Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Life is short, running makes it seem longer - Seattle Marathon 2013

For anyone who knows me quite well, when the going gets tough I go running.  That being said when the going is not tough, I still go running...

I often sign up for random races especially while I am stuck in some emotional rut or faced with some sort of challenge.  I crave the therapeutic process and outcome of setting my own challenge. I have always said "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" so my coping mechanism is to temporarily make life feel even tougher (but usually in some beautiful place) a result, in the broad scope everything seems a bit easier in perspective.  

The past eight years I have been experiencing that which I am sure many can relate...watching the ones you love sick and in pain.  First it was my father who passed two summers ago, and now my sister has been battling a very awful disease. Though my family is very tightly knit, I have always been the nomad of the family and have been in and out of the province with my own adventures in life. I wish to no end I could somehow infuse any of my strength into my sister, and into my mom who has been the family rock.  4 surgeries later in a little over a year, and the latest one being very scary, we have our fingers crossed that my sister is on the up.

So back to my own personal therapy.  A couple of weeks ago while I was a bit emotional and reviewing/checking off items on my Bucket List, when my gaze captured..."Boston Marathon".   I cross-referenced my calender with the upcoming marathons and wham-bam, Seattle Marathon December 1st - two weeks away....perfect!!  Without hesitation I paid the big bucks with a last minute entry and set a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon (by running at a certified race in <3hrs40mins).  Better late than never right!?

I really did not take the "race" serious and had no taper whatsoever.  Though, once I set a goal there is usually little to get in my way.  My experience with road marathons is the ability to make legs that feel wooden keep on keeping on.  So that I did (I make that sound simple and easy...very untrue).  Boston Marathon 2015 here I come! 

So through this process of life and the challenges delivered, I will continue to learn about my own forms of coping and will continue to be increasingly thankful for the good times and the loved ones in my life. I will keep on kicking the asphalt and trails because life is short and running makes it seem longer...and I will continue to run through the walls, because all walls have doors if you want to find them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lovely way to spend a sunday morning....

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine, Andrea, recognized that I needed my a personal challenge (my self-induced challenges are how I cope in life) tempted me to the Fall Classic 1/2 marathon at UBC.

I could go on, but the long and short of it but....I showed up feeling highly unprepared as most, but happy to embrace the challenge .  Andrea and I have raced this race the past two years, she traditionally runs with me for the first 15-17kms while I push the pace, then when I die, she takes off.  Andrea is the athlete and I am, though very gutsy, the relatively unfit clydesdale in comparison. She has beaten me by within a minute over the past year, the year before in seconds.   Yet again, sad but true - the same thing happened, though she increased the margin!  Ugh.

Andrea thought a 4:45 pace would be good but I said are running 4:30/km with a goal time of 1:36ish, both of us are PB'ing I said. The gun goes off and  as per the usual got caught up in the race and stupidly started for the first 5kms pacing at 4:12km, Andrea stayed by my side for the first 10km when I got a huge stitch and then just sat in a huge hurt locker with tiny little breaths for the middle kms, I seriously perfected the fly and die, while Andrea just pranced on and away! 

Luckily as Andrea pranced away, Janelle a talented UBC rower that I coach, appeared out of no where and we ran together for the middle kms, she kept my spirits high until..about 2kms to go where I slowed down for fear that I was having a heart attack. Ugh, again.

For 1hr39 mins my average HR was 185 for with 4km to go I saw 200 again and again.....sorry heart, seriously so very, very sorry...bad fly and die (last time the national team experts checked my max hr was 196?!?)

Ok, so silly pity party done, why not sign up for the next challenge. So Seattle Marathon in less than two weeks it is, just signed up yesterday. 

My heart has forgiven me and took me no time to rebound.  I thought no better time than now to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon at best, or have a fun, soggy, cold long run with 3000 like-minded people at worst...Running, for me is positive therapy in so many ways and will continue to be (I'll try to remember this at km 30-42 next weekend : )...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Iriquoia Trail Test 34km 

I was heading from the Niagara Region into Toronto for the weekend and came across this race on a website and thought: hey...why not?  I had no expectations but thought, well, for $60 I can get a pleasant long run in, a new shirt and be challenged by other runners and the time watch on me to boot!

