Long Overdue Update

Happy (belated) New Year! 2013 had its share of ups and downs, but ended on a very positive note when my brand new nephew (first baby in the family!) arrived just in time for Christmas.

Wolf Levon was the best gift ever and made the holidays extra special. He is the light of our lives!

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photo 2Wolf was born just days before the ice storm, which left most of my family without power for several days. We were fortunate and had plenty of warmth to share, so the entire gang moved in. I didn’t mind one bit!

IMG_6639Of course we all had quite a bit of cabin fever after being cooped up during the miserable weather. Thankfully we were able to get some fun runs in with friends, even when the conditions were less than favourable. I logged my coldest run possibly ever with a wind chill of -38C (-36.4F). Ski masks saved the day!

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We also added a new, unexpected, member to the family over the holidays. We had to take Miles in for the ol’ snip-snip and he made a friend while at the clinic. Meet Marlowe:

IMG_6572She is a ~4-year-old mixed breed rescue who was fostered by our vet and has been looking for a forever home. How could we turn her down when her name fits so well? ;) We actually declined at first but couldn’t stop thinking about her, and ended up going back to see her again. Then, once Miles had fully recovered from his operation, we brought her home for a “trial.” Needless to say, she’s been with us ever since.

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Just think of all the shenanigans these two can get into together!

Marlowe has had a rough history and was very nervous and skittish at first. She definitely needs a bit of extra TLC, but she warmed up very quickly and has made herself perfectly comfortable in her new home. Most importantly, she and Miles are the best of friends.

IMG_6612And yes, she will definitely be joining the running pack this spring!

IMG_6688Speaking of which, in less happy news, I am unfortunately on the injury bench again. I will save that for another post – and I’ll try not to wait another month to update!

Annual Christmas RUNch

Yesterday we enjoyed one of my favourite holiday traditions — my running group’s 5th Annual Santa RUNch!

1454956_10153649900735454_572075177_nWe all get dressed up in festive costumes and go for a run around town jingling all the way. We had a snow storm overnight Saturday so we were in for quite a mess Sunday morning, but that didn’t stop us from a big turn-out and a great time as always.

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Quite a change from last year’s very green conditions:

photo-8-CopyIt was extra fun this year since everyone was out shoveling their driveways and cheering us on as we trudged through the snow. It’s impossible not to smile as cars toot their horn or roll down their windows to shout “Merry Christmas!” when they pass by. How could you not have fun looking like this?

UntitledMany of us did a 10K loop while others continued on for more. I decided it was best to stop since I was a little worried that the slippery footing would aggravate my IT band (which, thankfully, has been cooperating). Besides, it felt like we had run much farther than that anyway!

Once we had all returned and used up our host’s hot water supply, we indulged in a delicious potluck spread including turkey and all the fixins you could imagine.

photo 4Finally, we all settled around the tree for a hilarious White Elephant gift exchange.

photo 3All in all, a fantastic way to spend a snowy Sunday in December!

An Update + Santa Shuffle Race Report

My lack of posting recently is directly proportional to my lack of running, unfortunately. Almost a month ago, I had to stop abruptly mid-run when I had a sharp pain in my quad/IT area. It caused an immediate limp and I was forced to walk back for the first time I can remember – ever. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but realistically it was probably an issue that had been building over time. I swear, I get all kinds if ‘niggles’ when I scale the running way back, as opposed to during peak training. It’s like my body finally has a chance to breathe and say “whoa!”

Anyway, after several chiro and physio treatments, extensive foam rolling in between and more days off than I’ve taken in five years (gasp!) I think I am finally out of the woods.

And I’m back with a vengeance! Ok not really, more like back with very cautious optimism and a conservative return to running.

I’ve been extremely fortunate in my running career that I’ve almost never been forced to take time off (and when I have, it’s been a result of something un-running-related, like a ski injury, infected toe, etc.) so this has scared me into being extra careful moving forward. I’m just glad it happened now so I could nip it in the bud during the off season and hopefully put it all behind me long before tackling neck year’s big goals.

So although I may not be back with a vengeance, I am back with a quick race report.

Hubs and I (and Miles) did the Santa Shuffle 5K in Whitby on Saturday because I had a friend doing her first ever race (way to go, Sarah!) and a couple of other friends who I don’t get to see very often were running as well. It’s not chip timed since it’s considered a fun run, but it’s not a bad deal for $25 with a little goodie bag and a cute medal.

Saturday turned out to be freezing and windy, but thankfully sunny. Unfortunately the race started about 10 minutes late, so we were all shivering like crazy at the start line. Finally, we were off.

I knew I had to keep it on the easy side since I’m being mindful of the IT band. Miles was running with me too, which I figured would help me keep things in check. I started at a pace that just felt like I was working a bit hard and gradually got faster – paying close attention to make sure my leg wasn’t talking to me. It felt fine – phew. We were running on a mostly flat paved trail through a park and it was actually a great route. I saw that hubs was in 4th place as we crossed paths with the lead runners.

I paid attention as we neared the turn-around and knew I was 3rd female and Miles was the 1st dog. :) Sure it was just a fun run, but it’s fun to place – even unofficially. As we passed all of the other runners on the way back, we got so many awesome comments. Everyone just loved Miles and his jingle bell collar.

