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Posts Tagged ‘Toronto ZooRun’

Yes, this is a race report. It has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Now that you’ve picked your jaw up off the keyboard… grab your beverage of choice (I’m having Hibiscus tea) and get comfortable because this is going to be a bit of a read. Before I get into the summation of the event I will give a bit of a preamble for those who haven’t followed this journey of mine.

Where to start? Well, I suppose the last races are as good a place as any.

In October 2013 I participated in three events. The first two were on the first weekend of the month. Run for the Toad was a 12.5K leg of a trail relay on a very hilly course at Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area. The next day I completed a 5K Colour Run on the trails in Christie Lake Conservation Area. I felt unwell that weekend. The third race, later in October, was my first and only one that started but didn’t finish. I panicked halfway through the course. I was consciously worried about breaking my ankle but there was also a deeper level of anxiety. Ironically a few weeks later I broke my toes. The deeper anxiety, in hindsight, was that I was a running time bomb with an artery that was almost 80% blocked.

the hospital stay

the hospital stay

As you may have read, I had a procedure to fix that in March of 2014. Luckily I didn’t have a heart attack nor did I cause heart damage. Running had saved my life and I was determined to pick up where I left off in late 2013.

Recovery was tough. I ran but not the way I used to. Physically there was nothing holding me back. I had the all-clear from the doctors to run, train on hills, weight lift and whatever else I wanted to tackle. To be honest, I was terrified. I signed up for races and bailed over and over again. A full marathon, half marathons, 5Ks, 10Ks, all came and went. Race day would arrive and I would lose my nerve. Training suffered over the year and anxiety became the norm. I’d hop off the treadmill every 10 minutes during a run to check my blood pressure. I’d run a handful of times each month but training had gone to the wayside. I could bike 10 to 20K at an all-out pace at the gym but to run for even a few kilometers was stressful. Sure there were a thousand reasons why it was so hard, after all I had lost my base, but the bottom line is that I was scared. It takes a lot for me to admit that the thought of running at a race was so crippling to me. Fear and anxiety took over.

There was a breaking point. A month ago I dropped out of the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. I wasn’t trained but I had agreed to run part of it. My friend Carla had signed up just after I had and I wanted to be there to support her like she has done for me over and over. A family issue arose and I had to cancel. In doing so, I felt that I had really let my friend down and I felt horrible about it. That said, I was relieved that I wasn’t running despite what was going on here. Fear had reared its’ ugly head yet again and regret crept into the mix. Letting myself down is one thing but letting a close friend down was really upsetting. I don’t have words for how bad I felt.

About a week before the Niagara event I signed up for Long Point Eco-Adventures’ Smugglers Run Trail Race near Turkey Point, Ontario. There were three distances but because it was trail run and my running base was shot, I chose the smallest of the three which was 6K. For weeks before the event I wrestled with whether I should run it. What if I had more heart problems? I could injure myself, after all I hadn’t worked on a solid running base. What if I was last? What would people think? What if the cardiologist was wrong and I had a heart attack on the course? What if something happened with the kids while I was out running? What if? What if? I was overthinking everything and being a little dramatic.

I resolved that I was not going to back out of this race. I was going to brave the start line and that even if I had to walk the entire race, I would cross the finish line. It had been 21 months since I had completed an event. 21 months! Time to suck it up and move forward. With the support of a great circle of friends I prepared for race day.

And… finally the race report.

pre-race selfie

pre-race selfie

I arose at 5:20 am and groggily got ready to leave. Bryan and I had an hour drive and wanted to meet our friend Mandi, around 7:30. The morning was gorgeous and the drive out was a little foggy but nice. We drove through the countryside and made our way to Turkey Point arriving at Long Point Eco-Adventures around the time that we had planned. Long Point Eco-Adventures is a wonderful facility. There was an observation tower, zip lining and all sorts of other things. The property was directly across from the Burning Kiln Winery.

We explored for a bit and had a snack. I was in capris but at the last moment decided to change into my running shorts because it was warming up considerably. Mandi was kind enough to share some homemade bug repellant that she had created and then we headed to the start line so we could cheer the 18K and 12K runners as they took off on the trails. In all there was about a hundred runners. I was mentally prepared that the worst case scenario would be a lovely walk in the woods. My mantra was that “forward is a pace”.

the cool race bib

the cool race bib

The race officials sent us out 10 minutes early which was great because I was raring to go. The course wound around and down a bit of an incline. So far so good. Then we got to a boardwalk and there was a right turn in the middle of it. No big deal, right? Well, it was quite a step down into eroded and uneven ground and it faced the steepest hill I’ve ever seen. Yes, steeper and longer than Skeleton Hill at Run for the Toad. Goodness gracious. Mandi and Bryan had run ahead so I was quite happily running on my own. I was dead last but I had the second and third last people in my sights. As I crested the hill and came around the corner into the fields, there was Bryan. He was waiting to run with me and he had picked a wild Brown-eyed Susan which he handed to me when I ran to him. I tucked it into my Bondi Band and off we ran.

