Wednesday, 12 October 2016

My Run for the Toad Race Report

    After the disappointment of turning down my invitation to run on the Canadian 100k Ultrarunning team to compete at the IAU World Championships in Spain (due to some lingering foot issues), I was feeling a bit down about my running.  I was in a funk.  I wasn't really excited about running because I had some damn plantar fasciitis that I couldn't shake.  Urg. I had run a race earlier in September that was a complete flop - due to me (and the top 20+ runners) going off course for 7km.  I had trouble feeling enthusiastic about my running.  It felt like I was slogging through runs and trying to avoid pain that just wouldn't improve.

     Then comes "the toad".  I had registered myself and my 3 kids for The Run for the Toad, held at Pinehurst Conservation Area in Paris, Ontario.  I was running the 25k, and my kids were registered in the 800m "Toad Pals" race.  I love the trails at Pinehurst.  This park is my home course.  I have a GRCA parks membership, and I try and run at Pinehurst at least once a week.  The trails are wide and scenic, passing through Carolinian and pine forests, grassy meadows, and along the spring fed lake where the park gets it's name.  The 12.5 loop is full of ups and downs, and is a trail runner's dream.

     On the morning of the race I was dragging my feet, I got up and got the kids ready and we headed off to the park.  The kids were excited to race in the 800m kids race, and my husband and I lined up with them.  He ran with my older 2 kids, and I ran with my 3 year-old Tessa.  Well, seeing how happy she was to be running immediately changed my mood.  She was smiling the whole time and saying, "Mommy I'm running!" and "Mommy, I love this!"  It was amazing.  The kids race was lined with cheering spectators and my kids felt like celebrities finishing their run.  They got the same medal as the grown-ups in the 25 or 50k.  My kids finished that race feeling like they were trail runners, I was beyond happy seeing my kids enjoy a sport that I love so much.  A big thing to mention is that this race is COMPLETELY FREE.  Yeah you read right - free.  No charge.  No catch.  Thank you Run for the Toad organizers George and Peggy Sarson for offering this.  My kids brought their medals to school, and they were so proud and happy to show their teachers and classmates what they had done that day.  Thank you!

     The "Toad Pals" race with Tessa was my warm-up.  That's not the typical way I would warm up for a 25k trail race, but I jumped on the start line soon after the kids had finished, and I was good to go.  I made some small talk with a few runners near me on the start line, then waited for the cannon-blast to send us into the trails.  To my surprise, I felt pretty good as the race began.  My foot, which has been a whiny nuisance for the past month, was cooperating and allowing me to run hard.  I continued to hold a strong pace, as the course wound through the campground and into the pine forest.  I continued to feel good as I cruised through the middle "meadow" part of the race.  My favourite part is the last 4k of the loop.  A dense hilly forest with soft pine needles cushioning the ground right before this crazy "wall-of-a-hill".  That hill is short, and as soon as you get yourself over that, it's an easy winding 1k to the finish.

     As I was passing the start/finish area and heading out on my second loop, the announcer announced me as an "unknown" runner - I panicked, thinking: "crap! my timing chip isn't working!"   But what could I do at that point?  I kept running hoping that all would be ok with the timing of my race.


     During the 2nd lap, things were getting understandably harder.  The hills were looking bigger, the kilometers were passing slower.  I kept thinking about Tessa and how excited she was while running her "Toad Pals" race that morning.  I was thinking that those three girls need to see their mommy run strong and fast.  So I kept that in mind as I was starting to work harder.  I was hoping that my effort would put me in the top 5 women, and give me a finishing time of 2:02-2:05.  Imagine my surprise as I was approaching the finish and could read 1:58 on the clock.  I was pretty happy as I crossed those timing mats (and my name was announced - timing issue resolved!)  More amazing memories made on those wonderful trails at Pinehurst.  I'm so lucky to have a conservation area like Pinehurst so close to home.

I can see that sweet finish line and I'm getting there as fast as I can.

