Where have I been?

So I haven’t been running. My Achilles caused some problems after I ran 5 Peaks Whistler in August. I dropped out of my 50k race in October, and dropped down from the half marathon to the 10k distance for both Beat The Blerch and Vancouver Rock and Roll.

It’s been hard and frustrating for me, and I have had the sinking feeling of doom with my weight since this all went down. I have gained weight, none of my dress pants fit. I feel some days like I am going down in a spiral, not sure how to get out of it.

But slowly, I have been trying to put one foot in front of the other and get back out there. I have taken a friends dog out for short 5k runs around the neighbourhood, and it’s felt good. I went out one day with my friend Suzanne and did 8k around Campbell Valley Park.

Today, I headed out to North Vancouver for the 2nd Annual Ugly Sweater Run with proceeds going to the North Shore Search and Rescue. I wasn’t sure I would even get out of bed and go, so I offered to drive Marijke as well… Accountability right?

It was cold, slippery, cold, snowy and did I mention cold? Thankfully I have a few pieces of warm clothing, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Gloves, Buff, toque, fleece running pants and an ugly sweater make for a good day.

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Alanna and I ran a nice relaxing pace behind the rest of the crew, chatting about how our seasons ended up, and listening to the jingle bells on the girls in front of us. We bitched about the hills (seriously there were hills!!) and discussed getting out to do some runs this summer together, since I always enjoy her company.

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The baking that people brought was delicious, and the unfortunate cookies were awesome. Marijke’s fortune was probably the best.

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I did 2 loops, each being roughly 4.7k, and on my first roll of the dice won!! So I chose a gorgeous red Salomon hoodie jacket.

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Overall it was a great day. My lungs struggled a bit with the cold and the running, and my legs/knees are a bit sore, but other than that I feel terrific. For the first time in a long time, I remembered why I love running.

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A Race Like No Other – Squamish 23k Race Recap

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I took the time to blog about what’s been going on. Between a slight knee injury, work being insane, trying to follow my Beast Orders for Baker Lake and personal shit going on, life’s been fun. But this isn’t about that.

Tonight…. Tonight I needed to blog. I needed to put my feelings into words and write about what happened today and how I felt about it while it was still fresh and raw. Because I honesty never want to forget how I feel right now over everything.

Baker Lake will always be my #1 big race for 2014, but I haven’t really talked about Squamish 23k, which was race #2. Last year at this time, I was still not able to run, and had not gotten into the trail running community. I knew people on social media who were running this race in Squamish and I kept thinking “god that sounds so cool, I want to do that!”

So, naturally when friends of mine said they were going to run Squamish, I had no problems jumping on board with this plan. Realistically, the race is 23k. The elevation profile is roughly 1200 meters climbing and 1300 meters descend. And of course, like usual, I had no fucking clue what I was getting into. I didn’t look at a course map, check out climbs, or even know where the hell I was going.

A few weeks ago I went out with some friends and we did a training run, the middle 16k of the course. I felt great!! I thought it was going to be amazing. I knew I had 2k at the end on the road to do, but no sweat, I run roads. It took us 3:30 to run that section, so mentally I felt good. That is until I heard about the first 5k being a climb. With switchbacks. Uphill…

WHAT THE FUCK DID I SIGN UP FOR?!

Between my confidence being in the shitter, my runs being extremely tough, my knees causing me problems and people telling me I should drop out of the race, I was actually set on not running. It wasn’t until Thursday night that I was 100% sure I would run the race.

So I made some calculations, factored in the middle section at 3:30, the front climb being at least 1hr, and then the last bit being 20ish minutes to allow for tired legs. My goal? Well besides to complete the race, I wanted to be under 5hrs. I knew that the 50k was going on at the same time, so even if I was longer than that, I would still complete it.

