MEC Race 1 of 2018: The Tape Breaker~

Boy we got LUCKY this year. The morning couldn’t have been nicer! Sun shining, warm, just an overall fabulous day for a run.

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Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria photographers.

Compared with last weekend (which was absolutely horrible) I was feeling downright happy to be getting up early for yet another race. I wasn’t going to race this one, as I am attempting to be strategic (ha right, I know) in my race efforts.

This means last week I:

Ran my legs into the ground, and boy do I MEAN it. Running to work, treadmill work, hills on Saturday and then my MEC ‘race’ on Sunday (10k at medium effort, still relaxed to talk).

And during the race I had a great time actually! My quads felt pretty trashed- thanks hills- but my cardiovascular was going fine. Psychologically I thought it was going to be hard to not want to ‘race’ race it…But my legs were tired so I didn’t mind too much.

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Feeling good! Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria photographers.

We wrapped up with a 49:?? which is a fine effort to practice at. And as I said, the weather was so awesome that I was smiling, the volunteers made me laugh so hard and it was a nice day. My friends ran fantastic races too, both meeting their goals of achieving a personal best in the 5k and 10k. Whoop!!! We even met at the barn after and rode together briefly. Who has friends that you can run with and then meet later at the barn? It’s the best 🙂

The only thing that I found annoying was the silly lineup to get nutrition after (bananas, granola bars, etc.) people were in a lineup that wrapped around the entire gym. WTF? Just go in, grab, and gtfo. Which is what I did, ha.

Also Muscle Mlk wasn’t there and I was sad. I missed them!

But a great day and a fun race. What a perfect time to run.

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VIRA Prairie Inn Harriers 8k Race Recap feat. NEW COURSE!

For the first time in oh, 38 years the 8k was at a new venue.

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Camilleri. Also why do I look like I am going in slow motion? Jeesh.

I was kind of grouchy about this…I really liked the Saanich Fairgrounds venue, it had lots of parking, wasn’t too far to get to, and the start/finish line was – right- there. The new venue had some logistical nightmares as per me. It was just like…arghhhh.

First off, the weather was HORRENDOUS. Pounding rain, blasting wind. Like, the entire time.

Parking was also kind of a nightmare…Busy race with 500 registrants and not a lot of parking available.

The bathroom situation looked crazy but turned out fine.

The jog to the start line was far. Very far. You had to go up over an overpass, and go close to 1km from the clothing dropoff at the school to the start, in absolutely nightmarish weather. Lovely. This also meant that you had to jog 1km back from the finish, which was ok but mannn I was soaked.

I know a few people that showed up late to the race because they came to the school, only to realize that it was quite a hike to the start! Whoops! Luckily we clued in that there would be some hoofing it, so we were fine, albeit very cold and wet.

The start was kind of tough, very narrow road and we were all crammed in. I didn’t seed well (I am not fast enough to start too close to the start, but I am faster than where I ended up) and we were all sardine-like at the start…Very slow. I wasted some time/energy and my gun/chip time took a big hit due to it.

My loose goal was to try for my reg. 10k pace and see how it felt. I wasn’t feeling spectacular so I was kind of like ehhhh…I’m freezing, soaked and just want this to be done with! My goal was then 4:30 or what I could cling to.

My first KM was quite fast- like 4:12. I was like, oh ok..well, let’s see. I immediately plummeted to 4:26 and was like, hmm…Hope I can cling to this.

My next few KM’s bounced a bit between 4:30 on the money, and then slowed to 4:33, making me feel a tad concerned. The scenery on-route would be beautiful (all farms! Horse farms! One I even recognized!) if it weren’t so god-awful. The left turn to the airport and eventually the turnaround was just soul-destroying…Blasting wind, rain scouring your face/ears…Wow.

But there was a sliver lining. That miserable rain/wind combo was at our backs, with a gentle assist on the way home. I picked up, splashing my way through the puddles with wet soaked feet and shoes, and I felt GOOD. My times improved, with mid-KM’s at 4:10 and 4:17. Who is this girl?

I wasn’t dying (though the last KM was hard) I was doing it!! 

My thanks to the volunteers who must have been totally miserable. You guys are the real troopers! The food was great after too- chocolate milk,  pizza! Brownies with salt on them, bananas and yogurt. Yum yum!

I finished my 8k with a time of 34:41 (chip) and 34:53 (gun) for a respectable 8th place in my age category. 🙂

The Grand Banana: MEC race #5 recap~

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Halloween Half- Marathon! Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

Finally, a race I can be proud of!! After a slew of really uninspiring races, races that blew up in my face, races that left me feeling pretty lacklustre about racing and my athletic running ability…I pulled this one out and it felt GREAT!