     After some congratulatory hugs, Greg told me that I was 3rd female, and my official finishing time was 1:58:58.  Yay!  The last time I cracked 2 hours in this race was the first year it was held - 15 years ago, on a slightly different course.  I was so happy to be under 2 hours - with a course PB.  As a top 3 finisher, I was awarded a hand-made wood vase created by local artist Larry Cluchey.  I was given another of Larry's vases for winning the 30-39 age group.  Matching vases!  That was exciting. Thanks to Race Directors George and Peggy Sarson, for organizing and hosting such a fabulous event.  It really is amazing how they have grown the race to 1200+ participants.  Everything about this race is top-notch, the course, the volunteers, the kids race, the entertainment for kids (and spectators), the food, the registration gift, the medal, and the awards.  Thanks for turning my favourite trails into a great running experience for so many runners.  And especially for the intro to trail running back when the first toad was being created - you both have a lot to do with my trail running success.  Thanks again.

     Thanks to CLIF bar for their support of my racing and training with their wonderful and delicious products.  I used the tropical punch CLIF Bloks during the race, and they kept me feeling great.  Thanks to my coach Derrick Spafford for preparing me for the race.  Enormous thanks to Greg for everything you do to help me run at the level I do.  During this race, Greg took the kids to many different cheering locations on course, so they could cheer me on.  Thanks Greg, I really appreciate it - Love you!!!

      I went into this race, feeling pretty "blah" about my running, and after this kind of performance, I'm feeling much better.  It feels strange to give up a goal race (the 100k worlds), when I have been focusing on it for the year.  It leaves me feeling a bit lost without a goal, but I'm going to run some shorter races for fun and take some time to find a direction for my future racing.  My next race is in a week and a half in Sydenham, Ontario.  The Sydenham Fall Trail Run 8k Trail race.  I'm looking forward to it.
Awe shucks. Thanks Cambridge Times for the headline in Tuesday October 11th's sports section
After finishing my 25k - I have a matching toad medal with the kids.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Enjoying a Pinehurst training run - and heavy thunderstorms!

   Today we ran at Pinehurst for our Wednesday workout - and as we were driving to the park, we could hear rumbling thunder in the distance.  Greg, Steve, Doug and I hoped the thunder was headed a different direction so we continued to the park to begin our run.  We decided to run the "Run for the Toad" 12.5k loop. 10 minutes into our run, the sky opened up and it started pouring.  We could handle this, and we continued on our way.  A few kilometers later, thunder and lightning began and we decided to skip the middle "meadow" part of the course - because it was so open and we didn't want get struck by lightning - well, it would likely be Greg being struck - he's a foot taller than on all of us.  For Greg's sake we kept to the more sheltered areas, and cut the run a bit short when we were soaked and the rain showed no sign of stopping.  Steve and I picked up the pace and were able to get a few fast kms in on those rolling trails.  It was a fun run, even if our shoes wont dry out for days now.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Throw-back to 2008

Just for fun - here's a throw-back to 2008.  I was getting back in shape after having a baby the year before.  I put on 50lbs during that pregnancy and I had some work to do! I had given myself the goal of running a 50 miler, and I used that goal in my application for a year sponsorship with Nathan (Pearl Izumi and GU was in there too).  I was awarded one of the sponsorships, and I'm sporting the team uniform.  That explains my interesting wardrobe decisions :)  Below are pictures from the Sulphur Springs 50 mile race (my first and only 50 miler so far - finished 4th overall and 2nd female in 8:06).  I'm having a great time.  Hope to have a few races like that this year -minus the crazy clothes...or maybe not:)
Spotting Greg - somewhere along the way in the Sulphur Springs 50 mile race 2008

Finishing - sooo happy to see that finish line!

