Marathon by the Sea: my 10K race report

It’s been a week since I took part in the 25th annual Marathon By the Sea, here in beautiful Saint John, NB. This is my “hometown race” (I’m a come-from-away) and I usually try to take part, although the past few years have included various stages of pregnancy and newborns! That being said, I always appreciate the opportunity to run and race, especially now that my children demand so much of my time. Running is my “me time,” which takes much of the pressure off!

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So this year, now that my twins are 11 months old, I wanted a reasonable goal. I haven’t had a ton of time to train, but I figured I could pull of a 10-kilometre run. I didn’t expect to make it a personal best by any stretch — especially on this “certified tough” course. But I knew it would provide some good motivation to train and keep active through the summer.

Well, training went OK. I barely got out for enough runs – maybe two or three per week. My longest run was 9-ish km. I don’t even know because the wristband on my trusty Garmin Forerunner broke off! And let’s not even talk about my nutrition this summer… after a few months of clean eating, I went hog wild all summer, especially on the ice cream!

So when race weekend arrived, let’s just say I wasn’t chomping at the bit. I almost forgot to make time to stop by the expo to pick up my race bib! And I made no elaborate plans for a new running outfit (which I have done in the past), nor did I force my husband and kids to pick a fun spot along the route to cheer me on with a “Go MOM WE LOVE YOU” sign. Wouldn’t that be nice! Instead, I was just lucky to have the chance to sneak away early in the morning and get a peaceful run in before 9:30 a.m. What a treat.

This was my first time trying out the 10-km distance at Marathon by the Sea (MBTS). In the past, they have offered a 5-mile, full and half course. I have done the 5-mile and half-marathons before, along with a 5 km night run a couple years ago. One of the things that appealed to me about this course was the chance to run across both the Reversing Falls and Harbour bridges. Coasting high above the Saint John Harbour is quite an experience by foot. It’s almost enough to take the sting out of the bridge’s cringe-worthy gradual incline.

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After a very hot summer, especially for temperate Saint John, race morning was generally good. It was a little cooler and overcast, yet muggy. By the time I was done running, I was dripping in sweat but at least the sun wasn’t beating down.

I felt as though I kept up a good pace. I wasn’t fast, but steady. I followed a middle-aged couple who were strong, steady runners, and tried to keep them in my sights. I only stopped to walk at the water stations, and even then only briefly.

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The toughest part is actually the first 5 km. It’s all uphill! Starting out at the cruise ship terminal along the harbour, we took Harbour Passage, up to Reversing Falls, still up around Simms Corner to Lancaster Avenue with the peak at Olsen’s. Then there was a nice downhill as we ran down Prince Street and Riverview Drive on the lower west side to the base of the Harbour Bridge. As mentioned the big Harbour Bridge included another significant climb levelling out, going down for a bit then up again on the highway exit back to the uptown. Whew! Lots of hills on this race!

For the final stretch, I tried to race the woman next to me but ran out of steam. She peeled ahead, but I’m glad I gave it a final push. My final time was 59:05… a personal worst, by far. I think my next slowest time is 55 minutes!

But hey, I now have THREE young children, two of those not yet one year old. I grew those babies in this amazing body of mine, and it can still take me on a 10-kilometre run. Now that is something to celebrate. It honestly fills my eyes with tears when I think about it.

Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers at Marathon by the Sea, for bringing such a great event to the city. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of, and to see friends and visitors use the power of their bodies to take in the majestic views (and hills) this place has to offer. It’s so easy to take for granted.

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Summer running goals

I’m now well into my second round of boot camp at 3rd Degree Training, and as I continue to work on my strength, the spring weather has me itching to set some running goals.

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It’s hard to believe I have only run a handful of times since having the twins – who are now 7.5 months old. When Silas was about nine months old, I ran the Lorneville Loop, a 13-kilometre race! I’m nowhere near ready to take on such a distance but I know once I start training, the running will come back to me before long.

With three young children, the days slip by so quickly, and I feel like I need to go ahead and set race goals so I have incentive to get out and run, or else the time will just float by and my mat leave will be gone.

St. Andrews Father’s Day 5-Miler – June 17 – I have run this challenging course twice before – once in blazing heat, and once in pouring rain. Maybe this will be my lucky year and the weather will be perfect. This gives me six weeks to train and lines up with the end of this round of boot camp. A great way to celebrate! Not to mention honouring my awesome husband and father to three under three.

Marathon by the Sea 10K – August 12 – I want to be good to my body and avoid jumping into distance running too quickly. Training for a 10K is a great way to continue to increase my mileage without sacrificing my weekends to long runs away from my kids. A quick look at the Marathon By the Sea website indicates this run crosses Saint John’s Harbour Bridge, which is an amazing experience. There are lots of hills, so definitely not expecting a personal best, but Marathon by the Sea is always a hometown favourite.

To get myself back in running shape, I need to start getting the miles in. Doing this while completing another boot camp may be a little challenging, but I hope to attempt 2-3 runs a week in addition to my 3-4 workouts at 3rd Degree. The great thing about this is my stronger body should make me a stronger runner less prone to aches and pains.

I’m also still following my custom Actual Nutrition guide and avoiding treats except for special occasions, so I am curious to see how this impacts my running.