I’m very surprised at the pace I was able to maintain fairly comfortably, given the lack of training recently. I guess you could say I was very well rested.

I managed to negative split each kilometre, even though I wasn’t paying attention to it at the time. I could see the 2nd place female ahead in the final straight-away, which gave me enough of a push to chase her down and pass with about 500m to go.

4:59, 4:51, 4:43, 4:37, 4:23
(+17 seconds for the extra 70m as per Garmin)

1464117_10153619799895454_1724273925_nThey announced “2nd female, 1st dog!” as we finished (Sarah ended up collecting my silver medal for me later since we couldn’t stay – I didn’t even expect them to do awards). Hubs ended up finishing in 4th with a time around 20:20 (interestingly he ran a 10K last weekend in 40:40). It was great to see my friends finish as well. All in all, it was a fun morning and a good run.

23:50
4:46/KM (7:40/mi)

IMG_8875Best part is, my leg felt fine with just some tenderness in my quads later on from pounding the pavement much faster than I have been recently. I was able to join my running group for a 14K long(ish) run the next day without any issues since. Hooray!

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Race Report

I stared at the flashing cursor for a long time trying to decide where this story should start. In January when my world turned upside down and my husband went into rehab for drug and alcohol addiction? In April when the bombings occurred and I vowed to do whatever it took to earn my way back to Boston? In May when I finally allowed myself to admit that my heart was no longer in it and bowed out of Ironman Lake Placid? Or on Sunday morning as I toed the start line of a marathon for the 12th time, unsure of what the day would bring but proud of every step that brought me there.

Most of you will be surprised by one piece of that story (although you may remember this post). It’s not something I have shared publicly outside of close friends and family, and I do so now only with Mark’s blessing of course. I won’t go into details except to say that he went through a very dark period last year but had the courage to face his demons and turn his life around completely. Through all the ups and downs of the last 9+ months, I can easily say that we have both become stronger individuals in the process, and stronger as a couple. I think anyone would agree that this makes Mark’s recent 3:11 marathon comeback even more meaningful and impressive.

1237062_10153313653640454_1146484475_nSo, this year has been a long and curvy road with its fair share of challenges and a lot of uncertainty. This might offer a better explanation for how much my priorities shifted and why I struggled so much with motivation and commitment to training. Running took a backseat and combined with spending the previous year running marathons exclusively for fun, I had a long way to go. I needed the break, but the time eventually came when I woke up and realized that something was missing and I no longer felt like “me.” I needed to have a direction again. I missed the rush that comes from crossing a finish line knowing I had given it all I had, not only that day but in all the weeks of training leading up to it. And I wanted, more than anything, for running to feel good again.

And so began the long road back. It was a slow and somewhat demoralizing process to start, but I kept my focus, stayed positive and gradually started seeing the results. There were times that I wondered how or even if I would run a 50 mile week, finish a long run feeling strong, reach my tempo run targets or keep up with my running buddies again. I couldn’t have done it without their support, as well as all the support I have received from my “virtual” running buddies near and far. Thank you all for finding ways to lift me up when I was feeling down on myself. It also helped that Mark was on a similar path of building back so we faced challenges together and shared the milestones along the way.

Looking back at where I started when I officially decided to train for this marathon, I had no idea what to expect in terms of results. Ultimately I was looking for a “comeback marathon” as a springboard into next year where big goals await. I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any records, but that I could make big strides and find my way as a runner again – which I have. After spending most of the summer working on building my endurance back up with little focus on pace, it was only in the last few weeks that I started to think about possible goal times and talked to anyone who would listen as I tried to figure it out. I finally settled on 3:45 based on my recent half marathon and a few pace-focused training runs. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the goal since I would typically have weeks and weeks of training runs geared toward “race pace”, but I believed it was a possibility. There was only one way to find out.

It was a good day for running with temps of about 5–10C (41-50F) throughout the race, although the sun made it feel quite a bit warmer. I was glad I decided on wearing shorts and a t-shirt (with throwaway sleeves thanks to $1.50 kid-sized leg warmers – they were gone by 5K). There was a headwind forecasted for the tail end of the race, which is typical at Scotia.

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We were there way early in my usual fashion and kept warm in the car for a while before heading to the starting area. A few photo ops, a couple of bathroom stops (not at the same time) and before long, the corrals were already filling up. Is it me, or does time go by unusually fast on race morning? I said my goodbyes to Mark and Miles and made my way toward the front of the yellow (2nd) corral. Each corral started as a separate wave 5 minutes apart, which helped a lot with crowding. It was busy, but I never really had trouble finding space so I was able to find my own pace pretty easily.

earlyI was aiming for a 5:20/KM (8:34/mi) pace, but seemed to keep drifting closer to 5:15 if I didn’t pay close attention. I knew I had to be careful since I felt that 3:45 was just within reach, and continuously tried to reel it in. I felt comfortable so eventually I stopped trying to force the slightly slower pace and just went with the flow.

