My 2016 in running

In many ways, 2016 was rough. I know many personal stories of struggle and loss. Then there was the U.S. election and other international events leaving us questioning what is going on in the world.

But if you will indulge me a little, I want to share about what has been going on in my little running bubble over the past 12 months. For me, running has always provided a little escape away from worry and dread into hope and motivation. Let’s focus on some positivity.

Best race experience: Ottawa Race Weekend 

In May, I ran a marathon for the first time.

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The race experience in Ottawa was just amazing. I wholeheartedly recommend Ottawa Race Weekend to anyone considering a fun, spirited, energetic and flat goal race. This year will be huge with the run corresponding with Canada’s 150th. My husband and I made it into a couple’s getaway weekend and we would love to make the trip again — perhaps next time with our little guy — so we can take in more sights and enjoy the nation’s capital. As long as Ottawa can promise to turn down the heat!!

Best run: Stroller running

I finally bought a new-to-me B.O.B. stroller which has encouraged more stroller running with my two-year-old. Combining my love of/need to run and enjoy time with my son is truly priceless (why didn’t I buy one sooner?!). We even ran a 5K race together this fall. To think about it gives me goosebumps. We were sailing down Manawagonish Road in our neighbourhood, which I’m sure Silas recognized. The experience must have been so cool for him. And not a bad time, either: 28:30!

28:30 for our first 5k race 🏁 #runningmom #strollerrun #5k

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A close second would have to be my new half-marathon personal best at Moncton’s Legs for Literacy in October. 1:59:47, baby!

Best new piece of running gear: massage stick

Man, when I think back to all the $$ I spent on running stuff this year, it’s a little frightening. Three or four pairs of good shoes, Lululemon and Lole clothes, a water belt, race registrations, etc, etc. But the very best thing I invested in was PHYSIOTHERAPY. Oh goodness, am I ever glad I went during the weeks leading up to my marathon. Rob saved me. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say it either. He told me to buy one of these torturous sticks, so I did, and continue to poke and prod my lower extremities after runs, though probably not as much as I should.

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Best running advice received this year: “Let pain be your guide, but don’t let it stop you.” My physiotherapist said that. He also told me that I could heal/get stronger while continuing to run.

Best advice I can give: You will feel better after 10 minutes. Drink more water. Get more sleep.

Most inspirational runner: Krista Duchene, Canadian Olympic marathoner, mother of three, 39 years old. This video brings tears to my eyes.

Favourite picture from a run or race this year: 

So many photos in my library bring back good memories.

Sitting in the frigid Bay of Fundy after a long run was pretty classic!

But it’s got to be my Ottawa finish line photo! After running 42.2 km in extreme heat and humidity, I made it to the finish. There is noooooo feeling like this, folks.

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Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat: Not going to say Ottawa because running a marathon in 40 C with humidex is not something I want to repeat.

Maritime Race Weekend was absolutely stunning. The weather was simply perfect for a half-marathon. The run was well-organized and so much fun. I want to go back!

7th half marathon in the books in beautiful Eastern Passage, N.S. @maritimeraces

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Worst running moment: I had a few very painful, long and lonely long runs leading up to my marathon. It was in cold, damp spring weather and my IT band was throbbing in pain. I trained by myself. I had many moments of doubt in those two-three hour runs, but refused to give up. I walked a lot, my pace sucked, but I got through it. And was stronger for it.

Favourite medal: I received many beautiful medals this year but Ottawa is my fave!

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Summing up the year in a few words: I ran a marathon! What?! I have come a long way. Every year gets better. Running makes me more balanced in other aspects of my life.

The “Year of Running” is hosted by Courtney from Eat Pray Run.

Read more Year of Running posts here. 

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A new personal best

There’s nothing like capping off the 2016 running season on this kind of high.

I shaved a mere seven seconds from my personal best time for the half-marathon — 1:59:47!

This is what a personal best looks like! (Pic by @freshstartmolly)

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This was my third time taking part in Moncton’s Legs for Literacy race, and the second time doing the very fast and flat half-marathon. It’s the biggest race in New Brunswick and so much fun.

