Ultramarathoner

So I did something this past weekend that seemed pretty crazy to ‘outsiders’ but pretty old hat for running nutters- I ran a 50k trail race.

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On the homestretch and feeling strong. Photo by Joseph Camilleri.

Now let’s backtrack a little- I didn’t tell anyone I was training for this, except for Ian and a few friends (ok, 1 friend). It scared me more than a little, and I was worried about it. Just completing it felt like a huge task, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do. I also didn’t want people analyzing me, or my running, or second-guessing how I was going to do. I wanted it to be personal, for me.

So…I kept it under my hat for months. I signed up for the race in December after deciding last year that if I couldn’t go faster, I would go longer. Of course, then I had an incredible race season that proved that I COULD go faster, so…Ha. But I maintained that this was my main goal- completing the race.

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At the start- the lady with the hat and walking poles is the legendary ultrarunner Ann Trason. 

The race: Prairie Inn Harriers 2:18 Run Elk/Beaver Ultras. Why Ultras? Because they offer multiple distances for the choosy runner (or crazy runner). I raced the most popular distance (50k), and they have a 40k walkers category, and a 100k and 50-miler.

The race is quite small, which surprises me because for a beginner’s ultra it is very race-friendly. Run 5 loops for the 50k- a bit repetitive due to the loops, but VERY safe, easy to stay hydrated and fueled, no need to carry nutrition or water with you, and it’s a flat course with some gravel and some roots but nothing difficult.

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Lap four and going strong! 

So, pretty doable for a first-timer ultra. The race started at 6am, I got up at 4:30am to choke down enough breakfast (hated eating, but I didn’t have a real choice) and get to the lake for the start. I was fortunate enough to have my long-suffering husband come and be my support crew (driving, handing me gels/Gu’s, electrolytes at each checkpoint to mark the laps).

Basically my brain/body was still asleep for oh, two laps or so? I ran pretty slowly and had a hard time getting with it. I felt like I didn’t really ‘warm up’ and feel like running or racing until the second lap. Which I guess, if you have 5 of them, is totally ok! I ran with another runner for the first lap (Steve) and we helped up another woman who went crash landing face-first on the ground. She was ok, but ended up dropping out after that.

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My best support crew ever! 

By the third lap, I was in the groove. I was doing it! It was a beautiful day, I had to use the washroom but nothing bad, and I felt like my fueling/water was right on target. I ate a LOT of Gu’s and gummies. The maple syrup gel I tried out was so gross I thought I was going to puke- gagging sweet. ICK!

I also ate a S’mores GU that basically slurped right down my throat because it got so warm, which was kind of gross but also…kind of ok? Ha. I really liked the Powerbar gummies, yum and great texture. The Clif Shot Bloks were harder to chew than I recalled.

I was getting tired of sweet things- yick, so many sweet things.

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Each lap I ran through the checkpoint to register my bib, and grab a few doughnut pieces to eat while I gulped down water and electrolytes. It was getting hot, my face was prickly with dried salt that abraded my nose whenever I rubbed it.

Halfway through the 4th lap (35k) my legs started howling. Wow, this was getting hard.

I struggled on and went through my last checkpoint- Ian was cheering and encouraging me, and I felt pretty good heading into the last lap. Except my right knee locked up when I started running again, and I limped for close to a kilometer until it got with the program. I was pretty concerned- was this where it ended for me? 40km? But I kept moving and motion is lotion so my knee got with the program and it was ON!

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The aftermath- not too bad actually!

My goal was to basically finish, but I was aiming for around 5 hours or under. I was right on target on my last lap, and I needed to basically pull it together for 10km more.

I felt pretty strong overall, and random older men who were unofficially manning the water stations (ersatz…water bottles left on picnic tables, haha not fancy) were impressed and told me I was looking really strong. YES! I can do this!

I ‘raced’ ok it looked like I was walking but I swear I was running so fast into the final stretch and I couldn’t believe it was over.  I ran it in 4:51 for third place in my age-group. A huge sense of relief, but also …I was expecting more? For it to feel different? For me to feel different?

I chatted with the volunteers, stood around for awhile and then we headed out for brunch- yes!! I did have a hard time scrambling out of the car (low+calves cramping up= can’t move nimbly) but otherwise, my recovery has been pretty fine. Phew!

So I did it. And I feel like if I did it, anyone can. It’s just a matter of putting your mind to a bigger, more frightening goal.

 

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Final race of the 2018 VIRA Season- Bazan Bay’s 5k Recap!

It feels weird to write this, because earlier this past week I was like oh man, I am soooooo over racing! But then when I was at the race, I was thinking, boo…I want to race every weekend! Mixed emotions much?

