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!

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“Giv’er!” My race recap of the Halifax Blue Nose 10K

Oh Halifax. The big city of the Maritimes. With your pretty harbour, big bridges, Lululemon and endless array of carb-loading options, you are truly a runner’s heaven.

And now after taking part in the 10K run at the giant Blue Nose Marathon over the weekend, I can say I’ll definitely be back again.

There’s something about racing in another city that is so exciting. Being a part of this run – with more than 2,600 in the 10K alone – was such a blast. The race was massive (apparently the biggest east of Ottawa) but so well-organized. I never waited in line to get my bib, check my bags or pick-up post-race food. The atmosphere was electric. And best of all – despite rain and hills and my typical state of sleep-deprivation – I ran fast!

I finished in 54:14, more than a minute faster than my super-flat 10K two weeks ago at the Saint John Airport. It’s only 45 seconds away from my personal best (from Moncton – a very flat course). Yay!

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There are a few reasons why this run went better for me: it was interesting and invigorating – running over the MacDonald Bridge, running through a Dartmouth neighbourhood, seeing so many spectators – it really revs you up.

Also, after several bad sleeps with Silas, he gave me the gift of only waking up twice the night before the race, and promptly falling back to sleep. Thank you, Darling.

And finally, I stopped stressing over the numbers – as discussed in a previous post – and instead focused on running by feel. On the up-hills, and there were a few, a slowed down. At the top, I waited till my heart rate regulated, then built up my pace again. On the down-hills, I coasted. I focused on passing people when I had the energy. When I didn’t, I held back. I ended the run feeling like I pushed as hard as I could, but I didn’t feel horrible. In my books, that’s how to do a race.

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Some other notes on the run:

  • We had the most delicious, wholesome meal at the Henry House on Barrington Street the night before the run. I had a Cornish pastie and craft beer. My glycogen stores were definitely full.
  • We got a Hotwire deal at the Halliburton on Morris Street, a charming inn in a building dating back to the 1830s. It was a gorgeous spot that included a delicious breakfast every morning (I had toast and homemade jam the morning of the race along with hot coffee). It was just blocks away from the starting line and so close to the water.
  • With so many people running the 10K, we had to line-up a good 25 minutes before the gun. It was a chilly 8 C, and it started to rain as we waited. Not the greatest feeling. Luckily, I decided to wear the tech Blue Nose shirt, which quickly dried off as soon as I started running.
  • I felt pretty special in line because I got to go near the “front” of the pack, since my estimated time was between 50-60 minutes. That’s a pretty average time for a 10K, but I was actually on the fast spectrum. I finished 92/521 in my age category. Yeah!
  • I spotted some local CBC celebrities, including my former j-school classmate, Mackenzie, who was helping out with First Aid.
  • We showed Silas how to cheer for runners as we walked back to our hotel. I think he liked it!
  • I mentioned the bridge, but it was definitely the coolest part of the 10K. There is a pretty big slope upwards as you head toward the middle of the bridge, but then it heads down again as you reach Dartmouth.
  • If I sign up for the Marathon by the Sea in Saint John (planning on it) and the PEI Marathon in October, I’ll receive the Maritime Challenge medal.

I’m so happy I had the chance to train for and run this race, still on maternity leave. It’s so a great feeling to have my running abilities almost back to where they were pre-baby. Making a weekend of the Blue Nose was so much fun.

My race calendar has been a little crazy over the past couple of months, as I have felt the need to make the most of my time off work to fit in races now while I have the chance. When I head back to work in a few weeks, it will probably slow down. But I’m planning to continue running, and hope to train for a half-marathon this summer or fall.

10K on the runway: a humbling run

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April and Janie after the Saint John Airport run

I’ve been on a bit of a good running streak lately, signing up for lots of races and getting a little faster along the way.

So when the Saint John Airport 10K came along on Saturday, I was like, I’ve got this.

