Monday, 18 May 2015

Race Recap: 5 Peaks Central Alberta Trail Race #1 - Sikome Lake, Calgary

I woke up very excited about this trail race. Although this is the first time I was truly running in a 5 Peaks trail race, this is not the first 5 Peaks event that I've participated. Last summer, due to injury, I walked 9 or so kilometres with a friend in the sport course at Fish Creek Park (Race #4 in August). It was very enjoyable and I had a first hand experience of what a trail race was like...without actually having to run the race. The trail running community was small and friendly, the sponsors were generous and visible, attentive to providing goods and services to the trail running community.

I was so glad not to be training for any half marathons this year, and that I decided to focus on trail running. I wanted to see what this trail running was all about; and of course, I wanted to see for myself how well I could do.

I trained by running a few times in Fish Creek Park, though not so much on trails, since I was not familiar with the single track trail system, or in fact with much of the Park. I was fortunate that I had friends who do regularly run in this Park and I could join them for a run there. My training on trail runs have mostly been limited to a few times running up and down McHugh Bluff, one trail run with the Strides Running Store through Bowmont Park (which I nearly thought was a mistake for me, considering my fear of heights - a story for another time) and the Wed night orientation run organized by Amy Golumbia at 5 Peaks.

The view of the Bow River upstream at Bowmont Park. Strides Urban Trail Running.

The orientation run was a great way to learn about the race course itself, especially for someone like me who hadn't even run many trails yet. The differing terrain, the hills, the ascents and descents, the scenery, and the people who chose to show up at this run was great. I was so fatigued during this run, bc I had just run through Bowmont Park with a very fast (to me) group the day before. However, it got me thinking about how I should strategize my run on race day. I know it sounds a bit like overkill for a 5k trail race - but hey! - I knew I wasn't going to be fast at all, yet anything to help me run a tad faster than before and also enjoy the race would be useful!

This Instagram photo from 5 Peaks shows me and my new running friend Greg at the orientation run.

On race day, due to limited parking, I made sure to show up early, the registration tables had not been set up yet. In fact, half of the "limited" parking was still empty! However, I was still glad to be there and see the entire race being set up. It gave me time to go over my things again and again to make sure I didn't miss anything for my race, yet at the same time, not overpack for the short sport course race. In addition, I saw a few running friends: Jenny, Tina (a 5 Peaks Ambassador), a number of people from the Run Club at the Eau Claire Running Room, and others, some new buddies from the orientation run on Wednesday night!

The situation when I got there: just setting up.
 5 Peaks always runs a series of events on race day: 1k kids' race (free), 3k kids' race ($20), sport race and the enduro race. It's always great fun to watch the kids' race, and I'm always in awe of those who choose to run the enduro races bc they are the longer distances and often the more difficult courses as well.

Kids on the run - 1 and 3 km Kids' Races
After all the kids' races were done and the enduro runners were off, it was our turn to start. I headed for the back, because I know I'm a newbie at this, but more importantly, I'm just a very slow runner. Why hold up the parade? Soon enough, we were off.

The beginning of the race starts off with this big-@$$ hill (which I am sure the more seasoned ones though it was nothing). I slowly but doggedly ran up that hill. It was tough slogging. After a bit of a flat section, there was a descent that seemed a little steep to me, but a lot of runners took it in stride as if it was a continuation of the flat. As you can see, my fear of heights may have hindered me from going any faster than I would have wished. However, once past the wooded descent, it opened to some open fields of single track, with the occasional paved pathway to follow. I felt pretty good, although I had to pace myself, going out to the turnaround point where the water station was. I followed this one lady for the longest time until she just couldn't keep up the pace anymore, and then I had to figure out how to motivate myself to keep going at whatever pace that lady had run. It was even more difficult, since I forgot my Garmin and was basically running naked (with clothes on).

In any case, after the turnaround point, it was getting a bit tough bc all along the single track both approaching and leaving the turnaround, the faster runners were already there, and often I had to step off the single track to let them pass. Not that I minded it; I most certainly did not want to be in their way. However, it did make me tired - perhaps bc running alongside the single track in the taller grasses and the like was not contemplated by me and made it tougher going. That said, I was so appreciative of a number of those faster runners who still encouraged as slower ones, even as they were racing to their speedy and perhaps podium finishes. They inspired me to encourage the slower ones I approached after I had passed the turnaround point. This kind of goodwill is rare to see at a road race but was so awesome to encourage at this trail race.