Sweet finish line - here I come!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Conquer the Canuck 25k Trail Race report

   The Conquer the Canuck trail races were held on June 11 &12 at Shades Mills Conservation Area in Cambridge.  It was a weekend trail racing event, with racing options of 8.3k, 25k, Marathon, 50k and the 92.2k Ultimate Canuck.  I competed in the 25k trail race on Saturday morning, and had a great race.
   The course was an 8.3k loop that wound around the conservation area, passing the lake, and into the heavily-forested areas of the park.  I really enjoyed the course.  It brought back memories of racing at Shades Mills during high school cross country.  I remembered the major hill at 5.5k (I especially remember cursing it as I tried to drag myself up it in highschool XC races), this time, I took the hill at a much more relaxed and enjoyable pace - no cursing :)
Heading out for my last lap - feeling good.
Steve and I are happy to see Greg and the kids cheering for us during our 25k trail race at Shades mills Conservation area

Finishing the 25k in 2:00:51
   The race was 3 loops, my plan was to check out the course for the first lap.  In the second lap I was going to maintain a comfortably-hard pace, and I was going to push hard on my last lap.  When I got out there, I didn't end up following the plan.  I wasn't challenged for the women's title, so I just maintained my comfortably-hard pace for the entire race and ended up finishing 4th overall and first among the women in a time of 2:00:51.  The race felt great, and Greg and the kids were there to cheer me on.  It always feels good to see my family cheering me on as I run by.  After, the kids and I hung out in the lake.  This felt amazing on my legs, and the kids had a blast swimming with their clothes on.

Tessa chasing seagulls on the beach
It was so hot we were swimming in our clothes.  The kids had a blast.

This felt great on my post-race legs.  The kids joined me in the lake.

   The event was well organized and race director Tony Martin did a great job bringing back the Conquer the Canuck after a 10 year break.  All finishers received wine at the awards ceremony, and for finishing first female I was awarded a gift card for a local outdoors shop.  Thank you Adventure Guide for donating the prize.  Special thanks to Tony and his team of friendly volunteers for an enjoyable racing experience.  Thanks to my sponsors product sponsor CLIF bar.  I used razz shot energy gels during the race.  Thanks to my coach Derrick Spafford for preparing me for the race.  Next year, I look forward to Conquering the Canuck again.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

So much relief 6 years ago today


   6 years ago today was a surprise day full of relief, and lots of joy.  My middle daughter was born a month early after a very quick labour and delivery.  My pregnancy with her was challenging.  During early pregnancy, a very large hemorrhage formed between the uterine wall and the placenta - which threatened to detach the placenta. This led to me being on bedrest for 3 weeks, then restricted activities for the remainder of the pregnancy.  When the problem was first diagnosed, the odds were not great for the baby's survival, and I prayed and prayed that she would be on the positive end of the odds.   I was so grateful that she managed to keep growing, and remained healthy despite her placenta being threatened.  Even though the placenta stayed attached, the doctors spoke about an increased risk of premature delivery and were monitoring me closely.  The longer she stayed in, the better.  I was hoping to get to my due date of mid-August.

   On that hot Monday in July at 36 weeks, I noticed that I was having some cramping.  I called the doctor on call at the hospital and let him know.  He said that it was hot (and that was probably causing the cramps), and not to worry until the cramping starts to form a pattern.  I was noticing these cramps on and off all day, but they were really spaced apart and not too painful.  My sister-in-law was overdue with her baby at the same time, and she kept going to the hospital in false labour and getting sent home, so part of me thought that I was just hearing her stories, and having false labour too.

   Greg finished his workday, we had a bite to eat and I said that we should go to the hospital to just get checked out.  So we dropped our oldest daughter off with my parents and off we went.

   The next part of this story is a bit of a whirl wind.  Greg and I were sent to labour and delivery for an assessment and it was then that I learned that I was 8cm dialated and the baby was very low.  I panicked - the baby was going to be early, the doctor assured me that at 36 weeks, she'll likely need to stay a few days in hospital but odds are good that she'll be just fine (good odds this time - yay!).  The doctor broke my water at 7:16pm.  With 3 quick pushes -that I screamed through like you see in the movies:) my baby was born at 7:23pm.  She didn't cry and had some difficulty breathing, I held her for one quick photo, and she was whisked away to the special care nursery.  I told Greg to go with her, and I was left in the room, alone, suddenly not pregnant anymore and wondering how my baby was doing.  All in less than an hour after arriving at the hospital.  I made the phone calls to very shocked friends and family to let them know that my baby was here.  Then I wandered over to the nursery to see my baby - still in disbelief that she was actually here.  After months of worrying, July 19, 2010 was such a relief.  She made it, and when she was allowed out of the isolette, I would get to hold her.  Now, 6 years later, she's my spunky, strong-willed, passionate child who is such a joy to watch grow up.  Happy birthday sweetie!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Remembering Oscar -my always enthusiastic running buddy

