Snowflake Series 5K

Look, another race report! Can you tell I’m making up for lost time? This one is a little overdue, from Sunday, November 30th.

A friend recently told me about the Snowflake Series in Orillia offering “no frills” events November through January at a very reasonable cost ($15) and for a very good cause, too – all proceeds go to a local food bank.

Last Sunday hubs and I decided to do the first race in the series this season, a 5K. We ended up having a bit of a late night with friends on Saturday, and a few glasses of wine consumed on my part. I woke up Sunday morning with a pretty serious case of the “blahs.” I even tried to convince hubs not to go to the race at all! Needless to say, that didn’t work. I was feeling very lazy and not in the mood to race, but I tried to rally up some pep during the drive there and warm-up run.

We didn’t end up with any snowflakes that morning, but no complaints – it was a perfect mild November day with many runners in shorts and t-shirts (crops and long sleeve for me).

This event took “no frills” to a whole new level, with recycled bibs so every runner had a different one. They even had a bin of mis-matched safety pins that had also been recycled. Love it!

IMG_1741Ready or not, someone hollered “3, 2, 1, GO!” while starting the timer on her iPad (most casual race ever), and it was time to race!

The route was a lollipop on quiet, gently rolling streets along the lake. It was open to traffic, but we had a narrow lane separated by pylons and marked with several “Race in progress” signs. We were warned that we may need to yield to cars at intersections, but it wasn’t an issue at all.

UntitledBased on how I was feeling, I decided I was just going to try to hold a 5:00/km pace and hopefully squeak in under 25 minutes. That pace felt hard right out of the gates, and I was beginning to think the race was going to be a complete sh*t show. I was already thinking about how nice it would be to walk. (KM1-5:02, KM2-5:06)

There weren’t a lot of people around, but I ended up running alongside a couple of guys. One of them seemed to have people cheering for him and snapping photos around every corner, so I tried not to look too miserable. He must have been from the neighbourhood. I wondered if it was his first race, but didn’t have the energy to ask.

I finally found some pep in my step after the half way mark. (KM3-4:54) I suddenly realized the race was going to be over before I knew it, and I had some ground to make up if I wanted to finish under 25. (KM4-4:56)

With a kilometre to go, I looked ahead and tried to focus on chasing people down. I was pushing hard – puke threshold hard – but I was finally having some fun and internally shaking my head at having such a bad attitude earlier. I raced to the finish against a woman who had passed me at the beginning of the race and we crossed the line pylons side-by-side. (KM5-4:37)

24:35
61/183 overall
27/104 females
7/24 F30-39

There was a small spread of water, coffee and Timbits at the finish line. The organizers really did an awesome job and I definitely plan to participate in at least one more event of the series. Maybe next time there will be some actual snowflakes!

ImageOne more race left this year…

Whitby Waterfront 10K Race Report

On Sunday morning we drove to Whitby for the Waterfront Races as the wind blew and snow began to fall. This was a new-to-us race, although the venue was the same as the Furry Friends 5K. It was nice to take advantage of the indoor facilities before and after the race.

Hubs and our friend Marc were running the 5K (and rocked it in 18:52 and 18:54 respectively, finishing 4th and 5th overall), while I was running the 10. Both courses were out-and-back along the waterfront, heading in opposite directions on the mostly flat and winding path. After hiding out as long as possible, we eventually had to face the elements for a short warm-up. It didn’t feel too bad once we got moving, although the snow was blowing in our faces pretty badly in one direction. I was lucky that the 10K would head into the wind first, while the guys would have it for the second half of the 5K.

At 11am (gotta love a race start time that allows for sleeping in!), we were off. Based on my 10K three weeks ago at 53:31 and some recent workout results, I had settled on a 52 minute goal, or 5:12/km pace. Unlike last last 10K, I wanted to go out at pace rather than taking a couple of kilometres to slack off settle in.

We spread out almost immediately so I had plenty of space even on the narrow path. The wind was pretty strong, but the course changed direction frequently enough that it was never in my face for too long at a time. I felt like I was pushing an effort just beyond uncomfortable, which I’ve been practicing on my tempo runs and was exactly where I needed to be. The first few splits came in at 5:10, 5:08, 5:09, 5:07 and I decided to go with it. I got a boost heading toward the turn-around, clocking 5:03.

