Trying to avoid the winter blahs

img_0005

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.

"The Y? Can we go to the Y?" #startthemyoung #ymca #swimming #toddlerlife

A post shared by April Cunningham (@aprilacunningham) on

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!

img_1909

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!

Advertisements

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.

20x30-omct2309

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

A post shared by April Cunningham (@aprilacunningham) on

 

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.

20160523_140532

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.

20x30-OMCU5290

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

A post shared by April Cunningham (@aprilacunningham) on

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!

IMG_1789.JPG

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!

IMG_1683.jpg

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

Adorable ornament from @hellochristyy Thank you! #bloggerswap #runnersofinstagram #runnerslovechristmas

A post shared by April Cunningham (@aprilacunningham) on

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!

IMG_1378.JPG
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 is what a personal best looks like! (Pic by @freshstartmolly)

A post shared by April Cunningham (@aprilacunningham) on

 

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.

IMG_1217.jpg
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.

14682145_1801631656783688_1827513690080778112_o
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!

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.

IMG_0938

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.

IMG_0944

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.