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Archive for May, 2013

It certainly has been a busy few weeks. On April 27th I ran the 5K Ford Race to End Diabetes in Oakville. That was followed by the Mississauga Marathon (Half) the next weekend. May 12th brought the TREAD 6-Hour Relay in Mansfield, Ontario and last weekend was Outdoor Adventure Canada’s Annual Spring Outdoor Gathering. In the midst of all of this I am trying to finish the manuscript for my third book. Life has been hectic but, finally, I have a few minutes to write about my experience at TREAD.

all bundled up

all bundled up

Although it was a significant challenge for me, I had such a blast last year that I decided to run it again this year and what an adventure it was!

We had two teams. Kristin was the team captain of the first team, Soles of Anarchy, which also included Mandi, Kim, and Jenn. Bryan was our team captain and he ran with Mary, Tobias, and I. Our team name was Between a Walk and a Hard Pace.

Our plan was to arrive Friday and camp for the weekend as we did last year. The rest of the group would arrive at various times throughout the weekend. The forecast wasn’t great so we packed accordingly. We arrived in Mansfield in the fog and drizzle. There were some gusty winds and it was cold enough that I put on my winter jacket. The gusts were so strong on Saturday night that Kim’s vestibule blew in and Bryan had to go out an put the big stakes in the dining shelter. The weather was in complete contrast to the heat and humidity of the previous year. Miserable would be an understatement here.

mother nature's hissy fit

mother nature’s hissy fit

Sunday morning arrived as did the rest of the runners. There were about 80 people running TREAD this year—way down from the previous year. We were disappointed that the vendors and live music were not there. Also, there were no t-shirts for the participants and the race kit was merely the race bib and a package of coffee beans. That was quite a let-down especially since many were running this as their first race and it would have been nice for them to have some sort of memento.

Let’s get to the race, shall we. Mary ran for our team first and did an amazing job. I ran next followed by Bryan and finally Tobias. Mary completed two laps as did I. Bryan ran three laps and Tobias ran one. We were running in sun, wind, hail, ice pellets, snow, rain, and drizzle. Mother Nature was definitely having a hissy-fit.

My first lap went well and I was enjoying the run because, frankly, it was the only way I could stay warm. The second lap proved a little more eventful. The snow and ice-pellets were coming down like crazy and there was a good headwind on that first and very long hill. Apparently I can’t tell a simple left arrow from a right arrow and my error lead me down the wrong hill. When I got to the bottom I was thinking “I remember it being much more steep than that” and I as I looked back from where I came I saw another runner going the right way. Oops.

Kim’s friend, Erik, ran the solo course. That man is totally hardcore.  Richard, Mary’s Dad, came out as well and dedicated Dad that he is, he took photos of his daughter and the rest of us. Thanks to Richared for braving the elements and keeping our spirits up.

finishing one of my laps

finishing one of my laps

So how did we do?

Soles of Anarachy placed 1st in the all-female category and made it to the “podium”. They were awesome! Between a Walk and a Hard Pace didn’t fare as well and we came in 11th but we were totally okay with that because the goal was to have fun.

Last year my lap times were 44:03 and 48:51. This year my times were 42:32 and 45:48. I lost a little time on the first lap because of the chip handover—Mary had a hard time getting the loop off her wrist because I made it too small. Getting lost on the second lap didn’t help my time much. However, even with the hiccups, my total time improved by 4:30 which is great considering I hadn’t done the extent of hilly trail training that I did before last years event, the wind kept me up all night, and I had run a half marathon a mere week before.

Mary’s laps were 30:06 and 30:36. Bryan ran each of his three laps between 26:00 and 26:55 and Tobias’ lap was 38:00. I was very happy for Mary as this was her first event and she rocked it. I was proud of Tobias too. He had been having a rough time with his allergies and it was a tough run for him. The weather certainly didn’t help. Bryan, as always, held a consistent pace and ran strong.

Despite the weather this was still great fun and I’d love to do it again next year, maybe even solo. However, rumor has it that this was the last year for TREAD. I hope that isn’t true because it is one of my favorite events.

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no longer a sofa spud

from class III obesity to half marathon

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Are you comfortable?

first half marathon

first half marathon

Do you have a nice warm beverage and perhaps a snack?

I only ask because this is going to be another long post.

