That was a run year

Posted: 2016-12-12 in random

Four pairs of running shoes.  Twelve medals. A beer glass. A beer mug. Lots of travel. A couple of hats and loads of wonderful memories.  2016 has been a fun year of running, training and racing.  Here’s a little story of my 2016 running life with my partner, Chris.

  1. One of the first years that I opted to sleep in instead of taking part in the Resolution Run on New Year’s Day meant our first official race wasn’t until April.  Probably just as well as I was still dealing with my neck issue and deeply in love with my bed on Sunday mornings.  Training started slowly but I felt ready for the Lorneville Loop just outside Saint John, NB on April 10.  The 13km race has a few decent hills and tends to be a bit windy.  The wind arrived on time for 2016 but I was feeling

    great and my pace was fast.  I hit the 6km mark and heard a pop in my neck.  Thus endeth my fast pace.  Cradling my arm and in pain I managed to finish but I was not happy.  No lasting effects however – thankfully!  The BIG medal was a nice consolation and the homemade chili at the end is always welcome on this first race of the season.  Plus the race raises funds for charity so that’s always a bonus.

  2. After a bit of rest the training continued.  Oddly I came down with a case of vertigo and running was difficult.  I had a couple of treatments at a local physiotherapist and that helped quite a bit.  So we kept going to run the Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon on May 14 in Biddeford, Maine. We originally had another race in mind but it didn’t seem to be going ahead so we picked this race as we had heard several good things about it.  We were not disappointed.  We traveled to Kennebunkport, ME and stayed in an old bed and breakfast near the waterfront.  The race itself started just a few miles away in Biddeford on the campus of the state university.  The race was well organized with half marathon, full marathon and shorter distances featured.  The route was gorgeous as we ran

    along the coast and through picturesque lanes dotted with cottages, executive holiday homes and hotels.  The weather was perfect and there was lots of local support with people cheering along the roads.  It was beautiful running by the water.  Sadly, I had a bout with the dizziness around the half way mark which slowed me a bit but we kept going.  We crossed the finish line hand in hand and I sailed straight to the medical tent to stop the spins!  Once recovered we headed over to the beer tent where part of registration included “free” Shipyard Brewery beer.  We sat with a few runners in the sun, trading running stories and laughs while we watched everyone else finish.  It was one of the few races we have been to where all the runners who were done stayed around and cheered loudly for the last ones to finish. It was a nice finish to a beautiful race.

  3. Fredericton Airport Runway 5km was up next on May 28.  This was the second annual race at the airport and a fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association.  Race day in contrast to the first year was hot and sunny.  My vertigo had been in remission for 10 days and I felt great.  I was

    supposed to be running with 2 friends but I felt so good and NOT dizzy that I apologized to them and ran ahead.  The course is flat out and back in a bit of a zig zag on the runway and it was hot. I was just so pleased to be able to run without the spins that I hollered and jumped over the finish line into Chris’s waiting embrace.  He was speedy as usual and had a good fast run.  The finisher’s medal is always unique and featured a magnet this year.  Chris and I always volunteer as well as run so we especially love this event.

  4. Now that I was feeling better we continued our training for the next race on June 26, the Bay of Fundy International Half Marathon.  We had been incorporating lots of hill training in the spring and it was sorely needed for this race.  The course started on beautiful Campobello Island, NB and wound its way to the border crossing at Lubec, Maine ending on that side in the town’s main street.  I have to say this was probably my favourite half-marathon race to date.  The course was gorgeous with ocean views, small villages and beautiful scenery.  It was VERY hilly – about 15 big hills but it was so pretty and the weather was perfect.  The race is well supported by the 2 communities and some homeowners along the route even brought out their hoses to cool us off. This is one of the best organized races I have attended.  From the race kit pick-up, to the expo, to the food tent, to the medals and