Here comes a post that has been really hard to write.  Oscar died in the early hours of Monday June 20, 2016.  He was Greg and my first dog.  We adopted him from an animal shelter in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia while we were on our honeymoon and have shared the last 12 years with him.  Here's my goodbye letter.

   Dear Oscar,
   To my running buddy and faithful furry friend, Oscar.  12 years ago, I was so excited to get a dog.  Greg and I researched dog breeds, and had narrowed down a few that we thought would be a good fit for us.  Then, while driving past the Lunenberg SPCA building on one of our last days of our honeymoon, we stopped in for a look.  Um, well everything we read was completely ignored, as our hearts melted when we spotted you.  In the litter of extremely cute balls-of-fur at the Lunenberg SPCA, you are the one who ran right to me and jumped into my lap.  From that moment, I knew you were a special dog.  We weren't sure what breed you were, but from the markings - German Sheppard, and from the shape of your ears and head, and long legs we suspected Golden Retriever.  It didn't matter what breed you were, we fell in love and drove you home the next day.

   We shared so many runs together.  I would bring you to running practice with the Cambridge Harriers, and you were so excited to run with the group, that you would whine in the car as we approached the parking lot, then as the group gathered outside the cars, you had this amazing vertical leap that you would do whenever a new runner joined the waiting bunch.  It was hilarious.

   My running friends look back at your antics with huge smiles on their faces.  You really were a special dog.  We went on too many runs to count.  You were a very enthusiastic running buddy and loved leading the way.   Our last run together was on the snow-covered trails close to home during that April snowstorm this year.  You bounded through the snow with puppy-like enthusiasm.  It was a wonderful last run that we shared.
 My first student - I taught you to sit, stay, come, lay down, high five, speak, gently take food or treats, and to wait until I said "OK take it" to run for food.  You knew what "run" ment, and loved car rides because it ment we were going to go explore some trails together.

   You were there for the tough times.  You laid by the bed when I was on bedrest during my challenging pregnancy.  Putting your head on the bed trying to comfort me while I was terrified of losing the baby.  You were always there.  You welcomed each of my babies home, and were so gentle and protective of them.  On two occasions, while out for a run together, you bravely stood in between me and a charging, snarling dog.  You took a few bites for me, and luckily scared the other dogs off. It has always been very clear that you would do anything to protect me.  

   You were horrible to take to the beach - no one from our family could be in the water without you FREAKING out and wanting to rescue us.  You would bark non-stop from the shore, and if I let you loose you would sprint for whoever was in the water, and grab their wrist (or swimsuit) and attempt to pull Greg or the kids to shore.  Once while at a friends cottage, Greg got up early and took a canoe out on the lake.  He heard splashing a few minutes later, and there you were swimming behind the canoe, trying to rescue Greg....always making sure we were ok.  Thanks for that Oscar.

   Your exuberant love of life (and other dogs) became embarrassing at times.  Taking you to a dog park was problematic because of your need to show your doggie love to others.  You showed great endurance when you would hump other dogs, male, female it didn't matter.  You humped and humped and when the dogs left, you continued with a phantom air hump action that was just as embarrassing as the fiasco that preceded it.  I was advised on many occasions by frustrated dog owners who were watching their dog on the receiving end of a good hump, that I should neuter my dog.  I kindly explained that it's not advisable to neuter dogs more than once, and then apologized on my extra-feisty dog's behalf.  A month ago, I watched as you attempted to hump the cat.  Herman would have no part of that, so he swatted at you and ran away.  You were left to air-hump once again (which you happily continued). Oh my weird and wonderful Oscar.

