Race report: 5 Peaks Trail Run, Sunridge

Mandatory port-a-potty shot of my new arm sleeves

Mandatory port-a-potty shot of my new arm sleeves

Sunridge is a ski hill.

Let’s get that straight right away.

Organization: Big city crowd turn out for the 5 Peaks Sunridge races, with lots of kids and families milling all over the place.  Registration pick up was easy peasy, and still available when we arrived a little later than planned.  Something along the lines of HOLY CRAP I SLEPT IN.  Luckily, the organizers were still messing about and every race started late so that totally worked in our favour!

The aid stations were at the start line and a few km into the run.  Post-run snacks included water, rehydrating drinks, fruit, Clif bars, Builder bars, and pretzels (although – me being slow – all the pretzels were gobbled up by the kids by the time I finished).

Course: The 7.5 K Sports course zigzagged up and down the ski hill and through the trees. LOTS of single track action and even a rope to get you down a steep bit.

My run:  I had a fantastic time. [EDIT: “time” meaning the down east kinda “havin’ a time” not actually real running race winning TIME – haha] I probably should have either run faster or done the Enduro.  I came out of that race thinking I was too easy on myself, that I’m ready to push myself harder.  Getting out there and running felt really good.

The course was jam-packed with hills, but due to the mostly single track nature of the course, there was plenty of slow down, even to the point of standing still, waiting to use the rope to get down a mini-bluff. Part of me wanted to just launch myself down this bit – why stand in line??  I’m not so pro, tho, and probably would’ve landed on my face.

I was challenged mostly by the single-trackedness of the course, and getting in behind conga lines of city slickers all wearing matching outfits. I know that’s not a nice thing to say, but this race seemed to be full of folks who didn’t possess a high level of trail etiquette, especially when the elite runners needed to scoot by.  Am I becoming a trail snob?  (I’m not an elite runner, btw, if this is your first read of my blog – hahaa).

Running up and down the hills, through the woods, along the river, back up along a chain link fence: there was plenty of interesting ground to cover. Everything was well-marked so that I wouldn’t end up alone on the wrong trail (like I did at Terwillegar).

And…that’s it!  Nice, little morning run with sun, my buddy, and fancy new arm sleeves from 5 Peaks that read GET OFF THE ROAD.  Kewl stuff.   We sat around after to watch the awards, then headed home.

Next run is the playful Color Me Rad 5K in Edmonton.

Race report: Blackfoot Ultra (Baby Ultra)

slow runnersIt’s an absolutely humbling thing to be running my very first ultra race, knowing I’m at the “baby” level… when that very number of 25K is huge for me.

Amazing runners of all age, shape, speed and ability scampered about the 25K loop in the Blackfoot-Cooking Lake Provincial Recreation Area, completing 100K, 50 mile, 50K and 25K races; not to mention the kids’ ultra. Crazy awesome!

Organization: I heard about the Blackfoot Ultra through Miz N. back in January, but before we could all get out acts together to plan something out, form a team etc. this race sold out.  Two of us got in to the 25K before it capped. Miz Jill and I would be running together!

The Blackfoot Ultra website is informative, and closer to the race, the Facebook page was a bit more lively with details and updates.  The runners who choose to be involved in this race seem to be a pretty tight-knit community. That was pretty clear when we went to pick up our race kits. At the pick up we received our numbers and our baby-pink Blackfoot Ultra-themed arm sleeves.

Out at the Islet Lake Staging Area at Blackfoot, the race folks were super friendly, all the announcements were fun and punchy, and there was no end to the snacks at the start/finish and throughout the course. Families and support teams had all their gear, too: a mashup of little screen tents, camp chairs, coolers, blankets, books, babies, dogs, etc.  You could tell some people had done this before.

