekly training commitments to prepare the body and mind for the actual event.  I was, however, tuned into my body, and knew what I was working with. Months of chiropractic visits for my knees and back, and deep tissue massages have been paying off in a number of different ways over the past few months.

Still, I was nervous. I considered cancelling the trip. But the Facebook SeaWheeze chat group was sooo encouraging and supportive that I got on that plane, husband in tow.  Once I arrived in Vancouver, I got cold feet again.  I even considered dressing for the race, going to Starbucks for a few hours, splashing some water on my face, then returning to the hotel to see my husband and telling him the race was great. And just not doing it at all.

In the end, I just sucked it up and went.

I seeded myself in the back. (I kind of knew there was no PR going down today.)  I was in the appropriate corral for a 2:45 pace, but for the life of me I couldn’t see the pace beavers among the throngs of people. I just shuffled along until about 7:30 am when my group was finally released onto the course.

It’s always a curious thing to run alone.  Just you there to slow you down, or encourage you on. Just you to blame if you don’t like how it’s working out. Or you to congratulate if you’re kicking ass.  So, I just … ran.

Right off the bat, I loved the little hills – pushing through on the ascent and flying down on the descent. Lots of active recovery time with hills.  I even ran the Burrard Street Bridge – exhilarating!  I’d found a comfortable pace, and planned having a GU gel about every three miles, and water whenever an aid station popped up.  I ran for 14 km before I took a walk break, and like breaking the seal on a boozy night out, that was the end of that.

When I stopped to walk, all the familiar runners with whom I played tag for more than an hour now passed me, along with a slew of others I’d never seen before, and suddenly I was alone again in a new crowd by 15 km.  Gone was the girl in the tiger stripes who sang to herself and yelled at runners who weren’t looking where they were going; gone was the girl in the pink tank with YOGA RUN PARTY tattooed on her shoulder; gone was the girl with the black ponytail in the Lulu bug shorts; you get the picture.

In taking those couple of walk breaks my splits went from 36 min and 34 min, to 41 min and 50 min = blergh.  Lack of training was apparent in the latter part of the race for me. It’s certainly where I could’ve used that percussive hiss of BPM (I ran without music) or another hill for motivation. The flat flat flat flat flat seawall was my demise, the monotony only broken up by the occasional cheer team, DJ or mermaid strategically placed by SeaWheeze…!

The last kilometre was a tough one. I passed the final aid station, grabbing some water and eating half a banana.  Not long now!  I bopped through to the end, and the announcer called out my full name, my hometown, and told me I was looking good (awwwww). My time was 2:43:54.

After that it was confusion and shuffling: awarded a finisher’s medal shaped like a golden carrot, given a cool cloth for my face and a runner’s kit from Saje, a Kind bar thrust into my hand, a recovery blanket tossed over my shoulders, a Lulu hat perched on my head and then I was ejected back into the crowd where I found my husband cheering me on.

Thoroughly enjoyed the race, and kudos to Lululemon for the entire festival weekend and the hype they create around the event for the runners.

Goals for next time:
1) train – use the SeaWheeze app!!
2) plant self behind pace beaver at the race
3) arrive early to shop

*Shopping
The shopping, mind you, does deserve it’s own special mention…

Lovers of Lululemon are, quite simply and respectably put, fanatical. The exclusive SeaWheeze showcase store at the race makes fans go mental, lining up in the wee hours of the morning for the opportunity to buy gear. At full price. Most of the clothing goes home with the fans, but a fair portion of it appears online to the highest bidder at double and triple the original prices. It was assumed this was the mad masses of general public who ravaged the racks in past years.

This year, SeaWheeze organizers restricted the first few hours to runners-only shopping and limited the number of duplicate styles in varying sizes, but gear still appeared online within hours of the shop opening. Meaning, runners were selling gear, too.

In my Facebook SeaWheeze chat group, one runner justified herself by saying she’s paid a $128 registration fee, $590 in accommodation, $450 for a flight…if she can re-coup some of her travel costs off a few Lulu sales to fans who couldn’t make it to Vancouver, she will – with no regret. Well, when you put it that way….

Tips for hitting the store effectively, as told to me by successful owners of the bug patterned stuff and the green CRBs, etc:

  • Line up early (to get in first)
  • Work in packs (have a game plan, watch each other’s stuff etc)
  • Wear a sports bra (you can strip half decently to try on stuff on the spot)

I went in the afternoon, long after the shop had been deserted and pared down to what Lulu lifers were calling “junk”, “dregs,” “trash” etc. Each clothing size still did have an assortment of what I thought were nice enough items, but obviously not of the top sellers. My big purchase? A striped headband. Haha. Next time…

Race report – Melissa’s Road Race 2014, Banff

I’d known about Melissa’s Road Race for years but always thought it too big, too epic for the likes of me. Well, since 2014 is all – CHANGE THYSELF – I figured I would make it so.  I knew I would more than likely be running it alone, and yep, that’s how it turned out.  But in the end, it’s just what I needed.