They call it a trail test with many words of warning about the challenge of the terrain in the pre-race meeting.  I, being a BC native, just chuckled to myself thinking, "right so running on gravel is some sort of test"...I was humbled and pleasantly surprised by the beauty, variety and challenge of the terrain.  They offered a 7km, 18km and 34 km - I wanted the best bang for my buck and did the 34km which was a beautiful 3x11.3km loop in and out of the Bruce Trail, (even with a substantial climb to mix it up in the middle).  I was pleasantly surprised by the race and by how good my legs felt after having done my first 50 miler 3 weeks ago.  3hrs 29mns later I got a good long run in and an opportunity to experience trail runs in Ontario...pretty much the same scene as BC, fun people who love to play on roots and rocks.  I highly recommend this race to anyone who lives in SW Ontario!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

White River 50 Mile Endurance Run

July 26, 2012 (one year ago from the day before this race) I lost my 69 year old father to cancer.  The year following has been a year of what I think to be a transfer of energy - to quote Albert Einstein "Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another."  Since the day my father passed, the man who taught me everything I know about adventure, I have felt so much more energy and desire to live life to the fullest than ever before.  So I decided to dedicate this race to my Dad - thus there was absolutely no chance I was going to stop.

Completely intimidated prior to the race, yes.  Slept no more than 5 hours total in 48 hours the days before, yes.  Bought 4 new $16.00 pairs of socks and "just in case", yes...and two new pairs of trail runners, yes.  Well the worry was worth nothing as I was taken under the wing of awesome race organizers and the best ~380 co-ultra-marathoners for an absolutely amazing 50 mile running adventure.

I had many words of warning that being my first 50 miler to "power walk" the up hills, run the flats/downhills, eat 250 calories per hour, and pour water over my head at the aid stations; that I did.  The first 28 miles I felt phenomenal, I found myself in a group of chatty veteran ultra-marathoners who had stories to share and kept me from my desire to run the uphills.  I eventually broke free from that pack and began my own adventure, loving the hills as I do.  My epic moment of the day was when I looked at my GPS and saw 13 miles and 5600 ft when I thought to myself (in Canadian terms)...20 kms done and "ONLY" 60 kms to go...I gulped and just kept going....that sums up most of the "race", actually.

The first half (28 miles/~50kms) were really quite a blur.  This race is known for its huge elevation change with 17,400 feet of elevation change and a two huge ~4000 ft climbs - so I spent the majority of that first half conquering the big climb, embracing the 4 miles of mind-blowing views as we ran along on the ridge.  Below is the airstrip were the race started.  Pictures do no justice as usual.

The following portion was all about LOVING the 6 mile downhill section.  My boyfriend was there at Buck Creek with crispy bacon (my request!) at the 28 mile aid station.  I started looking forward to that and got in with about 4 other men and we just embraced the downhill for what it is...downhill has not been my strength up until now but that day I just wanted to let potential energy do its work and blasted down looking forward to the bacon!

The second half....DIFFERENT STORY!!!  Wow....So I got the aid station where moments before  my GI tract started turning sour, so the first thing I said to my boyfriend with a big grin is "feeling great, don't need the bacon! :)".  I had a drop bag full of everything from spare shoes, first aid kit, food, contact lenses - you name it.  But the one thing I needed - my electrolyte saturated drink mix....NO WHERE TO BE FOUND.  I have no idea how I wasted so much time looking for it but I was at that aid station for 13 minutes!!!  Brain - not functional clearly.

Regardless I set on my way and the next 2 hours or so I stayed in that exact poor head space - I was obsessed over the fact that my GI tract was starting to defy me, my bladder was full, I had another mountain to climb, and my feet were starting to ache, and that my GPS had decided to lock it's buttons??! so I had no ability to pace, really didn't matter anyway.  So my cure was to get myself another km under my belt and adventure off course and find an outhouse, no care in the world about my time, just wanted that good ol' port-a-potty.