    especially the volunteers, this race was top-notch.  We had a slight snafu at the race-kit pickup which was our own fault but other than that (and the time change my iPhone failed to pick up on) we were golden.  Your race bib was your passport as all the paperwork, etc. had been done upon registering.  It was fun to run through the Canada-U.S. border and wave to the guards, up over the Lubec bridge and into the middle of downtown Lubec’s street fair. The medal was a handmade painted starfish. The food tent was stock full of minestrone soup, yogurt and fresh berries, bagels, sandwichs, granola, fruit, juice, water and lots of volunteers.  Each runner was met at the finish line by a volunteer and escorted to the tent.  Very classy and well done. The race was also the first part of the Fundy Challenge in connection with the Marathon By the Sea – more on that race later.

  5. Our next race was on July 1.  The Grand Bay 10 Miler just outside Saint John, NB. The course was hilly in spots, not well supported, the finish line was a chalk scratch across the pavement, there was not enough water or food, no medal, etc. etc.
    13576913_1722533594673347_425484868986499916_o

    Don’t let my smile fool you…

    -definitely not a favourite race of mine.  I may have been tired from the Fundy race but I really did not enjoy any aspect of this race.  The same people running these small races attract the same people running them, congratulating each other on their fast times and not supporting other runners. It’s like a little clique that is not welcoming.  Always leaves a bad taste in my mouth and is NOT what a race should be. Enough said.

  6. Switching gears we signed up for the Fredericton Beer Run on August 1.  A fun 4km run on the trails in Fredericton followed by sampling lots of local craft beer.  The day was hot and sunny and we ran with our wonderful friend Ahmet.  We started out fast and loose and were really enjoying ourselves.  Stupidly I stepped on a rock near the

    turnaround point and wrenched my knee.  Nothing serious but enough to slow me down.  Geez, I have crap luck.  Anyway, the day was saved by the delicious beer and great company as we met friends after.

  7. Our training continued as we were heading into the last weeks of marathon prep for the fall.  We returned to one of our favourite races, Marathon By the Sea in Saint John, NB for our final half marathon of 2016 on August 16.  I ran my very first half marathon there and this was to be my 12th overall.  The course is hilly and somewhat challenging but beautiful with a mix of street, park and trail sections to break up the distance.  Both Chris and I felt strong and confident and the hills did not defeat us.  The race is quite well supported with amazing volunteers, a good expo, lots of food in the food tent and nice swag.  We both had a great race, ran beside each

    other and I bested my first time on the course by a healthy 20 minutes!  Our dear friends Rod and Jo were there to celebrate with us (Rod is the co-director of the race) so it was a perfect day.  We also picked up a second medal – silver – as we completed the Fundy Challenge (with the Bay of Fundy race) of 2 half marathons.

  8. Back in 2015 a running friend and I decided to put together a women only race weekend to attend the Sole Sisters race in Dartmouth, NS.  Our modest group ballooned to a huge number and we even had t-shirts made.  The race was held on October 2.  I originally registered for a half-marathon but dropped down tnik-and-joo a quarter marathon on race day. There was so much hype about this race and so much excitement.  To say I was underwhelmed would be an overstatement.  Registration and the expo were extremely crowded and strangely organized.  The swag was a tank top and a hoodie which where sized way too small and of poor quality – I suspect something cheap from China.  The race was fairly well supported – there were volunteer water stations and cheerleaders along the course.  The course wound through an industrial park which was quite boring.  Unfortunately, it poured rain on race day but that didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits.  The other unfortunate thing was the race was held on the same day as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Run for the Cure.  Quite disrespectful of the race director to pick that date of all dates.  Nonetheless the race was sold out.  It is not one I would do again.  I found it did not live up to the hype.  The group that went seemed to have a good time though so that is what counts.  I had a ball running

    with my buddy Jo as we blasted a 10.5km run.  After we completed the race we hustled over to the Halifax side to cheer on Chris and his sister Karen as they participated in the 5 km Run for the Cure.  That race always will have a place in my heart and I was so glad we were able to support and cheer on the runners and see Chris and his brother-in-law David in pink tutus (they rocked them!).

