Wednesday, 29 November 2017

What a year 2017 was...

November 29, 2017

When I look back on this year's race season it wasn't what I expected.

I knew my recovery after the 100 Mile Race in November 2016 would be a long one. And with a lot of patience I eased back into running and had even started to feel I was recovered when this fall I spent a week in the cardiac unit of the hospital.

I don't know if we are ever really prepared to have health issues but that came at the end of the year so instead I'll focus on the good stuff.

With a lot of patience and not much running I managed to start and finish the Princess Half Marathon in Disney in February. It was surprisingly easy because I ran with gratitude and no expectations. I didn't race, heck I barely managed to run the whole way but I did and I celebrated every single mile.

Then in March, I had what was the BEST RACE EXPERIENCE of my running life. I participated in the Rift Valley Marathon (see photos below) in Kenya, Africa. I did a combination of running and walking and dropped down from the planned Marathon to the Half Marathon [I had registered for the marathon months before the 100 Mile Race so hadn't considered injury]. What a blast. I had the company of children the entire race. And by doing the Half Marathon I was able to sprint my finish to get to the line before the first MARATHON finisher. What can I say, they are fast in Kenya. My half marathon time barely beat their best marathoners time.

In April I competed with a team of women in New York City at the More Half Marathon. It was a bittersweet experience because we are all on Team Bethany which celebrated the life of a very good friend who had passed away unexpectedly. She had registered for the race before dying and we all went to complete it for her. I finished the last 100 meters of the race holding her young daughter's hand and it meant the world to me.

Much of the rest of the year was filled with Sole Sisters Women's Race activities. Our June 5K was a HUGE success as was our October Quarter & Half Marathon.

Unfortunately for me, I've had some very serious health issues that started the week before our October race. It certainly has made things more interesting!

And since I had already registered for two big races before my problems started, I am optimistic I will still be able to to participate in both of them: the Rift Valley Marathon in March 2018 and the Boston Marathon in April 2018.

And most exciting of all, I will be bring running supplies to a team of female runHERs (Sole Sisters Kenya) that are training in Kenya now. They'll have new shoes, watches and race entries to assist them in making it professionally. So regardless of my personal running, I know running will still be a big part of my 2018!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

December 14, 2016:

So here we are at the end of the race season and what a year it's been. I should have known this would be a special year when I met Paula Radcliffe in early January. As a super-fan I have to point out that I've talked to her at the London Marathon in 2004 and the NYC Mini Marathon in 2010 but this is the first time I was actually was introduced to her. I was part of a group of International Race Directors that met in Disney to talk about what we do, putting on races and Paula was our Guest of Honor.

After a couple of days of meetings we all finished up by participating in the Disney Half Marathon. I was ecstatic to have had a few opportunities to talk to my running idol. But, the absolute highlight was that I got to run just over a mile of the race with her. Oh my gosh, I raced with PAULA RADCLIFFE!!! I only wish I was fitter so I could have stayed by her side longer but she's a WORLD RECORD HOLDER and OLYMPIAN that even in casual mode is too fast for me!

But I had one thing on Paula, I am a drinker so it was with great pleasure that I exposed her to her first mimosa (EVER). See below!


Now back to running, not fan-stalking. Back in 2013 I did a 50 Mile (80K) ultra on a difficult trail that beat me up so much that it was a couple of years before I felt recovered. In fact it was only THIS year that I felt recovered and my race times started to show it. I was running very low mileage but I could still run under 20 minutes in the 5K if I was willing to work hard during the race. I did a couple of 10Ks but honestly was happy "just" (wait for why I say JUST) doing 5-8K three times a week.

But feeling good finally I decided I need to get back into distance running. So in July I decided to run a 100 mile race (160K). I guess feeling so fit, I felt that it was now or never. Since I knew I didn't have a lot of time before the race I wanted to do and since I didn't want to over-train. Remember my mileage was LOW, I decided to limit my training to 100 days. 100 days for a 100 mile race wouldn't work for many runners but I have 25 years of long distance base and felt I could make it work.