Back on track my next obsession was to find the "perfect" walking stick to conquer the next big climb....thank god for the random runner who ran with me for a while and shouted out to me that I was such an "awesome climber"... (regardless of the lie, thank you to whoever that was because in 2 words got me out of my slumber and I set on my way back in a relatively good head space).  Finally nearing the top of the second big climb the sun was glaring and Glenn Tachiyama was there with his camera, sad to say I did not have the energy to smile or even swing my arms at that point!
The following was 6 miles down a gravel road.  This re-upset my GI tract yet again but thanks again to another veteran runner who was 60 years old (yes 60!) and had ran 50 odd ultras got me down to the "Skookum flats" (6 miles of beautiful "flat-ish" trails).  Once on the flat I realized how blistered my feet were so I made another poor decision to sit on a rock and take a look at my feet - BAD IDEA!!! Thanks to my laughing boyfriend who peered out of the bush and gave me that look like "come on just get those shoes back on and finish strong".  That I did.
My precious cheat sheet a made up the days before - electrolyte tablets included!!

Fun day, so fun.  During the moments, I said there is absolutely no way I am doing this again.  5 days later, legs are recovered, toe blisters are still challenging me but I have already signed up for another race (well its only 34 kms and is in Ontario, but its a start).  So fun!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

King's Market 1/2 Marathon - San Juan Island, WA

I have been told that running ultra-marathons, like many sports, is simply about learning to keep your head in check while you suffer in beautiful places.  With that being said, what better way to spend a sunny weekend but gathering up a group of awesome folk renting a huge house on a San Juan Island golf course, cycling, hot-tubbing, billiards, cooking up a storm, drinking some delicious ceasars and wine on the patio and then capping it off with the Kings Market 1/2 marathon.

Seeing as my current goal is to complete a 50 mile ultra in a little over a month, I figured running a 1/2 marathon on tired legs would be good training.  So, I had a lovely time with intentionally tuckering out my legs as much as I could prior (53km running on the weekend before followed by a standard week of cross-training then 75kms of riding on San Juan the day before) I successfully tuckered out those legs and set up to the start line with two other friends and 200 other folk. 

Looking at times from the last year and well warned about the copious amount of hills, I set a goal of running 7:45-8:00 min/mile to keep good form and push through the hills without regard for any consequences. With my successfully tuckered legs the first half of the race felt absolutely awful, but began to feel great at around the 1/2 way point.  Thanks to my Ski to Sea downhill race a couple of weekends ago, I could really let go on the downhills and my legs did not seem to care much.  As heavy as I often feel now a days I felt really strong and light on the uphills also.

Well, I successfully kept my head in check while I suffered very much in an absolutely beautiful place and crossed the line as the first female overall and 7th overall in a time of 1:43:02.  That was my first win in a running race so I was pretty happy with that and a very well run local race.  On to my big adventure in a little over a month.....oh gees.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ski to Sea

I now understand very clearly all of the the words of warning about the quad blasting 8 mile 2200 ft downhill run leg of the Ski to Sea.  My choice to do this 6 days after running a 50k ultra-marathon was simply my own typical "wise choice".  Smiles still all around, its all in good fun and I was happy to help out Team Deep Cove Outdoors who were in desperate need of a runner at the last minute due to a sickness.

All aside, the Bellingham Ski to Sea is a fantastic event.  Beginning at the top of Mt Baker with 8 athletes per each of the 500 teams relay down to the sea (Fairhaven, WA).  It begins with a cross-country ski, then downhill ski, run, road bike, 2 person canoe, mountain bike then finishes with kayak.  Unfortunately, the weather gods decided to ignore us for the day and gave us a steady downpour of lovely west coast rain.  We all just smiled, shrugged our shoulders and thanked god for Gore-Tex.