Every time I have done this run the weather has been iffy, as the end of October tends to be. This year was no exception. We had all of the weather: cold, wind, clouds, rain, rainbows, sun, warmth, followed by extreme gusts and pelting cold rain at the end. My crazy lime green hat, which I won at the expo, nearly blew away at certain points.

One of the best parts of this race was running alongside my friend, Jenn. (I have two running buddies named Jennifer so try not to get confused.) We instantly fell into the same rhythm and having her nearby made me feel secure about holding a fairly challenging pace around 5:40 min/km.

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Kevin, Jenn and April after a the Moncton Legs for Literacy half-marathon 2016. And my shark child at bottom right.

If it wasn’t for Kevin, I would not have bothered to sign up for this race. Kevin is so rational and convinced me it made complete sense to go for a second half-marathon and aim for a PB, after coming so close at Maritime Race Weekend. Good friends do that for you. He also lured me with free race registration for the Sweet Caroline 10K.

This race was important for me to know I am officially back to pre-baby race shape. It took a long time to get here, but I’m here. And now on reflection, I have gained so much running experience after having a child. I may even call myself a “seasoned” runner, to throw around a cliche. This year alone I have run one full marathon, two half-marathons and a few other runs. All with a toddler! I don’t think I dreamed this could be possible. I think I always had a quiet fear that my running life would peter out after having a child, but instead, it’s better than ever.

 

Of course, support from my hubby is an absolutely essential part of continuing to run, chase goals and just continue to enjoy the sport. He knows it makes me happy and healthy, and so he doesn’t complain (much) when I tell him about early morning long-run plans, which means he doesn’t get to sleep in after an evening shift, or yet another running road trip. In fact, he almost loves these trips as much as I do. I know, I’m really lucky.

So accomplishing this goal is not just about the number, or the sub 2 hours, or anything like that. It’s about knowing that I can continue to find strength to meet my personal goals even as life changes. It’s about carving out time for myself and showing my little boy that running is healthy and fun, too.

Looking forward to seeing what new challenges and adventures 2017 brings.

Run on!

 

These October days, though

The temperature is cooling off just a little, the horizon is brushed with golden, orange and red hues, the days are shorter. A solid base of running has been built over the past 10 months, making for a truly enjoyable fall season.

I haven’t been training particularly hard or with any set goals in mind, but what I thought would be a quiet month running-wise has turned into quite the opposite.

And I’m not sure if it’s just my imagination or the cooling temperatures, but running has felt just a little easier lately. I am not necessarily faster or slimmer but perhaps my fitness is finally where it needs to be for a half-marathon PR this coming weekend in Moncton.

YES, this is the first mention of a second fall half-marathon for 2016. It sort of came out of nowhere and I signed up last-minute.

Maritime Race Weekend was supposed to be my final big race of the season. But after my friend Kevin generously gave me his 10K registration for the Sweet Caroline run, he said my payback would have to be a half-marathon PR (or a beer). Well, I couldn’t argue with that.

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Home stretch of the Sweet Caroline 10K – 54:14

In a few days I will attempt to crack 1:59:54 at the Moncton Legs for Literacy half. We shall see if the stars align for me! My legs were feeling great at the Eastern Passage half a few weeks ago so hopefully the flat Moncton course and some better race day prep (ie not arriving late and requiring a mid-race porta-potty stop) will help me meet this goal. If not, I guess I will owe you a beer, Kevin.

{Side note: I have only managed to do ONE long run since the Eastern Passage run one month ago. And it was 18K on the treadmill. Will I survive?}

Last weekend, Silas and I took part in our very first 5K race together. It was the Island View Eagles 5K, which is really close to our house. We woke up early and made our way to the school on a very cold morning. Silas was bundled up in a winter hat and three or four layers under a blanket. We zoomed up and down Manawagonish Road to complete the 5K in 28:32! I didn’t really know what to expect so I was really pleased with my first official stroller 5K time.

Thanks for reading, friends!

Run on!

Race Recap: Maritime Race Weekend

Rolling hills, scenic vistas, cool sea breezes and pirates: this was the backdrop for my 7th half-marathon and a season’s best performance at Maritime Race Weekend.

This well-organized and spirited event takes place in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia, just outside of Dartmouth. The course is one of the most beautiful I have ever run — and I have run through many stunning places in the Maritimes. It starts off at Fisherman’s Wharf and weaves along the coast. The weather was absolutely perfect, around 18 C, but very sunny — I wish I had my sunglasses.