I am having the race season of my LIFE! Each race, I am meeting the challenge and overcoming it. It feels incredible, to be completely honest. Wow. How lucky am I, that my body is responding to the increased demands in such an awesome way?

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Series award, Frontrunners gift cert & bronze in my AG. What a weekend!

All that to say- my goal for the 5k was to get under 21 minutes. It felt like a stiff goal to me, as my weakest distance is the 5k for sure, and really any shorter distances. I just don’t have the power.

So I mentally wrote off this race as a ‘for fun’ race and a way to cap off the season of good racing. I was even asking Ian AT the race what my splits should be if I wanted to get under 21, and he said around 4:10/km. Yeesh, that seemed way too fast for me. So yeah I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. My eye is on a bigger prize.

At the start, it was quite warm! I was wearing shorts and a long-sleeved Lululemon run shirt and kind of wishing I was wearing a t-shirt. Crazy eh? We were packed in close and the start was hairy- I watched someone almost smoke a small child that was up too close. Yikes!

We bustled and battled it out for 200 metres or so, and then things smoothed out. I felt like I was running pretty hard in that awkward ‘legs haven’t caught up to my lungs’ way. My first KM was about 3:56 or so? Phew, so I have some room.

We kept running and I had my eye on a few runners who I typically race with, as they have similar pacing and strengths to me. Next KM- 4:07. Ok, that I can work with, but I’d have to really watch to make sure it didn’t creep up….

KM 3- this is when I started catching runners. Not gonna lie, it felt AWESOME. Usually KM 3 is when the wheels fall off, but I just felt stronger. I ran this one at 3:50 I think? Between 3-4, I started really breathing hard, Jesus when was it going to be over? I started staring at my GPS watch, ha. A girl I caught up with-and-passed was gasping and breathing really horribly. It made me feel a bit concerned. Her coach or parent was on the sidelines telling her she had to ‘ make a decision…’

I ran a bit faster to put her behind me- it was very distracting.

And I could see the finish line- almost there! I was running as hard as I could, even though I did get caught up by a few runners who had a better sprint that I did. I could see the clock and couldn’t believe my eyes- 19-something?? Wha?

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Photo courtesy of VIRA. Third place age-grouper.

I ran down the clock and staggered around trying not to puke. Long time racer Gary Duncan saw my finish and came over to give me a hug and congratulate me. I had just raced under 20 minutes! 

Whoa! My chip time just squeaked under 20, at 19:58 and my official gun time was 20:04. I couldn’t believe it! That amazingly was good for 3rd in my age group. We also had the year-end series awards and I got FIRST in my age group! That came with $100 to Frontrunners! 🙂

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Series-end awards. Breeches are probably the least flattering pants around…Photo courtesy of VIRA.

Ian placed really high in his age-group too- 4th! Not too shabby! He is much faster than I 😉

Thanks again to VIRA for a fantastic race season. I’m floating on air, ending on a very high note. YES!

VIRA’s Sooke 10k Race Recap: On the homestretch!

There are 8 races in the VIRA Race Series and we wrapped up race #6 on the schedule- the infamous Sooke 10k. It’s a bit infamous because it is hilly. Not a technical race (none of the VIRA ones are, they are all road races) but has gentle rolling hills that can be a bit of a pace-killer. It’s not known for being a fast 10k, but can net some fast times with the speedier racers.

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And was I one of them? Ha nope. BUT I had a lot of fun running it, and my goal of meeting 45 minutes was more than achieved soooo it’s a win all ’round here! I was very pleased with my efforts. No complaints here.

It was a very busy week for me- ran the Comox Half Marathon on Sunday, then got into my regular schedule of running/run-commuting to work for the week & preparing Oats for the horse show on Saturday.

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Ian was my pace rabbit for this race and he netted himself another 6th place!

I was very anxious about the horse show, not so much for this race, haha.

The show went SO AWESOME then I couldn’t relax because I was so excited with how Oats and I did! But I realized I had to quiet things down to get ready (physically and mentally) for the race on Sunday. Back-to-back races are very hard on your body, and I knew I was not setting myself up for success by horseshowing on Saturday as well. But I couldn’t resist!

Fortunately the weather was great, sun was shining and I didn’t have to get up early (phew). We warmed up and I knew this was going to be tough on my poor tired legs. At the start, after about 3km I was struggling a bit. My right quad was SO TIGHT it seized up most unpleasantly and I started to wonder if I was going to be able to run on it.