The "steep" descent, on going back, because the "steep" ascent for me. This was probably the most discouraging part of the race for me, bc I was so fatigued that I could only walk up the hill, slowly. How do I know? I had all sorts of people run past me up this ascent...and then I even had people WALKING up the hill faster than me!!! At that time, I was pretty tapped out and just could not put any more effort into my slow shuffle up the hill. Once I got past it though and recovered with a slow jog, then I was able to pick up the pace to the finish. It required a run along the ridge before you could run down to the finish, and it was picturesque.

Once I got to 50 metres from the finish, I sprinted it and came in at 42:44 chip time...on a 6.3k race route. I had expected with the terrain and lack of trail experience that my pace would be 7 mins/km plus...turned out to be around 6:47. I'll take that!!

The post race food was really good, although I must really remember to bring my own plate and cutlery. Chips, fruit - esp the strawberries! - muffins, water, gatorade and coffee was simple but excellent to recover. I tried the Muscle Milk which a lot of people enjoy as a recovery drink...unfortunately, not the thing for me. However, many of my running friends were happy to enjoy it and I was happy for them too. Clif bars had an excellent selection of bars, both for fuel and recovery and I did enjoy many of their flavours.

Altra Running Canada was there as well as CEP Canada, which made me very happy. As I had just bought a couple of pairs of Altra Lone Peaks already, I didn't feel it was necessary to be buying shoes again...however, I did make sure to buy orange CEP compression socks. Originally I bought it to colour coordinate with my orange Lone Peaks as well as a new pair of Brooks running shorts and Asics running tank top, but it turned out that the main colour for the 5 Peak races was orange as well LOL!

If the weather is right, I will be SO colour coordinated one of these wait and see!!

Not so colour coordinated this race...but soon!
Other than my race result, the other highlight of my 5 Peaks race experience (or post-race rather) was a visit to Elite Sport Performance for a physio session. The physio therapist there assessed me and then worked on me really helped to loosen up my left hip and leg. She seemed to have a knack of pinpointing the EXACT location of where it was the most painful; and yet, by pressing on that location, seemed to have released the tension in that was only 15 mins or so but my leg and butt felt so much better - looser, more relaxed even. Wonderful!

All in all, a great experience at my first trail race; I'm looking forward to the rest of the 5 Peak races. I even signed up for MEC's Spring trail race, which is their first ever trail race that they've organized. June 6, I'll find out what it's all about.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

1st Half Marathon Distance in 2015's been the 1st 21.1k run since (Canadian) Thanksgiving in Oct 2014. I've hurt and injured myself more times than I can count last year, so my New Year's Resolution in 2015 was to not run in any half marathon races this year.

...but nothing to prevent me from running with the half marathon clinic at the Eau Claire Running Room here in Calgary! As it is, I have so many running friends in the half clinic that it would be tough for me to join another running clinic anyways, so I ran most of the training runs in the half clinic. Including today's LSD 20k training run.

Except the today's run wasn't *just* 20k... turned out to be a legitimate half marathon distance. At least, my Garmin says so and I'm sticking by it!!

I wasn't sure that running 20k (or 21.24k in this case) was a wise idea for me. The last LSD I ran was 16k about 3-4 weeks ago. After that, I focussed on training on the trails for my 1st real trail race on May 9. Then work got in the way of my family life, which of course means running and training must give way. So while I was still running, I was not keeping up on the LSD runs.

I decided that I could run with the group and see how I felt. The running route today led through the Stampede Grounds and Mission to the Elbow Dr. pathway. After that we wound our way through some ritzy neighbourhood that was affected by the Flood of 2013 to a park. Not sure what the part was called but MAN! do I remember that hill at the 10k mark. Clearly the City of Calgary found it so steep that it required about 3 or 4 switchbacks!! I ran almost all the way to the top before I was too fatigued to keep running; then kicked myself when after the last turn in the switchback, it turned out I was very close to the top of the hill and I could have kept running. Argh!

That said, it was so beautiful to run through Sandy Beach/Park. Stunning views of the downtown skyline; running among the lush grass and trees thanks to yesterday's rain/snowstorm; enjoying the company of leash free but nevertheless friendly dogs of every description playing in the park. Then we headed back via Sifton Avenue to the Elbow Dr pathway, where we retraced our steps.