   Thank you for the 12 amazing years.   You warmed our home and gave us endless love and laughs.  There is an unsettling quietness and empty feeling in our house without you there.  I miss seeing you at the door when I come home, with your clumsy full-body wag greeting.  You were such a good boy and I know you loved us so much.  When the time comes to welcome another wonderful dog into our lives, I know you will give her your, "hump of approval".  Love ya Osc.

The one who sneaks you all the table scraps when she cooks, talks to you like a human, and brings in lots of awesome smells on her running shoes.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Adventure rooms - Team "If something goes wrong, we eat Greg first" report

     This afternoon I paid money to get handcuffed and locked in a room with a bunch of my closest friends.  Our task was to escape from the Adventure rooms - The Vault room by solving variety of logic puzzles that lead to a chain reaction of puzzle solving.  Eventually if you are successful, you will escape and  "Win".  Sharon had organized the challenge, and I found myself there this afternoon with Greg, Sharon, Ray and Sarah.  With a 20% escape success rate, I was skeptical going in, but we had a fantastic team that worked together very well.  Sharon thought up our team name while we were on a long drive last weekend, and it was fun announcing it to our team.  We were team: "If something goes wrong, we eat Greg first"

     I thought that I would contribute very little to this activity - I'm not really a logic-puzzle-code solving-type person, but there were a few elements of the game that I solved (I can't describe them - I was sworn to secrecy upon entering the room).  It seemed that we all had moments like that.  Adventure Rooms was a really cool experience that I would do again.  We did it - we escaped from Adventure Rooms, Kitchener's "The Vault" room....and we didn't have to eat Greg.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Scoping out good running routes from above - Thanks for the runs Jen

Dear Jen,
There are very few people who truly understand what it's like to be a mother, a teacher, and an athlete.  Jen Alsop did, and we had many conversations expressing our feelings about the pressures we felt.  We laughed and joked around about parenting our young daughters as mom-athletes.  For a year or so while she ran with the Cambridge Harriers, I had a kindred spirit who understood how hard it was to try and "do it all".  Thank you for those runs around Victoria park where we laughed about our rebellious reluctance to be "super moms".  The runs ment a lot and you gave me reassurance that doing my best is enough.  We have lost touch over the years, but I have thought about you once in a while as my life gets busy and I feel absolutely overwhelmed.  I have wondered how you were doing, and hoped that you were still running (even if it's not with the awesome Cambridge Harriers).  I was so sorry to hear about your death, and my thoughts and prayers are with your two sweet children, and your family.   Scope out some good running routes in Heaven, and someday we'll run again,

If you knew Jen, there's a gofundme page set up for her children.  It can be found here:

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Cambridge Mill Race 8k - Female course record while showing off my race face

      What an amazing day!  I ran the Cambridge Mill Race 8k Road race this past Sunday May 1, and I'm still enjoying the wonderful post-race feeling of achieving a challenging goal.  I went into the race, with the goal of finishing in under 34 minutes - that would give me the female course record.  I have been running on the course for my last few workouts and wondering if that time was doable. For my last workout before the race, I ran with fellow Cambridge Harrier Doug.  My workout was warm-up, then race-pace 3x 3min repeats, with 3 min rest, cool down.  It went really well -for me, I almost killed Doug - sorry Doug :) I went into the race feeling pretty good about the planned pace that I wanted to run.  My goal was to hold 4:10-4:15km on the hilly route - that would get me through the line in under 34 minutes.

     The course is challenging.  It's very hilly in the second half of the race.  Living within a few kilometers of the start line, I have home course advantage here.  I run on these streets several times a week, so there was a nice familiarity to the race.  This course started with a gradual downhill for 700m followed immediately by a steep "drop-off-the-earth" road section of about 50m. I blasted that kilometer clocking 3:49.  I was still in a large pack, but I noticed the top women were with me.  Kilometers 2 and 3 were on a long, flat stretch of road.  It was a challenge to be patient here, and not push too hard - the 2nd and 3rd place women were close, and normally I would like to get some distance on them, but I knew that the course was really hilly in the last half, so I maintained a comfortably-hard pace.

