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.

Just a volunteer – Hypothermic Half recap from the other side

Hypothermic Half volunteerI had THE BEST time today being a course marshal at the Hypothermic Half in Edmonton.

I’m almost willing to give up being a registered runner for being a registered volunteer at races.  Seriously.  You are thanked, you are treated so well, you are fed, and the best part?  You fill your own bucket with all that cheering, encouragement and loooove you’re showering on other people.

I truly adored seeing all those runners giving 110% in the three waves of half marathon starters this morning.  There were the stunningly fit rock stars who just bloody well lead the pack. There were the groups of buddies, and the solitary loners pushing through and the pairs of men and women soldiering on.  There were a couple of older men and ladies running who would undoubtedly kick my ass.  Some runners just stuck out due to their appearance: the guy in the Superman t-shirt, the ladies in the matching pink jackets, the woman who ran like a prancing pony.

We cheered and hollered and boosted morale as best we could.  The four of us at my station were in a lucky spot – we got to see all the runners four times each, as we were close to the turnaround point plus the finish line turn off.  The weather was nothing near “hypothermic” at all and we stood in the sun, virtually and literally.

It’s an interesting perspective to put on a pair of volunteer shoes in a place where you’re typically on the other side, and see where those sneakers take you.

 

Race recap – Resolution Run 2016

Knowing that I already registered for a minefield of challenging races in 2016, I figured the Resolution Run was a good way to start the year off right. Set the tone for a year of running.

Otherwise, Netflix and I would be having a January 1st date that would last all day. In bed.  Nothing super great comes from that annoying message in the midst of an amazing binge: Are You Still Watching?  Um, yes, Netflix – this is my life right now. Thanks for the shaming.

I’m just wrapping up week 3 of my 19-week half-marathon training program, so I expected to run today’s 5K at my training pace, which is about 14:38 per mile, plus additional time for walk breaks. Yes…walk breaks.

The training program I’m following was designed by Jeff Galloway, who stands behind the theory that taking on a run/walk strategy right from the very beginning of a run will ultimately allow you to recover quickly, build endurance and finish strong.  It’s difficult for me to grasp the concept of walking almost right out of the gate, and the ego certainly pushes back as well (WTF? Why you walkin’, sistah?? #lame).

It makes sense, though.  When I went in (totally lazy, totally untrained) to the SeaWheeze half marathon in August, I did just that: pushed through to 14km without a break, but then once I stopped, I’d blown my energy stores and had to walk longer and more frequently to finish the race. AND I was cooked. Totally cooked. Runners in my pack who’d been taking religious walk breaks blew past me and I never saw them again.

So, after a night battling an attack cat determined to scrape my face off while I slept (our new cat is just a little too “playful”), I woke up late and realized I needed to get to the south side of the city pronto for the Resolution Run.  Bless the Running Room for setting the start time at a very reasonable 11:00 am.  My husband dropped me off at the William Lutsky YMCA, the beginning/end of the race, and in no time at all runners were lining up at the start, kicking off the race right on time.

The course runs through a south side neighbourhood near the YMCA, and with a blue sky day warm as can be (only -2C!) it was a pleasure to be outside.  The route was a bit slick at the beginning, and I had to be quite mindful of the ice, strollers and many squirrelly dogs in the race as I navigated through the tail end of the pack to find a comfortable running spot.

I totally forgot to bring my running watch, so I was a bit clueless as to my own pace and distance as I ran.  I tried to take short, slow, “easy” steps, with a pace that felt like my standard treadmill trot.  I made an effort to take at least three walk breaks but without having a timing device I was at a loss with when I should schedule them, and went with just how I felt.  I didn’t see any mile or kilometer markers along the route. Without music, I pretty much listened to conversations around me, and my own breathing.

Five kilometers came quickly, and in no time I was crossing the finish line, which I  must liken to the bottom of a mall escalator in Dubai: packed with people just standing in the way. Ha. Sorry – but it’s true. (C’mon folks, MOVE). My time – all unofficial and according to the running clock – was 37 minutes. Way faster than I ever expected this early in my training game (what’s that, around 12:33 a mile?) – I suppose that’s mostly race/pack mentality. I did huff and puff a little, but felt great at the finish. Hello 2016!!

The Running Room had a big ole pancake breakfast underway for the finishers, and took in tabs for draw prizes.  I skipped the snacks, thanked some volunteers, and hailed the husband for a ride home.   All together a nice, feel-good way to start the year.  I’m looking forward to a good year of running opportunities!

What was/is your first race/run of the year?