I wasn’t too enthused about it- to be honest, I was very anxious. My last  half marathon (MEC in June at Royal Roads) was just horrible. I felt like dying, was unsure about why I couldn’t breathe while I was running, and was just feeling concerned and a bit worried about how this was going to go. Was I going to have to walk, gasping for breath? Feeling like I was going to collapse?

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The day was PHENOMENAL! Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

I did take the entire week off running, and started toning it down quite early last week- shorter runs, taking more days off, making it easier. Not gonna lie, taking the week off from running last week was TOUGH. I felt antsy, anxious, sluggy and like…What if this didn’t pay off? What then? I took a week off, for nothing? (I know a week off in the grand scheme of things is A-Ok! and I needed the rest for my legs, but try telling your brain that).

Anyways, I took time off running, took it easy, went to the corn maze on Saturday with my husband and friend, and didn’t drink. All nice things, and it was incredibly beautiful on the weekend. A kind of beauty that makes me want to live outside haha.

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Gatorade break for me. Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

The morning was cold and I was kind of second-guessing my long-sleeves and shorts combo but I didn’t want to get too hot running, as I was going to be out there for awhile and it was supposed to be 17 degrees as the high for the day. Incredible!

And we’re off! I set out with a goal- try for under 5 min/km. Too ambitious? Maybe but I was just grasping at straws here. My first km felt kind of hard, but not really? 4:48/km. Hm…

But the beauty of it was…It just kept flowing. I felt light as a feather, light as air. I ran and ran, and thought about how I could do it forever.

My legs felt good, so good they wanted to be challenged.

I got caught up a bit in the gravel sections (so slow and sloggy) but counseled myself to run carefully here and pick it up when I could. Don’t try to push it too much on the ‘no grip’ sections, it isn’t worth the energy. Same for the running across the grass sections.

At 8km I had to take my shoe off to shake gravel out of it. GReeeeat….This would typically derail me bigtime, but I shook it off (literally) and kept running.

I felt happy, it was getting tough but I could do it. I was doing it. I could meet the challenge! I felt like I could do this, and then I could do even more. It was a fabulous feeling and one that has been missing from my races for a year or more. I was smiling, I felt good and I was happy.

At the finish, I was running with a young guy (who totally beat me at the end, ha) and we finished, turned to each other, and gave each other a high-five. 🙂 That’s what racing is for me- what I had been missing for so long. That purity, that feeling of fun, and freedom.

Thanks again to the excellent team at MEC, and the well organized (if a little insane) race. Good snacks, safe course and a great cheering section. I was even lucky enough to be able to go out for brunch with my husband (who ran an AMAZING race) and our friend who also battled it out to complete a solid 10k.  A great day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. I was a bit bummed at first, because I was DYING to go to the Turkey Trot schooling event at High Point and nobody was going and I didn’t have a ride up there 😦 so I couldn’t go…But when it dawned rainy and kind of blahh, I was like, ok fine.

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View from the top

At least I had the chance to school Oats at High Point earlier in Sept. Win win!

And then the weather cleared up beautifully- just in time for my husband’s excellent race at the Victoria Marathon (running the half marathon in a shocking 1:29. MAN!!!) I would kill for that time haha.

It was a great day, so I went riding and then we shared some wine at the beach and read and relaxed in the sun. Ah…. Our Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t turkey- I am not a big fan. Instead we had salmon and mussels! Yummy!!

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The Monday I rode Oats in the field very briefly, just to jump a few things and then we went up on a hike to Mt. Finlayson at Finlayson Arm, so Ian could show me his route during the Finlayson Arm 28k. It was….long. But so picturesque!~ His legs were tired and so were mine though, a busy and very physically active weekend. That evening we capped off a great long weekend by making won-ton soup. It was GREAT!

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I wish I could have a three-day weekend every weekend. Man…

MEC race #4 Recap~10k

Back to the Sooke Potholes for another race! We hadn’t been back since the MEC Race half-marathon was hosted there (since moved to Colwood for two years now!) so it felt good to be back at Sooke, despite a few tricky logistics. It’s further to get to, the race is hosted pretty high up the road so you have to park, hoof it ages to get there or take the bus. We took the bus! And we still BARELY made it to the start, no warm-ups or anything haha.

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Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

The bathroom lineup continues to be basically my nemesis. ARGH. I was also a bit miffed because I thought I had signed up for the 15k and was surprised to find myself with a 10k bib. How did that happen?!

Oh well, guess I’m running a 10k now.

The race was run really well, otherwise. Started on time, not too crowded at all, very reasonable pacing on my part (read: slow) and my breathing wasn’t out of control. I ran very conservatively and was kind of afraid of getting short of breath…

But in the end, it was fine. I am slow now, slower than I would have thought and mannn it sucks. But, this was a decent training race and I always like the opportunity to be back out in Sooke again, running on the gravel trails! So flat! 🙂

And thanks as always to the great crew at MEC, snacks at the end of the race and the fabulous photos of the race. My favourite part!

Guest post: Finlayson Arm 28k 2017 Race Recap!

Courtesy of my husband who bravely undertook this insane race last weekend! Without further ado:

The good memories of the 28k Finlayson Arm race are overshadowed by my evolution through intensifying stages of discomfort. This constant pain was punctuated by bursts of sunlight piercing magically down between treetops, a stunning vista or two and little reminders that this amazing network of trails is in my own backyard. There was also the reminder that I had volunteered for this little jaunt through the woods and that no one would sympathize with my agony.

A few weeks before the race, I had decided that four hours was the longest it would take me – the rough number to beat. I figured that was setting expectations so low that I was sure to finish with a smile. There was even some pre-race training for me, complete with my brand new water-bladder on my back and getting lost for an hour or two in the trails behind Thetis Lake. I felt sure-footed and strong. This was a race I could do. All I needed to do was power through some tough hills and keep moving. In a sense, that’s exactly how things turned out.

It was a chilly morning when we set out – cool and clear over night – but the forecast was sunny. The 50k and (suicidal) 100k racers had finished the day before in the rain. As if their punishment was not enough. I went quick off the start as I anticipated getting bottlenecked later on the narrow single-track. After a kilometer I was established near the top 10. Then we hit the creek. Anyone who has been to Goldstream Park will notice how a four-lane highway rips through the middle with no safe way to get from one side to the other. You either need to dodge cars or get your feet wet (and maybe your legs and maybe your ass depending on how nimble you are). A rope strung across helped the crossing not be complete madness, but it was a gritty way to start a race.

With wet feet I carried up through the rolling side hill on the west side of the highway. This is a really nice section of trail that I will have to remember to check out when I’m not racing. It was a time to flex out your legs, find your pace and your seeding, a bit of a free pass before you hit the real hills. Looking back I wonder if I went too fast in this section, maybe blowing too much gas.

About five kilometers in, we were back under the highway (luckily through a dry stream bed this time) and through the main park, eerily deserted in the still early morning. I already had a pain in my leg, a nagging injury that I’m learning to live with, so I started to run a bit more cautiously.

Next it was on to the main event of the first half of the race, up the face of Mt Finlayson. There’s a slow build to remind you that this is a serious climb, to check your pace and your ambition. Then it gets steeper. Then the trail kinda takes a break and you start scrambling over rock, open to the sky. I should mention at this point all the volunteers and signage to keep you on track. There is plenty of both and I always felt like I knew where I needed to go. They seemed to anticipate in these early sections where you might go astray and had people there to point. On the mountain there were more guides. It’s the kind of climb where there is the very real possibility of running off a cliff into thin air so I’m glad they were there to point the best way.

At the top of the hill I felt pretty good. Well, not good. My legs were burning. But there was a lift in getting over what I knew was the hardest section of trail and I had kept my pace and not been passed. It was this feeling that propelled me down the backside, not too steep (which was nice) and into trail that I had never seen before. Just before we popped out on asphalt (a surprise) I was passed by someone with a bit more lift than me, but I stayed on his heels as we ran along the short section of road towards the first aid station.

The station could not come soon enough. Almost two hours into the run, I suddenly felt depleted. I wanted to stop and sit and eat some cookies, but my new nemesis just cruised on through. I grabbed a cookie and a banana piece anyway and set off on the next leg, back into trail. This is where my memory of the route got a bit hazy. What kilometre were we at? How far to the turnaround? Basically, the race had moved solidly into ‘not-fun-anymore’ territory and I was doing some mental math on how much longer I would have to move. At two hours the footsteps behind me turned into people passing me. I tried my best to make sure they weren’t increasing their lead on me, but I found myself slowing on every little hill, my flow completely evaporating.

There is a long hill in this section that, mentally, nearly did me in. Where was the bloody turnaround? The trail was also quite technical, with loose rocks and big steps up in places. Then I saw the front runners coming back down and couldn’t decide if I was elated or destroyed. It meant the end must be near but also put the necessary route back home into perspective. At least they were giving shout outs to keep me going: “Almost there!” I hoped they were right. Finally there were more people coming back down towards me – people I recognized! Hey, you’re only a bit ahead of me! And there were the volunteers, a photographer snapping a picture of my grimaced face, and the end of the ‘out’ – it was time for the ‘back.’ (Side note: one of the volunteers or spectators or whatever was announcing ‘halfway there’ and I thought that was a bit cruel. Maybe most didn’t hear or didn’t care, but I was a believer for a moment. Could this truly be only halfway?)

I was so happy to be heading home (and downhill to boot) that I even passed who I would later find out was my trail buddy. I swung my bag around and took out my gel pack. Time to take in some energy and get going. Things were looking good. Now it was my turn to dish out enthusiasm to those still on the grind to the top – “keep going,” and “almost there” I kept saying even as it became less true the further I went. And there were so many people behind me. I was doing well! Then all of a sudden I wasn’t.

I was coming undone, step by step.

After three hours of “running” I did not have the strength to keep my pace, or any pace. I was passed, then passed again. I knew the aid station would be coming back up again but I needed it now. As I popped out of the woods back into the daylight I was passed by another three. But I had to take a moment. I grabbed another gel pack, a banana and squashed a cookie in my mouth. The volunteers were asking if I needed to fill my pack, something to drink. I shook my head and imagined the madness in my eyes. I muttered something about wanting to use up what I had. Maybe I had filled my pack too full as well. Then I was off for the final few kilometers and my once measured race became an unhinged stumble to the end.

The return route did not go back over Mt Finlayson, but skirted along one side. It was a rolling bit of trail that took a lot of focus. Right in front of me was the aforementioned Trail Buddy – temporary companions in suffering. It felt reassuring to keep pace with someone. Those who had passed us seemed to have extra energy to tap and were pulling away, but we were hanging in there, moving forward. I knew the end could not be too far off, but looking at my watch I began to wonder if I would get in under four hours. More importantly, would I be able to stand on my feet for that long? We rounded the mountain and rejoined the steep trail up from before – this time heading down. My legs – knees, shins – could not handle the steep downhill. I grimaced with every step. Up or down would not do; I needed flat, please.

Down and down we went and we were passed again. My world got smaller as I narrowed my focus on foot placement without collapsing or catapulting downhill.

Next was a split off to the left, in the direction of end/start. I could hear the highway again. I was picturing a mental map of the park and where we were in relation to salvation. The end could be around any bend, I told myself after every bend. Out of nowhere this guy in his sixties came up on us, hooting and and maniacally urging us along. “C’mon boys, let’s give ‘em hell” he shouted as if we were heading over the top of the trenches or storming Normandy. I put on a face and groaned some more. The crazy old man disappeared whooping and skipping along. Maybe I imagined the whole thing.

Then at about the same time that I decided my legs were finished, I spotted spectators ahead. There was a volunteer with a clipboard, calling ahead with my number, the sound of fans and a PA system blurting out names and congratulations. And then I heard my name, a mix-up, before I shot out onto the grass and over the finish, some prize pack thrust into my hands, the buzz of activity all around. There was my run buddy (he beat me in the end) with a high five and then food, glorious food.

For the next 45 minutes or so, I paced around in agony in between vigorous stuffing of burgers and beer. I could not decide whether to sit, stand, walk, or crawl into the bushes for a little nap. It was agony, but I had done it. And I never had to do it again.

I stayed on to cheer some others as they came across. A seventy year old, a guy who had finished the 100k yesterday was doing the ‘double-double,’ some others who I recognized from races past. Were they fast, was I slow? Did we all do “alright?” I cared a little. As much as this race was an experiment, you want to do well. Or well enough for your expectations.

I got in at 3 hours and 51 minutes, somehow just inside my (soft) target. I might as well have run a marathon. It’s the slowest 28 kilometers I’ll likely ever run yet certainly one to remember.

I can’t tell what the time is telling me

Yes, back again from a busy-ish weekend…My husband ran in the Finlayson Arm 28k on Sunday (crazy!!) and I rode, did some mild running, and had my ‘take the horses to the beach’ trip cancelled due to constant rain… 😦 boo

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Canoeing with Gidget on the long weekend.

Oh well we are going to try again for this weekend. Fingers crossed it actually happens!

And I had my jump lesson on Thursday and it wasn’t…great. I am now noticing that Oats gets quite sticky and stiff off the ground later in the summer (Aug-Sept) and it does greatly impact his desire to jump outdoors. He just isn’t forward and is quite reluctant to leave the ground!

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This is something I will need to start addressing- either with Previcoxx or hind shoes or both. I want him to feel great jumping again so I will focus on his maintenance going into the spring.

I did have a good ride indoors on Saturday (rain) and he was QUITE frisky on Sunday- outdoors was soft and still wet so I think he quite enjoyed the footing!

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I watched the LIEC dressage show after riding on Sunday too and it made me feel still kind of anxious about going up a level in dressage with Oats- what am I doing? Do I even know? Yikes…

Monday I was volunteering at a work event and was not allowed to have my phone or computer with me all day= busy busy busy. Back to the grind this week though…

The girls went to school at High Point yesterday and I was beyond jealous. Mannnnn.