I started feeling an occasional wave of fatigue and the urge to slow down, worrying that I was going too fast and would suffer by the end, but I was able to push those doubts aside. It felt great to be on the way back and it was time to start counting down the kilometres. The next few splits were 5:04, 5:07, 4:59. Kilometre 9 was tough, being along a slippery board walk and with a heavy side wind. I remembered slowing down so much at this point in my last race and how much it pissed me off seeing that slower split, so that gave me enough oomph to push for a 5:06. Then it was time to find another gear for the last one – 4:47! I felt so strong and focused during that last kilometre, and thrilled to know I was about to crush my goal time.

50:40
(officially 50:44 since they recorded gun time only)
5:04/KM (8:09/mi)
2/35 F30-39
4/74 women
19/116 overall

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A big thank you to my friend Shannon along with her hubby and pup who came out on a cold and blustery morning to cheer me on. It was great to see them at the finish line!

The Return to Running

I was just clicking through my DailyMile logs and discovered that it’s been 22 weeks since I was able to start running again, after a 20-week layoff. I was actually shocked to learn that I’ve been running again longer than I wasn’t, because sometimes I still find myself walking on egg shells so to speak – that post-injury paranoia lingering and confidence taking a long time to re-build.

Hubs and I took the pups on a little trail run on Saturday, my first time off-roading it and risking an uneven surface this year. I put a compression wrap on my “bad” knee and said something along the lines of hoping it would hold up. Hubs’ response was, “There’s nothing wrong with your knee now.” And you know what? He is right!

IMG_1557For six consecutive weeks now I’ve been running ~50K (31mi) weekly mileage with long runs up to 18K (11mi), I’ve stopped avoiding hills, I’ve been incorporating tempo workouts for several weeks and I’ve raced a 10K, all without issue. So why do I still feel so insecure, as though I’m just waiting for the “bad” knee to flare up again? The short answer is that injury can mess with the head as much as the body. I returned to running very conservatively and I’m just realizing now that it has taken all this time (22 weeks!) to start feeling fairly confident that this injury is behind me for now.

All that being said, I wanted to document some “highlights” of my return to running. I had absolutely no races in mind, nor distance targets by a certain date. I was essentially winging it week-to-week, listening to my body and asking hubs’ opinion occasionally even though I knew I was building far more conservatively than he would.

  • My very first run (June 8th) was 2.4km of 1:1 run:walk intervals
  • I gradually increased the running intervals over 7 weeks before running continuously
  • I ran 3x per week for 7 weeks, increasing to 4 in week 8 (I didn’t run 5 days until week 17)
  • I did 5K for the first time in week 5, 6K in week 8, and started adding 1-2K to my “long” run each week after that
  • I ran 15K in week 15 (not planned…) and decided that I didn’t need or want to run too much farther than that any time soon but wanted to focus on making those distances more comfortable; since then I’ve maintained a long run in the 15-18K range (and they are becoming much more comfortable!)
  • In week 16 I tackled my very first “formal” workout (4 x 1000 tempo-ish); since then I have worked up to 4×2000 and 6K continuous, and the pace keeps dropping.
  • I reached 50K mileage in week 17 and decided that would be a good place to hang out for a while to establish a base
  • I raced the 10K at the end of week 20 – unknowingly commemorating that I had officially been running again longer than I hadn’t!

So what’s next? First up, I have another 10K this weekend. I’ve been feeling much stronger so I’m anxious to see some improvement (3 weeks since my last one). I was chatting with a friend this week who is also on the comeback trail and we agreed that there is a great silver lining to coming back from long term injury/down time/laziness/whatever. We get to re-live these milestones all over again, and enjoy this period where fitness seems to be coming back so quickly. I’ve had many fantastic runs recently that would have been just another run this time last year, but now they are OMG AWESOME!¬†and that is pretty neat to experience.

As I move forward in this re-build phase, hopefully gaining confidence and shedding doubts as I go, I have a few ideas for the remainder of this year. I plan to maintain my current weekly mileage and long runs, which I believe will give me a strong base to tackle a more formal training plan again (eeks!) in the new year. I will continue incorporating a workout every week, mostly tempos and hopefully seeing the pace improve at the same effort level. After the 10K this weekend, I have one more race planned – the (94th!!!) Boxing Day Ten Miler. I ran it in 2008 and 2010 and it’s a favourite. I wonder what my legs will be able to do by then?

Until next time!