Course: The 25K course is otherwise known as “Death by 100 Hills.”  The loop winds through trees, past lakes, along an equestrian path, over hill and dale. Lots of hills!  The trail itself was mostly sproingy and easy on the knees, and wide enough to go two runners deep with a third passing (none of this single-track nonsense). There were four aid stations along the course plus one at the start/finish line.  God bless the organizers for their generosity in keeping us all satiated: bacon & perogies, licorice, salty potato chips, Clif bars, bagels, loads of fruit and more.  At the end, bison dogs and Dilly Bars awaited.

My run: Off we went, with a crowd of 80 or so runners all doing the Baby Ultra.  I had my small Platypus hydration pack from back in the day and a three-litre bladder of water, a separate bladder with frozen watermelon Spark, a handful of lemon gels, a shot of vodka (for emergencies…), my 5 Peaks Buff, and some Clif bars.

Warm and windy, this is the first time I’d ever run with a hat. I wore my Sauconys, which have served me well so far, my workout pants and a silly “suit” technical tee that actually belongs to my husband as part of his Men-in-Black corporate challenge outfit for MacEwan University. I suppose I should really invest in some “real” running clothes! Haha. I had lots of “Well, thank you for dressing up for the run today” comments. Silly.

The first few kilometres were my usual crapshoot of panic.  People! Running! Heat! Eek!  But I settled down. Compared to my first visit to the rec area when everything was brown, grey and frozen, now it was fresh, green and sparkling.  The ultra runners passing us all said kind words like “Good job!” (SO NICE considering we were being passed by super athletes who were on loop 3 or 4 of the very course we were doing once!)

Other than the quarter-sized mozzies, the occasional animal track in the dried mud (cougar?) and the singing frogs (hello my baby…), there wasn’t much sign of wildlife. Yes, no half-knawed leg o’deer left on the trail like our last visit.

My running watch is set in miles, so thus goes my commentary of things I can vaguely recall:

  • ~mile 2.5 – we came to the first aid station and I gave Miz A. a giant sweaty hug for volunteering.
  • ~mile 3 – outhouse stop to end the potluck lunch fest from work the day before (yes, I had one of everything).
  • ~mile 3.5 – my hands totally swelled up so that it was difficult to even make a fist. I blame it on the warm weather.  They stayed like this until I stopped running.
  • ~mile 4 – my left knee: nothing bad, just present.
  • ~mile 6 – kind of settled down into a rhythm at this point.
  • ~mile 7 – finally passed a couple of pink shirts & a runner from Vancouver whom we’d been playing passing games with for far too long.
  • ~mile 9 – came out of Central Alley relatively unscathed to an aid station where I ate a copious amount of potato chips.
  • ~mile 11 – walked briskly for a bit to ease the legs
  • ~mile 15 – met up with some little tyke who was in the kids’ run – he was a sprinter!

We finished the race, unofficially and by my watch, at 3:59 hrs.

Woohoo!  Our parental crew cheered us in, took photos, gave us drinks and chatted for a bit as we watched more runners come in.  To be honest, I was in a bit of a zone, and probably wasn’t very talkative.

I wanted to get into it and eat the bison smokies and Dilly Bars, but I was kinda out of it.  The temperature dipped slightly after 4:30 pm and clouds began to gather.  We didn’t stay around much longer after that, and then headed home.

Kudos to the organizers, though, who were still giving awards, maintaining their upbeat announcements etc, as if they were fresh as a daisy and not having been there since, like, 5:00 am when the 100K runners started….

My husband had more chippies waiting for me when I got home, along with cheddar/caramel popcorn and some supper.  I ate almost that whole bag of Bacon & Sour Cream in the name of running. A bit cheeky, I know.

Highlights of the race:

  1. Finishing in a respectable time (ie. not on a stretcher or crying).
  2. Running with Miz Jill and having fun.
  3. The crusty layer of salt all over my face.  That was cool.
  4. This was my first half marathon and/or ultra.
  5. I logged my fasted trail 10K.

And there it is.

My next officially scheduled run is the 5K Color Me Rad on July 5th.  A little more colour, a little less running.

Erg – running hurts

Wish it was easierLately, running has just been so uncomfortable.

