Army Run 2016 Recap

I needed to wrap my mind around this race first. It was an amazing day. It was a hot day. I performed better than I believed I would. I’m still shocked by it. But … because a picture says a thousand words, I’ll just go attach my finish photo from the half marathon here and lead off with that.rt20x30-zzze0346 I doubted every decision I made going into the weekend. I still did workouts throughout the week (12 miles of running (7 of those were medium-to-hard effort) and 7 spin classes) and only took one day off.  I chose to wear my Saucony Kinvara 6s (flat and fast) instead of my Asics GEL-Cumulus (cushy and injury preventing), and was SO sure my calf aches would flare. I really haven’t been running all that much lately (20-28mi per week, and then about 7-8 spin classes on top of that). I didn’t do much speedwork (I’m the tempo queen and haaaaate speedwork), and my longest run was only 14 miles (I haven’t run 16 miles since my marathon in 2013).

But somehow it all came together on race day (like it always does).

It was ridiculously hot and humid the day of the race. As in, it was 94% humidity and 17°C when I woke up Sunday morning. Not my choice of racing weather, to say the least. I had my usual banana, oatmeal, egg, and peanut butter combo before heading out around 6:45am. I’m used to having coffee in the morning, but elected to have some pre-workout for the caffeine instead (sounded more appetizing than coffee when thinking about the heat). I’m lucky my body is used to both.

I walked the 2km to the start line (by far the most convenient way of getting there on a Sunday morning), checked my bag, had an Ensure High Protein, and had a bathroom stop before I walked toward the corrals. Yes, corrals, for a 5km road race. The Army Run is huge – 12,348 participants finished the 5k.

One thing I love about the Army Run is the fact that we acknowledge and appreciate the service of all our military, but with special focus on ill and injured soldiers and their families. Many proceeds and donations go to the Soldier On foundation, and it’s always inspiring to see the para-athletes take off before we do. The ill and injured athletes began 15 minutes before we did, and after watching their start and cheering them through the line, I found my way to my spot near the 22:30 pace bunny. That was my plan – run a conservative 22:30 5k and then try to hold on for a 1:37 half marathon. I had the overall goal of running the Commander’s Challenge in less than 2 hours, so this seemed like the best way to take on that goal.

The start was congested, mostly because there were a lot of people who weren’t in the correct corral. But after the first 500-700m it started to break up quite a bit. I hit the first mile in 6:24 and thought “Uh oh”. This was not the conservative start I had planned. I backed down a bit, but I was feeling good, so I didn’t completely back down (despite knowing there were 15 miles left to run …).

The rest of the race was scenic, but relatively uneventful. There was one moment when myself and the three athletes running in front of me nearly ran into a pair of para-athletes we had caught up to. For the most part, the para-athletes are well-marked and stick to the sides of the course, but I guess the three athletes running in front of me weren’t paying attention, and as they split around the pair, I wasn’t left with much notice. Thankfully no collision happened.

The second mile went by in 6:47. The third in 6:44. And I took  it in at a 6:25 pace. Total time was 20:59, good enough for 17th female and 2nd in my age category.

I made my way through the finish, was handed a medal and grabbed Nuun, water, and a half banana before heading to an Ottawa City Run Club meet-up. I’m going to start running with them, and I’m super excited.

The 5km race started at 8am and the half started at 9:30am, meaning I had 1hr10min between my finish time and my next start time. While I needed the time, I almost wish they had been a bit closer together because it got so hot later. In the end, that was out of my control, and I went with it.

I took a Clif Gel 30min before the start, hit the washroom, and went back to the starting corrals. By this point, it was 24°C and the cloud cover that had sheltered us in the 5km was now gone. Time to make the best of the situation.

This course is the best – relatively flat and it takes you past all the best landmarks our Nation’s Capital has to offer. City Hall, the Parliament Buildings (from multiple views), the Ottawa River, the Prime Minister’s house, the Governor General’s house, the Rideau Canal … it’s so scenic.

