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.

 

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My marathon training plan

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I’m now officially in Week 3 of my 16-week marathon training plan. I haven’t joined a running club, or a gym, and I don’t have a trainer. I’m doing this on my own.

To be honest, I prefer to train this way. I’m more or less a self-taught runner, and while I enjoy running with friends the odd time, to me, this is the ultimate solo sport. I love the flexibility, freedom and peace that goes along with it.

That said, I realize it’s absolutely essential to go into any kind of distance race prepared. So I have been loading up on podcasts, running mags, blogs and I even bought a book on marathon training.

There are many training plans available online, but I decided to go with the beginner marathon plan in my Runner’s World training guide. It includes four days of running every week, with two short runs mid-week, as well as one on Saturday, and a long run on Sunday. So far I’m loving the schedule because it takes the pressure off during the hectic work week and gives me more time on the weekends. I’m not sure how I will feel tackling a long run when the Saturday runs get longer, but I know the idea will be to keep them slow and easy.

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To me, the grand plan is to keep it smart and simple. I’m not going to restrict my diet, but I want to fuel and recovery properly. I’m not going to wear out my body during workouts, but I want to include good amounts of stretching and strengthening to prevent injury. And building up mileage gradually will be key.

While the long runs do look daunting, I find it more manageable if I break it down. Really, there are only four weeks that include scary distances – 15 miles (24 km) and beyond. The Sunday long runs peak twice at 20 miles (32 km), which is freaky but just 10 km longer than I’ve ever gone. Heck, even if I walk half of that, I’ll be happy.

Now I’m off to wind down for the evening before so I can run 4 miles on the treadmill in the morning before the toddler wakes and the work day begins. Feels like not hitting the snooze button is half the battle.

A mid-week run

My training plan calls for four runs per week for a total of 16 weeks. It all seems very doable right now.

But still, there are days, like today, when even a 5 km run seems nearly impossible.

I was originally planning on getting my run over with first thing in the morning on the treadmill, but that plan was thrown out the window after Silas ended up waking up in the middle of the night and moving into our bed. There would be no sneaking away to run.

After patchy sleep, my energy was lagging all day. But the afternoon sun and bare pavement were beckoning. I instantly regretted not taking advantage of a lunchtime run, and vowed to get out after work with the jogging stroller.

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It was glorious! Just above zero Celsius and it was so nice to take advantage of the extra daylight we have been experiencing. Spring was certainly in the air.

My pace was slow – close to 7 min/km – but it was steady. It was so sweet to look down and see the little pom-pom on my son’s hat, and his mittens grasping the stroller tray. We saw dogs, kids and city buses and heard “choo choo trains.” We went “wheeee!” and “bump, bump, bump.” Running with a toddler is fun, almost working the same way a podcast or great music can take your mind off things.

As we rounded the final corner onto our street, I heard his sweet voice say, “hommme.”

This was just another lesson that even 5 km runs can seem daunting, but they are always worth it in the end.

 

 

Marathon training: it’s happening!

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My face is tingly with a slight burning sensation after running 8 km in -15 C weather today, probably more like -25 c with the windchill.

But it’s Week 1 of marathon training, and this run was a confidence-builder. Yeah, I’m hardcore. And yeah: I’m going to run a marathon.

After six half-marathons and many shorter races, I’m ready to take the plunge and check this one off the bucket list. The time is right, so why wait?

I’ve signed up for the Ottawa Marathon on May 29. It will be my first race outside the Maritimes and I’m giddy with anticipation.

I hope you follow me on this journey as I continue to juggle life’s challenges with this big goal. I know it will be tough, but so, so worthwhile.

Training for Half Marathon No. 5

The last couple of months have been a bit of a blur. I returned to working full-time, my baby turned one and somewhere in there, I trained for my fifth half-marathon.

Today I ran a nice, slow and hot 10K, for my taper long run. I ran from the west side to uptown and back. It was beautiful along Harbour Passage. It was toasty but manageable. Next weekend it’s 21.1 km – my first half-marathon post-baby – at Marathon By the Sea in Saint John.