  9. All of the year’s training and races culminated in our running of the PEI Marathon on October 16 in Charlottetown, PEI. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.  It was cool but sunny and dry. We really enjoyed running the marathon together.  It was great to have the support of your partner and we crossed that 42.2km finish line hand in hand.

    All of that hill training, extra cross-training and perseverance got us there.  The race itself is a lovely course starting by the ocean and ending in downtown Charlottetown.  Farmer’s fields, city streets, parks and trails were all a part of the course.  A few hills here and there and one notable hill in the last 5km marked the route.  The expo was small and the food tent featured the standard fare.  There was quite a bit of support along the route with funny signs and people cheering but there were also lots of places that it was just nice to run and enjoy the scenery.  Marathon number 2 for me and marathon number 4 for Chris are officially in the books.

  10. A couple of weeks off to rest and recoup then on to a fun run with one of my friends from work.  She has just started running this year so it was a pleasure to pace her at the Nackawic Run the River 5k race.  Raising funds for the Nackawic Kid’s Ski program the race is a local race with a lot of heart.  The medal is small but locally made and this was the 5th anniversary of the run.  The community really gets behind the race and it is well supported and organized.

    The start is uphill and the 5k route is mostly downhill after that.  It winds along the river and past the Big Axe at Nackawic, NB.  My friend ran very well and it was only her second 5k race and her first running hills.  As is my M.O. I left her shortly before the finish line to sprint across.  It has become a tradition to go to Big Axe Brewery in the town to fill a growler and celebrate.    They have free soup for the runners and of course,  a selection of great craft beer.  My friend and I enjoyed ourselves and met some nice people, too.

  11. With the snow being so pretty it was time for the Santa Shuffle on December 3. The 5k fun race is in support of the Salvation Army. The race is held on the north side of Fredericton on the trail system and a little over 240 participants ran this year.  The race is always

    fun as everyone dresses in Christmas costumes and people just have a great time.  Santa is at the finish line to high five you and there is a lovely medal at the end.  My costume this year consisted of an ugly Christmas sweater, a tree skirt and a circle of jingle bells on my head.  It was a fun run with good friends and we topped it off with a late brunch afterwards.

  12. And finally last but not least was the inaugural Taster Craft Brewery Fun Run on December 10.  A group of 9 runners ran to 5 different craft breweries to sample their wares and have a lot of fun. It was a brutally cold day for the 8.5km run but no one seemed to mind as we traveled around Fredericton tasting some simply

    wonderful brews. Starting from Graystone Brewing then Trailway Brewing, Picaroons, Red Rover Cider and finally ending at the James Joyce Pub the 8 of us (one runner had to leave) totally enjoyed ourselves with a relaxing run.  Next Tasters run will be in the spring of 2017.

As the year winds down I can safely look back on 2016 as a good running year.  I overcame some challenges and ran some good races.  I learned a lot about myself this year and found a good training plan that seems to work well. Chris and I also learned to run together and support each other through it all.  We gathered strength from running and pushing each other and it paid off.  The year was made even sweeter as we registered for the Ottawa Marathon in May of  2017.  Shortly thereafter I was named to  Team Awesome as an ambassador for the Ottawa race.  It will be my 3rd marathon and Chris’s 5th and although there are many long cold training runs ahead of us this winter we are ready and excited to get started.

Just keep running.

Nicola

Upright and smiling

Posted: 2015-05-20 in random
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A couple of weeks have passed and I am still tingling from the experience of running my first full marathon in Vancouver, BC. The long frigid training runs in the middle of one of the harshest winters are just a blurry memory now that I have that medal around my neck.  Here is how it played out: My boyfriend and I arrived in Vancouver a couple of days in advance to get used to the time zone difference of 4 hours.  We deliberately planned on doing nothing those 2 days and we accomplished just that.  We were staying with family so it was a pleasant visit.  We moved to a hotel the night before and stayed the night of just to be close to the finish line.