I’m still breastfeeding the twins, although they continue to eat an increasing amount of solids. So I still need to consume plenty of calories to keep us all going. As I gradually start weaning this summer, my mileage will be increasing so I will be able to pare down the volume of food a bit, but probably not by a ton. Ah yes, one of the greatest benefits of running is the food.

 

 

Trying to avoid the winter blahs

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It’s been a very long time since I have taken a moment for a little self-reflection. While this blog evolved over time to share my running journey — especially last year’s marathon — I have also used it more recently to share some of my writing and stories about others. But for those wondering what the heck April has been up to (is she even still running?), here it is.

Yes! Still running, just not as much, and for the first time in a long time, without any immediate goals. It’s actually quite liberating!

Instead of focusing on mileage or training plans, I have been trying to mix up my exercise with more cross training, yoga and strength training. Trying to become a less injury-prone runner for when I sign up for that next big race. While I didn’t suffer any injuries during the previous two half-marathons, my IT band was under duress during the marathon, and I certainly don’t want to go through that again.

I don’t think I ever shared my New Year’s goals on this blog, but they were to do yoga once a week, do strength 1-2x a week and read one book a month. So far I am more or less on track. Even if I don’t get to yoga or a strength class, YouTube to the rescue.

Our membership at the Saint John Y has certainly helped. It’s also been a blessing to keep Silas occupied (in child-minding) while I exercise after work. So far we have only attempted to do that one day a week, but it’s been awesome to get back into spinning!! I also try to go to Group Power (like Body Pump at Goodlife) on Saturday mornings, and on Sunday, Silas and I go to the early years open swim. It’s a beautiful facility and so perfect for this point in our lives.

As far as running, my goal has been to aim for three runs a week. At first I was hoping for two short and one long, but realistically, they’ve all been short, “easy” runs. On the treadmill. I feel as though that, combined with the other stuff we’re doing is pretty reasonable. This week Silas and I even got out for a stroller run. Holy, it was tough! I’ve been used to #netflixandtreadmill!

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At this point my biggest challenge has been to stay motivated to eat healthily. Craving carbs and sugar, hard. Even fast food (ugh, I know). I always joke that I hope all my running and exercise cancel out my bad eating habits, but I know that only goes so far.

So as the mountains of snow slowly melt outside, I hope to stock my fridge with healthy snacks and get inspired with fresh, family-friendly recipes to carry us into the spring. No more blizzards, please.

Happy trails, everyone. Run on!

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!

 

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!

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. 

Eat Pray Run DC Year of Running 2016

Christmas blog swap 2016

One of the best things about sharing my running journey online is getting to know other bloggers who may be going through similar experiences. So when western Canadian runner Leigh from All You Need is Love invited me to join the Canadian Christmas blog swap this year, I gladly joined in.

I was matched up with Christy from The Last Honest Love. She bravely shares her story of infertility turned motherhood. Her posts are honest and real, and her one-year-old daughter Eleanor is just precious.

I received her little package in the mail from Calgary this week. How fun to rip open a gift so close to Christmas — just for me!

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Christy, this gift is perfect. A wine cozy, dark chocolate and a running ornament? Can we be best friends?

I am notoriously five minutes late for everything, so this ornament couldn’t be more bang on. Such a great addition to our tree — and motivation to keep my December run streak alive.

I’m very grateful to have been included in this year’s swap, co-hosted by Lindsey from A Running Tale. Be sure to visit Leigh‘s blog to see the list of participants and check out their stories.

Another run streak?

I’m so sorry I have been MIA for an entire month. November is always such a tough month to feel inspired. Let’s face it, the days are shorter and darker. Today it felt like it was getting dark by 3 p.m. It’s so difficult to muster up the will to get out and run.

But hey, I have been running, at least a little. I’m grateful to have the treadmill these days. I even made it out for a long run with a group of friends a couple weeks ago. But without a race on the horizon, it’s only too easy to put off today’s run until tomorrow.

That ends Dec. 1.

I’m challenging myself to yet another December run streak and I hope you will join me.

Let’s plow through the sweet and savoury month of December and run every freaking day. Who’s with me?

The idea of a run streak is to run at least one mile every day in a row. It is modelled off the Runner’s World holiday run streak which actually bridges the gap between the American Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. As the magazine suggests, please don’t attempt this if you haven’t been running consistently for at least six months.

Why streak? The holidays are busy, caloric and at times stressful. Running provides at least 10 minutes of “me time,” and provides a little balance at a time of indulgence. I have participated in two previous December run streaks and was amazed how great I felt at the end. I recall running at midnight after covering a city council meeting and another day at 6 a.m. before covering the Dennis Oland murder trial last year. When I was just a few weeks pregnant in 2013, I remember feeling so triumphant after dealing weeks of early-pregnancy queasiness to get out and run every day (and I didn’t even have a treadmill then). I remember Christmas baking cookies, sampling a few, then running.

Truth is, I tend to feel pretty listless without a goal. I need this to keep me accountable and to give me licence to sample a few more goodies over the coming weeks.

Are you ready? Let’s go streaking!

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Last weekend I ran with Silas a few blocks to the Santa Claus parade. Every little bit counts, right?

 

 

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 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!