     At 4k, the hills started. Gradual climbs from 4-5k, then some steep climbs and seemingly constant climbing.  I was running with Harriers Pedro and Jason, and working hard to hold a pace close to my goal.  Between 5-6k, I was wondering if I would break the record. It felt like I had slowed down so much.  But since this race was organized by my running group, most of the marshalls (especially those in the last 3k) were my running friends.  I felt so supported and so lucky to have all the cheering as I passed (thank you so much Sharon, Warren, Doug, Nelson, Megan, Anita, Paula, Colin,  Darcy, Jen, Joyce....and Greg!).  I pulled ahead of Jason and Pedro in the last 2k.  I really pushed, and was giving it all I had.

     The last kilometer was tough.  There was a steep downhill section, a steep uphill climb, followed by a 700m gradual hill to the finish line.  My legs were done, and I was pushing so hard to get to the end.  I approached the finish area, and I could see friends and family were there to see me finish the race.  As soon as I got close enough that I could read the clock, it was clear to me that I would be breaking the record.  I crossed the line feeling like I was going as fast as I possibly could go.  I was so happy that I had broken the record - my Dad ran over and was the first one to give me a hug at the finish - followed by my Mom and my girls, then more of my running club buddies.  I finished in 33:28.  I was 10th overall, first female and I was the new course record holder.  It was a wonderful feeling - getting over that line.
Almost there!  About to cross the line and claim the women's course record.  It hurts so much - but I'm really happy-I swear :)  Photo credit - George Aitkin

At the awards ceremony with my first place female overall prize. Photo credit - Anita Cressman
     Within minutes of my finish, Race Director and one of my running buddies - Steve Mota informed me that my race number had been pre-drawn, and I had won one of the major draw prizes from the race's title sponsor - Champagne Brunch for four at the Cambridge Mill Restaurant.  Yay!  That was exciting, the day was getting better and better.  At the awards ceremony, I accepted my first place female award, and a gift certificate for running shoes from Runner's Choice in Waterloo.  Thank you very much Cambridge Mill, and Runner's Choice.  I appreciate the prizes, and your generosity.

     Thanks to Race Directors Steve and Kelly Mota, and all the Harrier's volunteers.  The race was well organized, and I really appreciate the opportunity to race on my home course.  Thanks to my personal sponsors - CLIF bar for their delicious CLIF bars, CLIF   shots, CLIF shot bloks, CLIF builders bars, and CLIF Organic trail mix bars that I use in my training and on race day.  Thank you Coronation Chiropractic and Massage, and Sharon Rutledge Naturopath.  Thanks to my coach Derrick Spafford for helping me to prepare for the race.  Huge thanks to Greg for his unending support of my running, and for cheering and popping out all over the course. This was a very exciting start to my 2016 (snowshoe-less) racing season!

Results from the race can be found here.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Canadian Cancer Society Great Ride 'n' Stride for Aunt Brenda

Today was an amazing day.  Hundreds of people gathered at Conestoga College for the Canadian Cancer Society's Great ride 'n' stride to walk, run, or bike 5 or 10k.  My family and I were members of "Team Brenda", a team put together to support my aunt Brenda who is currently fighting stage 4 ovarian cancer.  I was astonished at the sheer number of yellow "Team Brenda" shirts running and walking for Aunt Brenda.  It was announced that we were the largest team at that location - with over 190 members.  Team Brenda also raised $13 580 for the Canadian Cancer society.  Aunt Brenda was there and she looked beyond-happy at the turn out.  We're hoping for lots of success with your next rounds of chemo, and for you to heal and be well in the years to come.  Lots of love to you Aunt Brenda!

Here's the local news coverage of the event - The Great Ride 'n' Stride part begins at 28:40, and there's a spot where you can see Greg (with a kiddo on his shoulders), at 29:48.  They do a really good interview with Aunt Brenda that really shows how positive she is about this whole experience.  Check it out here: