MEC Race #3- Royal Roads- a half marathon with a reputation!

Not gonna lie, I was less than enthused about running this race. Last year it went really horribly for me- I was struggling with mystery asthma symptoms (struggling to breathe, felt like something was crushing my chest and I was gasping) on and off that whole year and hill running made it worse… So that race was hot, horrible and I thought I was going to collapse during it. I walked, a lot which psychologically is kind of tough.

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At the start. Brrrr. Can you see me? Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

My time last year? 2:10 or so. Ha. It’s a hilly and quite technical half, with very steep uphill climbs and downhill ‘jaunts’ that are just murder on your legs. My first time running it (it’s a quite new race, only three years now) I ran it in 1:50 and was kind of shell-shocked, haha.

It’s not a true trail race but there are lots of trail sections, and a loooong flat section (2km) along the Lagoon that is good on paper but a total mental dead zone when you’re running, complete with a pace-killing headwind the whole way.

Soooo yeah, I was not thrilled about this race, particularly since I was wrapped up in a crazy busy weekend with absolutely no downtime. But we picked up our bibs on our way to Hopoxia and it was ON! The race started at 8:30am and it was freezing at Royal Roads. I was shivering and wearing my jacket zipped up to my neck and didn’t want to take it off until we actually started. Ian took it from me (his race started at 9am).

And we were off! Started a bit late due to technical difficulties. I saw some people jump around and generally just waste energy (in my cranky opinion) do a quick fade out at 1km. Oh yeah and the start goes pretty much straight uphill, ha. It’s a pace-killer for sure.

Still, I thought let’s just see how this goes… I ran conservatively, but with the hills, you pretty much only have 1 choice- run conservatively or die.

I cruised up on a few women runners, saw one on the out-and-back at like 2-3km that I thought looked strong (she passed me shortly before the out and back) but I figured if I ran well I could catch her.

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Finishing strong. Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

After that, I just didn’t worry about it. I spent a lot of time worrying about the really steep hill climb after the Lagoon though… I paced with this one runner for close to the entire race, haha. And he was a big guy! We’d play a bit of leapfrog up and down, but I lost him at the second loop at the big hill. Too bad, because I was impressed at his stamina.

I generally just kept running and didn’t think too much about anything. It was cold and windy, we had to jump over a downed telephone pole, the hills made my legs feel weird (like, they were kicking out wildly when I was going downhill and I wanted to shout at my legs ‘hey get with the program!!’) and I think that was just because going from uphill-downhill was straining the leg muscles.

I passed the other girl at like 5-6km? And then it was just a run where I had to keep my legs and my head in the game, haha. I didn’t let myself walk up the big hill- BOTH times I kept running (so slowly it was like walking, ha). My right knee this time was bugging me BIGTIME. I was worried going into the second loop, no lie. The downhills in particular were bad.

At the finish I felt quite strong, though my legs hurt quite a bit and felt super stiff and sore. We did it! My redemption race, in full colour.

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The winners! It was freezing though. Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

With a respectable time of 1:41 I placed second woman out of a small field (this half doesn’t tend to attract the numbers the other MEC races do, and particularly not for a half this nasty). 38? Women I believe finished the race. But it’s not really the placing that matters to me–it’s that I managed to do it, and ran a strong race for me. That’s the biggest joy of all! 🙂

 

 

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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.

 

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.

Say yes for another time

Jump lesson last night and I admitted my rides this week have felt kind of blahhhh….But I was hoping to turn that around. From uninspired to inspired? We’ll see!

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Another throwback to the race a few weeks ago. Photo courtesy of Ken D’Ell. 

Actually Tuesday was a good quality ride, but not for physicality- more for mental progress, so there’s that 🙂 So we built upon my work from Tuesday and I did a LOT of jumping with one hand!

