Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lucky 7 Relay RR

This was the inaugural Lucky 7 Relay Race for the new running company in Halifax, United by Running. Having never participated in a running relay, outside of junior high school gym class that is, I was excited to try a different style of race with some good friends from work.
Before I get to the race part I just have to say that trying to get a 6 year old out of bed on a Sunday at 6am so you can meet your relay team buddies for 6:30 across the city is nothing short of a miracle. I heard frequently on the drive over "But it's still daaaark!" It sure was, and it was one of the first mornings this fall where the temperature was below freezing. I was not exactly well dressed for the weather when my sleepy husband and daughter dropped me off, but I stuck my flimsy gloves on and shivered with all of the other 1500+ nutcakes outside on a Sunday morning.
The organizers decided to keep the course very flat so each team member did 4.75 laps around the large commons area in the center of the city. When we walked up to all of the other runners a volunteer awarded my teammate's daughter with a buff for bringing a sign. Her mom, Andrea, stuck it in a bag but after I started shivering badly she grabbed it and offered it as earmuffs to me. Surprisingly it made a difference and the only part of me that was actually frozen were my feet.
   The organizers also decided to keep the start times for each of the three legs the same, so the first team member, in our case Andrew aka speedy legs, went at 7am, then the second, my friend Andrea, went at 8:15, then I was up to start at 9:30am. Andrew took off at a steady strong clip and we cheered from the side each time he passed us, always near the front of the pack. He finished his leg in 29 minutes, much to my and Andrea's awe. Andrea had to wait for another 45 minutes before it was her turn. Andrew gave us some tips on where the bottlenecks tended to be and where he saw people starting to walk.
Andrea joined her group and off they went, she looked cold but she held a good pace, always running and smiling when she would pass our cheer squad on the sideline. She reached her goal and finished in under an hour. My husband and daughter arrived at the end of Andrea's leg and waited to cheer me on. By then the sun was finally out and gave us a bit of relief from the cold. Andrea said her feet didn't defrost until lap 2, so I knew I just had to muddle through until at least that point where my feet might just get feeling back again. I did a bit of a warm up jog and was actually alarmed at how unresponsive my feet were. Jumping up and down, carefully, so I didn't fall over, I got a tingling sensation, enough to put my fear of falling at bay. I lined up in the middle of the pack and we waited for the buzzer to sound.   
The start was on the one small hill on the whole course, but it got my heart pumping and me feeling warm sooner, so I didn't mind at all. Alot of costumed runners passed me initially, a princess, a care bear, a guy wearing nude colored spandex shorts and a bright pink thong, although I have to say at least he could pull it off(!)  I rounded the first corner, occasionally passing people, when I saw the water stop. Not having had a drink in 3 hours I stopped to grab a quick cup before picking up my pace again. I tried to keep it steady but I was distracted by my frozen feet. During the second lap I thought for sure I had a branch in my shoe against my heel. Turns out it was just my frozen heel rubbing against the back of my shoe. After 3 laps my feet finally felt normal and I tried to pick up my pace a bit. At that point my quads were starting to feel the cold so it was a bit of a battle just to maintain my pace. On the fourth and final 0.75 lap I ran off and on beside an older guy all of the volunteers seemed to know, Stu. Stu was breathing really hard and loudly but he was keeping his pace strong. I just passed him when we hit the finish line chute. I picked up my pace and so did Stu, the next thing I know we're racing neck and neck across the finished line mat. I laughed and he said "I guess we'll call that one a tie!" I said that was great, we chuckled and went off to get our own medals.
I met up with my family and my fellow Mach 7 Teammates, we all congratulated ourselves on a good morning of running and agreeing it was kind of cold to stand around a chit chat we all went our respective ways. It was a great day with a well organized race. Maybe next year the runners can convince the organizers to hold it in October?
I checked my time when I got home, 4.4 miles in 42 minutes, just a hair under a 10 minute per mile pace, AWESOME! I've been chasing that elusive 9 minute anything per mile pace for a year now and finally got it in a race, what a sweet way to finish a good day. Oh, and on the next line under my finishing time was Stu, with the same time as me, yes we can call that a tie Stu!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The long and the short of it