The race is always a blast, as you take off with a throng of runners on a fast, flat course. My goal was to beat 55:17. I figured it was reasonable for a new mama, because it was my time for the same course three years ago, for my first 10K. (I ran it again in 2013 at 53:57).

So I strapped on my Garmin and told myself to keep a pace under 5:30 min/km.

It went pretty well for the first half. In fact, my pace was closer to 5:15. I was feeling very confident.

But then, after circling the airport runway once, I realized I was out of juice. All I had in me was 5K at that pace. I had to slow down. Suddenly I was way over 5:30. And I felt pretty downtrodden. I was about to clock in a personal worst for a 10K.

For the remainder of the race, I obsessively checked my watch. I made little goals to force myself to keep running. But I felt like I was going on fumes. It did not feel fun at all. My face was red hot and my mouth was dry.

I finished at 55:20, which is actually not bad, considering my pace for recent races. I placed 7/20 in my age group. But I still felt humbled – and exhausted. I realized I still have some work to do before I am as fit as I was pre-pregnancy.

Upon reflection, I’ve realized why I did not feel good about this race. I was too hung up on the numbers. 

When I enjoy a run, I’m feeling the air, listening to the sounds, and finding my comfortable pace. I didn’t allow myself to do that on Saturday. Instead, I was a slave to the watch.

I know there are many other things I could have done to make this race better: get more sleep, drink more water. I should have had a little snack shortly before the race. I could have trained better.

But I’m not in this to win. I run because I enjoy it. And why bother if I’m going to get hung up on paces, numbers, seconds?

Lesson learned: for my next 10K in Halifax two weeks from now, I will not wear a watch. OK, I might wear it, but if I do, I will set my pace based on how I feel. I’ll enjoy the experience, and take it as it comes.

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Spectator sport

Over the past couple weeks, I had not one, but two vivid dreams that I was able to take part in this year’s YSJ 10K.

At nearly 33 weeks pregnant, this simply was not possible for me. But on Saturday, I did have joy of watching my husband and many close friends cross the finish line. I got to live vicariously through their collective exhilaration.

Kevin McEachern, victorious after a time of 48:35 in his first 10K
Kevin McEachern, victorious after a time of 48:35 in his first 10K

The Saint John Airport run gives runners the unique opportunity of running the flat asphalt of the airport runway. One lap is five kilometres, and two laps is 10K. This was the event’s fourth year.

I have run the 10K race twice before – last year and in 2012 – and I will never forget the feeling I had two year ago for my first 10K. I couldn’t believe I had it in me. It’s what inspired me to tackle my first half-marathon later that summer.

This year, I learned to take a step back and watch (with glee) as my husband had that experience for the first time too. Despite tackling his first 10K after working a night shift, he excelled with a time of 53:21.

 

Mark and I before the run
Mark and I before the run

Aside from watching Mark, I had so much fun mingling about, chatting to friends and people I have met through the running community and my work at the Telegraph-Journal.

What a thrill to catch the male and female winners of the 10K.

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Dean Strowbridge blasted across the finish line at 34:06
Boston Marathon competitor Brenda Guitard finished in 41 minutes
Boston Marathon competitor Brenda Guitard finished in 41 minutes

And also catch some other great friends too:

Janie Jones, after her first 5K, Mark and Kevin
Janie Jones, after her first 5K, Mark and Kevin
Julia Wright, who took part in the first-ever "double dare" - running both races in 80 minutes
Julia Wright, who took part in the first-ever “double dare” – running both races in 80 minutes
Scott Briggs, sports reporter for the Telegraph-Journal, with his speed-demon wife, Stacey, who crushed 5K in 22:14, and Kevin Barrett, fellow running blogger, who raced a swift 10K in 49:15
Scott Briggs, sports reporter for the Telegraph-Journal, with his speed-demon wife, Stacey, who crushed 5K in 22:14, and Kevin Barrett, fellow running blogger, who raced a swift 10K in 49:15

What a great way to kick-off the 2014 running season, which for me will be a spectator sport.