We worked over a small grid (two-stride trot-in, X-rail to a small oxer) and I rode it one-handed most of the time! And then we worked up to a small course, of which I alternated steering with two hands, and jumping the jumps with one hand. Not gonna lie, I almost felt paralyzed by indecision and fear for a bit in the beginning, and I felt frustrated. Why is this so hard?!

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Some days you ride better without hands. This remains true…Throwback to a few years ago.

BUT it got better, and my body responded. I was figuring it out, and the frustration I felt slowly ebbed and went away. The jumps were small, I felt bolder. I re-did a line that was riding poorly (ok, I did say things got better but YEAH not amazing, and boy did I have some screw-ups, ha) of my own volition!

But you know what? I was able to accept the mistakes graciously and here’s the big one: move on from them.

I said I wanted to ride the course again, and yes it wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t paralyzing either. So go for it! Get what’s yours and just try it. I didn’t feel the heart-pounding exhilaration that sometimes accompanies big ‘tries’ of mine… I just felt like yes, let’s go for it, and I can do it. Maybe not well, but I can.

And Oats was a good pony, with some really truly sloppy jump efforts, and some really good ones too. He had no stiffness, so I am sure the Previcoxx is working for him! Yes!

Back on track and back to the grind.

Christmas holidays came and went and I was blissfully away for TWO whole weeks of it!! It was very worth it, and I had a great holiday. Highlights include…

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Barn Christmas party featuring the best Secret Santa ever!!

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Taking the horses up island to Hi Point to take part in the Christmas by donation Jump Day for Cowichan Therapy horses, and the Hoof ‘n’ Woof that I had a BLAST at!

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Going to Ucluelet for a little downtime with my husband and dog, and we enjoyed a cool wood cabin, wood-fired pizza, wine, a hike and some running trails.

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A massage at Bear Mountain’s Sante Spa. Worth it!!

A movie- we had free tickets to go see Molly’s Game. Recommend, even if it was a bit long for my liking. All movies are though, ha.

Christmas eve at my in-laws farm in Cobble Hill featuring- SNOW! That’s right, a white Christmas on the island. We never get that!

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Christmas day party at my parents, where I was the designated driver- went well, better than I thought it would actually.

Jump lesson with Oats- pretty fun!

Dressage lesson with Oats- toughhhh workout!

Working equitation- ease of handling- clinic with Oats. We had a great time and Oats was really good at it! I want to do more of this!! Everyone was really interested in the Working Equitation after we posted a video of it to my Facebook.

Hiking at East Sooke Park- New Years day, and a fun activity to do with the husband and dog.

Seafood for New Years Eve- a classic!!

And I loved all of my presents, I got some great ones even if my husband went wayy overboard on my gifts this year (Blundstone Boots, cool horsey socks, Back On Track knee brace, winter gloves, a neat book) I got everything I could have possibly wanted. I even have my SAD lamp plugged in at work now.

 

Mixed thoughts on dressage (stressage?)

Jumped into an impromptu dressage lesson last night (I was going to take the night off, but got super tempted so I joined in last-minute. I know, I know but hey I was on time for once?!) and we worked on similar stuff to last week with one exception- I was kind of sucking at it this time.

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We worked first at the walk, then at the trot and were going to move it up to canter except we didn’t quite…make it successful at the trot. So we stuck it there, ha. Honestly it felt rougher than last week BUT also not terrible? Just that it was hard, and we were trying. His trot was really great, super amped and really ‘moving ‘ but getting him to reach down into contact was kind of not great aka a big work in progress.

He’d be in contact, I’d slowly (and my timing was off..) start giving him rein, he’d reach down, and then immediately pop back up out of contact. Ugh! I would go back to trying to get contact back, and rinse, repeat. It takes a lot of work to maintain the contact through a lower head/giving hands.

Still some pretty solid work. Just makes me feel like urghh the canter is going to be verrrry interesting if I am struggling this much with the trot!

No polo tonight, it’s getting too dark out too early now (sob). So I will just zip out the barn and do some field riding with Oats, he needs the mental break after our fairly strenuous dressage lessons.