I didn’t sleep Thursday night. Friday thankfully I got in 12 hours because Saturday I maybe slept 4. I was up by 3:30 am to carpool up to Squamish with Nikki, Jen, Nicole and Sonya. My gear was ready the night before so when Nikki arrived I was good to go.

I’ll skip over the pre race stuff, and into what I want to remember – the actual race.

I kept reminding myself this was a training run and I could do it in 5 hours. I made it clear to everyone not to expect me before then, and felt bad because I knew some would be waiting almost 2 hrs for me to finish. But I was scared, nervous and just wondering why I bothered to do this at all. A few friends/people I chat with knew my nerves and said I would do fine, but I wasn’t sure.

One of my friends from Chilliwack asked if I wanted a running partner but I knew he was quicker than me, so figured we wouldn’t run together at all. I planned on starting the climb with Nicole and just playing it by ear.

We left the start line at Quest, went down a small hill and then up a gravel road for a bit until we reached the trail head. So our climb started within the first 1.5k of this race, which scared the shit out of me. But then something really funny happened. I looked up and saw people walking. Lots of people walking. And I was able to pass a few of these people. The climb was pretty decent, with switchbacks and a lot of single track, but I was feeling ok… Which shocked me.

There were parts I could run, and I ran what I could. But I also took full advantage of finding someone to pace me up the hill so I didn’t burn myself out at the start. Nicole and Suzanne were behind me on the climb; while Nikki, Jen and Sonya were ahead. My friend Dan caught up to me and passed me within the first few km, so I didn’t expect to see him again.

I let the lady in front of me set the pace, and up to the first aid station at km 5, I went with her. Nicole and Suzanne had caught up by this point and we off and on switched who was behind whom.

After the first aid station, we were at Fools Gold parking lot and starting into the run I had done a few weeks ago. I knew there were climbs, but I also remembered that there was some pretty sweet downhill that I had felt confident on, so I planned on just letting my body do what it wanted to. At the same time, I knew Mt Phlegm was looming a good 13k down the road, and kept that in the back of my head.

I felt good. I was keeping a slight eye on my Garmin for my time and distance, more for my fuel, water and salt pills than anything else. And I felt ok. I felt good. And then I fell. The rain and dampness had caused the log boardwalks to become extremely slick. The first one I hit, I knew I shouldn’t attempt to run down the steep angle but I didn’t listen to reasoning. My feet went out from underneath me, and I went back on my ass hard. I braced myself with my right hand and snapped my neck back hitting my head on the top of the boardwalk. A girl in front of me asked if I was ok, and I yelled back yes! At least my ass was padded.

I got up, wiped my hand on my pants, shrugged it off and set about to keep going. I was ok. I didn’t swear, but I may have slightly peed myself. Hey, it was a hard fall!! I took the rest of the boardwalks easier and got a bit leery at some descends but still felt good. I knew I wasn’t far from Suzanne and Nicole so I was feeling ok.

I didn’t focus on my watch. I focused on my feet, the ground and half listened to my iPod which I had brought along with me. Since it was trails, I made sure to only have one earphone in and was always aware of my surroundings. At one point, after a good 10-15 minutes being alone on the trails I looked ahead and thought I recognized the person in front of me. It was Nikki!!! She was with two of her friends and she turned around and couldn’t believe I was there.

Now, this is where it all changed for me. I wasn’t far behind from NIKKI!!!! I had, without even thinking about it, allowed myself to keep a good pace and not be at the end of the pack. I was feeling good, I was feeling like this race was going to be a good one.

And then I had to go pee. Running down a gravel road I couldn’t take it anymore. So I ducked into the bushes along with another girl who was running, and we both peed. (Later on after Mt Phlegm when I passed her on the downhill she called out “yay! There goes my peeing buddy!” And all I could think is “I love trail runners) I snuck back out to find Nicole and Suzanne back in my path, so we ran together for a bit again.

Past aid station 2, where we stopped, quickly ate and got something to drink. Let me tell you, trail races have the best aid stations. Candy, cookies, chips, gels, salt pills, flat coke, fruit, it was brilliant.