© Wilson Photography

© Wilson Photography

He was determined to run the rest of the course with me. We spent quite a bit of time walking as the hills were brutal. Did I mention it was really hilly? Parts of the course had two-way traffic and it was quite narrow so there were pauses to let the runners doing the 18K pass by. Every once in a while he’d swat a mosquito on my back. I suppose I should have worn a light coloured shirt and used bug repellant on my torso. Oops.

Just around the 5K mark Bryan had an epic wipeout. He tripped on a root and his shoe went flying down a steep embankment and his iPod went in the other direction. Bryan landed right in the damp dirt. We were only a few meters from the paramedics when they heard me yell to see if he was all right. Bryan was a bit embarrassed and his toe is very badly bruised. We lost a few minutes while he retrieved his gear but this race wasn’t about time for us and the wee break gave me a little umph for a stronger finish. I was determined to finish even if I was dead last, but my chivalrous husband made me go ahead of him. I crossed the finish line with the flower still in my headband.

The best way I can describe this course is that if you were to take a 12.5K loop from Run for the Toad and condense the elevations there into 6K, you have the Smugglers Run. Holy technical and hilly—the kind of hills that chew you up and spit you out. My lack of training was evident and I had to walk more than I wanted to. The time on my Garmin time read 01:10:34 and my official chip time was 01:12:19.

the casks

the casks

After we crossed the finish line we collected our commemorative glass mugs that were given instead of finishers medals and headed over to Burning Kiln Winery for our complimentary glass of wine. I enjoyed a most delicious Cab-Franc as the awards were given out.

Would I run this again?

You bet, but I’d actually train for it next time. Long Point Eco-Adventures hosted a fabulous event. There was great volunteer support on the trail with water stations every few kilometers. The route was stunningly beautiful.

I am so happy that I went out and braved the start line. Of course, I had the typical post-race high and during that booked to run the same distance in another trail race named Chase the Coyote in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. The race is at the end of September and that gives me time to get some decent hill training in. I’m running the Oasis ZooRun 10K in Toronto a few weeks before and that course isn’t exactly flat either.

I sure do things the hard way as this wasn’t exactly a moderate course for my first race after such a long sabbatical, but adversity met perseverance on Sunday and it feels great to be back! The crippling fear has been conquered and laid to rest.

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A few nights ago, I was having a chat with a lady named Daphne who is considering becoming a runner. She’s a fellow diabetic who I connected with recently and we ended up on the subject of running. I’m a bit exuberant about running so it was bound to happen. She asked me if runners are the type to be cliquey. We talked about acceptance and how there is a culture in certain fitness circles where judgments happen frequently. With running, as I told Daphne, the only judgment I ever found was self-inflicted and stemmed from my own insecurities. It is as simple as John Bingham says,  “if you run, you are a runner”.

I related to her concern. When I first started running I only ran at home on the treadmill where no one could see me. I was over conscious about how I would be perceived and I felt embarrassed. I expected runners to look down their noses at me and act as if I had no business out there. It took a couple of months before I summoned enough courage to head to the indoor track and run in public. A few weeks later I ran outside. That was liberating but my confidence still waned at times. Then I ran my first race. After that my perspective changed considerably. Running brought me to the realization that I ought to be more accepting of myself and runners proved to be some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met.

I have experienced this kindness time and time again. I’ve had a runner stay by my side when I was having issues. She walked across the finish line with me, sacrificing her own time. I’ve had runners who finished long before me, cheer at the finish line. At the Toronto ZooRun a stranger gave me a high-five as he passed me in the other direction. It got me through what was a pretty wet and miserable run. Other runners have sponsored me by donating to the causes I run for. I try to do the same for them. Another runner, I had only recently met, decided to run my first half with me so I wouldn’t have to run alone. She ran at my pace which for the half was considerably slower than what she is used to. She even sprinted ahead near the end to take my photo as I crossed the finish line.