It was my second and final long race of the year. This one was a 21K road race compared to the 25K trail race I did in May.  And, really, my first true road race of the season as I’ve mostly stuck to the trails.  This course was out of the Banff Rec Grounds, along the Bow River, past the Bow Falls, two loops around the Banff Springs Hotel golf course, then back again.  95% pavement. Something new.

Organization: From the online registration through to the package pick-up, this was a quick, slick operation for those in the know.  Back in the dead of winter, credit card at close hand, I dutifully watched both the Melissa’s and the Running Room websites for the announcement of the registration. From what I’d heard, this race would sell out in a day or so, and I wanted to be ready.  For 2014, the registration opened on February 18 and the 10K sold out almost right away, and the 21K a few days after.

I didn’t train very well for this race. I was a little bit lazy, in fact.  I did do a 14K trail race two weekends prior, but otherwise wasn’t running daily.  I really should have been, but I’ve been in a bit of a funk with exercise, and it worried me somewhat that I was being silly in following through with this commitment… but at the same time, I signed up. So, I was going to do it.

Package pick up took place in Calgary leading up to race day and in Banff at Melissa’s the day before. I elected to head straight to Banff and it was a quick number pick up and scan right at Melissa’s restaurant.  Not a lot of touchy feely stuff going on, and if you had questions you kinda just kept them to yourself…the volunteers’ main purpose was to get through the line, I gather.

On race day, the start/finish was located in the Banff Rec Grounds.  I was quite morose to see the beer tent not open pre-race. Don’t they understand I need a cold one to calm my nerves??  I picked up my very own Melissa’s shirt with the awesome autumn artwork, then checked my bag. Huzzah for bag checks.

A trainer from the Banff Springs Hotel started a warm-up session, which was awesome. It helped me shake off the nervous excitement and warm up my body.  I had to laugh though – the warm up was like a whole workout session for me….lol.  I was worried that I had expended precious energy!  And that was it – – – >  we were off!  The 10K race left at 10:30 am and the 21K race started 10 minutes later.

My run: Rewinding a bit…Despite having lived in the area for seven years, I’d never actually eaten at Melissa’s Mis-Steak, so I decided this was a good place for my pre-race carb loading.  Spaghetti Bolognaise – pineapple juice is their secret weapon in this sauce – bread and garlic butter, Caesar salad.  Did the trick.

The day of the race, I brought my little backpack with gels, watermelon Spark, salt packets, etc.  When I saw the bag check, I weighed my options against the course map. There looked to be enough water stations to safely forgo bringing my own H2O, and my jacket had pockets to bring the gels.  The three salt packets from Wendy’s were a new addition to my running repertoire.  Miz J. told me that her totally amazing brother-in-law used salt in his long distance running. I sweat out SO MUCH salt.  21K was long distance enough for me, and because I didn’t want calf cramps like my last race, I figured I’d give this a go.

I seeded myself at the back!  The slowest pace bunny was 2:45. (My 25K took me 3:59 so I was aiming for about 3:00 hrs for this race.)  No walkers were permitted, although there was evidence of such, complete with walking sticks.  The main reason would be because of Parks Canada restrictions, and the time allocated for the race was limited. I would later learn how serious they were about this time limit.

Off and running, I was so excited. Seriously. A half marathon!  SO COOL.  And in the mountains, my favourite place on earth.  After I simmered down a bit, I found my legs, and I had to pass the 2:45 pace bunny and the 2:30 pace bunny. Not sure how wise this was, knowing I had so many kilometers to go.  I found a girl in purple with a long brunette ponytail to follow. She had a good solid pace and I kept time right behind her.  My right heel was sore, so I was trying to carefully place my foot, and even when I started to tire (hello – this is me we’re talking about…I get TIRED) I concentrated on keeping up with her.

Side note: I remember reading the question “Do you like to chase or be chased?”  I think I prefer the chase. I get way stressed out when trying to keep ahead of other runners coming up from behind me!

Passing a water station, I grabbed a cup and stopped at the garbage can to chug it back and to chuck out the cup.  Purple Girl didn’t take any water nor did she stop, and that’s when I lost her. And the little old Japanese lady.  And the sweatpants guy. I was soooo unhappy about that. Purple Girl was truly keeping me going.  Things started to go downhill.  I became so sluggish. I felt mentally defeated. It hurt to lift my feet. I was achy.  I’d already taken a gel with the water, and needed to save the others for later in the race.  People I hadn’t previously seen started passing me.  I shuffled a few more kilometers all grumpy like this.