We then hit another climb. I lost Suzanne and Nicole, and figured Nikki was long ahead of me, but ended up pacing with a young girl Candice. This was only her 2nd trail race, and we ran for probably an hour or so together. I could tell at some points she was having a rough go on the climbs, and didn’t want to leave her behind, not with Mt Phlegm looming in the distance. So I took it easy. I could feel my knees were sore, but I was still feeling good. So we chatted and ran and before you knew it, we were atop Mt Phlegm, where Solana and Jay, with their air horn were standing cheering.

I knew it was 5k to the finish from this point. I knew there was some bitch downhill sections, and my feet were killing me. I could feel every callous, every blister and the balls of my feet hurt like fuck. But I knew I had to keep going. I felt bad, leaving Candice at the top, but I had to keep moving. Nicole passed me at this point and told me I would catch her on the road. She was done and only running to finish as quick as possible.

I ended up passing Dan on the downhill walking. He had hurt himself and was taking it easy, and as bad as my feet hurt, I couldn’t give up. Each step was a grimace, each corner made me clench my teeth. But I wasn’t stopping.

I quit looking at my watch. I wasn’t fueling anymore at this point I was too close to the end. I was trying to get as much water in as I could, and just keep moving. I got to the bottom of the bluffs, and knew I was 2k from the finish. 2 glorious, flat, road km’s to the finish. And I couldn’t keep running. My feet were aching. My knee was sore, and after the cushy feel of the trails, each step felt like I was pounding on concrete.

I plugged both my earphones in, put my head down and kept moving. I could see the couple in front of me walk/running and knew I wasn’t the only tired person out there. I looked at my watch and realized with 2k left, I was sitting around 3:50 for my time.

WHAT?! How the hell did that happen?! It didn’t even dawn on me I had been out there for that long. My body did not feel like I had been moving for 4hrs, but yet I had been moving for ONLY 4hrs. I kept trudging forward, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes walking, sometimes running. Thanking the volunteers and trying to smile and cheer on other runners as they passed.

And then came the finish line. That glorious arch, with the ribbon guiding the way to my friends, and my medal. I came around and I don’t know if they announced my name, but I saw Jen up ahead and her eyes were wide and she had the biggest grin on her face when she saw me. I crossed, stopped my Garmin, and got a huge hug from the race director, Gary Robbins, and then got my medal.

I am sure I had a shit grin on my face, raised my arms with tears in my eyes and said “I did it in under 5 hours!!!” Jen gave me the biggest hug and told me I had just missed Nikki by 5 minutes. So I hobbled over to the car to get changed and hugged Nikki as well.

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Everyone was shocked. Nobody expected me in so soon, especially not 50 fucking minutes ahead of what I originally expected. Russ, another running friend, came up to me and said he couldn’t believe how strong I looked and when he saw me come across the line he was shocked that was me.

My confidence soared. I was, and still am, so damned proud of myself. I went out, I let my body judge how I ran, and I didn’t stress. I ran my race. No, I did not push it. I probably could have pushed it harder, but my knees were a bit unhappy at some points and why risk injury with Baker Lake so close?? This was my longest race ever. And I beat any expectation that I had for myself tenfold.

The best part? Hands down crossing that line and having Gary there to hug me. In the grand scheme of things, I am a nobody runner. I am your average go out and run a race person, who completed that run. Gary made me feel like I was 10 feet tall. And then having Jen there was amazing. Being surrounded by so many people who were so genuinely happy for me and proud of what I accomplished. It was amazing.

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Having my friends and family tell me they were proud of me when I called/text’d them over the race meant so much. One friend shocked me when they text’d “proud of u” because I never expected them to say it. It made me feel like I am stronger than I think and capable of so much more.