I committed today. Yup, I signed up and paid to run another 50k race in the spring. Between that and running a race yesterday I feel pretty good about starting off my training in November. I'll hover around 50-60kms between now and the new year then try and crank it up a bit so my legs are ready for the challenges to come at the Wraskally Wrabbit. Oh, and I've taken up a weekly spin class as well, I'm hoping it will help build some much needed quad strength in the coming months and give me some variety from chugging out mile after mile. Some long runs are in my future, but now that I know what I'm in for I hope that I can better prepare myself.
My husband on the other hand has no such aspirations with running. He's said numerous times that a half marathon is his top distance. At the moment he's getting back into shape, trying to keep a streak of running going to help lose a few pounds. I find it kind of interesting that the same recovery I take after a run of 1-2 hours, he does as well after 10 minutes of running :-) I guess the amount of sweat isn't all that different when you think about it, so I guess I can understand his need to soak in the shower..but the hobbling around? hummm ;-) We all have our challenges, mine have just gotten alot longer than his. Besides, he is by far the best pacer I've had and definetly the best company when I'm really struggling through the end of a race. He has gotten exceptional with his encouragement. He doesn't tell me I'm crazy or suggest I stop, he keeps urging me to push hard and leave everything I have out there on the road/trail/track. We may not run the same distances but he's totally spot on when it comes to encouragement and overall support. I'm a lucky gal, and I'll need his and my daughter's support in the coming months.
Happy running.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shaking off the Heavies

Week one of my 26 week Ultra Training Plan. Here we go again!
Yesterday I ran for 6 miles, out to the local trail and back again with the wunder-dog Spencer. It was a gorgeous day and I was overdressed for the temperature, but a few clothing adjustments made it tolerable. I even managed a bit of a tan with all the sunshine-a tan in November.Yes kiddos, global warming is here. My legs were heavy and sluggish, even when I tried to kick them into gear with some sprints. I know it was from the Insanity workout I did two days prior, I guess I keep assuming that my legs will eventually adapt to the workout and won't leave me feeling like someone poured concrete in them, but no avail. I guess I'll stick to the hill repeats and speed sessions to build leg strength, and keep my indoors workouts for my upper body. In any case later in the day I did an arm and core workout and everything seemed to stretch out pretty well.

This morning I got up, grabbed Spencer and headed out for a 4 mile speed session. My legs were feeling much better since yesterday and I managed to overdress again. What is up with +10 degrees in November? Spencer seems to be a wee bit more paranoid in the dark early morning, he's afraid of other people and yard decorations. If he didn't freeze in the middle of a good sprint I wouldn't mind but I think come winter we might have an issue if I'm going on my merry way and suddenly get yanked backwards because mister is scared of someone's menacing-looking recycling bin!

So, I've got another 4 miler, an 8 miler and a 16 miler (yup, 25kms) to do before Sunday. Given my schedule of family activities between Friday and Sunday I'm going to try and get most of these done before the weekend hits. I've got my running clothes in my bag so I might try and get another 4 miles in before I go to watch my daughter's cheer practice tonight.

The extra running should also help me with my work frustration. I've been trying to leave my work stress at work lately which has ended up following me into my runs right after work, but at least I'm trying hard to keep it out of the home. The new upper management is a "boys club" where the CEO has a bunch of his old buddies and school friends working in key positions. So even if you have a legitimate issue if it doesn't factor into their master plan or work to one of their interests/advantages, forget it. What has resulted is most of the employees that have worked here for the past 10 years resigning. I'm one of two that are left from the original group and its a sad place to be. I've tried to tow the company line, I even wrote a paper about a technological application to a training need by the Air Force, that was recognized by the International Training and Simulation conference but I was told that what I wrote was based on out-dated technology and was discouraged from presenting. I was told to figure out what it would cost the company to send me, and after I did I told them it was significantly more than what they had expected and given the financial situation of the company I could understand if they didn't want me to go based on their perceived cost-to-benefit argument. Now they are saying I chose not to go. WTF? I'm so sick of their games. They are sending a small group to the conference, you guessed it, the CEO and two of his buddies. Yeah, it's really time to move on but there are limited options available unfortunately.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Setting New Goals for the New Year

With one race left to go I can honestly say 2012 has been a banner year as far as new PBs and new races are concerned. I think in total I ran over 10 races between March and November, starting with the traditional 25k Moose Run in Cow Bay and finishing with the Lucky 7 Relay Race (Go Team Mach 7!) around Halifax Commons. Before I get to my new goals for 2013 I'll do a quick recap of the races and the highlights of the year.