The plan was to do 4 marathons leading up to my 100 miler but not RACE any of them. This strategy of just doing the distance and not worrying about pace seemed to work very well for me. In fact I set my current Personal Best 5K time six days after a marathon (at 45 years old the 19:06 result is very likely as good as it gets and clearly showed that a marathon was not beating me up). And I got to travel to some amazing Canadian marathons including: the Nova Scotia Marathon in Barrington, Fiddler's Run Marathon in Cape Breton, the Victoria Marathon and the Prince Edward Island Marathon (back to back weekends I was on the WEST and EAST coast of Canada, how cool is that?).

On November 12, I lined up with 500 other runners to participate in the Tunnel Hill 50 and 100 Mile Race. Because of the layout of the course, you can drop down from the 100 mile race to the 50 mile race (and 100 runners did this on race day).

Having done a 50 Mile Race I knew that doubling the distance would be hard but I had no idea how hard. It was the fact that it would be hard that I looked forward to most. To see exactly how much I could take. Well, I found the first 50 miles to be FUN and FAST and that was despite the nastiest, most gruesome blisters of my life. I've lost toenails after marathons but never during them...

Unfortunately, despite the great fun of the first half of the race, the wheels did come off in the final 25 miles as I had injured both of my knees very significantly and probably should have stopped. Somewhere in the race I tore the Meniscus in my left knew, bruised the bone of my right leg, strained a muscle and developed and ruptured a bakers cyst in my right knee (and that is just what we found in my knees... don't get me started on my left hip and both hip flexors).

Of course I wouldn't stop. In the longest, toughest race of my running career I would not stop. In the end I finished the 100 miles in 21:33:16 and was the 7th place female. Was it as hard as I thought it might be. YES. It absolutely was.

I think that 100 mile race was my Everest and I will NOT be looking for bigger, harder challenges. I can't. I have done enough and now I really need to heal. Did I mention that I've been treated and I will have a minimum of three months of no running. Well as they say, pain is temporary and pride is forever. But it's gonna be a long 3 months!

Now as I look back at my athletic feats it's hard to say what I am most proud of but I can distill it down to four events and one led to the next.

Ironman World Championships - I proved if you run FAST enough you can get to the big stage and this was the first truly out-of-my-league-can-I-really-do-that-goal. Once I got this I went for the rest!

Sub 3 marathon - I knew I had the speed to run sub 3 but it takes much more than fast running to execute the perfect marathon it also takes LUCK and in my 30th marathon I FINALLY got that lucky.

Swimming from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island - I have always been the slowest swimmer I know and I detest cold water so this was an incredible accomplishment for me!

Running Tunnel Hill 100 - since it took 21:33:16 to cover my 100 miles, this is the biggest one and the longest! And well, I suppose the most impressive. Now I get to rest right?

So in 2016 I ran a race with Paula Radcliffe AND I ran a 100 mile trail run. Both of those things were pretty special and proved to be the perfect book ends for a wonderful racing season!  What does 2017 have in store for me?

Thursday, 31 March 2016

March 31, 2016 - the problem with only writing a post once a year is that it is really hard to know exactly where to begin!

There were many races in 2015 from 5K to the marathon and many different tutus. Few things make running as much fun as running (or dancing or leaping) in a tutu!

As the veteran of 50 marathons, it takes a pretty unique event to get me excited to do another 26.2 miles.  But, I found two unique and fun marathons that I couldn't resist doing.  I didn't train for either as I was focused on swimming so that made them "interesting" to see when the wheels would fall off. 

  • Loonie's Midnight Marathon started at midnight late July in Tennessee!  Ever do a race that was in the 90s with equal humidity? It was crazy hot, even to me and I usually like heat. I had to take my tutu off and basically took off everything that wasn't essential to keep some level of modesty in place. The heat added a brutal dimension to the race but the darkness and sheer strangeness of starting at midnight was really fun!
  • Beat the Berch was a trail marathon that took place in Carnation, Washington in September.  Just imagine water stops that included couches, birthday cake and twinkies. It was crazy and awesome all in one. 
But the true highlight of my 2015 season was raising funds for Camp Brigadoon and swimming from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island as a participant in the BIG SWIM.  The ocean crossing took me six hours and two minutes and I loved every single minute of it.  I am as proud of that swim as I have ever been about any Ironman or Marathon. I am not a natural swimmer and it took my complete focus and dedication to do that ocean swim. Trust me folks, the bigger the goal the greater the pride!