With the big run less than a week away, the training plan is in taper mode.  But I’ve already been on my own tapering plan following my 10K and 16K trail runs: my calf hurts.

It doesn’t hurt when I place my foot, but when I lift my foot.

Sooo, I’ve avoided running too much since my last trail race.  Then when I do run, everything hurts. All over. Not just the leg. Aching.  And not the good so-glad-to-be-back kind of ache.  Just a I-thought-we-were-done-with-running ache. Body thought it was over.  Brain is already long gone on that subject.

Googling my injuries is a crapshoot. I could have anything, really. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?  Tendonitis? Swelling?  Lazy ass syndrome?  Take your pick.

A 14-week training program is really great, but it’s almost like I’ve grown a bit weary of all the constant running and need a break.  I want to try other things (she whined).

Four more days. Will run 25K then take a break from it.  Just need to get it done.

And then, of course, I’ll be all “I just ran 25K – I love this!”   Or something.


Race report: 5 Peaks Trail Run, Terwillegar

Let’s start by saying I got some wicked awesome prizes for being dead last.

The kickoff race for the Northern Alberta 5 Peaks trail running series was at the Terwillegar (dog) Park in south Edmonton, along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.  Everything is still morosely brown here in Edmonton, but it was a blue sky day with a cool breeze – perfect for a wee run.

I signed up for the “Enduro”, which was 16 km for this particular race. I’m on a two-week countdown to the 25 km Baby Ultra (or rather, the “Mini Mental” as Winkler calls it) so I thought getting into race mode with hordes of other runners was appropriate.

Organization: Given that the dog park was still open to the public (dogs, walkers, bikers, etc) organizers had things under control with a whopping great start/finish line flagged by Salomon, and plenty of sponsor tents for Salomon, MEC, Buff etc.  Parking was right out on the field, and package pick up was swift.  Got another 5 Peaks Buff with my reg package along with a mini Clif bar.  There was no bag check, but thankfully Miz Jilly was there as my coach, trainer and holder of stuff.

Course: The 16K Enduro consisted of two laps of one course loop, shared by the shorter 8K Sport runners.  The first few kilometers of the course were fairly flat through a grassy area with a mix of single and double track. At 3 km the trail started to climb and became a single track through the trees, with a bit of technical work over roots and rolling dips.  

At 5ish km, runners hit a broad double track with a sustained climb, then back into the woods on a single track through another technical section of roots and ropes. The last few kms trailed through the open field towards the start/finish.  Enduro runners do the course twice.

My run:  The Enduro runners began at 9:00 am, and I seeded myself at the back.  Lots of uber-looking athletes present! I felt pretty nervous to be running alone, as Jill is such a great pace setter when we run together.  She coached me to think of this as just another training run – which was spot on – and not to be tempted to run with the pack.  Boy – easier said than done.

With all the people dashing over hill and vale, it was hard not to try and keep up to an unsustainable pace. My first mile pace was 10:36….and it dropped to 13-15 per mile after that.  The most challenging part for me was when the Sport runners launched at great speed 20 minutes after my start and quickly began catching and passing the Enduros on the technical single-track trail.  I so admired the Sport runners for their flat-out speed and agility through the tough parts of the trail. When I hit the field and then the hill climb on my first lap, Jill joined me for moral support (yay), and then I was back to it.

I felt much better during the second lap of the course, both mentally and physically, as the racers thinned significantly and it became easier to concentrate on moving at my own pace for those last 8 kms.  I received many encouraging words from the safety volunteers, including lots of “hey, you paid to do this, take your time.”  I actually had no idea at that point I was the last runner.

As I approached the end of the course, I could hear the awards announcements in progress for the top runners. I hoofed it across the finish line around 2:15 hrs accompanied by one whoop from a volunteer and a wonderful high-five from Jill who was waiting on the other side.