Then I remembered the salt.  I touched my face, and already a crystal layer was building up.  I took a salt packet from my pocket, ripped it open and poured the contents under my tongue. So gross.  But so good.  As it melted into me, I felt so much better.   And that’s when I had the conversation with myself. Yes, it hurts now but pain is temporary. You want to finish this race?  Then just go. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. All this is temporary. The accomplishment of finishing this race ON YOUR OWN is something no one can take away.

Generally, these kind of pep talks don’t work on me. (You don’t really want that cookie…) I think being there alone, with no one to motivate me or hold me back, it was all on me. I was going to make or break this run.  And you know what?  I didn’t want to be last.  Again.  So, I ran. (Well, let’s be honest, I never actually RUN, more like shuffle/jog).

I picked my pace back up a bit and found my stride.  Surrounded by new people now…an older couple, a trio of 30-somethings, pink lady with the fanny pack, etc.  Partway through the first loop on the golf course a wave of runners loped past: the 21K-ers on their second loop already!  Loved this!  So amazing.

I almost didn’t do my second loop – the junction with the two water stations didn’t have clear markings, and I started to head down and out of the golf course. I caught myself in time and asked for directions.  I got straightened out but as I was talking to the volunteers, another wave ran through, including the 2:30 pace bunny (damn!!).

From there on I just kept at it – periodic salt and gel, water when it was offered.  I appreciated all the water stations and the musical volunteers along the route.  Kinda made you want to sit down, kick up your feet and stay a while!  Finally, I hit that junction again and was on my way back to the finish line.  The 2:45 pace bunny caught up to me and passed me, but then he ran back again.  He was having trouble keeping to his assigned pace, and was constantly going back and forth.  He did offer some nice advice to stand up straighter…I must have been hunching at this point. (Hunching, as in, let me lay down in the fetal position for a while)

Coming up past the Bow Falls I chatted with a walker (who walked as fast as I ran) who had actually run the loop THREE times due to the directional challenges at the junction – poor thing!  And then, that’s when I spotted her: PURPLE GIRL!!!  She was still running, and not too far ahead of me.  I told the Triple Loop Lady how I was following Purple Girl at the beginning, and she was like, oh! let’s catch her!!  So we ran together until we reached Purple Girl.  I said hello, but Purple Girl was lost in her own jammin’ earphone haze.  And that’s when I realized that Purple Girl was going pretty slow. And that I could keep moving.

I picked up my pace again and ran the last kilometres back onto the Rec Grounds.  Lots of cheering, lots of love from people I’d never met.  They announced my name and my town, and I crossed the finish line at 2:39 hrs.  WOW.  SO AMAZING.

Conclusion: Oh, heck ya, I’d do this one again.  I feel so at home in Banff and would be thrilled to do it.  The race had loads of draw prizes as well, many of which to encourage you to return to Banff, such as brunch certificates, etc.  Would you believe I didn’t go back to the beer tent?  So unlike me.  Or was it?  Perhaps I finally figured out I didn’t need it.

I forgot to switch off my running watch, so I’d wandered about the grounds eating my free race banana, stretching etc before I turned it off. I totally appreciate the way Melissa’s operated their food section.  You shuffle through fencing one by one, receiving a plastic bag, then volunteers in turn fill it with fruit, yogurt, granola bars, juice, etc.  There was no worry at this race of having the food plundered by faster runners from shorter races.

When I’d had enough, I started to walk back to the Banff Springs Hotel through the woods and back along the Bow River where we’d already run.  Coming towards me on the forest path was a little old Japanese lady with a giant pink balloon in her hand.  She was one of three little old Japanese ladies wearing matching t-shirt I’d seen sprinkled through the race.  She was followed by a volunteer in a golf cart. I suspected she was one of the last ones.  I put my stuff down and cheered her on as she came close.  It was a little weird, me, alone in the woods cheering on this stranger.  When she passed me and offered a tired smile, I started to cry.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because I was tired, too. Maybe because she was awesome. Maybe because she was running for someone who was no longer here. Maybe because I’d finished so many races alone and last. Maybe because I was alone today.

I walked – rather gingerly at this point – along the Bow then headed back up to the road.  That’s where I bumped into another runner.  She was off course, and she was pissed.  By the time she’d finished her two loops and was heading back into town, all the race markers had been removed due to time restrictions, and there were no longer any volunteers or directions in place. She’d been walking because of an unexpected hip injury.  Angry and defeated, she was trying to get back to the finish line. I pointed the way, and wished her luck.  That sucked.  I felt bad for her.

And that’s Melissa’s from September 27, 2014!  A fun race, good organization, a cool t-shirt, neat prizes, and lots of good time.  I’ll sign up for this one again next year.