Friday
We spent the afternoon at the Race Expo/ Wellness event. Wandering around and taking it easy on the legs.

Got my number. Now I have to run.

Got my number. Now I have to run.

The expo had every kind of nutrition “potion” you could imagine to try, clothing, shoes, health and fitness experts.  Oddly, there was even a knife vendor and a mattress vendor – weird. It was large venue/event with lots of vendors/sponsors and we even spent some time with John Stanton, the owner of The Running Room.

with John Stanton

with John Stanton

Saturday
We relaxed and did a short 3k run through a pretty West Vancouver neighbourhood. Just a few gentle hills and gorgeous summer like weather. A carb loading meal, lots of hydration and early to bed.

Sunday – Race Day
We hopped on the Canada Line to Queen Elizabeth Park to the start line at 6:30am.  A short walk helped to warm up the legs a bit but since I was not running until 8:30am it didn’t help me much.  My boyfriend and friend were doing the half and they started a full hour and a half before me which was a bit awkward.  I spent most of the time in the hospitality tent talking with other marathoners before the race.  I met a couple of women who had run several 42.2’s and one of them introduced me to a guy who was running his 150th marathon.  I shook his hand for luck!

I went to my corral and waited patiently to head to the start line.

Waiting to start

Waiting to start

I wasn’t nervous but rather excited and wanted to run!  I was determined to NOT go out fast.  It took about 8 minutes to cross the line and we were off.  The excitement was palatable and I stayed with the 4:30 pace bunny for most of the first 10k. My pace was where I wanted it to be and I felt relaxed and happy.  A pee break put me a bit behind from the pacer.  It’s easy to lose a bunny in a crowd of 4,500 runners! I didn’t see the pacer again until after the race.  Not to worry though – I was having the time of my life and enjoying every step.  I looked at my Garmin a couple of times but I really didn’t care.  I decided to run free and I think that may have helped. Plus I was just enjoying the run. There were some amazing bands set up at various points along the route.  The steel drum band around 16k was a favourite and I couldn’t help but take a selfie with them. They were so much fun.

Steel Drum Band

Steel Drum Band

Other bands followed and I tried to take photos with them.  Along the way I met some runners from the Denman Running Room who were also doing their first marathons.

David from the Denman Running Room group

David from the Denman Running Room group

We acted as pacers for each other and talked a lot about winter training.  I chided them for complaining about their winter when I did my long runs in minus degree weather, in ice and snow.  They all marveled at how tough I was.  If they only knew the truth!

Beautiful Vancouver

Beautiful Vancouver

Couldn't resist the firemen!

Couldn’t resist the firemen!

The entire race course was stunning. Beautiful neighbourhoods, the campus of UBC, Stanley Park and the seawall were all so amazing to run through. The energy from the people on the sidelines and the other runners was incredible.  I never ran alone and chatted away to whoever was near me.  I was determined to enjoy every aspect of the race.  I would never have another first marathon and I wanted to LIVE all parts of it. The course was relatively flat with a few undulating hills and one long (3k long) at the 10k mark.  It wasn’t steep just long so I just took my time.  There were lots of downhills and I made up some lost time from taking selfies on those.  My fueling was spot on – I started early with the Power Gels (tangerine) and rationed my water mixed with Trailway.  I took water at the water stops to supplement as it was warmer than I was used to.  My gel flask held 4 gels and I had a reserve in the pocket of my fuel belt along with some Honey Stingers (orange blossom).  I took some before I felt low and it seemed to work.  I had a moment of panic though when my flask was empty.  Then I remembered my reserve one and the next water stop they had the same Power Gels I used (and flavour) so I grabbed one.  I had trained with them on purpose so I wouldn’t have any surprises on race day. At the 30k mark my boyfriend, brother and sister-in-law and friend stood waving the New Brunswick flag and cheering me on.  I was so glad to see them and so proud to be an NBer.  My friend ran with me for a short distance onto the seawall but I was honestly feeling really good.  The next 12.2k were so amazing to run.  The scenery was mesmerizing – the water, the seawall, the views, the gardens, lighthouses and running under the Lion’s Gate Bridge – all of the views made me smile.