I started out too fast (as I usually do), and I made the decision to try to hold on. I ran the first 5km in 21:49 and was feeling good! There were water stations every 3km. I carry a hand-held water when I run, so while I didn’t need to stop for water, I did grab water at the 6km mark and dumped it over my head to try to stay cool. There were sprinklers out at the water stations, too, and I ran through those through the rest of the race. I also grabbed a Nuun on the course at the 15(?)km water station because I was going through my handheld too quickly and wanted to save some in the case of an emergency (it got hot, I’m glad I played it this way. And the girl who I was trading spots back and forth with decided to stop, too, which was great for me!).

The second 5km was in 21:22, but then the heat and fatigue started to set in a bit. I took a gel close to 7mi in, which might have been a bit too late. I was intending to take one around 6.5mi, but I guess I just wasn’t paying close  attention to the distance (probably a good thing). The third 5km was 23:05 and the fourth was 23:16, so while the wheels kind of fell off, I still managed to hold it together. There was one girl who, as I mentioned, kept switching up spots back and forth with me. We both knew quite a few people who were cheering or racing, so it passed the time to hear our names heard, have one of us take a bit of a lead, and then play catch-up with one another. I lost her at the 18km mark, but she came back with 700m to go and out-kicked me. I really didn’t have another gear left at that point. I think she started ahead of me in the corrals, though, because my chip time was faster than hers. I want to thank her for keeping me alert and racing.

Even though I started to slow down, I never let it get to me. I’m so proud of this. There were a few moments (namely, the hill at the 16km mark, around 17km when I noticed I had stopped sweating and was starting to feel cold, and when I caught a stitch around the 18km mark) when I wasn’t sure I could finished, but I pushed through. The thoughts were more “I don’t know if my body will make it” rather than “I want to stop”. Also, even though I slowed down, barely anyone passed me, so I think a lot of the field had slowed down as much, if not more, than I did.

Also, the people along the sideline cheering … They were exactly what I needed to keep that motivation sparked. There were so many friends out there, and they were all so genuinely excited for me. It made my heart very happy to feel so much love!!

I finished up with a 6:47 split through the finish, a 1:34:39 finish time (7:08 avg. page for a current era/post-injury PR!), 15th female of 3,418, and 5th in my age category.

For the Commander’s Challenge, the official female winner was a wheelchair athlete who finished her 5km in 12ish min and her half in 56min. While I think this is incredibly admirable and a huge feat, her times aren’t comparable to the rest of the field. I was the first female to finish behind her (total time 1:55:38), and the 20th overall of the 1800+ athletes who finished despite the heat and humidity. I could not be more proud or more excited.

Heading into winter training, the next goals are the marathon (hopefully BQ!) in May, possibly the Ragnar Relay in Niagara, and then tackling triathlon over the summer. I’m stoked, and this was a great way to show how far I’ve come and to launch me into the next cycle.

Can I just say how much I love being an athlete and love my body?

This feeling … it’s priceless.


Army Run – 2 days out!

The Army Run is my absolute favourite race. This year, I’ll be running both the 5km and the half marathon in the same morning – a newly offered from the race organizers called the “Commander’s Challenge”.

There are so many things I love about this race … The cause it supports, Soldier On (devoted to ill and injured soldiers), is incredibly worthwhile. And running alongside injured veterans and athletes is more inspirational than I ever anticipate. The course is INCREDIBLE. We have a beautiful city, especially in the fall, and the course takes us past all the major national capital landmarks. Every time I run this race, I feel so blessed to live where I do (in a peaceful and beautiful democracy, protected by the best of the best). The race organizers always ensure everything flows incredibly smoothly, and there’s never a question of protocol, procedures, or details before the race. No matter what else I have on my plate race-wise in the coming years, I hope to always be able to make time for the Army Run.

This year, I’m feeling different than I did the first two times I ran this race. Maybe it’s because I’m running both the 5km and the half, so I’m more unsure of what to expect. Maybe it’s because it’s my third time running the course. Maybe it’s because my first time running, it was my very first race and my second time running, it was my first race back after injury, and both times, I had no idea what to expect of my body. Maybe it’s because I’ve adopted a new mindset. It’s probably a combination of all of the above.