I couldn’t tell you how hard the climbs were, I didn’t notice it. I couldn’t tell you how technical the downhill was, I didn’t pay attention. Honestly I don’t remember most of the trails, it felt like no time passed at all. The km’s flew by, the time ticked away, and I just kept moving. And at the end, it was all me. I accomplished so much more than I ever expected possible.

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Insert Witty Title Here

As I lay here with my compression sleeves on, drinking Skratch Pineapple electrolytes and hoping to hell my knees are up for the Grouse Grind on Tuesday, I figure it should probably do a quick blog post.

First off, no I am not dead. But between this heat, the hang over I had last weekend on my run, and knowing what the next 13 weeks have in store for me, it does seem like an option worth considering… Just kidding… Maybe.

Once Seek The Peak was done, my 16 week training plan by the Beast Coach herself, Solana went into effect. Let’s just say it’s not a walk in the park, but there was no cursing as I looked over the plan. It involves running, hill training, speed work, back to back, and more or less pushing my body when I am tired to not give up. Did I mention hills?

So what have I been doing? Well, the last 3 Sundays in a row, my training runs have been distances of 21.1km or greater. Yes, 3 weeks in a row I have ran a half marathon, and then kept on trucking.

I hit a new Personal Best last Tuesday with Nikki on the Grouse Grind which was amazing!20140713-212320-77000799.jpg

I have definitely kicked my own ass in my speed work, and along the way found myself the best Friday night run partner possible. I’ve also gotten out to run with people I haven’t had the chance to in ages, and people I had never ran with before. I have people willing to do crazy stupid long distances on trails with me to help me get in my time. Heck I have people who WANT to run with me and help me, and it’s beyond amazing.

I have also swore like a banshee, and vow never to run another 50k once Baker Lake is over. Yes, I said it. I am not running another one. Let’s hope I a woman of my word this time.

But I have had the chance to see some amazing views, and that’s how I will end this. With pictures. Because really, I am way too tired to think.

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Seek the Peak – I Wasn’t Last!

Ever heard of Seek the Peak before? Probably not, and if you have… Well you might think I was crazy for signing up for it. Hell! Even one of the volunteers today, when I thanked him for being out there said he always wanted to see what crazy runners looked like.

Seek the Peak is crazy. It’s 16km of roads and trails with a 4100 foot gain that takes you from Ambleside Park up to Grouse Mountain, up the Grouse Grind and then you have another little 3k up and down jaunt you do. I am not going to lie, it’s tough. And hellish. Something that both mentally and physically can knock you on your ass. Some people complete this whole course in under 1:30. I can’t even complete the Grind portion in that!!

My goal today, my ONLY goal was not to be last. I am not Speedy McSpeederson, I am ok with that. But I wanted to not be the last person on the course. So I looked at the solo times for last year, and figured as long as I was under 3:50 I was good! I could do that right? Of course I could.

I got up at 4:30am, cursed and muttered, almost losing my last contact which would have been a disaster. I headed out to get Jen so we could hit the mountain for 6:30 and catch a shuttle bus down to the start. It was rainy out, and I figured a long sleeve was the way to go, as I tend to run cold.

We met up with Candice, Hilary, Dave, Lisa and Cory at the start. And yes, for at least 30 minutes Jen, Candice, Hilary and I were in the bathroom just to stay dry. I mean why get wet when you don’t have to?

Jen and I stuck together for the first 10k, until we got to the Grind. Everyone else was way ahead, and I appreciated her hanging back with me for that relaxing first bit. We chatted, took it easy, and I had to (again) make an off course pee break. It’s starting to become a theme with me and trails lately.

All was good mentally for me until we hit the roadway up to the grind. We passed my car, and I wanted to crawl in it. I won’t lie, I was NOT looking forward to the climb up the grind. I’d been shitting bricks over it for a few weeks wondering why I signed up for this. But I kept trudging away, one foot in front of the other.