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I went into this run without any particular goal in mind. Life has been moving at a hectic pace and I have managed to get in my training runs but not much more, so I wasn’t expecting a PR. Still, I have felt strong the past few weeks, which really is to be expected at this point in the season, so I knew wouldn’t fall flat on my face.

Mark, Silas and I packed up and left for Dartmouth on Friday morning, making the four+ hour drive. We stayed at the same hotel where race kit pick-up took place, which made everything easier. Silas was immediately impressed with the pirate theme.

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We got to bed early and prepared for a 6 a.m. wake-up on Saturday, race day, which we thought would give us plenty of time to get to the start line in time for the 8 a.m. race.

Sleep was so-so with the two-year-old waking up at about 4 a.m. and tossing and turning next to me for the last couple hours of the night. I’m not blaming him for anything though because I had typical nerves and wasn’t sleeping the greatest anyway.

We woke up and I set straight into my typical race morning routine: chug water, eat English muffin and peanut butter, hotel room coffee, bathroom and get dressed. My watch and iPod were charged and ready to go. My two cheerleaders were moving a little more slowly than me.

I sent them down to the 7 a.m. breakfast buffet to pick out a couple items for the road while I finished up in the hotel room.

Instead, I went downstairs to see them seated in the dining room. I started to sweat. We still had a 15-20 minute drive ahead of us (in unknown terrain), plus we needed to find parking and I had to get to the start line. Finally we got into the car even though all Silas had eaten was a quarter piece of toast and a couple of Cheerios. The car was stocked with fruit and other snacks so I knew he would be fine and eat eventually.

As we arrived in Eastern Passage, the two-lane road soon became lined with parked cars. We started looking for a parking spot and ended up having to turn around and drive farther away from the start line. Eventually I got to the right place with less than five minutes to spare. Problem was, I needed to use the port-a-potty one last time (as many runners know this is crucial on race morning!). I figured I would have just enough time, but as I made my way to the crowd, I realized there was still a huge line-up and the crowd was packed. I tried to move up toward the two-hour half-marathon pace group but couldn’t get anywhere near them. I settled for the 2:20 group and figured I would just have to catch up.

As the gun sounded, the crowd didn’t move. It took a good 2-3 minutes before I crossed the starting mat. I tried to take it easy, thinking this conserved energy would help me later but I couldn’t help but feel anxious. I wanted to go, but I was stuck in the crowd. I weaved as best as I could, but there wasn’t a ton of room. I spent most of the first 5 km of the race like this. The up side was I didn’t go out too fast. (First 5K – 28:55)

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The first few water stops had port-a-potties but at least one person was waiting outside and it wasn’t an emergency at this point so I continued to hold out until the 5 km mark. The outhouse was hiding in behind the water station and no one was in it. Score! I paused my Garmin and managed to get in and out within 1 minute.  I hit the course again and caught up to the people I was chasing before in no time.

Around the 8-10 km mark I realized I was making great time, in fact it was the best pace I have been running all season around 5:30 to 5:45 min/km. Part of me worried I would run out of steam but I tried to focus on effort rather than the number on my watch. I enjoyed the scenery and relaxed. I was having so much fun! I took a GU gel at about 8K. (10K – 57:54)

Around this time we hit a few bigger hills. I slowed down but didn’t stop, trying to steady my heart rate. Cresting up a hill always guaranteed a beautiful view. While I was feeling good around the 13-14K mark, something weird was happening in my shoes. The smaller toes on my left foot seemed to be overlapping each other. I’m not sure what caused this, but it really started to hurt. I told myself some weird things like, Who needs baby toes anyway? Focus on the big toe. When I walked, the toes were fine. I can’t explain why this was happening. Hope I haven’t developed some kind of weird gait issue.

Around 15 km I told myself I was going to hold back a bit then boost the pace for the final 5K. I wasn’t sure if this was a goal I could sustain, but I wanted to try. I have always wanted to get negative splits (faster last half than first half) and I thought it might be possible this time given my slow start.