MEC Barrie 10K Race Report

Last Saturday (October 25th) was my first running race all year! I hemmed and hawed for a while about whether or not I wanted to do it; looking back, I think I was insecure about my current fitness and ability to execute a race after so long (last non-tri race being December 2013). Ultimately, I decided to take the plunge. And I’m so glad I did!

In 7 years and 90+ races I have learned that every finish line is not going to bring a personal best or goal achieved; every start is not even guaranteed to bring a finish! It comes down to all the miles along the way, the great ones and the not-so-great, the ones that taught me something, the ones chatting away with friends and the ones alone in my head, the ones that made me want to fist pump in the middle of the street and even the ones where I stopped to lean against a hydro pole, pretending to stretch so I could catch my breath… these are what make it all worthwhile, what I missed so much when I could!not!run! and what brought me to this start line full of anticipation/hope/fear/excitement/nerves/wonder/joy. I never thought a local race for 15 bucks without chip timing or finisher’s medals could mean so much, but this time it did.

I drove up to the Oro-Medonte Fairgrounds in Barrie with hubs and the pups on a sunny and crisp fall morning. We arrived obnoxiously early in my usual fashion, which meant great parking, quick bib pick-up and no washroom lines. I had a chance to chat with a couple of friends who were there for the 5K, and eventually took off on a short warm-up.

IMG_1308I started adding a little workout each week in October, tempo-ish runs starting with 2K intervals and building to 6K continuous. I completed those at 5:20-5:25/KM and hoped I might be able to hold that pace for the 10K. Since this was still fairly new territory (recently, anyway) I decided to start on the conservative side and build to that pace. Truth be told, I may have chickened out slightly. No regrets, though – it was nice to start off relaxed without pushing too much right out of the gates.

20141025_131321757_iOSThe first 2 kilometres chimed in at 5:30 and 5:25, and then it was time to talk myself into dialing it up a notch. For the next 6K I maintained a pace in the 5:18-5:21 range, which was exactly where I hoped to be. I was feeling fairly comfortable and wondered a few times if I was slacking and should have been going faster. I decided to cruise until the turn-around and re-assess.

The course was a straight out-and-back with some long-ish gradual hills (just enough to remind me of my lack of hill fitness). I was running in a small group until the 5K water table where they all stopped for a break. From then on I was mostly on my own, zoned out and listening to music, sending some encouragement to runners still on their way to the turn-around. We had a noticeable headwind on the way back and it started getting harder to hold the pace. I focused on some runners up ahead and worked on gradually catching up, managing to pass a few.

The toughest KM was the 9th with the longest hill (and fatigue setting in). My watch beeped a 5:40 split, which ticked me off enough to chase down a 4:57 final KM.

Untitled53:31
5:21/KM
8:37/mi

It felt amazing to race again, to take a chance and see what the course, the weather, my legs and my mind had in store for me on this particular day. I crossed the finish line and bent over, hands on my knees as I huffed and puffed, thinking WOW, that was hard! and WOW, that was fun! simultaneously. Never mind that I’ve run multiple marathons at this pace or faster. On this day it didn’t matter what time was on the clock (okay, there wasn’t even a clock). What mattered was having the courage to line up and race again, phantom injury pains, self-doubt, an extra 20 lbs, previous personal bests be damned. And we’re just getting started!

Lakeside Sprint Triathlon – Race Report

I spent many months wondering when I would get to experience the joy of training and the thrill of racing again. It has been slow progress after being side-lined for the first half of this year, but I have been fortunate not to have any significant setbacks along the way. Last weekend I went for a bike/run brick, both at a quick (relative term) pace. I ended up with some discomfort in my right knee (the good one, go figure). It was tender and sore to walk up and down the stairs, but thankfully a couple days of rest/ice/foam rolling/Voltaren did the trick. I was still very paranoid and, as a result, only ran during race week. I wasn’t sure if it was the bike/run combo that aggravated it, the pace, growing pains or just a fluke, but I just hoped it wouldn’t flare up during or after the race (spoiler alert: it didn’t).

IMG_0668Saturday morning ended up being cold and rainy, one of those days where you don’t even want to leave the house… let alone race… let alone complete a triathlon! That being said, I was still more excited than anything. Nothing was going to get me down! Our friends U and P were kind enough to drive us to the site, about 2 hours away which gave me plenty of time to mull over wardrobe decisions. We arrived just before the rush, and I was able to pick up my race kit, timing chip and get body-marked with only short line-ups. I stayed bundled up in my winter coat, warm pants, fuzzy socks and rubber boots to stay somewhat warm and dry as I set up transition. My awesome support crew kindly schlepped my bags around for me and made sure I had everything I needed.

