Following the Plan?

As spring is in the air, thoughts turn to the racing season and my on going struggle of whether to follow a training plan or not. I have run a lot of races and I confess that I have only followed a training plan for one of them. I know many people follow a plan and I have friends who stick rigidly to their plan, no matter what. I found that having a strict schedule did not work for me. I started well and knew what I had to do each day, but half way in, I started to lose motivation. It became a case of  having to run a certain distance at a particular pace.  Race day was fine but such a relief that it was over. Afterwards, I completely lost my interest in running. I did not want to run and couldn’t understand what had happened to me.  I thought about what it was I loved about running; how I love to explore different routes, how I love being outside, how it makes me feel happy and free and realised that for me, following the training plan had taken away the joy of running and turned it into a chore. It took a few months, but by running when and how I felt like it, without any agenda, I eventually began to look forward to running again.

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Now here we are again at the start of another race season, friends are again following strict plans and I am again wondering if I should too. They tell me their pace and ask me mine. I have no idea how fast (or slow) I run.  Yes, I would like to be faster and I am sure if I trained hard, I could be, but will I lose motivation again? It is often difficult not to compare yourself with others but my advice is to do what works for you. You may be like my friends, and do well with a strict schedule, or you may be like me and find that demotivating.

I have a 50K race towards the end of summer and although I have run that distance before, this will be on challenging terrain. My goal is to  finish this race upright and within the cut off time and so yes, I will train, but without following a strict plan. My training will be long runs/hikes in the mountains with friends, lots of climbing up and running down hills, core strengthening exercises and maybe a bit of yoga added in. I will let you know in September if this strategy worked!

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No Excuses!

Too cold, too dark, too icy… Does this sound familiar?

If you are finding it difficult to find the motivation to run in the winter, you are not alone! The colder mornings, darker evenings and  icy conditions  can often leave us wishing for the summer again. But wait! remember when you moaned about the heat? Oh yes, apparently it was too hot to run outside not that long ago and so you opted for the treadmill and the nice air conditioned gym instead. Or even better, decided to forgo any exertion and just sit on the deck with an ice cold beer!

Everyone makes excuses at times but it is often too easy to listen to that little voice that can talk you out of anything! With the winter almost upon us, its important to stay active for many reasons. We’ve all heard about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and know that dark, grey, cloudy weather can sometimes make us feel a little down  but here in sunny Alberta, we are lucky enough to have around 333 days of sunshine a year.(www.currentresultss.com/weather/canada/Alberta/sunshine-annual)

So here are my top tips to get you outside in the winter months:

Set a goal. Find a race to sign up for. There are still lots of races held throughout the winter, as well as registrations opening for many next season. Calgary marathon has a distance for anyone ranging from 5k to 50K

(Register here http://calgarymarathon.com/register.html)  Now is a great time to set yourself a goal as you have the winter months to work towards it.

Join a running group. Having a commitment to meet other people and run is a great way of ensuring you turn up, and at least there will always be someone to take great action photos of you running in the snow! Calgary marathon society has started a weekly running group (Details are on their website)… or if there isn’t a group near you, do as I did and start your own.Copy of IMG_5795

Go shopping! Who doesn’t love new running gear! Seriously though, it is important to have winter weather specific fabrics and clothing so that as long as you have the appropriate clothing, you’ll be warm and toasty.

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Stop complaining! Yes, you can find an excuse for anything if you try hard enough, but how about channelling those thoughts into positive ones? You are lucky that you get to run. Many people can’t, so be grateful.

Finally, my favourite. Be a badass! Running in the snow is even more hardcore than running in the rain (which, as we all know, is pretty darned impressive anyway.) Running outside in weather that sends most people inside, puts you totally off the badassery scale. Try it and see!

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Now What?

After the highs of the weekend, is anyone else feeling a little deflated? What a weekend though! For me, it started on Friday with a trip to the expo to collect my race packets, listen to speakers, speak with some of the other forerunners, work at the 5Peaks booth, hang out with friends and make some great new contacts. Then, a quick change in the washroom, and off to party!

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Race day came around fast (4.30 a.m alarm) but the sunrise on the drive in to Calgary made the early start worth it!

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Happily, I had my VIP status printed on my race bib so was able to get coffee and breakfast in the VIP area which was great. Then it was time to head to the corrals for the start. My goal was to run the half without any pain and to have fun, which I did. I had originally signed up for the 50k again but changed a couple of weeks before the race due to ongoing injuries. Initially, I was very disappointed to do this, mainly because I wanted that huge, shiny medal so much! but it was the right decision. I finished the half marathon feeling great and met up with some of the other forerunners to hang out in the VIP area.