Lucky for me, as I rounded a bend, a person directing traffic yelled out, “Last 4K, all downhill!” and I practically fist-pumped. I got my second wind and really pushed it down a big hill. I saw this photographer and jumped in the air but looks like he just captured my goofy grin after the fact.

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For the final few kilometres I continued to push the effort even though I knew I wasn’t going to break the coveted 2-hour mark. I didn’t really mind because overall, I felt the strongest I have all year, and I knew I would come close. I continued to “go fishing,” reeling in runners ahead of me and picking them off one by one. Did it ever feel good to finish with a bang.

I rounded the final corner and saw 2:06:xx on the clock, but my Garmin (which I paused for the bathroom break) said 2:02. Awesome! I was so happy. Official time was 2:03 on the nose. And I did get the negative split I was looking for — the last half was three minutes faster than the first.

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I crossed the finish line and the first thing out of my mouth was “Where’s the beer?” I was directed to a small building where the after-party was taking place. I drank up rather quickly because I was anxious to find Mark and Silas. After grabbing a banana and an orange and some water, I wandered around for a bit and found my guys. They had spent the past couple of hours enjoying the scenery and throwing rocks in the water, one of Silas’s favourite things to do these days.

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We also ran into Anna from Piper’s Run! I was so happy to meet a fellow mom/running blogger from the Maritimes, and it totally happened without planning. So great to meet Anna and her husband Saï, who both took part in Maritime Race Weekend. Runners are great people! Go check out her blog. I love her honesty and can truly relate to how difficult it can be to balance chasing running goals with life as a working mom.

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Hard to believe I have now run seven half-marathons. And of course, I can’t wait for the next one. My body is definitely used to this distance and I know I could beat my PR from 2013 of 1:59:54 with better race morning punctuality. I’m tempted to sign up for another one this fall but taking it easy is also appealing.

Thank you Maritime Race Weekend for showing us “Good times in the Maritimes!” We will be back!

7th half marathon in the books in beautiful Eastern Passage, N.S. @maritimeraces

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Into the Night 5K

Heading to the Into the Night 5K run on Friday, I was not feeling enthusiastic. It was more a case of doing the run because I had already forked over my registration fee.

I didn’t know anyone else doing the race, I was tired, it was Friday, blah, blah, blah. 

Into the Night kicks off Marathon by the Sea race weekend in Saint John. Since I’m not doing the half-marathon this year, I opted for the 5K night run.

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I arrived at the Diamond Jubilee Cruise Terminal in Saint John early for the run I thought started at 9 p.m. I picked up my race kit and was pleased to see two glow sticks made of foam — light sabres, which I knew Silas would love.

I was, however, a little disappointed to find out the race wasn’t timed. I was kind of looking forward to pushing myself in the 5K, which is a relatively unfamiliar distance for me. But with fireworks, glow sticks and a light-hearted feel, I knew I would enjoy myself.

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Turns out the race didn’t start till 9:30 p.m., when it was completely dark. It meant a little more waiting around, but luckily the weather was perfectly comfortable and I did a little jogging to warm up a bit.

Approaching the starting line, we heard a few inspirational words from Terry Thorne, this year’s Marathon by the Sea race marshall. Thorne has run 12 marathons and was in the process of attempting to qualify for Boston when she had a brain aneurism in 2007. She now lives in a nursing home after going through years of recovery. “Never, ever give up,” she said, standing with the help of a walker.

Thorne then sounded the race horn, and with her words on my mind, we were off, carrying the light sabres and dashing into the night. I pressed ahead and fell into a rhythm, running by Market Square as revellers took a break from enjoying live music to cheer for the runners. Then it was on to Harbour Passage, where darkness cast over the course and the colourful glow of the light sticks bounced ahead. I continued to pass people, one by one, until one woman sailed by me. That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to let her win.

I don’t know who she was, but I set my mind to staying with that woman, who set a challenging pace. I wasn’t comfortable, but I kept telling myself that 5K is not far at all. I kept on her tail for most of the race, but the final kilometre was a challenge and she got ahead.

I decided to hold back then dig deep for the final stretch, and it worked. I sailed by the final few metres… and was shocked to see the clock at 24:xx. I hadn’t been looking at my watch throughout the race, instead focused on running by feel. And it turned out to be a great strategy.

