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
 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!


10K pop-up training plan (aka I forgot I had a race)

Just had that runner’s moment…

seawheeze shortsMy Seawheeze race shorts arrived in the mail on Friday, and I was all “Woohoo, I still have 3 months to train and fit into these size 12 shorts.” (Kinda nice that you get ‘free’ shorts as part of your race registration fee.)

Then today I realized…I should check my calendar…

And HOLY CRAP I have a race in two weeks.  It’s only a 10K, but when one has done strength training and not a lot of actual RUNNING for the past few months, this is kind of a challenge!

So, yes, I’m a little worried I will be miserable or screw up my knees, therefore I’ve developed a pop-up training plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel:

Week 1

MON: Easy run (30 min)
TUE: Yoga – P90X2 “X2 yoga” (67 min)
WED: Tempo run w/ speed intervals (30 min)
THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “dirty 30” (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min)
FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time
SAT: Long(er) run (4.5 miles/~7KM)
SUN: Easy run (20 min) + Sunday morning Yoga (Meadows Rec Centre)

Week 2

MON: Easy run (40 min)
TUE: Pilates/Yoga – PiYo “drench” (45 min)
WED: Run w/ hill intervals (40 min)
THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “cardio fix” (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min)
FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time

And – promises of rolling out the muscles and stretching really well every night.

I checked my Nike running watch and the fastest 10K I’ve ever pulled off is 1hr 11min, and that was part of a longer run. Mind you, last year was about survival, not really about excelling at anything.  Given that this is my first race of the season, and that I’ve been a sloth and not gotten the training miles in properly…I don’t have high hopes for nailing any personal bests. I will consider this run a “training run” unto itself. (Is that a cop out??)

I apologize in advance for not training more to the good people at Rocky Mountain Soap. While it’s my first time participating in the Rocky Mountain Soap Co.’s Women’s Run & Walk, I’ve done a 5 Peaks trail run in the same location, the Canmore Nordic Centre…and it started with 2K of UP and required a canister of bear spray.  Doh.  I think this run is a little more gentle??

Looking forward to a great weekend in the mountains for the race – just need to earn it now…!  Pop-up training plan is a GO!


Backcountry hiking, half-marathon running, fat-reducing is-it-summer-yet PLAN

I love winter.

I really, really do love winter. I play outside on my snowshoes. I find excuses to buy really awesome winter socks, and I now own three winter coats. I like frost and cold. I love the stillness of being in the woods, branches heavy with snow.

And, in the depths of this delightful deep freeze, I love, really love, planning for the summer.

I’ve had my maps out since December trying to figure out where to hike this summer, and how to work those trips around my running schedule and my girls’ adventure to Iceland and Scotland…

And the over-arching issue for all of these grand plans is simply to get in shape.

So, starting with my fabulous 37.9% body fat (erg – I should really just be calling that 38%) I need yet another plan…

Having blogged for about a year now, I’m seeing a bit of repetition… that there’s more plotting and planning than actual DOING going on a lot of the time. But being in a bit of a bind – getting chubbier again and having some big goals to kick this year – I need to get on with that DOING part.

The basic strategy for the next few months is to increase weight training and cardio while cutting calories via “clean eating”. Tah-dah. Yep, that’s it.

I’ve gone old school again, and printed out a calendar, upon which I’ve penciled in my workout schedule.  The training is essentially worked backwards from my half-marathon trail race in July and my half-marathon road race in August.  And the best part is that I reward myself with stickers on the days I work out. Oh yes, stickers work for me. And I work for stickers. (Who doesn’t love happy face stickers??)

So far, I have FOUR stickers!!!!!!!  WOOT!  And let the positive visualization begin 🙂

A year in pictures

Looking back to 2014 with pride. And a whole lotta iPod selfies. Let’s blow it out of the water for 2015.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”  ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Down with moderation – and other 2014 reflections

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away” ~Neil Young

TOTALLY have mixed feelings looking back at 2014.

Love love love love all this:

  • Two amazingly awesome incredible this-is-so-me/can-I-do-this-forever backcountry hiking trips with my coz
  • A 25K trail run, a half-marathon road race, and a handful of smaller trail races
  • A winter snowshoeing backcountry adventure; a crazy road trip to off-season Glacier National Park in Montana; an #unexpecteddrive to Alberta’s badlands = all with my girl, J.
  • Losing 30ish pounds

Not so in love with this:

  • ONLY losing 30ish pounds (it should have been more)

But now I just sound greedy.

Last year I wrote: “2014 is about getting fit, and getting outside.  Losing weight is the icing on the cake + the foam on my beer, but the ultimate goal is to be healthy and fit.”

Anyway, I DID GET OUTSIDE which was my main goal for 2014.  And I had SOOOO much fun.

But I think in my heart of hearts, I didn’t JUST want to get outside. I wanted to be in crazy good shape, have muscles, no body fat and of course, continue to explore the mountains and weigh a whole lot less.  So – I think I need to revamp my goals for this coming year to reflect those thoughts!

If that’s what I really want, I’m going to have to work really hard and be super committed for #LeanMean2015.

[insert whine here] I was really trying to do that “everything in moderation” stuff in 2014 and balance the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of my life, but oddly enough when I stopped going balls to the wall with the weight loss in around June and just followed a ‘program,’ my results were not as dramatic.  True? False?  Hm. Or did I get lazy?

Down with moderation!  Go big or go home.  Will this work in 2015??  WE SHALL SEE.

Game plan to follow!!  Have a DELIGHTFUL New Year’s Eve.

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.