Jen pushed on at the Grind and I just kept moving. Left foot, right foot, very minimal swearing (and for those that know me, running and hills that’s unheard of) but lots of mental struggles. I had people pass me, I passed people and at times really wanted to just throw in the towel. I did say over and over I would never do this again. I would never be this stupid to do this stupid idiotic race.

One lady said to me, after she told me it was her 7th year in a row doing the climb, that we all know someone who had breast cancer. And that what would I rather do? Sit in a chair having chemotherapy or do this race to help raise money. I understood what she meant, and it was a valid point. But at that moment, once she passed me, I muttered under my breath “I never want to do this race again.”

By the time I got to the top of the grind I was about 3 hours into the race. I knew I still had a hell of a climb coming up from what friends told me, and I knew that really the worst was over. I plugged away, running the parts I could and walking when I needed to. I was bagged. When I got to the part where the climb started, the volunteers jokingly said for $20 they would let me skip the hill and go to the finish. I thought about it and then said nope. I’m not someone who gives up. So I kept on going.

Luckily it was at this point I saw Cory coming down the hill. We hooted, cheered, high 5’ed each other and Cory told me he had already quit 3 times. I was proud he didn’t give up, signing up last minute and under trained he ROCKED that race. I kept going, chatting with a lady who I was pacing myself up the hill with. Thankfully she was there because on the way down I started going in the wrong direction. Whoops!

I ran the hills the best I could, taking it easy with the steepness and knowing my knees were not going to be happy with me. As I got near the bottom, I saw Wendy, a lady I had met on the grind who was struggling. I ran across, hugged her and said that yeah the climb sucked but she was going to finish. I hope it helped her out.

When I came back to the volunteer who said I could bypass for $20 I asked him if I got that for not giving up. He laughed and told me no way in hell, so I said worth a try, and kept on moving. I ran, albeit slowly the rest of the way, and was so happy to see the finish and Jen waiting for me! She got some awesome shots of me crossing the line.

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What was really cool and unexpected was we got medals. Apparently this was the first year? We popped into the lodge, grabbed a quick snack to go and left. All I wanted to do was get into dry clothes and go home.

In the end my time was 3:33:40 and I was not the last person across. My time for the grind portion was 1:32:36 which made me so proud!!! My best time on fresh legs is 1:23:33 so this was incredible. Jen held up a sweater so I could strip on the side of the road and get my wet pants off and away we went.

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Everyone who completed this race did amazing. It’s one that is not for the faint of heart, and no matter your time, completing it is the most amazing thing ever. My ONLY complaint is…. How the hell did I get mud all the way up to my knees AGAIN?

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Golden Ears 5 Peaks

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So let me tell you about this shirt… This shirt was what you got for buying a 5 Peaks Season Pass, which is all 5 races for the season in a discount bundle, which I was beyond excited for last November. So excited, in fact, that I found a back door way to register before registration was officially open. Apparently it caused a bit of…. Excitement? Sorry guys!

Anyhow this shirt was what I snagged at the first race of the 2014 season at Golden Ears Park. Having run the orientation a few weeks before, and after my little “breakdown” over BMO I played it safe and went with the 8km Sport course race day. We also received this kickass Buff as our race swag. Seriously best swag ever!’

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Race day started out cold, wet and dreary. In other words, I was stoked. I was glad to not be stressed about the time and just to get out and enjoy myself. It’s always nice to not to feel the need to race the clock, and instead just enjoy yourself.

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We started out in small waves, more or less you segment yourself to how you feel you will do, with both Enduro and Sport leaving together. I think I went mid pack, with Krista, Stephanie and a bunch of others. Krista ran off ahead of me, and I just started off glad to be out on the trails.

We hit the first water crossing and like any delicate lady, I ran right through it getting my socks and shoes soaked. Krista was there waiting for me, so we decided we would run together. She told me a few times to go ahead, and I had no desire. We ran BMO together and dammit we were going to run this together too.