Lucky for me, the suffer-fest only really continued to about 6-8km and then I was able to turn on my ‘afterburners’ and start really racing. Funny how my leg didn’t really bug me for that? I felt pretty good and started really going. I don’t know why the most of the first half/onwards of the race were so crummy but hey, I was going to do it!! And boy I did!

I finished strong, feeling good physically and emotionally for a fairly respectable 44:30 time. This netted me a second-place age group award. Crazy eh??? From a fantastic horse show to a really solid race, this weekend had me riding in the clouds! 🙂 🙂

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It says ‘fart’ hahaha

I am going to savour this feeling forever. It feels amazing.

We then went to have a post- race beer at a new brewery in Sooke, called Sooke Brewery (imaginative ha). It is a snazzy brewery with some solid, but not too imaginative beers. I did enjoy the Belgian Lager though! Felt nice to have after a tough race.

VIRA’s Comox Half-Marathon Race Recap!

Wow, where to begin? I was definitely gunning for a better time at this race. My previous half-marathon in the fall showed me I am capable of more (I ran a trail half at 1:40), which very much surprised me. I was coming out of my year-long racing funk and things were looking up!!

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Photo by Comox Valley Road Runner’s Jim Hockley.

I haven’t traditionally had great times at the Comox Half-Marathon. Our first time running it, I was so new to the distance we raced it at over two hours! Crazy eh? (2:05 as I check back with Raceday Timing). It hurt, it was hard and I wasn’t sure about this longer distance at all.

But, things improved. Piece by piece. The year after, we ran it at 1:45, which was HUGE for me. Wow! But that’s when things started to plateau/actively get worse for me in my body. I struggled last year with my breathing. For some reason, my VO2 Max seemed to get a lot worse and I was frequently gasping for breath. It felt like someone was squeezing my chest. I couldn’t get enough air, and almost collapsed at a pretty horrible race, in what felt like the penultimate bad decision…

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Real close up to the finish- Photo by Comox Valley Road Runner’s Jim Hockley.

Anyways, so my times at Comox last year reflected this, somewhat. I raced at a 1:44, which to anyone looks like success eh? Well, numbers don’t show everything, do they. I wasn’t happy about it, but then my Halloween Half Marathon with MEC showed me that hey, I was getting over this bout of weirdness!! Yeah!

And now…how did this race go? The big one?

It went GREAT!! I started cautiously (relatively…It still felt so fast to me) while I ran the first 9km between 4:30-4:45 at the worst end on the longer hill). People who I typically race around took off like a shot! I felt anxious about this. I couldn’t even see them anymore…Yikes.

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Very determined to the finish. Photo by Comox Valley Road Runner’s Jim Hockley.

But, the half is a much longer race, so I had time. So I hung on, and carefully watched and ran conservatively. It was amusing, because in my ‘careful’ pacing I ran with several other runners who were maybe at their max earlier…And I could hear them plotting to catch up to and pass me. And they did! But…I kind of knew they weren’t going to be able to hang on to that and it was at like, 2km. Soooo yeah, slow down guys. It’s a long race 😉 And I am a crafty person.

So I kind of laughed to myself and focused more on running a strategic race. It came to a head at 9-10.5km/the turnaround, when I was playing a bit of leapfrog with a runner who was starting to irritate me (well, and me to him probably). I knew I could outpace him, but I wanted to push him a bit, see where this was going. You can guess, he ran up, passed me, I dogged him a little…He clipped my heels when I managed to make another pass, I let him go ahead, and then dogged him…And then around the turn I blasted off!!

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Photo by Comox Valley Road Runner’s Jim Hockley.

Goodbye! I wasn’t running at my maximum at all!

I did not see this runner again. But now it was my turn to really max out my race. It was also a very long downhill stretch (my right knee is NOT GOOD today because of this….yeesh). But I could use it, and I sure did! I clocked km’s at 4:17 and 4:12, which shocked the hell out of me. Wha? I can and am doing this?

I started catching up to the runners I usually race with. They had been so far ahead I hadn’t even seen them the whole race and here I was, coming up behind. It felt really good!

I rocked the ‘faster than usual for me’ pace up until oh, 17-18 km which is traditionally a real dead zone for this race. It’s flat, lots of cars (an open course) gravel, and just…soooooooooo long.

My pace faltered a bit, but you know what? I didn’t stress and fuss. I picked off another few runners coming up the last few KM’s, which again surprised me. Usually I am getting passed at this point.

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Ian and my ribbons. The couple than runs together 😉

I was wishing I had grabbed another Gatorade drink at the 17km marker. It was really nice out, warm, sunny and I was getting hot and thirsty. Oh well! I came over the bridge, lost some momentum doing that, and then began the long run to the finish. I was so happy, people were calling to me ‘Go girl, get it!!’ 🙂 YESSS!! I got it!