Speaking of speed, one of the other conversations I was part of quite recently was with my fellow members of the Digital Champions (DC) team for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This chat really illustrated what I was explaining to Daphne about how welcoming the running community is.

Prasheel Gopal, posted about the respect and admiration he has for those of us who are slow runners. He went on to mention how our efforts are not to be considered any less than folks who run faster. Prashell also went on to say that slow runners shouldn’t feel discouraged and how much he is inspired by us. His words showed me another perspective—it was something that hadn’t occurred to me before. He said that slow runners have to run for longer periods of time at events and in training thus enduring more extended periods of discomfort than those who are faster. For the longest time I berated myself for being slow but the reality is that I do spend a lot of time on my feet to cover the same distance. I’m sure that has to have an impact both physically and mentally. Other DCs chimed in and it was interesting to hear a similar point of view from other runners too.

Someone once said that the tortoise and the hare cross the same finish line. So, don’t fret if you are a slow runner because other runners know that you have the same commitment to this as they do. Be proud of every step you take towards being the best running version of yourself you can be. Embrace the fact that you are out there, day after day, giving it all you’ve got.

Daphne (and any of you who may be tossing around the idea of becoming a runner), I hope that you will give running a try and, in doing so, come to know the same camaraderie, growth, and joy that I have experienced through a sport that welcomes all.

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This time off with my tender broken toes has given me a bit of time to think about how I’ve progressed in my journey as a runner and a healthier, fitter, me. While embarking on this lifestyle change was always about finding myself and being the healthiest and strongest person I can, I do love to inspire others. I try to do that as much as I can. After all, we have the ability to do anything we put our minds to. We just have to get over that fear of failure and there is NO failure in trying. It is my hope that people are inspired when I so openly share my own story and that perhaps they pay that forward.

The other day I was approached with a wonderful opportunity that would allow me to take that love of motivating others to a different level. Of course, I have said “yes” but I am sure there is a little more to it than that and I will find out more over the next few weeks. However, I am completely honored to have even been asked and this new possibility entices me. It is also an amazing way for me to give back for all the support and encouragement that has been bestowed upon me. Sorry to be somewhat vague but I promise I will fill you in on the details as this all unfolds. Exciting!

Running, as you know, has given me so much. Lately I’ve had some disappointments and I took those pretty hard but when I stumble I get right back up and move forward. I’m of the mind that the tough runs help me grow and the awesome ones remind me why I love to run. I’ve come so far from those first runs on the treadmill where I thought 3 minutes was going to result in collapse or even worse, my certain demise. I remember when 5K seemed like the longest distance in the world. I said that about 21.1K too. Now I am considering new goals and milestones.

I’ve already started booking events for 2014. My goal for all of these events is to cross the finish line stronger than I have in the past. I also want to try to improve my pace and increase my distances. It looks like my next year is shaping up to be quite the adventure.

This is what I have registered for so far…

Robbie Burns 8K
Burlington, Ontario
January 26, 2014

Chilly Half Marathon
Burlington, Ontario
March 2, 2014

Mississauga Marathon (Half)
Mississauga, Ontario
May 4, 2014

Sulphur Springs Trail Run 25K
Ancaster, Ontario
May 24, 2014

I’ll likely be adding the Toronto Yonge Street 10K and possibly the Mercedes 10K to the list as well as a few 5Ks, Run for the Toad and the Oasis ZooRun. I’m also seriously considering running the half or maybe even the full marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in Fall 2014.

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love the bling

love the bling

Well… that was wet. Rain and more rain!

What a fun place for a race. I’m pleased with the time considering the rainy weather, lack of sleep, inconsistent training because of vacationing, a hilly course with lots of twisty-turny-narrow bits, and a very sore ankle.

I started out slow. I remembered not to go all-out at the beginning this time. My feet got wet pretty early because of the steady rain so I just ran through the puddles rather than trying to avoid them. I kept thinking about the warm, dry socks that would be waiting for me in the Jeep at the end of the race. I saw my friend Mandi a few times and got the high five from her. She was a bit ahead of me.

There were a few spots that were too crowded for me to pass people. Go figure, me being able to pass people. I saw baboons or some sort of cute primate and somehow missed the giraffes entirely. Seriously, how could I miss such a tall animal? I also missed the hippos but managed to get a glimpse of the hyenas. I imagined them laughing at all the humans running in the pouring rain. There were gorgeous pink flamingos that were brilliant against the drab day. Did I mention it was raining?