March: Moose Run, Distance 25km
If you ever want to try a non-traditional road race distance this has to be my favorite. Besides the insanely cheap registration fee ($5!) you get a supported scenic race through Cow Bay ending with a chili or bean lunch back at the lodge. This year there were commemorative mugs given out and even hot chocolate and gluten free snacks at the end :-) The crowd is usually made up of runners prepping for a spring marathon and recreational runners looking for a new challenge. I didn't score my best time at this race but I had alot of fun (as usual) and the weather was sunny and warmish for March.

April: McNabs Island Run, Distance 11km-or so
If I don't say this anywhere else in this blog I'll say it now, I have the most supportive husband and daughter and without them I would not be able to accomplish half of my running adventures. They joined me for this race, held on McNab's Island on a very chilly Sunday. We took the jogging stroller so my husband and daughter could run with me for the first half of what was supposed to be a 21k race. Well..we got a bit lost, the trail was not exactly marked well and we had no experience running a trail race and knowing what to look for either. Combine the two and we three spent 2 hours running around the island, sometimes on the right track, sometimes not. We had a good time though, we explored one of the forts and enjoyed the boat ride. Turns out we weren't the only runners that got turned around out there, on the ride back alot of runners were joking how they did "most" of their race distance.

April: Run for Life, Distance 5km
This was supposed to be a "fun run" before my big 50k Ultra attempt. The race took place at Point Pleasant Park and I met up with a bunch of co-workers who were either running the 5 or 10k options. I opted for the 5k since in my training schedule I was in taper mode. At the start we all ran together until one of my coworkers told the group they didn't have to stick with her, the next thing I know one of my coworkers took off and, not to be outdone, I followed suit. My competitive nature got the best of me and I sprinted through the course finishing under 30 minutes. I didn't beat my coworker either, she turned out to be quite the speed demon! For a charity 5k it was a fun, easy course. Next year I'll try not to be overly competitive.

May: Wasskaly Wrabbit, Distance 50km
It's true what alot of ultrarunners say, you sign up and train your heart out for these events and come race day all you want to do is go home! Running 50k is further than I've ever run and combining that with never having completed a true trail race, I ended up getting my butt handed to me. I had the BEST time though. I learned alot about trail running and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the badasses that are trail runners.

May: Bluenose Marathon Weekend, Distance 10km
During the ultra I met a few runners who were doing the full marathon the next week, I however made a pretty smart decision and stuck to the 10k race with my husband. My husband and I decided to stick together for most of the race with a pace bunny then race each other for the last few kms. It was a HOT day and I was so thankful I wasn't running 42kms. I managed to beat my husband by a minute.

June: Sole Sisters Women's Only Race, Distance 5km
For this race I was the pace bunny for a friend and coworker looking to come in under 35 minutes for a 5k. Running in a women's only race was cool, I saw alot of familiar faces and really enjoyed the colorful aid stations along the course; a chocolate stop, hugging station, hawaii station and fruit kabobs at the finish. Even with the odd rain shower and clap of thunder, it seemed like everyone had a great time. I managed to get my friend to the finish in 32 minutes, so she was pretty happy she accomplished her goal.

July: MEC Shearwater Trail Race, Distance 5km
This was another race I did with my husband and daughter. This one was located just 2km from our home so it was very convenient. My daughter was running this one with us and complained through the first half, so much so I regretted signing us all up for the event (though I didn't say as much). My husband and I tried to coax her on without making us all miserable. Once we got to the turn around though she really picked it up and she ended up finishing 3rd in the under 18 age group, not too shabby for a 5 year old!