Then I saw the 41k sign.  I was almost there.  The course led us on to the sidewalk and at the corner of – get this – NICOLA Street – we swung left and headed to the finish line.  The cheering got louder and I could feel a surge of energy.  I saw my boyfriend and family and I zoomed to the finish line.  Standing there was John Stanton ready to present me my medal.

medal presentation by John Stanton

medal presentation by John Stanton

I felt so proud that I grabbed him for a hug and he hugged me right back 2 more times!  We chatted a bit and I did a little jump.  It wasn’t too long before I found my boyfriend and my family and then the real celebrations began.  I have never felt so proud, grateful, relieved and strong as I did when I wrapped my arms around the people I love.  All the wretched training in winter, the neck injuries, the turmoil and stress in my life since I started training melted away. I had done it.  I ran 42.2km at age 52 with a little less than 4 years of running experience, a host of injuries but with enough pluck and determination to spare.  But I didn’t run alone.  My family, my boyfriend and my training buddies were all there with me.
I am a marathoner. And I’m already planning my next one.  Maybe I can even qualify for Boston.  Age does have it’s advantages!

Just a wee bit proud

Just a wee bit proud

Best tasting Guinness EVER!

Best tasting Guinness EVER!

Since November of 2014 I have been dealing with  a lot of pain in my neck and left arm.  No, it is not a person – well……or the winter blahs. Through various tests, many meds and finally an MRI I apparently have a bulging disc at C6-C7 level with degenerative disc disease from C3 all the way to C7. So there’s that.  Not life threatening in the least – more of an annoying house guest that won’t leave. Through this whole thing I have kept up with my marathon training as best I can.  I have had to modify my body mechanics a bit as the arm has significant weakness in the tricep area.  This forces the arm to feel heavy – very much like dragging a log around.  I frequently run with my arm cradled against my chest or alternately hanging by my side for some traction.  Upper body strength training has been curtailed so I’m focusing on my legs for now.  On the up side I have gotten rid of a few unruly knick knacks that mysteriously slip from my grasp and smash to the floor.  My apologies to the downstairs neighbours who may wonder who I am wrestling with or mad at all the time.  HOWEVER, I am not a quitter (nor foolish) so I have been prudently chipping away at the km’s and trying to stay positive.

This week of number five for the training clinic was both good and bad.  I managed to get the k’s in although a 10k tempo in the middle of the week nearly defeated me. Slogging through the snow, wind, too fast of a pace and mental fatigue set in and I just couldn’t seem to shake it off.  I made up for it on the weekend though as I ran a lovely 5k with my guy on Valentine’s morning – in minus 25C, rested a bit then knocked out a spirited 12k with a couple of new runner friends.  I ended the day with a quiet and beautiful 4k snowshoe hike with 97 of my closest friends.  Nothing like tramping through the woods in the dark with your snowshoes kicking up snowflakes and your headlamp lighting the trees.  A warming bonfire and hot apple cider was the fitting reward at the end. A long and wonderfully active day.

I have been worried almost to the point of distraction that I am so off track with my training because of the neck thing. I was pleased to read today that I am right on target.  Hopefully with a little more strength returning and being trussed up like a turkey with hydro tape holding my shoulder I should be able to up my pace and endurance.

My advice from lessons learned this week: NEVER give up and always surround yourself with positive people.  I am fortunate to have some amazingly supportive and loving people by my side.  My legs may get me to that finish line but they will help my head and heart get there, too.

IMG_3557

Keep moving,

Nicola

Winter running in Canada.

It’s one of those phrases that either strikes the utmost fear in the warmest of runner’s hearts or it’s just another day at the running office.  For spring races it is a necessity. Those early season, pasty legged, clean, new shoes races.  The ones your mind drifted to on those first frozen training treks where you wondered what the heck you were stepping outside in tights and a toque for.