MapI really enjoy the Scotia course, this being my 6th time running either the half or full, even though it has changed slightly almost every year. I find it easy to break up into sections mentally, from the initial loop around downtown streets to the long out-and-back on Lakeshore, through the Commissioners Street area then heading east in the beaches for another out-and-back, and then suddenly you’re on your way back into the city for the finish (if only it were that easy…).

TMAQ1163I found there was a lot of great crowd support throughout almost the entire race this year and there was always something to look at. Some memorable signs that caught my eye: “Your pace or mine?”; “Run like someone called you a jogger”; “Sketchy street. Run faster.”; “I have all my toenails. Do you?” It was nice to see Mark and Miles waiting at 6K for a quick wave.

10K split: 52:49 (overall average pace 5:17/KM, 8:30/mi)

We were running into the sun after the 12K turn-around and I started feeling warm (I won’t say hot). Even at about 10 degrees (50F), the sun always takes its toll on me and it felt much warmer. Just looking at some of the people around me wearing pants and jackets was making me sweat. I carried my handheld water bottle, which I refilled on the run several times, and tried to remember to sip at every KM marker. I took salt at the start and every hour thereafter, and gels every 8K as per my usual plan.

TMBV2328At about 20K we split from the half marathoners, which is always a good “Booyeah!” moment. I felt great running under the “MARATHON” arch, also wondering what the rest of my day would bring. There is still a lot of uncertainty at this point in the race, but I reminded myself to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of myself.

arch21.1K split: 1:51:02 (overall average pace 5:16/KM, 8:28/mi)

Mark and Miles were waiting again at 22K – I could see them sitting on the ground as I approached, but luckily they got up off their butts up before I ran by. Spectating is hard work! Mark had a water bottle for me, which I used to refill my handheld – much easier/quicker than doing so at a water station. I started feeling a bit tired through this stretch, although it seemed to come and go in waves. One moment I would feel like I was really dragging and the next I felt like a million bucks again. So, I just tried to stop thinking about it and keep running. I knew it was normal to be tired, and told myself “You’re fine. You’ve got this.”

TMBR1475My friend George surprised me and jumped in somewhere around 26K to keep me company for a couple kilometres. I told him that I wasn’t feeling particularly chatty, but I appreciated the company and listened to him chat away while taking some pictures.

fake it til you make it

fake it til you make it

It helped carry me to the turn-around point at 29K. The wind was there as expected after the turn, but I actually enjoyed it for its cooling effect this year. I knew we were now heading back toward the finish, even if it was a long way to go. It gave me a bit of a boost, although I wished I was feeling stronger at this point.

30K split: 2:38:08 (overall average pace 5:16/KM, 8:28/mi)

I won’t say the wheels came off, but some bolts started feeling loose after 32K. I allowed myself a quick walk (my first) in the hopes that it would help me collect myself, but it actually made me feel worse. I went from consistently pacing under 5:20/KM to 5:44, 5:33, 5:40, 5:45. I quickly became discouraged and disappointed, so it only got worse from there.

TMAM338935K split: 3:06:09 (overall average pace 5:19/KM, 8:33/mi)

6:06, 5:40, 5:33. I let my head get the best of me and it was a slip ‘n’ slide of negative thoughts. I cursed myself for running the first half too fast or even believing I could run a 3:45. I gave Mark a big thumbs down when I saw him at 36K and whined “I’m tired.” I remember the look on his face and it clearly said “So what? You’re supposed to be!” Ha! Good point. I tried to turn things around and flooded my head with all the positive energy I could muster.

copyThis part of the course was a new addition this year, with a bit of a loopy out-and-back from 36-40K. On the map it looked completely convoluted and confusing, but it wasn’t nearly as bad in person. I actually enjoyed the break from running essentially in a straight line for so long and it was good knowing that after this section, I would be at 40K.

Something seemed to help, because I finally managed to turn things around and found a second wind by 39K. I picked my pace right back up to 5:15-5:20 for those last 3KM, which tells me that it was a mental battle I had succumbed to and not a physical one. It has been two years since I’ve raced a marathon for a time goal so I wonder if I had just forgotten how hard it is and gave up too soon. When I wasn’t feeling just peachy at 32K, I let the doubts get the best of me.

TMBJ373340K split: 3:34:55 (overall average pace 5:22/KM, 8:38/mi)

I noticed my time at the 40K mats and it was only one second off my finish time (and PR) at this race two years ago. I still had 2.2K to go, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s the importance of acknowledging how far I have come as opposed to how far I have to go. I actually really enjoyed those last 2K. It felt like a true victory lap for the past 22 weeks of training and everything that has happened over the past year.

Thanks, Kenny!

Thanks, Kenny! I think I’m saying “That was so hard!”

Kenny was waiting somewhere along here and jumped in with me, yelling “Welcome back!” I welled up a bit and started looking for Mark who was waiting at the last turn before the home stretch. No thumbs down this time!

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Despite missing the 3:45 mark, I am nothing but proud of this result and everything it took to get there. I earned some more experience, learned a bit more about myself in the process and savoured the joy of the marathon finish line once again.

Finish3:46:28
1072/3655 overall
226/1272 females
44/206 F30-34

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