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While we were waiting for the 5k to start, we sat and watched some of the other finishers coming in, which was very inspirational. The 5k was a fun run and a good way for me to loosen up after the half marathon. There were so many people, runners, walkers, kids, strollers so it was very crowded, especially at the start but we had great fun chatting to people and spotting other friends along the way. Finish line, and another medal!What a fun day! The weather was beautiful, the course was great as usual, the spectators were totally awesome and everything about the race organization was spot on, from the packet pick up, to the post race food and not to mention the totally awesome medals!

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So… Now what? well registration is open for next year!
http://calgarymarathon.com/register.html

Who’s Ready for Race Day?

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At last it’s race week! All that training is going to pay off and now you’re tapering, right? Ok, so maybe you didn’t train as much as you’d planned, maybe you got injured, or life got in the way. Maybe you’re starting to second guess yourself and doubt is creeping in. Can you really do it? YES! Yes. you can! Here are my top ten tips for race day:

1. Trust your training. You may not have done all the running you were scheduled to, but you have a good base. The adrenaline on race day will see you through a lot.

2. Now we are just a few days away, make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthily,hydrate and if you decide to run before the big day, make it easy and enjoyable.

3. Collect your race packet and visit the expo, it starts on Thursday at 4pm. http://www.calgarymarathon.com/expo.html?lang=EN Use this visit to figure out how you’ll get to the race and what time you want to be there. (Always allow more time than you think you’ll need and allow for transport delays as well as long lines for the porta potties!)

4. The night before, get everything ready. Clothes, race bib, drop bag, any drinks or gels you plan to use, cash for the c-train, phone for all those selfies and bring a large garbage bag to wrap yourself in while you wait at the start line. It may be a little cool early on and you can stay pretty warm inside a garbage sack!

5. Apart from the elites, everyone else seeds themselves. Think about where you should start. Look for the pace bunnies. They have signs stating their estimated finish time so look for the one nearest your pace and stand near them. If you are planning to walk, you need to be nearer the back of the pack. If you are planning to run fast,then you should be nearer the front.

6. The corral just before the start of a race is a truly exciting and inspirational place to be. Look around you at all the other racers, think about all the sweat and tears that have got everyone this far! Enjoy this special atmosphere. This is what you trained for.

7. There’s the gun, and you’re off! Take it smoothly for the first little while. Everyone is trying to find their pace and a clear space to run. After the first mile or so, things settle down and you’ll find your sweet spot. Enjoy it!

8. If things don’t go quite as planned during the race, don’t worry. Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve trained, your race might not be the one you wanted. This is ok. Enjoy the different experience and use it as a learning opportunity for the next one.

8. Race etiquette is important. Here are the biggies:
i. Don’t run side by side with a large group of friends. This prevents anyone being able to pass you and is annoying.
ii. If you need to slow to a walk or stop, raise your hand and move over to the right. It’s the same as when you’re driving and need to make a manoeuver, please look behind you before signalling and then make your move.
iii. Again, at water and aid stations, don’t just stop dead. Look around for other runners and allow them space.
iv. Don’t photo bomb other runners’ pictures! Of course you want to wave your arms and stick your tongue out for the photographers, but please don’t dive in front of other runners to do so.
v. Remember to thank our awesome volunteers. Without them, there wouldn’t be a race.

9. At last! The finish line! Collect your totally awesome race bling and celebrate your awesomeness! When you’ve done this, taken your photos and eaten something post race, come back and watch others finish. Even more than starting lines, finish lines are very emotional places with runners achieving goals that they never thought possible. You may even see a marriage proposal like last year!

10. Relax, rest, enjoy your achievement and begin to think about the next race!

Good luck everyone, and have the best race day ever!

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Questions and Frustrations

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As at the time of writing this, I haven’t run for four days…

Like many runners, I have the occasional ache and pain, some of which seem to reappear every so often. However, I am lucky enough to have never had an injury that has stopped me from running. Until now.

Without launching into a long and boring list of symptoms, I think it may be because my hips are wonky! I first saw a physiotherapist about hip pain over 15 years ago, way before I ever started running and I think I have been treating symptoms rather than causes ever since. The latest ache turned into a big ache in the middle of a run and so I have an appointment with a new sports injury therapist in a couple of days.