According to my Garmin, my time was 24:49 — more than a minute faster than my personal best of 26 minutes! However, I believe the course was short, as my watch said the run was only 4.9 km. Still, I totally smashed my PB, and I was over the moon! Not bad for a “fun run.”

I gladly accepted a chocolate milk, ate some orange slices from the well-stocked food tent and made my way home. As I pulled in my driveway, I heard the fireworks (and wondered why they wouldn’t have gone off near the start of the race, while runners could see them over the harbour).

The run turned out to be a great experience, sailing through the dark with a sea of fluorescent runners. It felt good to be out of the blazing sun and gave me hope that I have some speed left in this mother runner legs of mine.

 

Another hot race: Canada Day 10-miler

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My third race of the year landed on yet another hot day. This is a rarity for the east coast, so I guess you could say I’m training my body to run in the heat.

And yet again, I came out with a sluggish pace, left wondering where my zoomy legs from just a year ago went.

The annual Canada Day 10-miler in Grand Bay-Westfield is a simple, fun event along the St. John River organized by my local shoe salesman and running guru Alex Coffin.

This was my second time participating. The first time I ran the 10-miler was in 2013, which I’m now referring to as “my prime.” It was the same year I ran a sub-2 hour half-marathon and scored a few other PRs.

With the sun and heat expected to strike, Alex offered an early 8 a.m. start, which my friend Jen and I gladly accepted. It also meant we could finish the run early and head off to enjoy the long weekend.

As soon as we arrived, we knew we would be feeling the heat anyway. The air was still and it was already close to 20 C.

We started off at a decent pace below 6 min/km, but after the 5 km mark, I started to wane. We took a walk break close to the halfway mark, then another after a little hill right at 8 km. After that, we slowed right down, making mini goals to get us to our new walk break. It wasn’t pretty, but we knew we’d get it done.

We finished in 1:43:47, which was 59th and 60th out of 78 participants. It was also nearly seven minutes slower than the last time I did this race (1:36:50).

But this run was never really about going fast, it was about a Canada Day tradition and enjoying a long run with a friend. Mission accomplished.

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St. Andrews 5-miler

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April & Janie

It was warm and sunny for the 38th annual St. Andrews Father’s Day 5-Mile Road Race. And three weeks after my first marathon, I came out with my slowest 5-miler, ever.

I’m not shattered by this result – it was 21 C and the sun was pretty hot after the 10 a.m start. I feel like I pushed it as hard as I could, and I really haven’t been training for speed. But when I went back and checked my stats… damn… even slower than my first race ever!

Today’s finish time was 49:38, or 9:56 minutes per mile, placing 11/18 in my age group. My personal best is 42:30 from the Hampton 5-Miler in 2013.

Some background

OK so I know I really didn’t prepare myself well for this run, so I kind of got what I deserved. First of all, Mark, Silas and I went to St. Martins, a beautiful seaside community, for the day on Saturday. We hiked, played on the beach and ate junk food. When we got home, my husband and I stayed up late watching a movie.

I hit snooze this morning, then crawled out of bed and tried to get our butts out the door within 45 minutes. A challenge for sure. None of us were really feeling it. Not a great way to start Father’s Day.

After about an hour on the road, we got to the run with literally a minute to spare before registration closed. I jumped out of the car while my husband parked.

My plan was to run with Silas in our new stroller. But… we forgot it. So this meant I was running on my own. I knew I wouldn’t be fast, and the stroller was going to be my safety net. So I mentally prepared to tackle this hilly run on my own, and without music.

The run

The course itself is truly beautiful, wrapping around the harbour at Passamaquoddy Bay, through the downtown, through wooded areas and past the historic Algonquin Resort. The two-ish miles are flat, followed by a couple of challenging miles. The last mile is mostly downhill, except for one monster of a hill near the end.

This was my second time running the race, and our third time coming. Mark raced it two years ago when I was nine months pregnant. It’s small and fun with lots of door prizes! A couple of our friend ran the race too, which always makes it fun.

We finished off the morning with a tasty lunch at The Gables, and Silas was obsessed with the lobster out front!

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This run was humbling and was a reminder that just because I ran a marathon doesn’t necessarily make the shorter distances any easier. Also, hitting snooze is never a good idea.