There was one long downhill where I was running faster than I think I have ever run before. It flattened out and then there was a hairpin turn. A guy who I now know is named Kevin, passed me going up the hill earlier. We had been taking turns passing each other, unintentionally throughout most of the race. He gave me a high five from the opposite direction as I was approaching the turn. He was really giving the race his all and the gesture from a stranger was heart-warming and propelled me forward.

The ankle was good and I only felt a slight twinge on the downhill sections. I babied it a little because I have Run for the Toad in two weeks. I finished strong and very wet. Carla finished before me so we waited at the finish together for Bryan and Tobias to complete their 5K event. Bryan was pushing Kaia in the stroller and later we dumped a few cups worth of water out of the seat. Good thing she was dressed in an MEC Newt Suit. That little girl of mine was a trooper. So was her big brother.

All in all, it was a good run. I had been hoping for 1:29:00 but today wasn’t the day… however I am totally happy with my race result and that I survived my first really rainy race. Say that five times fast.

I discovered that I really should purchase some rain gear better suited to running as my waterproof breathable shell for backpacking/padding is too big by a mile and it is way too hot.

Oh, I almost forgot to post my results. It was a PR by roughly 8 minutes. I finished in 1:31:02. I had wanted a sub-1:30:00 but close enough. The time quoted is my official chip time although Garmin time is 1:28:57. It appears that the difference between the chip and Garmin times are from when I paused to remove the jacket because I was sweltering in it.

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It seems like I haven’t posted in quite some time, much to my surprise. I didn’t realize that it had been so long but I have had an adventurous summer and time to blog has been scarce. So many things have happened since July 16th and here is a little bit about what I’ve been doing with myself…

The Family Adventure

chutes aux iroquois - Labelle, QC

chutes aux iroquois – Labelle, QC

In mid-August, my husband Bryan, the kids, and I embarked on a cycling adventure in the Laurentiens with our dear friend Mandi. We biked with gear trailers from campground to campground. Well, I had my daughter in a child trailer behind me but everyone else towed gear. Around the 120K mark, after two days of cycling in a lot of rain, we decided to switch things up and we camped next to a gorgeous waterfall for the remainder of the trip. Mandi left on schedule via a shuttle back to the start of the trail. Bryan went back to the start with her and then returned to the campground with our Jeep.  We even played on the beach at Chutes aux Iroquois.

The trip was beautiful, despite the rain and we will return to explore the region a little more next year.  I have fond memories of peddling past Mont Tremblant in the downpour and riding along Lac Mercier.  There was one spot, past Tremblant, where there were horses in a field which was dotted with big hay bales. The hills were in the background and the mist was dancing near their rounded tops. It was almost magical in some strange way. If it hadn’t been so rainy I would have loved to have taken some photos. We had some delicious meals at little bistros along the trail. In all, our Quebec adventure was a wonderful one and although it didn’t turn out quite the we had anticipated, we learned a few lessons that will be applied to future bike-packing excursions.

Giving Back

Team Tyrel

Team Tyrel

Bryan and I have friends, Sandi and Phil, who have helped us through so many difficult times including our house fire. I’ve been friends with Sandi for a very long time—since my days at university and before I even met Bryan. Sandi and I have been there for each other over the years but this has been the toughest thing Phil and her have had to deal with. You see, their 13-year old little boy, Tyrel, was in renal failure. This required hemodialysis 3 times a week and being put on a transplant list. He wasn’t on that list long and the transplant happened shortly after we returned from camping in Quebec.  Everything transpired very quickly. Sadly, even though much of the expense is covered in Ontario, there are some things that aren’t and it is starting to mount for the family. These include loss of work, transportation, fuel, modifications to the home and such. Once he is home there are medications that aren’t covered by the family’s prescription benefits. I don’t have the means to help as much as I is needed and I felt helpless. However…

There were a few things I could do. I could be a friend and offer emotional support but I wanted to do more than that. I thought about how I could raise money in a way that people could afford and that would make it interesting for Tyrel—something that could make him smile. Thanks to some inspiration from a fellow runner named Laura Ingalls, who is founder of the Happy Races, I came up with a great idea to host a virtual 5K run/walk!! With Laura’s help I made our event a reality and now runners and walkers all over the globe are helping out. You can find out more at www.racemenu.com/teamtyrel and if you could sign up, that would be great! It’s fun for Tyrel and his family to see runners, from countries around the world, sending in their photos.

