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

 

 

 

 

 

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…

Pre-race day carb loading

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

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

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

Done. And tasty!

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

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

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

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

Training week #2 recap:

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

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

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

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

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

Off to the mountains in a few hours!  Woohooooo!

 

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

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

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

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

Hot chocolate cookies

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

Last week’s training plan and results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
SAT: RACE DAY! (10K)

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!

 

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!