But the new mindset theory is my favourite one. Somewhere along the line, I stopped taking myself as seriously. Literally, it matters to NO ONE but me whether I finish the 26.1km/16.3mi in 1:58 or 2:03 or 2:14 or 2:55. This doesn’t mean I haven’t set a goal, but it does mean that if I don’t reach it, I won’t be devastated. I’m just looking forward to the experience. Yes, I’ll still be going for it, and yes, I’ll still have my “race face” on in the pictures, but I won’t be tough on myself if I’m not hitting my target paces throughout the course.

I’m excited to see how it goes! It’s supposed to be a little on the warm side for fall, but nowhere close to as hot as it was during my half-marathon in the spring. Two sleeps left! Ready to make the most of it!

Plans Change + Membership

So. I was planning on racing The Canadian Duathlon here in Ottawa. That didn’t happen. Life happened, and I was disappointed. Not upset – it was all out of my control, so being upset wouldn’t help anything – but disappointed, for sure.

I traded shifts at work for the week so I could both move on Wednesday (my roommate and I moved from the first floor of our building to the fourth floor) and race Saturday morning. Well, our move was delayed from Wednesday until Friday (i.e., the day before race day). As the week went along, I started to worry. Would I be able to move Friday morning, work until 11:30pm Friday evening, and still be able to race Saturday morning? I calmed myself down by saying that I didn’t have a time goal, so there was no pressure. I was just going to go out and enjoy the experience. All was fine!

The move went smoothly and I made it to work on time. Everything was alright … until my coworker called in sick for the overnight shift and I was required to stay. I can’t hold it against that person, but I was frustrated. I’m choosing to leave it behind me and I’m looking forward to my future goals instead.

Since that time, things have settled down a bit as I’m starting up with my last year of my undergrad. I’m only taking three classes each semester, so I’ll still be working a lot. It will be a busy schedule, but I’m looking forward to tackling it.

Spinning is going to be the name of the game through the fall. I decided to take the leap and invest in an unlimited pass to Wheelhouse – the best spin studio ever. I’ll still be doing triathlon team workouts Tuesday mornings, but I’m planning on also hitting up WH for 6-7 classes a week as well. Looking forward to both my Ottawa Triathlon Club (OTC) and WH classes got me thinking about the term “membership”. I’m really made to feel as though I belong at both these places, even though I’m so new. Looking forward to growing as an athlete and as a person within these crews. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support.

My running mileage will stay about the same until October, when I start to pick it up in prep for my full marathon in the spring. I’ll be adding in more regular swimming toward the end of September and early October too. Because I’ve increased my training volume by a lot, I wanted to get used to that before adding in swim (which I find really drains me!). Lots of great things happening.

One Week Out!

One week out from my first duathlon. And I’m ridiculously excited.

I was planning on doing a simulation workout yesterday, but ran over something in front of my building (we’re under construction) and flatted out my front tire. Probably a good thing because when I set out for a long run instead, my legs were tired and I only lasted 9 miles. I know 9 miles is wonderful, and I held an incredibly steady pace throughout. Even though it wasn’t all that hot (when I started), it really felt like an effort to hold what’s usually a pretty easy pace for me, so I knew it wouldn’t be worth it to push for the extra 20 minutes I had intended on being out there.

It’s no wonder I’m tired. I’m building up a base. I’ve been through this in a few sports before, and building a base is exhausting. My body is changing on a cellular level to accommodate the higher workload. This means I have to be extra patient and not push myself. Completely the opposite of what I’m used to doing, but my previous experience has taught me it’s better to be smart than sorry. So I’m trying to be patient. 9hours and 40 min of training last week. Already up to just over 7 this week with two days (including a long spin-run brick today) left to go.

The good news is that my body still feels great. Minor muscle soreness and stiffness at times, but that never lasts more than a day in any given area, which obviously makes this injury-prone lady very happy.

And the race!! My flat yesterday brought me into the bike shop where I had my bike fitted with my first bike computer. I rode the rest of the way to work with it on and ohmygoodness, I love it. Nerd status, for sure. I also had a water bottle holder put on. These are a little more about investment for the future, seeing as I have no specific time goals for next week’s race. Getting out there and getting everything right (i.e., not breaking any course rules and not going the wrong way) are my only objectives.