I felt pretty good, although tired at times, for most of the run. Of course, it was the last 2k that really challenged me. Running 19k felt fine, but I slowed considerably along the Bow River near the Harry Hays Building bc I was getting so tired and so sore. My butt hurt, my legs hurt, my right foot hurt. Lack of sleep (only 4 hours) was catching up to me. Still, I persevered and kept on running until I got to the end - wherein I discovered that I had run the 21.24k as per my Garmin. At that point, I said "I'm done!!"

Of course, a long run like that pooped me out so much that I took a nap even before I had a chance to roll my legs and taking a hot salt bath. However, I've done all those things now and I'm gonna try and stay up bc I'm so excited to watch the finale of Mad Men!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Race Recap: Transplant Trot 10k

Today was the 1st race of 2015 for me. After injuries and health issues last year, I vowed not to train for a half marathon or any race really, except for trail races.

But this recap is not about halfs or trail races. Just a good 10k road race for a cause very dear to my heart: the Transplant Trot. It is a charity race with walk/run distances ranging from 3k to 5k to 10k, for the Canada Transplant Association, which is a nonprofit devoted to organizing athletic events every 2 years for organ transplant recipients like me. This race happens at the end of the National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week. Organ Donation is a cause I am passionate about, mainly because I am a kidney transplant recipient, thanks to my loving hubby, who donated his kidney to me.

Anyways, I had hardly been serious about training for this race. Sure, I have been running with the half marathon clinic at the Eau Claire Running Room, but it was more about keeping up and socializing with my running peeps and also training to lose weight (haha, a story for another time). I wasn't even serious about race day today: I booked a chiro appointment at 9 am, and then had to leave Confederation Park by 11:30 am so that I could pick up my daughter and have lunch with another family. If the Transplant Trot was not puctual in beginning the race, there was a real chance I would just have to skip the race and leave. Thank goodness that was not the case!

I was able to make it to the Transplant Trot in good time and meet up with some good friends and excellent volunteers and even one runner like me!

With Shauna Rivait, a ceaseless advocate for organ and tissue donation!

With Tina, a fellow Kidney Marcher AND runner like me!!

With Teresa and her hubby who "photobombed" our pic.

Instead at 10 am, we were lined up on the grass near the finish line and then off we ran when the word "GO!" was shouted.

I ran for some distance and then noticed a gradual creeping of hard breathing. I looked at my watch and - yikes! - I was running a crazy sub 6 min/km pace (I think 5:38 or 5:45). I knew I couldn't maintain that pace even at 5k, never mind a 10k! So, I forced myself to slow down.

It was a relatively flat and fast few kms...until at the 4k mark. Then - YIKES! - short but relatively steep series of hills. I took my time on those, and discovered close to the turnaround point that I would have to run them AGAIN, as part of the 2nd loop and it was right before the finish line!!

So I did strategize my run accordingly, to hold back a little on the flat portion and save my legs for the last 2k of the race when I would have to run those hills. The second loop was therefore an enjoyable run, even those I was tired. I thanked every volunteer I saw on the second loop and then focussed on the hills. I ran most of the hills, but only walked when I got close to the top of each of the 3 hills.

It worked for me, by and large, in that I did not hurt myself and was able to sprint the last 20-50 metres to the finish! When I saw the time on the clock of 1:05:20 as I crossed the finish line, I was so excited that I did a loud "whoop!" which surprised a few people and some even laughed. If only they knew what an exciting achievement it was for me to finish a 10k race and PB it!!

Afterwards, I looked at the time on my Garmin, and I was even more excited to see the time. I realized then that a sub-60 min finish is actually possible one day!! Especially given that I hadn't trained much for it, 5 lbs heavier than last year AND took time off the first part of this year to heal from injuries.

Per my Garmin, I could actually do this!!
The venue of the Transplant Trot was fantastic, not only bc it was close to my house, but mainly because it was a wonderful and beautiful park to run in. The race was well organized and so many sponsors were so kind to sponsor our race!! They had raffles (for which I wish I brought cash - a note for myself for next year!), food, AND massages!

I was very grateful for this race, not only because I got a personal best, which was of course awesome, but because of the awareness for organ and tissue donation and for so many people who came to support this race - so thankful for the organizers, the volunteers, the sponsors and MOST OF ALL for all those who made their wishes known regarding organ donation, whether by signing the back of their driver's licence, back of their health card, or registering their consent to donate via the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry. I hope you'll consider organ donation too.