I’ve done something, that if you had told me a year ago I would do, I would have said “impossible” or laughed hysterically. If you had told me a decade ago that I’d do this, I might have thought you had bats in your belfry and recommended that you seek some professional help. Yet here I am today, sharing the journey of my first half marathon with you. Back in October when I made the decision to sign up for the 10th Anniversary Mississauga Marathon it seemed so very far away and there were times where I felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew. 21.1K seemed daunting, to say the least. However, I had a dream to complete a half marathon and yesterday I finally made that a reality.

I trained hard. I gave up leisurely weekends for long distance training runs. I managed to train without injury. I watched my nutrition carefully. I kept logs of what I ate and how it affected my training and my blood sugar. I dealt with dehydration and low sodium levels and life getting in the way. A week before the race I had to abort a long run because of hypoglycemia. Being diabetic sucks. That rattled me big time and I almost threw in the towel. I wanted to give up and I was in tears over what happened that day. Yet, with stubborn determination and some pretty terrific people supporting me, I picked myself up, dusted off, and made it to Mississauga for race day on Sunday May 5, 2013.

gathering of friends

gathering of friends

After attaching the timing chip to my right running shoe and gathering everything I thought I needed for the race, I scanned the hotel room one last time. My husband Bryan, who was also running his first half, and I arrived at a parking lot near the start line a few minutes after 6 am. We started making our way to link up with our friends as well as some people Bryan and I had become acquainted with on dailymile during training. We took a group photo, visited the port-a-potty, and then made our separate ways to the start line. It was a fabulously sunny day and I, to my surprise, wasn’t really nervous. Odd that.

It’s hard to find words to describe the vibe of everyone being gathered at the start with the common goal of wanting to do our best in the race. Here I was standing with close to 3400 other participants in the biggest and longest race I had ever been to. There was such a positive energy about the place. I couldn’t get over the sheer number of people. I couldn’t even see the beginning of the start line through the throng. We paid our respects to Boston, the Mississauga Mayor said a few words, and the next thing I knew the gun went off and the race had started. Getting to the actual start after the race began took just over three minutes. I couldn’t help but think of it like a major highway during rush hour. Stop and go!

My friend Carla had been offering to run with me for weeks and I told her “I’ve got this, so go at your own pace.” However, she insisted and we were off and running. It was one of the sweetest things someone has done for me and I appreciated the company. Like a typical rookie, I got caught up in the excitement and went out too fast for my first 4K or so. That made the last few that much more difficult but I’ll get to that later.

I had a few issues at the beginning with my iFitness hydration belt. I suspect that it was because I had filled the bottles to the brim with ice cold water which was now warming up and expanding. I’d get the odd squirt in the elbow. It wasn’t bad when it was plain water but the electrolyte/carb drink was sticky. Once I drank a little out of the bottles the problem resolved. It was getting considerably warmer and the route was fairly sunny which made me glad that I had opted to wear sunscreen. My shoes, even though on the older side, felt good and I had made the right clothing choices.

enjoying the journey

enjoying the journey

The day was perfect and the half marathon wound through gorgeous tree-lined neighborhoods and Mississauga’s U of T campus. There was one point where I saw a gorgeous little trail leading off into the woods and I remarked to Carla how much I would love to be running a trail. Some people sat outside of their houses, cheering people on. Suddenly I noticed two shoes, one adult and one child sized, on a board with a sign that said “Lucky Shoes”. At the starting line there had been mention that touching them would bring the runner good luck. I figured it couldn’t hurt, so I paused to touch them. What a quirky little race tradition that is!

There was one hill that seemed to go on and on. I ended up walking most of it. For the most part I felt really good, until I had a mishap at one of the water stations resulting in having my nostrils irrigated. A little bit of an embarrassing moment becoming a human fountain. Apparently drinking and breathing don’t mesh well. I had to make a pit stop at a port-a-potty which cost me a few minutes time. At least I was decently hydrated.