I finished smiling, with a 1:34:55 for my personal best in the half, good enough for 5th place in my age-group and 11th woman finisher. A great race, well-run with over 100 generous volunteers, good cheering sections and the best food around! I enjoyed the chili and cheese and bread very much.

Under allergy attack!

UGH it is officially spring here in Victoria and the alder pollen count is at ‘excruciatingly high’ rather than just ‘high’ or irritatingly high. God, my eyes started swelling shut this morning at work 😦 my breathing was impaired and I started feeling terrible. My eyes were so itchy, swelling and watering constantly and I had a sinus headache. Basically think of every allergy symptom you can have and I had it. All at once. Shoot me.

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Save me from spring!!!

I had to powerwalk to Shoppers to grab the biggest box of Reactine they had and eat one in the lineup. Even still, with Reactine and the Singulair I take every morning, I am STILL dying. UGH.

My eyes are still watery and itchy, and my sinuses are on fire. Lovely.

Very likely I am going to have to take more than 1 Reactine to stave off further horrendous reactions. This one is *barely* working.

Funny I chalked some of my allergy symptoms on the weekend to the dust in the indoor. As it turns out, it’s not just the dust, it’s the air itself around me, trying to kill me. Or just make my life a living hell, it’s a toss-up.

Blah!!

I did have a nice equine counseling session on Oats last night, and we worked on my positioning over a small x-rail. Oats biffed it good a few times, but it was really helpful for me in terms of being ‘ok’ with bad jumps, maintaining a strong arm/leg position to help us both out when the jump is less than pretty, and helping me hold my two-point in a relaxed, easy-to-maintain fashion.

A good ride all around.

Ugh, now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a fork to scratch my eyes with.

Not cut out for this: Dressage lesson recap

Or maybe I should say ‘Oats is not cut out for this dressage nonsense?’?

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Me dealing with nonsense. Ha.

Anyways, I approached my regular semi-private with a bit of trepidation. My legs were so tired (from the race, natch!) and I was feeling draggy and blah. My SAD lamp isn’t working yet or something something..Not sure.

I figured it was going to be a challenge, and Oats did not disappoint. It WAS! We were working on (after a warm up) getting the horses to raise their shoulders up, head up but still with mild throatlatch bending with an end goal of having the horses moving uphill, rather than diving downhill. Or, ‘dumpster-diving’ as Karen so colloquially puts it!

Oats as it turns out is good at dumpster diving. We took this work over a pole, on a circle and on a straight line. It was…hard. We had a few flying leaps, and a few instances where Oats TOLD me to take a flying leap. HA.

In the canter I used my crop to ‘encourage’ Oats to move forward and he responded with a big buck! I sat it and we continued. We went on the circle again and he lagged- crop time! I applied it and BUCK! Another buck, haha.

Now, I was able to sit the bucks pretty easily because he wasn’t actively trying to get me off. Those bucks, no freaking way and he has gotten me off a few times bucking. This time, he was just irritated and trying to find a way to ‘loosen the load’ of me sitting on his back via a buck. It didn’t work, I stayed on and kept asking.

He figured it out but wasn’t super pleased about the work.

Oh well, a step in the progression of dressage for us. He did have some lovely stretch work at the end of the ride 🙂

If you’re born on an island, the ocean heals you

Another jump lesson recap!! Oats and I warmed up really nicely last night, so nice in fact that I am wondering how I can capture that magic for our next jump lesson? He was soft, forward, responsive and very fluid. It was just lovely.

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Last winter was very snowy.

I was feeling confident after that warm up, more confident than I usually feel about jumping! Lucky me because last night was the night to start being challenged with height a bit more (it was not a complex lesson, compared with the last few weeks of very technical coursework).

We did a trot-in one-stride gymnastic (x-rail to oxer) and by the end of the warm up over the gymnastic, the oxer was up to 2’6” with nary a peep from me! I did feel a bit anxious about it but you know what? It was riding fine.

We then made a small course of 6 jumps, incorporating the gymnastic into the course. That rode fine, so the jumps went up (another panel jump went to 2’6”) and we worked up to a course of 12 fences total. Oats was a tad surprised by the bigger fence and was like wait, woah and had to really lift his hooves to clear it. Good boy!

In the course we did the gymnastic twice and the 2’6” fence three times. That’s a lot for me, hahahah. The course rode quite well though, and I was very pleased with Oats making the effort.

I have been saying it’s time to be challenged and here I go- it’s time and I am ready!