The sponsors had already packed up and left, but there were still plenty of oranges, bananas, pretzels, etc. leftover and the folks waiting for their awards.  I’d filled up my water bottle and was sucking on an orange when I heard my name called by the announcer.  I ended up walking away with something nice from MEC – a cherry windbreaker and a teal technical tee – for being the (unintentional) race sweep.  DOH.

Both of those awesome prizes were size Medium.  I guess I will have to keep keep running until I can fit into them 🙂

Overall, it was a good experience running Terwillegar (home to my winter snowshoe training ground) but I’m not sure I’d pay for it again in a formal trail race.  (Running two laps of the same course was a little dry.)  Getting another 16 km under my belt has been fab training!  Countdown is on to the big one!



Mental fatigue & other mind games

It’s all in your head.

But really, it truly is.

I’m stuck at 3 miles. I struggled pitifully the other week to complete my 4 mile run in my Week 4 training regime. Last week was a write off, so I’m on a Week 5 do-over*, which holds a 5 mile run for me on Saturday.

Five miles? Yeah…right.

With that coming up, today’s easy run of 3 miles should have been a breeze, right? Nope. Worst, annoying, awful 3 miles ever. And nooo, it wasn’t the 5 (6? 7?) pints of Guinness from St. Paddy’s Day slowing me down…

It started with the chick on the treadmill to the left – watching TV and LAUGHING AT EVERYTHING. I hated her. I was busy being a martyr over on treadmill #2 and she had the audacity to run and laugh at the same time. On my right, I had Olivia Newton John doing some sort of Prancercise on her treadmill. WTF?

Then I couldn’t run for long without being tired. But I wasn’t sure if I was truly physically fatigued or just bummed out. It is always easier to walk. And because I seemed to recover awfully quickly, I knew I probably didn’t need to stop quite so much.

I finished up a sweaty, grouchy mess, and stomped home thinking how I was gonna blog about this crap run. Then I kind of stopped, because all I do is bitch, moan and whinge on this blog. Instead, I tried to think of HAPPY THINGS I could share… and then I clued in.

I ran/walked that horrible 3 miles in 40 minutes and 52 seconds. I’ve never done 3 miles in less than 43 minutes. THAT’S, like, TWO WHOLE MINUTES GONE, FOLKS!  (Hahahaaa proud mama to those baby steps)


So, back to the mental thing.  Brain and I are going to work on these games:

  • Distraction.  DON’T let the weirdos get you down.  If you skip your morning workout and go at 7:00 pm when everyone and their prancing ponies are at the gym..then YEAH, you will have to avoid distraction. Be calm, focus…and run. Get into the rhythm and stick to it.
  • Field of dreams.  See it, build it, and Kevin Costner will appear in your corn field.  Or something like that.  Point is… visualize the end product.  Finishing the mile, finishing the run, finishing Kevin Costner in your backyard.
  • Always look on the bright side.  You CAN be a lumberjack.  You CAN complete this run today.  There’s no room for Negative Nellys in your head while you are on the move. Don’t dream of clothes-lining the Prancercise girl on the treadmill next to you…keep that inner monologue positive as you run.
  • Be a goal-getter.  Set little goals: the next 5 minutes, the next lamppost, etc. Whatever it takes to keep moving. During that 40 minute run you could be like, a WINNER thirty times. Fabulous!

Let’s see if I can put this into practice and kick it this week, ending in that glorious 5-miler on Saturday. Boo-ya.

*BTW, this is my last do-over for my 14-week couch-to-half-marathon training plan…I’m down to the wire on the exact training schedule. Do or die, man. Do or die.

Race review: Dead Cold Run

Following the ever popular Zombie Evasion run from October, race organizers put on the first annual Dead Cold Run in Edmonton on February 22.  While the “white walkers” weren’t as delightfully costumed as the autumn zombies, this little race still had a lot of heart…or would that be brains?  Mmmm…brains.

Speaking of brains, and brawn, a couple of Edmonton Oilers showed up to participate as well, including team captain, Andrew Ference.  The boys gotta do something on the Olympic break!