One part of the route near the QEW wasn’t very scenic but that didn’t last long. Next thing I knew we were in Port Credit and I could start to feel the change in the breeze because of the lake. The route continued on towards the lake and the wound its way along the waterfront and some residential streets. The last 4K was difficult albeit quite beautiful along the water. My body was tired and the sun was beating down on me. I pushed on. I knew it was more of a mental thing anyway. When I needed to walk I did because I wanted to reserve a little energy to finish strong. I had come this far and I knew I could go the rest of the way—I just had to keep going. We ran along a ramp area over the water and three swans swam out from under the bridge. People were gathered all along the next part of the route and cheering the runners on. It was amazing and the cheers really helped. When we hit the last 1.5K Carla took off at her own pace so she could photograph me coming across the finish.

approaching the finish line

approaching the finish line

I crossed the finish line and had to choke back the tears. The emotion was pretty overwhelming but in some ways it felt surreal. A volunteer removed the chip from my shoe and I received my finisher’s medal. Those things are much heavier than I realized. Just as I was having the medal put around my neck the music changed and it went into bagpipes with Scotland the Brave. It reminded me of my Mom who passed away in January. She always said that should have been the Scottish national anthem. It made me feel like she was there with me at the finish. Bryan and Carla met me a few moments later. I really don’t have words to explain the feeling of accomplishment that this has given me. I have overcome so much to get here… but I did get here and it was fun! I had an incredible and most memorable day.

Achieving such a milestone wasn’t just a physical challenge for me; it was an emotional one and with that I left a few demons at the start line and that is where they will stay. This whole journey has been profound for me to say the least. Of course, I didn’t do this entirely on my own… the support of my wonderful husband, my sweet children, my in-laws, and my dear friends combined with sensible training assistance from Ray Zahab were all instrumental in getting me to the start line. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you. I’d mention names but it is a long list and you know who you are.

I’m sure you’d like to know what my results were. Here you go…

my finishing medal

my finishing medal

I crossed the 8K timing mat at 01:12:46

My final time was 03:21:32

I placed 2357 out 2382. I was 1288 out of 1306 for my gender and I was 372 out of 376 for my age group.

This is a personal best and a personal distance record.

I had a blast and… I finished upright and smiling.

Mission accomplished!

Will I run another half marathon?

Of course I will, but it won’t be this year because my calendar is pretty full.  There are already a few events I am considering for 2014. I know, I know. I said that I was merely going to do one half marathon and cross it off the list. We can just add that to the comment I made about only running a single 5K race. There are no finish lines.

See you at Mississauga in 2014!

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Tapering is runner-speak for a gradual reduction in running distance and intensity for a short period before an event. That’s what I am doing right now. I have a ton of things on the go including the cookbook so the extra time is productive. I’ve also got a big old case of pre-race jitters.

You see, I’ve come a long way to get to this point. I’ve battled being morbidly obese and I’ve struggled with diabetes and heart issues.  During my training my Mom passed away, and the kids got sick, and life happened. Losing Mom, hit me hard and there were days I didn’t want to train, but I picked myself up and did it anyway. Sometimes the tears would stream down my face.

I’ve managed to continue training even with many time obstacles facing me, one being the wife of a guy who travels a lot. I did miss a few workouts and I managed to stay pretty much injury free. I did have some calf pain due to low sodium levels or a footwear issue. My husband, Bryan, and I worked together and with the support of some really awesome friends, I was able to complete my training and I have two small taper runs left followed by some carb loading. Then that will be concluded with a couple days of rest before the big event on Sunday morning.

Am I scared? Hell yes! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

but…

My coach has faith in me. My friends, many who have run these kinds of distances and have followed my training, believe in me. I’ve run a single distance of over 19.5K in training and had a few runs at 17.5 K. I’ve done hill repeats and speed work. I’ve paid attention to nutrition and learned what works for me on these long distance runs.

I’ve booked a hotel, started packing my gear and making a list of things to remember, arranged to have my race kit picked up, chosen my shoes, had a pep talk from my coach, and arranged for the grandparents to babysit. Another friend, Carla, has offered to run alongside me to make it more enjoyable.

and…

As nervous as I am… I believe in myself. I’m looking at this run as fun and I will finish upright and smiling. I may not be fast but I am determined!

One last thing…

Believe – Suzie McNeil

“It’s like I’m falling through my own fears
They used to haunt me but now they’re not here
There’s no looking back
My future is clear
No giving up and I’m holding on when it gets rough
‘Cause you can get through most anything

If you just believe you can move mountains with dreams
The higher you climb the better it gets
‘Cause you will see things you’ll never forget if you just believe”

B(e) positive.

PS I’ll post a full race report sometime next week!

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