August: Natal Day Road Race, Distance 2 miles
A tradition for our family, we all lined up to see if our daughter could hold onto her first place finish in this race from last year. She managed her pace well and with only a few walk breaks we circled downtown Dartmouth in under 30 minutes, capturing the first female under 8 years old again. Hannah got her medal, a tiny little sneakered foot. My husband and I were so proud.

August: Sunofa Gunofa Run, Distance 12.5km
This race is held in Wentworth so my husband and I dropped our daughter off with my mother and off we went into the hills (that felt like mountains) in Wentworth for another trail race. My husband hadn't been training for races at all so his winging-it caused him to need to walk alot of this course. It was insanely hilly, sometimes you had to actually climb-hands and feet up the side of a hill. Running through the river was a nice relief until I took a spill. A little bloodied, we made it though and had a great time laughing at ourselves during the 2.5 hours we were out there. My husband had the craziest runner's high after, I think he was; a. thankful to be alive and b. thankful the race was finished! As usual the race was gorgeous in its scenery and the support by the organizers, Jodi and Karine, was excellent.

September: Maritime Marathon Weekend, Distance 42.2km
I think I was caught up in the excitement of a full marathon taking place in my community or something, because I did not train properly for this marathon at all. It snuck up on me and the next thing I know I'm doing a bit of a runner's shuffle through the last 15km, having nasty GI issues that caused other runners to drop out. I managed to finish with my slowest marathon time yet, and be the last finisher..which by the way, can be similar to winning the race, a pace car is behind you, everyone is cheering because they know you're the last person to cheer for and the race director(s) shakes your hand. I still smiled.

October: Cuddly Coyote Trail Race, Distance 27km +~3km
I loved the course for its scenery and its challenges. I had spoken with Jodi, the race director and he said this was a technical course-boy was he right! My friend and I got lost twice, once by talking about Honey Boo Boo of all topics, and the second time because we thought the guy in front knew his way. We added about 3km or so onto what we ran, for her it was a new PB in distance. We had a beautiful sunny day and great support on course. It was really nice to see the same faces from the other trail races there and I ran with the second guy to run the whole Confederation Trail from tip to tip in 42 hours. My friend and I got the lighthouse medals for finishing last and I was awarded Trail Runner of the Year for having a positive and determined attitude on the trail course. Of course I'll be back to do them all again next year!

October: MEC Shubie Trail Race, Distance 10km
My husband jumped into this one with me. This is a groomed trail so the footing was easy although the rolling hill nature of the course makes it a bit hard on the legs. It's an out and back course that I ran last year so I knew where the tougher parts were and when the aid station would appear which helped me coach him through the first 5km. He gutted it out and we managed to finish the race in a little over an hour, not bad with no training on his part.

November: Lucky 7 Relay, Distance 7km for each person, total team effort of 21km
This will be my first relay race since high school. lol. I'm teamed up with one of the fastest runners at my work and my friend and co worker from the Cuddly Coyote and Sole Sisters Race. Together we are Team Mach 7 (at least we sound fast!) The race organizers make sure the atmosphere at their races is like a party, so I anticipate this to be a fun run.

Shoot! 13 races total, wow, that IS a new race year record for me. I had a great time at all of the races, faced new challenges and accomplished a huge personal goal of running 50km. If I think back to last year I had only actually planned to run the 50km race, just about every other race was one I decided to do as the race season progressed. Which ones would I do again? I'll be back at the Moose Run and trail races for sure (including the 50k Wasskaly Wrabbit), although I'll play the ones by MEC by ear since the races seem to change by distance and location each year. I'll do the Natal Day Race again, we have to see if my daughter can make it three years in a row! And I'll be looking for another 50k-ish race to do late in the summer. Next year my goals, aside from distance will be to really push myself, not only during races but in training as well. My training attitude of "doing the best I can" on each day is fine but if I want to get better, I've realized, just doing what I can isn't going to cut it. I need to push my comfort envelope and push through the wall so the whole passage of training pays off in the race itself. I've started to find that this teaches me how to better handle life itself and the challenges it brings, whether it be work or family related.
Once again I want to thank my wonderful husband, my amazing daughter, my good friend and coworker Andrea, my mother for all of her support and help and the trail race organizers Jodi and Karine for putting on the most challenging and well organized trail races in the province.