With just over 150 runners hashing through Rundle Park on this 5K, it was a challenging little trek for me. I seeded myself WAY at the back to avoid the pushing and shoving that occurred during the fall race. (Zombies! Zombies are coming! RUN!!! Insert big ginormous shove from tiny blonde runner behind me….) No worry of that happening this time.  Everyone was pretty cool about the undead, and white walkers zipped speedily through the crowd, stripping 99% of us of our life ribbons.

More difficult than I anticipated, the course threw in a couple of hills and a LOT of off-road/off-trail running through ankle-twisting snowy depths.  The snow seriously slowed me down and got the heart pumping right off the bat.  A fun highlight was a slide down a toboggan hill about half way through the race.

In terms of my own performance, I did walk a wee bit, but often enough it wasn’t because I was dead tired, but because it was really challenging to wade through the snow. I tried to keep moving regardless, and that was kind of the most important thing for me: keep moving!  I had some terrific snot bubbles on this run, and I was sure to wipe off the frozen snot cat whiskers that crept across my face as I ran… yes, it was cold. Only -18 C but with the wind chill, upwards of -26 C.  The smoke (exhaust? death chemicals?) from the plant across the river kept blocking out the sun. Brrr.

My overall time was 45:23 with an average 9:05 pace.  Right now I don’t have a lot to compare that to… I’ve only just started being aware of times. (Previous goals in races were all about finishing alive.)  I think as I’m trying to improve my running skills and times, I might lay off the “fun” runs and concentrate on flat out road or trail races.  As well, these fun ones aren’t any cheaper!  Already the Zombie Evasion for next fall is $50-60 and Color Me Rad is $40-50 as well. I dunno.  We’ll see.

Overall, it was a good time.  It ended back at the Rundle Family Centre with plenty of hot soup, fruit and muffins/cookies.  Hot chocolate was drained by the time I got there, but when you come in 123 out of 159 runners, that’s bound to be the case.  Lesson learned: want the good snacks? Run faster.

Training for a 5K without running

My February fitness challenge is to run a 5K.

Running, without stopping, and finishing under 40 minutes. My first 5K of the year was the Resolution Run on New Year’s Day and I finished in 43 minutes.  Okay, so maybe upping the time to 40 minutes isn’t much of a challenge… maybe 35 minutes.

Thirty five minutes will be crazy regardless, because this isn’t a straightforward treadmill 5K. This is outdoors, in the winter, in Canada. You know, where -30 C is pretty common. It’s a trail run.  There are hills.  There will be snow.  As well, it is a sort of participatory event… it’s the Dead Cold Run with GoT-esque White Walkers chasing the warm-blooded runners.

Hey – I need motivation to keep moving.  Zombies will do it.

The only catch with my newly inspired goal is the training regime.  The run is 26 days away, on Feb 22.  On Feb 3, my gym membership expires, and because I bought my brother a snazzy birthday present last week, I kinda spent my fun money.  So, between Feb 3 and pay day, which is Feb 10, I need to work out without a gym.

So, I can run from today to Feb 3, right?  Wrong.  My sports bra has become uncomfortably loose, and there is NO WAY I am running on the treadmill without proper support. (If I end up getting out the duct tape, I will be sure to let you know).  So, Feb 10 is the “big day” where I can buy a sports bra, renew my membership and start really running. (Is that enough time?? I have no idea)

P.S. Winter is still here

P.S. Winter is still here

In the mean time, I have to figure out a beneficial training plan.  Training for a 5K run without… running.

Here’s what I’ve got so far while I have the gym membership pre Feb 10: incline treadmill, swimming, tabata, rock bottoms class, zumba.

Here’s what I’ve got for my 7-day stretch of no gym: river valley stairs, medicine ball exercises, squats & sit ups & push ups (oh my!) and any other body weight exercise that will elevate my heart rate.

After that I can launch into some quick fix couch to 5K solution for the remaining 12 days prior to the run…

Easy to sit here and write all this.  Actually have to get to it…and cram it all in.  Here’s to a new goal! Woot!