And now we are up to 2016. Well this year is already made because I was invited to Disney to participate in a Race Director Series. Along with my husband we were the only Canadian Race Directors invited. Wow. Talk about an honor. Does anyone do running events as good as Disney? Well these are the World Majors Marathon race directors (BOSTON, BERLIN, TOKYO, NEW YORK, CHICAGO... and Sole Sisters!). To be recognized with this group of the very best was such a treat. Couldn't get any better...

And then it got even better.  I placed in the special Race Director category and look who is giving me my award. That is Jon Hughes (Disney Race Director) and Paula Radcliffe.  I actually ran just over a mile with Paula in the Half Marathon and it was a DREAM COME TRUE.

Now I am busy planning the race season because Sole Sisters is celebrating its 5th Anniversary and we are  now a Race Series complete with GIRLS ONLY RACES, our popular 5K and the only women's only Quarter & Half Marathon in Eastern Canada.  No resting over here!  Hope to see you at the races.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

One week from today I will be running in the OAK BARREL Half Marathon in Lynchburg, TN.

I am going home (Nashville is about an hour from Lynchburg) to escape the Nova Scotia snow and to see my family.   This has been a BUCKET LIST RACE for me since it started in 2012. 

Since I am not doing the Boston Marathon this year, I decided to finally punch my ticket to this must do race.  As a gal from Tennessee and an absolute lover of all things Jack Daniels... well, I am pretty excited!

I have toured the distillery three times but am gonna lose my mind when I see this sign for ME!

The hill on the half marathon course is so nasty it has a name and its own facebook page - ugh, well HILLs don't scare me!

February 20-22, 2015 - FIVE races THREE days, ONE tutu, ONE birthday! 

Disney Princess Frozen 5K; Gasparilla Distance Classic: 15K, 5K, 21K and 8K

For the last 5 years, I have celebrated my birthday by going down to the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, Florida.  Perhaps it's because winter in Nova Scotia is a challenge. Or maybe it's because the race always falls on my birthday weekend? But, its become an annual event for me.  I love the medals, the pirates, the costumes, the 4 races in 2 days format.   Full disclosure, three years ago in an homage to Gasparilla I created a local pirate themed race weekend that "borrowed" the best elements that Gasparilla exposed me too! I am no longer the Race Director for that event here in Nova Scotia but I still go to Gasparilla... guess we really do hold on to our favorites.

This year presented a different set of circumstances for me as I have been dealing with a back injury that has limited my training.  I could have opted out of one of the four races (I have a tendency to Go Big or Go Home) but I decided to change my expectations and I even added a 5K at Disney the Friday before race weekend.  The only other time I did a Disney race it was horribly cold. Guess what happened this trip? It was insanely cold... go figure... Florida in February and I really wished I had gloves and pants.  But, I got to race the day before my birthday.  I couldn't pass up that opportunity. 
Leaping at the end of the Disney Frozen 5K - Friday, Feb 20, 2015
I decided that I would go as slow as I needed and accept that I wasn't going to be competitive.  Historically, I have raced well at Gasparilla.  Really well.  In 2012, I won the Ultra Challenge meaning I was the fastest woman to cover the four races: 15K, 5K on Saturday and 21K, 8K on Sunday.  That's 49 Kilometers over 2 days and I would be tackling that event again in 2015 on minimal training...

1st race on birthday = 15K
2nd race on my birthday (it's my BIRTHDAY!) = 5K
Previously, participation had never been the goal in Tampa. I wanted to win or win my age-group. But,  life throws us curve balls so I decided that being able to run/jog and cover the distance would be my PB ("personal best" this year). A little perspective goes a long way. I really would be grateful to just cover the distance in any particular time!

First race = 21K

2nd race = 8K 
I wish I could say that it easy because I wasn't racing.  Nope. I took the pressure off myself to perform and win (because that wasn't gonna happen) and I wore my beloved tutu.  But, I still had to cover a lot of miles.  Since it was 5 races in 3 days I can honestly say that sometimes it was really fun. Sometimes it was really hard.  But, overall it was all I hoped it would be. I FINISHED each race with a smile and actually lept for joy in every single race. Thank you Disney and Gasparilla for giving me the best birthday present I could imagine.   I'll be back next year.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

RUNNING USA 2015, a race director's conference, took me to New Orleans ("NOLA") from February 7-11, 2015. Not a bad time to be away from winter in Nova Scotia and a great start to the Mardi Gras festivities.  I knew there would be some running with the conference but was excited to find a local 5K race. The 504K benefited youth running in NOLA and had about 1,000 participants.  I ran the event with my friend from college (her first time in a tutu) and we happily jogged the event with no stress or pressure to race it!  I don't even have our finish times.  But I do have a picture.  Don't you just love the tutus?  I can't wait to see 2,500 tutus on the gals of Sole Sisters Women's Race this June. 