Knowing I was competing on last year's 3rd place winning team, I was mighty anxious that my lack of preparedness would effect the team and didn't sleep a wink the night before.  I pulled out my road runners, laced them up good and tight, and just aimed to keep my leg turnover quick and my stride smooth.  Seeing as I couldn't really feel my legs because they were wet and frozen I felt quite super for about 6 miles the rest was a quad cramping suffer-fest but I kept my spirits high with "she'll be coming around the mountain" ringing over, and over in my head!  (Too boot I ran my first sub 40 minute 10k on the way down, even though it doesn't really count).  I passed on the timing chip to our biker who had the bluest lips I have ever seen, gulped down my bottle of water, plunged into my warm bag of warm clothes I left with the biker and then laid down, put my legs up a cold cement wall, and watched the world upside down for a while while I tried to get the blood from rushing to my damaged legs.

During the remainder of the 3 hour wait for the remainder of the runners to finish and for our team cars to trickle down the one lane mountain road, myself and the rest of the 500 soggy runners stood in puddles, and did our best to just keep the laugh going. 

So happy to sea my teammate's VW Westifalia, I slopped myself in the backseat as they drove back to Bellingham.  Along the way we received text updates on our ranking and we made it to the finish in Fairhaven just in nick of time to greet our finishing kayaker.  I polished off a couple of IPA's (awesome recovery drink in my world) at the beer garden and then received our award for 3 place in the Women's Competitive Division.

So glam I am, taking no time to smile for the camera too distracted by my jacket zipper.  Soggy but fun day, with the world's best sleep after (and very moisturized skin)!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sun Mountain 50k

(photo credit to Glenn Tachiyama)

Any race that involves those awe-inspiring stop and smell the roses (wild flowers) moments are good in my books.  The HWY 20 drive up east through the Cascade Range is absolutely beautiful.  The town of Winthrop, Washington is a hidden gem (as was the resort we stayed at "River's Edge Resort"....a definite gem!). This was my third "ultra": my first was the 2012 Kneeknacker, followed by the 2013 Chuckanut 50k, and the upcoming endeavor being the White River 50 mile in July.  My goal was to race in under 6hrs and without injury seeing as Kneeknacker I was in the depths of Iliotibial Band syndrome and Chuckanut I pulled a hamstring the week prior.

I entered this race a month or so ago after Chuckanut 50k.  With a leisurly 10:00am start I approached Sun Mountain 50k with my standard "I-have-no-idea-what-I-am-doing-and-wish-I-took-the-time-to-research-the-course" approach.  Coming from my background of rowing very competitively on the national team, having a race plan memorized down to the every stroke, and with a definite plan saturated with precision - I have swung to the other side of the pendulum and now just love simply being out there moving one foot in front of the other.  Thus far I find my I-have-no-idea approach so very fresh and exhilarating.

Sun Mountain 50K was undoubtedly up to par; we could not have asked for better weather. The sun was warm but the wind was a crisp and cool northwesterly.  The race organizers are awesome...highly organized but very laid back at the same time. It had rained throughout the week but only a few mud puddles were to be hopped.  The majority of the course was a dirt, very non-technical single track with rolling terrain.  The 1200ft first climb was only existent on my heart rate monitor, I could not get my heart rate below 180 for the life of me, then realized after the fact why.

As per the norm, the group around me were full of positivity and strength that somehow osmotically pulled me up the hills and pushed me down (I still right suck at downhills).  The race literally flew by for me (since this was the first time I set my GPS on miles...felt so much shorter!).  My only hitch was the last 1200 ft climb up Patterson (an out and back climb up a steep, highly exposed. mountain-hill where the crew leading and coming back down gave us this look of sympathy while muttering some words of strength).  The race was an expected definite challenge with 5000ft of elevation gain but the "oh-gees" moments are those I live for.  I exceeded my expectations with a time of 5:38:37 and 14the female overall.  To boot, there was the most delicious beer at the finish line!  Definite stars in my books!!

Without injury (well...2 days later I am still using my arms a lot, and downstairs are entertaining - but much better than the last).  I am actually starting to love not being all that good at something and the challenge ahead to get better.  Can't wait for the next....