Health

In August I went back to the cardiologist, Dr. J., for another set of tests including an echocardiogram. In February 2012 I was diagnosed with LVH or Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (enlargement of the left side of the heart). That has been reversed and the mild aortic stenosis I’ve been dealing with is vastly improved. This just shows the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle. In the words of Dr. J., “Laurie, I’m pleased to tell you that your heart is very happy!” He gave me the go ahead to train for a full-marathon or any other distance as long as I keep it under 50K. Yay!

Training & Fitness

While I’ve kept my fitness up, I haven’t been training as hard as I probably needed to. That’s okay; I’m on track for my next race that takes place later this month. It’s the 10K ZooRun in Toronto and I’m participating with friends so it will be great fun. In October I’m also running in a 50K relay named Run for the Toad, the 5K Colours of Hope, and finally 5K at Horror Hill. That will be it for races until the New Year. I think.

Last year at this time I was extremely excited because I was anticipating training for my first half marathon. I’m going to run the same half marathon in 2014 but my big goal race for next year is the Sulphur Springs 25K trail run. I loved running in that area during training for the TREAD relay in 2012 so it will be a beautiful place to participate in an event.

I’m tossing around the idea of taking my first climbing lesson and becoming certified to belay at the Guelph Grotto. Bryan and I have also been discussing the possibility of joining a local boxing gym. Both would be quite fun although I might have to get over my extreme and irrational fear of gravity if I am to even consider climbing.

Career

I finally ditched the business name GJ Studios. I’ve never been keen on the name since it was first registered in the nineties. It was time for a change and one that suited the direction in which I’ve been working. My company is now named Outdoor Adventure Press and I couldn’t be happier with this new business identity. The new brand will better reflect the adventure related publications, camping cookbooks, and my other freelance writing projects. It’s exciting and there are a few new things in the works.

I’m still working on that third manuscript and having great fun with it. The book should be complete by the New Year and then I’ll embark on the tedious task of the final round of editing. I’ve been having issues getting great photos for the work because it always seems to rain when I am cooking at camp.

The Big Basket of Peaches

Remind me next time my darling friend, Kristin, sends out an open invitation to come over with a basket and take home some peaches, that it will be a crap-load of peaches! I had expected the typical quart basket worth of yummy deliciousness. It was practically a bushel! I happily took her up on the offer and spent an enjoyable morning in her kitchen before I went home to embark on the process of preserving what she had given me. I ended up with several large Ziplocs of frozen peach slices, three 1L jars of canned peach slices, four 500ml jars of freezer jam, and days of heavenly fresh peach eating. I had never canned peaches before so it was a learning experience. It was also the first time I had ever made freezer jam. Kristin canned a considerable amount and I was quite inspired by her dedication to the project. Thanks Kristin!!

So, that is where life has taken me since I last wrote on my little blog.

Have a Happy Tuesday!

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it wasn't a finish line

it wasn’t a finish line after all

With all that was going on in my life I needed to take some time for myself especially after losing my Mom. I tend to retreat a little when grief strikes but life moves forward whether we want it to or not. And it is moving forward around here. With that I figured it was time to return to blogging.

Of course, this time of year always brings about lots of planning. There was a time when the only planning was for wilderness camping trips but now there is so much more. I’ll be doing my usual camping, canoeing and hiking but this year we are venturing out on a 9-day bike-packing adventure in Quebec that will cover almost 460K. There are also lots of running events in my future and three of those cover consecutive weekends. Part of me wonders what I was thinking but I am committed enough to conquer these goals and have fun at the same time.

Here is this year’s race schedule…

Happy 5K (5K Run)
Brantford, Ontario
March 17, 2103
Status: Registered

The Ford Race to End Diabetes (5K Run)
Oakville, Ontario
April 27, 2103
Status: Registered

Mississauga Marathon (Half Marathon)
Mississauga, Ontario
May 5, 2013
Status: Registered

TREAD 6 Hour Trail Run Relay (4.2K per loop)
Mansfield, Ontario
May 12, 2013
Status: Registered

Brantford Grand Trail Run (10K Run)
Brantford, Ontario
July 27, 2013
Status: Leaning towards registration

Oasis ZooRun (10K Run)
Scarborough, Ontario
September 21, 2013
Status: Registered

Run for the Toad 50K Relay (12.5K loop)
Paris, Ontario
October 5, 2013
Status: Registered

Colours of Hope (5K Fun)
Hamilton, Ontario
October 6, 2013
Status: Waiting for Registration to Open

Some of these events are about fun and others are about achieving new milestones.

It’s going to be a year full of adventure… so bring it on!

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