Winter running is not for the feint of heart but neither is it a herculean effort. My recommendation is to freeze with a group.  There are a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost: misery loves company.  You can huddle together and conserve body heat while you wait for your Garmins to find that blessed satellite. You can collectively complain how bloody cold it is and how you all question your sanity. Conversely when your run is completed you can all rejoice in how awesome you are for braving the elements and that if a dictionary were consulted your photos would be under “bad ass”.  Secondly, with a spring goal race in mind you can usually score the early bird registration fee long before other runners have signed up.  To be honest that is not generally an incentive to stick your nose and toes into the frigid abyss of icy trails, sidewalks and sketchy pathways.  Runners are notoriously thrifty on everything EXCEPT running gear, registrations, healthy food, books, clinics, travel and anything else associated with running. However, running in a group ensures that even the speed-challenged is taken care of if they suddenly succomb to a slip and fall, frostbite or a missing glove. And since daylight is elusively short in the winter, it is a matter of safety.  You can have all the equipment, lights, reflective clothing etc. but if no one can hear you scream in the snow then all those precautions are rather redundant.

Despite the obvious challenges there are good things about running in the winter.

I can’t think of any at the moment but that’s only because it is -32C with the wind chill and I skipped my training run in favour of a warm blanket and a cup of tea.

Personally, I have trained in the winter, run a half marathon in the winter and generally don’t mind winter running.  It is exhilarating, challenging and a wee bit daft but with the right equipment ie. layers upon layers upon layers, some proper grippers on your running shoes and the prospect of a hot drink/meal at the end, it is completely doable.

There are lots of great blogs, articles, tips and testimonials about running in frigid temperatures.  I suggest grabbing a hot drink, settling in for a productive research session and think long and hard before you head out the door in minus anything temperatures.

On the other hand, personal bests are usually set in the spring after a hard winter of training…food for thought.

Nicola-2-1-734x1024

and so it begins…

Posted: 2015-02-02 in random

I'm okNo profound thoughts here.  Or at least not right away.  I have started a new journey, literally and figuratively.  It may be a wee bumpy but what the hey – let’s roll.

Right from the get go I should clarify that I am a visual person.  Show me a map and I won’t get lost.  Tell me directions and you may have to send a search party.  I am sketchy on keeping details so I thought I’d document them in a blog.  Pepper in a few photos and if I inspire anyone or inversely scare them away then at least I have done something.

A new journey generally signifies the end of something and the beginning of something new.  I can say without a doubt that 2014 ended with major changes for me and 2015 is a starting-over point.

I am a runner.  Not one of those elite ultra fast no-meat-on-their-bones kind of runner but rather a later-in-life runner.  A runner none the less.  I started running in 2011, just before my 49th birthday.  I’ll wait here while you do the math.  Nicola-3-261x300

In this year of 2015 I started training for my first marathon.

How I came to be a runner is because I am loathe to turn down a challenge. Within reason, of course, so the running thing seemed like it would be doable. For the whole sordid story you can click here.

So on to the marathon thing.

My goal race is the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May. I joined a marathon training clinic at my local Running Room directly on the heels of completing another half-marathon clinic (my 3rd clinic).  I have several halfs and a whack of other distances under my belt and thought myself ready for the next step – no pun intended.  It’s game on.

Week One (Jan.13): Met up on clinic night with over 40 members.  We are a combined group of half and full marathon groups.  Same talks, etc. but different training distances.  I am lucky to know many in both groups so it is fun already. First night we ran 6km, 2nd night 10km, 3rd and 4th 6km and LSD of 10km for our Sunday run.

Week Two (Jan. 20): The training schedule continues with the same distances as week one.  I should explain that I am currently running A.M.A. due to a suspected pinched nerve or disc problem in my neck. My body mechanics are wonky but my spirits are high.  I am taking it easy but I am determined.  I did a couple of pre-clinic training runs of 18km so I’m keeping my base.  While this may seem foolish to some but it is a necessity to my good mental health to keep running.  As long as I am able then I will continue.