With the help of the crew at the triathlon club, I’ve decided that instead of learning how to ride on my bike with clips in a week (I’ve only ever worn clips on my spin shoes) and risk disaster + 2 transitions into and out of my run/bike shoes, I’m just going to keep with what I’ve been doing on the bike. I’m going to wear my runners (Saucony Kinvaras because there’s only 7km of running) and just tighten the cages REALLY tightly around them on the bike course. At this point, I’m not a good enough cyclist to know the real difference and I don’t care enough about the result to make the change. The cages are actually able to hold my foot quite well, and I can feel the pressure on my hamstrings during the upward part of the pedal stroke, so I’m sure it will be more than adequate for me. I’ll put the clip pedals on after the race and start getting out on those a few times this year before it’s too cold to ride outdoors.

Otherwise, life has been busy. I’m a teaching assistant this summer and had exactly one week to grade 57 papers (5-6 pages, so they weren’t very long, but it’s an overwhelming number nonetheless) on top of working 30+ hours at my hospital job. This is in addition to getting ready to move next week and somehow not being a complete social hermit. Thankfully I’ll be grading the last of the papers today, so I’ll be good to focus on the move on Thursday and the race on Saturday.

This summer has flown by, but I’ve loved every bit of it.

Big Mileage

I still can’t believe what my body is capable of. I’m so grateful for it!

Friday morning long run. I was tired after having worked an evening shift Thursday evening, so I started with a bit of a lazy morning and studied math (I wrote my final exam on Saturday) before finally deciding to head out. It had been a pretty high-volume week already, and I was mentally drained, so I promised myself that I only needed to last 10 minutes and after that everything else was gravy.

I ended up making it 12 miles total with 9.3mi/15km at marathon pace. The heat finally caught up with me, but I’m not upset about it. Not by any means! I finished of with a cool-down and still finished the run in less than 90 minutes.

I spent the rest of the day resting and studying.

Saturday, I was up for work early (up at 3:45, started work at 6am), worked until 30 minutes before my exam, jetted to campus, wrote my exam, and made my way to the campus gym for a 90 minute spin + easy 10 min run brick. My legs were tired from Friday’s run, and I definitely had thoughts of giving up 20 minutes in. BUT having just watching the women’s Olympic triathlon (streaming it at work. #sorrynotsorry), I was filled to the brim with inspiration and had more than enough motivation to just keep pushing. Ended up finishing off in a sprint to 57km (35.4 mi) in juuuust under 90 minutes, and then hopped right onto the treadmill for 10 more minutes. Started off at 6mph and went up to 8.3mph (averaged 8:28ish). The run felt great (and so short after such a long spin! haha).

It’s Sunday morning and my legs are definitely tired, but I’m happy and excited to keep this up moving forward. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Back in the Pool

It took me a LONG time to convince myself to get back into the pool. So much so that I contemplated doing just duathlons all throughout. Run-bike-run. Never have to worry about open water swimming or wet suits or losing a lead right off the start.

I used to love to swim. I used to be a fairly decent swimmer. But I severely lack confidence in my swimming these days because I’ve been away from it for so long. So I was avoiding hopping back in the pool because I was worried I wouldn’t live up to my own ridiculously high standards. How ridiculous is that? Rather than challenging my weaknesses and getting stronger, I was going to avoid it altogether.

I started thinking about it a little more this past month or so (between the time when I started at the Ottawa Triathlon Club and now). There are no expectations on me. There is no pressure on me to even start this journey, nonetheless go far. So why am I setting up barriers before I even begin? I know they’re for self-protection — I would hate to feel like I’m failing. But if there’s no way I can fail, then there can be no fear of failure.

I guess it was logic and reason that got me into the pool this morning (for the first time in about a year, and it was probably five years before that swim that I last REALLY swam).