In my few days off, I have found myself looking enviously at other runners, staring wistfully at snow free trails and surfing running shoe stores online with credit card in hand. All this has made my mind race on from where it should realistically be and start to wonder What if? What if I can’t run for ages? What if I could never run again? What would I do? and more importantly, Who would I be?

It probably sounds crazy to non runners, but I’ll bet most of you readers will understand exactly what I mean. Running has become such a part of me, it’s what I love to do and it’s a huge part of who I am. It has made me healthy and happy. It has helped me through some very stressful and difficult times and been the source of great celebrations. Running has enabled me to meet so many inspiring people and travel to many beautiful parts of the world. It has given me such wonderful experiences such as being an ambassador for brands and races, helping organize local events and being on radio and television.

So as I wait for my appointment, I will try not to panic about the training I should be doing. I will be happy for other runners who are out there when I’m not and I will commit to whatever the therapist tells me to do.

But first, I think I will just press that little button that says ‘order now’…

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Exciting News!

Here we are, a whole new year and a whole lot of races to sign up for! I know I said ‘never again’ but it appears I signed myself up for the 50k again at Calgary marathon. This is how it happened.. not being huge party animals, husband and I were sitting at home on New Year’s Eve, discussing which races we wanted to do in 2015. He decided to do the half marathon this year and I was toying between the half and the full. Then he whispered those special words in my ear, ‘You do know there’s a medal for the 50k this year?’ That was it.. click, click, enter.. Yes, I am that shallow, I have a very strong attraction to shiny things!

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A few days later, I had the exciting news that I had been selected to be a Forerunner, one of the ambassadors for the 2015 Scotiabank Calgary marathon. I had followed the Forerunners last year, and found their stories very motivating and inspiring and hope that I can encourage others this coming year.

You can read more here: http://calgarymarathon.com/forerunners.html?action=1&pID=149

Growing up and well into my adult life, I never had a single positive thought about exercise and would avoid it wherever possible! The reasons why I decided to run are another story, but the feeling of crossing that finish line after completing something you never thought possible, is truly empowering.

I have a real love of running Calgary. Not only is it a beautiful course around my home city, it was my first marathon.

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and my first ultra.

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I’m so excited and honoured to be able to encourage other runners this year and look forward to meeting everyone.

Bring it on!

Aside

As you may know, (because I’ve gone on and on about it for ages) I reached the BIG birthday back in January.. I was 50! I had been a little worried about how I would feel, turning into another decade, but so far, so good. Although the fact that I decided to celebrate my birthday all year could have something to do with it! untitled (29)

Earlier this week, a (younger) good friend told me of how she was mistaken in a store for her child’s grandmother. She was understandably rather upset by this despite our reassurances.  Another friend was feeling down about all the changes that growing older brings to women, and I am slowly becoming resigned to the fact that I’m having to wear my glasses more and more. (Shopping recently at a race expo, I spied a cute jacket that I wanted. It was $80 which I thought was a bit much, but hey, I wanted to celebrate my race in style so I gave it to Mr True North to pay for with the rest of our haul. Apparently the bill came to more than he thought because he asked me what had cost $110. Nothing, I say… turns out that I need my glasses to read price labels too! Oops!)

Anyway, back to the point..Getting older. Happens to us all. Not much you can do about it. Totally inevitable. Doesn’t have to suck though!

When Mr True North was 50, our daughter bought him a book as a joke untitled (27)

http://www.amazon.ca/Younger-Next-Year-Strong-Beyond/dp/076114773X

Turns out it was the best present ever, as it acted as a catalyst for some major  lifestyle changes.( You should all read  this book, even if you are so young you think 30 is middle age, as it has really important and useful information)

Then I saw this commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo6QNU8kHxI  Watch it, even if you’ve seen it before as it is profoundly shocking in that so many illnesses are preventable with a healthy diet and exercise.

Over the years of being a runner, I’ve had many people question why I run with  negative comments such as ‘You’ll wreck your joints’ , ‘Your face will sag’, and even ‘Your insides will fall out’. I could go on and on about the many reasons I like to run, but this is one of the biggies.. I want to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible, even if I can’t see where I’m going!

747649-1014-0038sLooking a bit windswept after a Goofy birthday weekend

I am a Marathon Maniac!

As many of you know, I was a fairly latecomer to running. It wasn’t until I was 35 that I voluntarily ran a step that wasn’t away from a wasp or some other insect.