Week Three (Jan. 27): A variation in distances are hampered by continual snowstorm after snowstorm.  Distances increased slightly (13k for LSD). The footing is sketchy and the cold is bitter.  However, I go outside when I can untangle myself from the warmth of my bed and even ventured to the gym to get on the ratmill.  Not as much mileage as I would have liked to accomplish this week but the nagging neck thing is hampering me a wee bit.  I can’t follow the 5 day running schedule – there are not enough rest days in between each run for my body to manage.  So I’m taking it slow but with determination. Onward and upward.

Concerns at this point: I’m worried I am not getting enough training runs in and that my reserves are low.  I worry about fueling and all that entails.  I keep hearing and reading so much about marathon training but I believe I need to set all the advice aside, pare it down, glean what I can and adapt it to my needs and body.  Otherwise, I’m just going to scare the bejesus out of myself.

Coming up: Week Four with more training, more bloody snowstorms and winter running and how to turn your life upside down in a good way.

All that and more

Posted: 2017-03-05 in random

March 2017

As I write this I am halfway through training for my third marathon. A lot has happened since the new year but I’m forging ahead. I ran a ridiculously hilly half-marathon in the midst of training and survived.

My body is so far cooperating albeit the usual suspects of neck and arm issues.  Thankfully no vertigo or other weird ailments.  No, my physical state is pretty good.  My mental state is another issue.  It’s not easy to prepare yourself for the mental game that a marathon plays on your noggin.  Distance running requires an altered state of mind.  One wrong mental misstep and it plays havoc with your race.  But the mental preparation for running 42.2km is a challenge at the best of times.  This marathon training cycle is especially different for me as my mother died near the end of January – just shortly after I started my training.  She was 2 days short of her 85th birthday and although her health was not the best her death still came as a shock.  We were close.  The last of her five children I was her principal caregiver her last years.  She was in an assisted living facility the past 2 years but depended upon me for nearly everything else.  Honestly, she hated where she lived.  It was a clean, lovely, caring and relatively new residence but her fierce independence and stubborn nature did not lend itself well to having someone do the daily necessities of life for her.  She despised that she was getting older and “breaking down”.  She had some significant health and anxiety issues and although each of our visits were filled with a litany of complaints I knew she was safe, cared for and well looked after. I truly believe in the end she made up her mind that enough was enough and she decided to go to sleep.  She told me she didn’t want any more birthdays and she kept her word.  I miss her even though the last years of her life were not her best.  As I continue to grieve I am reminded of her determination but also her vulnerability.  She was adamant that things be done a certain way and frustrated when things didn’t go the way she hoped.  I suspect a lot of us are that way.

She was horrified at my training schedule and worried incessantly that I would get hurt.  She confessed she had one regret about my running: she never got to see me cross a finish line.  Her health was too fragile to bring her to a race and I couldn’t leave her on her own while I ran. I always took my medals to show her though.  She would smile and pat my hand. Then ask me if I was done this running thing yet. Typical mother.

As my training continues I often think of the natural athlete my mother once was and if I inherited any of that.  She didn’t get a chance to exhibit that prowess very often as raising 5 kids, looking after my Dad, working and life constantly grabbed her attention.  Every once in a while we would see her strength and grit though. Whether it was whipping a baseball to base, chasing after us kids, knocking out a home run or teaching one of us to ride a bike.  She repeatedly ignored doctor’s orders that she shouldn’t do this or that and to her credit kept moving long after it was deemed she should be crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. She would have none of that nonsense. She hated being sick and weathered some very serious health issues.  In her mind her body betrayed her.