Muddy shoes, muddy legs, and awesome climbs. After a while I am not sure if it stopped raining or I just didn’t notice it.

But the one thing that didn’t go away? I had to pee. And when I get bouncing downhill, it gets bad. Finally on the last 2ish km of the course there was a trail that branched to the right, and I told Krista I would be back. Only a few of the runners directly behind me started to follow me, instead of seeing the go straight signs. Nothing says embarrassment like telling someone you are running off course to pee.

With that done, away we trudged for the last few km’s. We crossed the finish line at 1:20:02 and it was great!

I always find 5 Peaks races to be well organized, with amazing volunteers, tons of hugs and encouragement. I also love how on the trails, everyone who passes you shouts encouragement and tells you what an awesome job you are doing. It’s amazing really.

So my verdict for this race? Gorgeous scenery, excellent organization and kickass swag. I’ve also managed to obtain a bunch of 5 Peaks swag over the last year….

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So if you haven’t tried trails, do it! Enjoy them and get off the road. Muddy legs required.

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Vegas Half Marathon

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Race recaps really are one of the hardest things for me to write. I struggle over what to say, and want to be able to capture how I felt in words, which isn’t always easy. Vegas was my slowest half marathon ever. But at the same time, the fact I got to enjoy running the race with Kendall and Krista made it one of the best runs that I have ever had.

I somehow managed to convince Kendall last fall that going to Vegas over Easter to run a “once in a lifetime” half marathon was a brilliant idea. With us running Whidbey Island half 6 days earlier, we would also be eligible to apply for Half Fanatic Status which was a bucket list goal of mine. The game plan was to complete the race, no time goals, just crossing the finish line.

We grabbed the shuttles from the hotel to the race site, which was rather convenient. Downside was the fact nobody seemed to know there was a race going on, or where to go for the shuttles. The drunks in Vegas seemed to think we had already run the race, which was amusing.

I’d say the course was slightly drunk. Seeings how the race was in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby Mustang, the course was on the Nascar Speedway. There really isn’t a lot of options on where to run 13.1 miles in a confined space, so there was some looping, backtracking and zig zagging. Mile 11 was passed 3 times… 3 times!

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See?? Drunk!!

I must admit it was really cool to be out on the track, for all of 5 minutes. Kendall and I started out with Krista, but she soon pushed ahead of us while we kept it at a leisurely pace. Normally I set my Garmin for 10 & 1 intervals on race day, but I just let it run. No sense intervaling when your goal is just to compete.

Krista eventually backtracked to us, and the 3 of us spent the rest of the race together talking and just enjoying our run. Oh, and taking pictures!!

It was hot, we were slow, but the race was great. Random people chatted us up, and even photo bombed pictures

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This was my first half that I did not carry my own water. I am usually pretty anal about that, as I have been struggling with cramping and dehydration. I carried gu, salt pills and utilized the 10 water stations on the course for my needs. I have to say, for how hot it was the volunteers did a good job of ensuring there was always water. Only one station was struggling but they were at a section where runners were hitting both sides of the table. But still a good job.

The big downside to this race was at the finish. There was no food, no water, and even the advertised beer for the runners was not there. I couldn’t care less over the beer, but I was very disappointed over the lack of food. I was given a small bag of Pretzles when I crossed. Thankfully because I know what my body needs I packed food, but still was not impressed.

Other than that, crossing the line my official time was 2:58:48. I still need to apply for half fantatic status, but it was amazing. I was so thankful to Krista and Kendall for joining me in my crazy idea. It really was an awesome experience ….. Despite some chafing.

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I honestly love my Handana and would recommend it to anyone who needs something to wipe your face, or nose during a run.

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By far my favorite picture from the whole run!

I do have to say my New Balance 880 were amazing. I wasn’t sure what I would think of them when I first got the shoes. But I wore them for both Whidbey and Vegas no problems. My feet felt great no aches at all.

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Love this medal!!