It felt good 🙂

I did 800m warm-up (200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull, 200 swim) followed by the main set of 1 x 1500m (freestyle throughout). I was able to consistently hold ~ 2:00/100m through the entire piece (the second half was about 20sec faster than the first half). I needed to pass the swimmer ahead of me a few times (I was in a medium speed lane as the only fast lane was taken up by three very speedy dudes), but I didn’t worry too much about it. Cool down was 6 x 50m (I tossed a set of pulls and a set of kicks in for good measure, and the last 4 x 50 was done with flip turns, which I also need to practice. Next time!).

I hopped out feeling very proud and excited. This wasn’t anything special, but I think it was the start of something great.

Monday Things

I was SO drained over the weekend. My work day got to me both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, I did just a 40 min light spin after work, and Sunday, the bike to and from work (about 15 min of work either way) was all I was in the mood for. But seeing as that’s the least training I’ve done since my last day off, July 31st, it was well-earned.

Well, I felt ready to crush it today. After a CRAZY day (waking up 30 min before my 6am shift =, I hit triathlon club for a spin+run brick. And it felt great. I love these workouts. 75 min spin (15 min w/u+c/d, 60 min of work) + 20 min run. I rocked the run off the bike today. I’m starting to LOVE the feeling of running off the bike. My body feels all active and my core feels just so, so strong.

Based on how the last few triathlon club workouts have been feeling, I decided to sign up for my first multi-sport race! I’ll be racing The Canadian Sprint Duathlon (2km run-30km bike-5km run) on September 3rd. It’s just two weeks before my Goal race (the Army Run Commander’s Challenge 5km + 21.1km on Sept. 18th), so I didn’t want to try for too much distance. Mostly, I’m planning on using this race as my first glimpse into the world of triathlons – the set-up, transitions, rules of racing, etc. – before I dive in next year.

I love that I’m feeling strong and in charge of my racing future. Bring it on!

I’m Getting Really Excited

So. I was supposed to do a long run today, but ended up picking up a shift, and wasn’t really feeling it after work. I decided to sign up for a spin class, but before that, went for an hour-long run before that.

And it.felt.great. My legs were swinging well on the run, and stayed strong throughout the bike. I love that 2hrs of cardio is now feeling really, really great. And I honestly still felt like I was pushing myself through the spin class (it’s hard not to at Wheelhouse!).

Triathlon club yesterday morning. A killer spin + 20 min run off the bike (8:00/mile for 10:35, and then raced it back in 10 min – estimating to have gone about 4km). I was super sweaty in the humidity, but it felt awesome.

I’m ready to sign up for my first race. I think I’m going to try a sprint duathlon in September (run 2km-bike 30 km-run 5km). Short and sweet, just to get used to the set-up.

I’m excited. I’m excited for how my body is feeling, and I’m excited for the future.

I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me!

Time Still Passes

I don’t know when it was that things changed, but an hour on the spin bike used to feel like it took FOREVER. And now? Like it passes in the blink of an eye. Which is an incredible feeling!

Spent an hour on the spin bike (35km in 58 min), then immediately hopped on the ARCtrainer for another hour of cardio. I don’t want to always run off the bike (I feel like my legs will get too drained .. with my tendon issues, this is likely a legitimate fear), but I do want to build my base. So this is the solution I came up with.

I also spent a lot of time today biking around the city (i.e., to and from campus, to and from the rowing club) in the extreme heat.

I was supposed to swim this morning. But I got to bed WAY too late last night to make it to the pool and actually have a good workout this morning. Next week 🙂

Also- side note -I feel like figuring out how many grams of carbs my body needs to feel good is going to be of paramount importance, and I made big strides with that today. Feeling good come bed time.

All in all, a great day of training and looking forward to Triathlon club tomorrow morning!

The day it all started …

It started with Florence and the Machine. Dog Days Are Over. The glow track of a Wheelhouse spin class led by Nadine and Erin (my two favourite instructors). I knew it then. It was time to leave all of my insecurities behind.

What if I’m not good enough?

What if I get scared?

What if I fumble or fall or in some way manage to make a fool of myself?

What if I succeed? Then what?

I need to learn to leave all my doubts behind me. I’m looking forward to documenting this journey. Who knows where it may lead! The possibilities are endless.

8-8-16 was the day it all started. I hope it never ends.