I’m OK with that.

 

Run steady

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Great things about tonight’s run

  • It was my first 10K since the half marathon last month, and it felt great.
  • I wore my new Nike shorts and other bright colours!
  • It was the perfect temperature.
  • I was grooving to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines among other rad tunes
  • I noticed that there is a street called Summertime Drive (off Douglas Avenue)
  • I could smell fresh cut grass and lilacs.
  • I felt strong and steady for the whole run, and didn’t stop to walk at all.
  • I decided I am definitely signing up to run the half at Marathon by the Sea

Not so great things

  • My iPod died mid-run
  • I didn’t get home from work till 6:30 p.m., and I was starving, so I ate a sugary granola bar pre-run.
  • My feet hurt in my new runners (a bit)
  • That’s it.

Running makes me happy.

Runway running

Photo by Topher Seguin
Photo by Topher Seguin

As I approached the final kilometre on Saturday, I tried not to focus on the perceived weakness in my legs, my shortness of breath, that I’m not sure if I can finish feeling.

Instead, I tried to focus on how awesome it was to be running down an airport runway, as the sun set, in 15 C weather, with runway lights guiding the way, like twinkling lights on a garden path.

I thought about how it was only four years ago that I packed my vehicle with my kitties and drove more than 1,600 km to this place not knowing a soul. And now I have so many truly amazing friends, co-workers who are more than co-workers, and people in the community who are so pleasant to encounter every now and then. I have people! Running people! And it feels so great.

And as I turned the final corner, and I could hear people cheer my name, I finished with every ounce of strength I had left.

It was the YSJ 10K race, one of the most unique races around. More than 300 people took off from the Saint John Airport on Saturday, at the third annual event. This was was different because it started at 7:30 p.m. The 10K racers ran two loops of the runway, starting immediately after an aircraft lifted off into the sky.

The weather was remarkable. We couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was warm enough for shorts. It was sunny and there was hardly any wind.

What made this run even more fun than last year’s was the friends who raced with me. Friends including Otiena, who leaves Saint John for new adventures in the west on Monday. She hasn’t competed in a race for years and came out with a swift time of 50:47, placing second in her age group.

Julie, April, Otiena and Jenn, with Kevin peering in the background
Julie, April, Otiena and Jenn, with Kevin peering in the background

My time was 53:57, which was better than my time in the same race last year of 55:17. But I did not beat my PR from Moncton last fall of 53:26. I think I was so focused on pacing myself through the race, but I could have probably pushed a little harder.

I’m not feeling discouraged because I haven’t really been training specifically for a 10K. My focus has been half-marathon training (next weekend!). Pacing is what I’m all about right now so it makes sense that I was not my speediest.

After the race, we all got a chocolate milk, bagel and fruit. My boyfriend and his parents were also there to cheer me own, which was so sweet. There was a draw for free Air Canada tickets and the winners were announced. It was nearly 9:30 p.m. before we went home.

The evening race format was a little more challenging, or maybe just different, to prepare for. It was tough to know how and what to eat. I also felt a lot more nervous than normal and my stomach was giving me some issues. I ended up eating a big breakfast of eggs, toast with peanut butter, strawberries, an orange and coffee. I didn’t eat lunch until nearly 3 p.m. (although I did snack of veggie chips and some Costco samples around lunch time). Lunch was a tuna sandwich and yogurt with some hemp hearts. Then about two hours before the race, I ate a Larabar. The fuel strategy seemed to work although I probably should have drank some more water.

Now I’m into taper week. Carbs (yay!). Rest (yay!). Crossfit (yay!).

I am planning on running a slow 10K on Tuesday, 6 K on Wednesday, doing yoga on Thursday and running a short 3 K on Saturday. Crossfit is Monday and Wednesday. It seems like a lot but including the yoga day and today I should have three rest days.

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How do you prepare the week before a half-marathon? How did other runners enjoy the YSJ race?