Although I’ve managed to consistently get my weekend long runs in, the rest of the week has been lacking. Not much cross training, and only a couple other short runs.

Since my husband and I work opposite shifts, we haven’t needed to put our little guy in daycare. However, this means when I’m home, I’m on my own, which makes it hard to get those runs in. Jogging stroller to the rescue. Even if those runs are ultra-slow, and during the hot late-afternoon hours, at least it’s something.

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As a new mom, I’ve realized that while running is still important to me, it’s certainly not my top priority. This has changed the way I’ve looked at training for this half-marathon.

While I started with the best intentions of following a training plan with speed work, tempo runs and the like, it just didn’t happen. I just ran short runs when I could, and long runs on the weekend. That’s it.

For previous half-marathons, I meticulously tracked my pace, my workouts, my diet and my outfits. My selfie ratios were off the charts. Now, my phone is filled with baby pics. Who wants to look at my sweaty face when there’s a much cuter one next to me?

After last weekend’s long run of 18.5 km, I came home utterly exhausted and slightly nauseated to find that my husband had been struggling getting our little guy down for a nap. And Silas had just fallen asleep when I walked in the door. That meant not only did I not see him all during the work week, but also during a two-hour training run, followed by a two-hour nap. And for what? To feel sore and cruddy for the rest of the day? Sometimes, it all feels like a #momfail.

All this to say that I don’t think I’ve fallen out of love with running. It’s still important to me. It’s a simple and efficient way to keep relatively fit. And I still crave the endorphins. And I love to race. But, like most things in my life, the priority has shifted. I’m still trying to figure it all out.

Next weekend, though, will be awesome. I’ve taken part in Marathon By the Sea every year since I started running in 2011 (except last year, when I had a newborn). This year’s half-marathon course is different, and, rumour has it, more challenging. I love running across bridges, and this one includes both the Reversing Falls Bridge and the Harbour Bridge.

I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Let those sea breezes blow.

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The Saint John Harbour Bridge

“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.

Two moms on a mission: the long run

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After a few weeks of less-than-stellar training, I credit Jackie for helping me get my butt in gear today.

This morning – two weeks before race day – we planned to try out the Lorneville Loop route. She suggested we meet up at 8 a.m. I agreed, although I was nervous about the early start and the chilly morning forecast. When my alarm went off just after 7, I was surprised that my nine-month-old boy was still asleep in his room. (He had woken up around 3 a.m. for a quick feeding). I shuffled around to make coffee and one slice of toast with honey, my favourite pre-workout fuel, and get dressed before breastfeeding him and getting out the door.

When Jackie came to get me, I could tell she felt nervous too. You see, our lives are pretty similar right now. We both have babies that are about nine months old and who don’t always feel like sleeping through the night. We also both ran half-marathons in October 2013, when our babies were just weeks along in pregnancy, and we’re both eager to get back into distance running.

We drove to Lorneville, which is at the western edge of Saint John, along the Bay of Fundy. It was cold, about -7 C, but the sun was brilliant and warm. We parked at a convenience store and headed out along Lorneville Road, which hugs the the coast for a few kilometres. There were a few big hills, but the scenery was stunning. The air was still and there was no traffic. We both reveled in the delights of running on bare pavement rather than the incessant treadmill on an early spring day.

As we looped back onto King William Road, my legs felt heavier and I couldn’t muster the energy to make conversation. I wanted to stop and walk but told myself to keep up with my friend. As we hit the 10 km mark, it was like my body knew we were headed in uncharted territory. I have not run that far for a year and a half. But we kept steady on the flat terrain and found our way back to the store. Jackie actually continued for another kilometre to make her run an even 14 km (she’s training for a half). I stumbled back to the car.

But, we did it! And at a decent pace, too at 6:28 min/km.

Not bad for two women who had babies nine months ago.

"RUN, MOM!"
“RUN, MOM!”