IMG_0669I laid my shoes, socks, gloves and jacket under the towel in the hopes that they would remain somewhat dry before I needed them. We hid out in the car for a bit longer before heading to the beach. I wet-suited up with help from my crew, but wasn’t ready to shed my fleece and boots yet!

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I hoped that stretcher wasn’t an omen!

Eventually I had to remove the extra layers and get into the water. It wasn’t as hard as I expected to get in, because it actually felt comfortable compared to the air. I hadn’t left myself much time for a warm-up swim, so I just swam out 10 strokes or so, took care of some last minute business (ahem), and swam back in to line up with my wave of all women <35.

There was the usual jostling and jockeying before the first buoy, but after a few scratches to the arms and kicks in the face I was able to find some room and settle in. The few open water swims I have completed recently have not felt great, so I was surprised at how good I felt once I got going. I was calm, breathing was okay and I seemed to be swimming reasonably straight. Before I knew it, I was climbing out on the beach. A sprint swim goes by so fast!

750m – 15:01 (10/24 AG)

I felt warm and didn’t bother with my socks and gloves, but I did throw on my wind-breaker. It felt like it took forever fumbling with my things, but based on the results I was faster than I thought.

T1: 1:24 (4/24 AG)

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Off onto the rolling bike course I went! It had finally stopped raining, so we just had wet roads to contend with and not rain drops pelting our faces. I was warming up quickly from the effort, thankfully, after a few moments of “Holy crap, I’m soaked through every layer and it’s freezing and brrrrrr!” The only part that stayed cold were my feet, which ended up numb throughout despite some toe-wiggling whenever I thought of it.

I was lacking oomph on the uphills and tried to make the most of the flats and downhill sections. All in all, I think I held my own out there on my hybrid – I even managed to pass a couple of people (of course a lot more were passing me). Several times someone would pass me only to settle in right in front of me going slower than I was. I know this happens to everyone, but it seems to happen a lot when I’m on my hybrid. I think people assume they must be going faster than me and pass, only to tuck in and slow down again.

Anyway! It was great to see Irina (who started in a later wave) catching up to me after the turn-around and she later passed me near transition. She seemed to be having a great race on her post-IM legs! Zoom, zoom!

IMG_0687Heading toward the dismount line, I got stuck behind this woman who started fumbling with her bike shoes as soon as the pylons started (pictured above) and continued wobbling around in front of me all the way in. It seemed like she was going to stop abruptly and/or fall over at any moment. Kind of frustrating, but what can you do? I think it would have been faster for her to just leave her shoes on. Okay enough ranting, I promise I was having fun! :)

20K – 45:21 (14/24 AG)

I had a super quick transition to the run since I didn’t have to switch shoes. Just racked my bike, tossed the helmet and grabbed a headband.

T2: 0:44 (2/24 AG)

My legs felt very tired but the bigger concern was that my feet were like blocks of ice. I clomped along hoping I wouldn’t mis-step until I gradually started feeling my toes one by one. Once feeling returned, I quickly realized that bare feet with my orthotics had not been a good idea. It wasn’t comfortable at all with water sloshing around in there, and I thought my heels were going to pop out the back. Lesson learned! In the future I can probably afford to go with my lighter shoes on a short distance, but I didn’t want to take any chances just yet.

The route was along a (hard-packed) dirt road so it became pretty messy out there and we were all covered in muck. There were a few gradual climbs which were a struggle since I have no fitness for hills right now. I felt like I was shuffling at times, but promised myself “no walking!” It was great to see Irina as well as her hubby out on the course again – my favourite thing about the out-and-back routes.

I admittedly had a couple of low moments of feeling out of shape, but quickly shook it off remembering how lucky and happy I was to be able to do this at all. Especially when I realized that both knees felt just fine! (I decided to tape up both knees in case my right knee was just getting jealous of all the attention that my left one had been getting, hehe.) I lived it up for the final kilometre and clocked my fastest split at 5:14. Bring on the finish line – it had been too long!

IMG_06935K – 28:19 (13/24 AG)

 Overall: 1:30:46, 13/24 AG

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