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Once I ran in my first race, a 10k at the age of 46, I was hooked. I loved everything about the event: the preparation, the training, the excitement at packet pick up, the buzz on race day, not to mention the feeling of success and accomplishment that I had done something I never would have imagined possible! Well, the races got longer and more frequent and when I had a few half marathons under my belt I read about a group called the Marathon Maniacs. Members of this group are exactly as described – marathon maniacs! As I read the criteria for joining I was amazed that anyone would ever do that, let alone, actually want to do that! Well the idea obviously took root in my mind and eventually I qualified to join their sister group, the Half Fanatics.

The last few years, I have found it very empowering to set myself goals and my goal for 2013 was… yes, to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs! I already knew I wanted to run the Calgary marathon and so I looked around for another one close to that date.  For the first level, I needed to run two full marathons within a 16 day time frame. Handsome Husband decided that Rock and Roll San Diego was the one to do! That worked out perfectly for me because it would mean a mini runcation in that beautiful city, but not so good because it was just one week after Calgary!

Eventually race day for the Calgary marathon dawned and I was feeling good! I had trained, rested and was hoping to beat my last time. We set off running and all was good. The miles (or kilometres in Canada) ticked past and when the half marathoners split off, I settled into the rest of my run. Until 30k (18.5 miles) I began to get bad stomach cramps which worsened and resulted in two porta potty visits! I also developed a huge blister on the ball of my foot and maybe this affected my running gait because my hip flexors hurt, as did my lower back! I really struggled the last few miles, had to walk a fair way.( I’ll stop the injury list there because I know my mother will read this and be even more convinced that I should stop running before I damage my joints!)

I eventually finished with a time of 04.58.52, very disappointed with my performance and worried if I was going to be able to run another marathon in a week!

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We left for California on the following Thursday and spent a wonderful few days in the San Diego area before race day arrived. Well, I was very nervous and wasn’t looking forward to the run at all. Luckily, I had spent so much money at the expo that I had a VIP porta potty pass which allowed access into the VIP potties at the start line (If you have never seen these… wow!)

As the pre race nerves got worse, I decided to focus on the fact that I was getting to run in a beautiful place in perfect running weather, and forget about everything else. To cut a long race report short, it was great! No stomach issues, no blisters and hardly any leg/hip pains until the last couple of miles. Apart from having to walk up a killer hill at mile 21, I didn’t need to walk at all, and finished in 04.46.06.

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As I was handed my medal, I felt a little emotional. Although I hadn’t been  happy with my Calgary performance, I am amazed and proud that I am now officially Marathon Maniac #7283!

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Be Prepared

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Handsome Husband and I are training for a marathon later this month.  We are a little behind on our training as apparently we should be tapering now, rather than still increasing our mileage! Yesterday was time for our 20 miler and we had discussed getting up early and so being able to finish well before lunchtime.  However, things didn’t quite work out like that!

Our little corner of Alberta, Canada, has the distinction of being the sunniest city in Canada with 333 days of bright sunshine per year (http://www.currentresults.com/Weather-Extremes/Canada/sunniest-cities.php) and although it has been cold and snowy lately, yesterday’s forecast was a high of 20 degrees Celsius (68F) I know that may not be warm to some of you,  but  we were looking forward to running in shorts and t shirts instead of gloves, hats, thermal pants etc.

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I don’t usually take fluids when I am running, but as we were going to take it slow, I grabbed my fuel belt with 3 small bottles of Nuun, my iphone in case I wanted to take any pictures and a chocolate GU energy gel just in case.  Add sunglasses and my fancy new Nike sportwatch to track the distance and I was ready!

Off we set and all was well until around mile 13 when Handsome Husband remarked, ‘Wow! That sun’s hot!’ which was closely followed by, “I’ve run out of drink..”  At that time, we were miles from anywhere, but I had my phone and decided to call the Happy Teenager who could drive out to meet us with some lovely cold drinks…  Hmm..No answer..

Our only option was to detour to our house, grab another drink and then carry on. During the 4 miles it took us to get home, we realised that we hadn’t been prepared at all! Although I had a phone, we didn’t have enough fluids, we hadn’t thought about sunblock or wearing a hat, and if only we had brought some money, we could have bought a drink!

Hopefully, that was a lesson learned and in future we will plan a little more thoughtfully but this led me to wondering, what should be the essentials?  I have heard of people who take nothing at all as well as people who take a lot including self defence weapons, so what do you take? Are you a minimalist or do you pack for every eventuality?

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