As I ran back to the hotel to get ready for the conference, I stumbled upon a parade in progress. I went over to watch the parade and was immediately showered with beads. The ones that were put around my neck were nice, the ones that came flying at me were a bit scary. What can I say? Tutus make a girl very popular. Don't believe me? Then look at all my beads. I didn't do anything for them but stand by the parade route, honest!

We ran 5K each morning and the route took us along the Mississippi River and back down Bourbon Street. The roads were clear as we were out very early so it was fun to take over the roads. But my last night in NOLA I decided to join a local running group, HAPPY'S RUNNING CLUB that has the philosophy: Run... drink... and be happy! The 5K route would take us through the active streets of NOLA in the evening.  I had to do a lot of dodging the tourists on Bourbon Street which is hard for a runner used to moving in one plane. But it was fun. I took all the beads I had been given over the weekend and gave them out as I ran.

I highly recommend NOLA as an absolutely amazing vacation destination. There are many runners and a vibrant racing community. If you are looking for more information on the running scene go to the New Orleans Track Club website.

I love all the adventures that running brings me.  Last month it was the Bermuda Challenge!  This month was New Orleans and before the month ends, I'll be off to Orlando (Disney's Princess 5K) and Tampa (Gasparilla Distance Classic). Yep, that is 5 races over 3 days for a total of 54 Kilometers.  That's a lot but it is my annual birthday race weekend and I get to do 2 of the races on my actual birthday!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

There is a saying that "fast girls have good times" and until April 2014 I felt that the fun part of that quote meant I was going faster than most other women (and men for that matter). But something happened that made me take myself far less seriously. Perhaps you heard about it? A magazine made fun of a woman wearing a tutu (and a costume and battling cancer but they didn't mention that part). The magazine writer made fun of all the silliness that some folks have while running.  It wasn't even a running magazine but they were judging and they were judging harshly. As the race director for Sole Sisters Women's Race and founder and head coach of Girls Gone Gazelle Run Club I know how important it is to encourage other girls and women. Not tear them down.  We have to be there for each other and we have to stop these stupid magazines from making us feel anything other than beautiful. Exactly the way we are.

What right did they have to say that running could only be serious and that if you weren't fast you shouldn't be running?   Ugh, it made me mad.   Really mad.  So mad that I didn't want to be one of those overly serious runners who sees costumes and tutus and makes an evaluation about what sort of "good time" that person would or would not have.  I have always encouraged girls and women to run but it didn't occur to me that wearing a tutu might be fun while running. That a shout of "Go Tutu Girl" might be just what someone needs to hear when running gets hard.

So I wore a tutu (furnished by Lisa of Tutus On The Run) in a local race shortly after "tutu-gate" and I planned to just jog it but the tutu got me attention. Lots of attention. And despite myself I still ran under 20 minutes for the 5K that I was "only" going to jog. Wait? Fun and fast?  Then the next weekend I ran another 5K and I won it. What? I won a race wearing a tutu. That was it. I was going to wear a tutu for all my races in 2014.  

Full disclosure, I didn't win all the races I entered after the initial tutu success (just one more). And I didn't always run fast but I can honestly say that I have never had so much fun running and that I really did learn how to have a good time.  Finally, after 26 years of running I learned something new.  Fun is not easily defined and it varies for everyone but if you run in a tutu you will not take yourself seriously and you'll be much more open to fun and to awesome cheers/compliments.

So for 2015 I am taking the tutu to the next level.  As the Race Director I decided to give the first 2,000 registered Sole Sisters Women's Race participants a tutu (but 2,500 will actually get a tutu, so there are another lucky 500!) and I am going to keep running in tutus this year.  This was taken last week at the Bermuda Triangle Challenge (3 races in 3 days) and the tutus were very popular.  So much so that I made it in the paper! Oh and running in shorts in January was pretty sweet too!