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

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

Sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t.

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

I was enough that day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever dropped out of a race?

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

Have you and running ever taken a break?

Race recap – 5 Peaks Terwillegar

Finisher 5 PeaksWhhhyyyy do I do this to myself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Peaks last place

 

 

 

 

 

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 – 5 Peaks, Canmore

Still last. Well – 4th from last. Or something like that.

The final race for the Southern Alberta 5 Peaks trail running series was at the Canmore Nordic Centre in the beautiful Canadian Rockies. Following a week of cool weather, snow flurries and the like, Saturday was blocked in with fog hiding a spectacular bluebird day.

I signed up for the “Enduro”, which was 14.7 km, I believe, for this particular race. My strategy behind signing up for this race was that it’s a nice longish run in preparation for the half marathon I have in two weeks.

Organization: You know what, out of all the 5 Peaks I’ve been to this season, I have to give it to the Southern Alberta crew. Informative, rah-rah emails leading up to the race; great location using the main lodge at the Canmore Nordic Centre; lots of sponsors and vendors pop-tented at the start/finish line; and hey, a good sound system with lots of tunes throughout and a fun race director MCing the whole thing. LOVE the super samples given out by the Clif and there was some cool 5 Peaks gear for sale. Parking was spacious, and package pick up was swift. Got a 5 Peaks toque with my reg package along with a mini Builder Bars, Kicking Horse coffee, etc.

Course: The 14 km Enduro had its very own course (yay! Love this as opposed to doing two laps of a shorter course). The course came with hills, technical bits and crazy gorgeous scenery. After leaving the start line, the course ran up into the mountains and the majority of the run took place weaving through the trees. Being in the mountains and inhaling that crisp, cool pine air = wow. Good to be alive.

My run: After the helpful bear spray demo (spray was mandatory for this race) we were off! The Enduro runners began at 9:30 am, and I seeded myself about ¾ of the way to the back. Super excited. The course began with a gradual incline (where I was passed by the remaining ¼ runners), which then became kinda a steep road up the hill, which then turned into like, a gnarly (not in the kewl way) hiking trail.

Oh my gosh – SUCKING WIND, dude. All the way. For two kilometers of UP – sucking wind. All I could think was: I shouldn’t have had that beer last night;  I should’ve left earlier yesterday to drive from Edmonton to the mountains; I shouldn’t have slept in my car; I should’ve trained more; I should’ve stayed home. I was sad and sorry.

I regained my breath sometime between kilometers two and three, and then suddenly – miraculously – the trail evened out and I was a runner again! My pace went bonkers as I juked through the trees, leaped over roots and zipped through snow-covered trails. I was Chariots of Fire. I was Rambo. I was John McClane running over broken glass in Nakatomi Plaza. I was awesome. (No, really – that’s how I felt). I was out of the fog and it was a bluebird day above.

The kilometers flew by after that. I chatted with some nice ladies on the trail, stopped to take a few selfies beneath snow-covered peaks, etc. The trail rolled through the forest, with some more uphill and steep downhill, but those proved to be some good active recovery moments. Of the two aid stations out on the trail the second one had water plus a selection of gels (Salted Caramel GU!) and chewy bloks – so spoiled. But by the time I’d sucked back the sugar, and was on that final four kilometers, I was beat.

My feet hurt, my body slowed down to a crawl and I was sooo tired. Am assuming this was a case of going too flat out on the midsection of the race. All that superhero running I’d done was totally catching up to me. I truly was enjoying it – and trying to make up time for those first two kilometers of “hiking” – but clearly going for it had some consequences.

The last few kilometers were at a shuffly little pace. I walked any remaining hills. Saw a squirrel and a deer. Shuffled down the last stretch towards the finish line. Right when I was in view of the crowds, I started to feel tiny clenching muscle balls in my calves. I stopped twice to try and stretch them out. Something down there was not going well. Made it across in 2:16…ironically a few minutes longer than my 5 Peaks 16 km run in Terwillegar earlier in the year!

Either way, all good. There was still a lot of food left and I sat and had a snack while I listened to the announcer give away prizes etc. Very peppy, happy little atmosphere in Canmore. Being one of two Athena racers I was also presented with a wicked awesome 5 Peaks swaggy medal – best ever.

I had so much fun at this race that I think I’ll go out of my way to make sure I do another Southern Alberta 5 Peaks again next year. Good times. The only thing that would make this race better would be beer.*

 

*I’m not sure the 5 Peaks folks roll that way on the race grounds, tho – so general imbibing takes place post-race, in town or at at a campsite. I did, after all splurge on a campsite for my second night in the mountains – haha. No more sleeping in the car.