My mother lived life with humour, wit and intelligence.  She had a voracious love of reading, history and world politics, a large cache of scrumptious recipes and a huge caring heart.  She passed many of those traits to her children and I feel lucky to have spent the most time with her.  It was not easy at times.  Stubborn mother and stubborn daughter are a recipe for some fireworks. In her latter years I felt more the parent than the child but that is also a natural progression of things.  We worked through things as I learned to look after her and she learned to trust me with her care.  I never really got the hang of pushing her in a wheelchair and she chided me for banging her into walls.  I became her confidant and we shared many conversations and experiences that were new to her and to me.  We navigated through getting older – both her and me. I treasure that I told her I loved her each time we chatted on the phone and she told me she loved me, too.  In a way I got to say goodbye to her on her final night.  I hung up the phone after our usual declaration of love and she died a mere 3 hours later.

I will keep her memory with me as I slog the endless kilometres of training and she will be on my mind during the race.  It’s not an easy thing to lose a parent – I’ve been through this before with the untimely death of my father 31 years ago – but life is life and we have to move forward.

After a week with a nasty cold which left me with no running to soothe my heart I am ready to tackle the next stage of training.  I’m not a spiritual person but I some how feel she is watching me – probably telling me to take it easy – but still secretly proud of my accomplishments.

This marathon is for my Mom.

One step at a time,
Nicola

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Rules of Engagement 2017

Posted: 2017-01-15 in random

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January 15, 2017

Usually my running schedule is brimming with races, training plans and hopes for PBs. Well, the hopes for PBs is always there but 2017 will be a decidedly lower key race year than the previous 5.  There are a few glaring reasons, most notably the expenses, but more importantly I think I may need a wee break.  Maybe to focus on technique or speed or just to strengthen more.  Having said all that I am already signed up for 6 races in 2017!

The first is already under my belt and that was a fun run of 5km. The Resolution Run on Jan. 1.  It’s always a great way to start the year.  My next race is in February and it’s the Hypothermic Half in Saint John, NB.  It will be my first time racing that one and every time I mention that I am doing it there people look at me like I have 2 heads.  I have run the Hypo in Moncton and it is incredibly boring so I thought I’d try Saint John.  I’m not afraid of hills and it is part of my training for later races. Bring it.

The next half will be the Fredericton Marathon on Mother’s Day in May.  I have run it twice before and it will be nice to run a flat and familiar route.

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The next race is my big one for the year.  A true destination race. One that I am over the moon excited to run!  The Ottawa Marathon at the end of May.  I’m so excited to be a part of Team Awesome (a race ambassador so to speak) but equally excited to celebrate Canada 150 in the nation’s capital.  There are already lots of news about special events at the race to commemorate Canada’s birthday but I secretly think it’s all to celebrate me running my third marathon – LOL.  My partner Chris and I are combining a short vacation immediately prior to and immediately after the race to celebrate/recover.  In the meantime we have lots of winter training to do and plans to make with our good friends Rod and Jo who are also running Ottawa with us.

This summer will bring lots of relaxing and focused training for  shorter races.  We are doing our first 10k trail race in September which will pit us against the beautiful trails in the Fundy Circuit Ultra Marathon.  We both like a new challenge and we both like trail running so this seems like a great idea.

The next official race….so far…..is the Valley Harvest Half Mavhm_banner1rathon over the Thanksgiving weekend in October.  The race is a lovely course in the Annapolis Valley, NS with good support, great swag and the added bonus of visiting Chris’s parents.

After that I have no definite race plans.  Knowing how I roll I’ll probably sign up for something at the spur of the moment but for now there is nothing booked.

Until the next race, keep on running.

Nicola

 

Lessons learned post-marathon

Posted: 2016-10-19 in random

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I could start this blog post by cursing, expounding on everything negative about my second marathon finish, how I was inconsolable at the finish line when I saw my time, how I beat myself up and considered my completion of 42.2km a failure BUT I choose not to go that route.  Instead I want to relive all the amazing things that occurred, all the incredibly positive things that made marathon number 2 such a joy and focus on the effort that got me to the finish line smiling and all with the man I love.  The other stuff I will relate but only as a reminder to pull my head out of the nether regions.

My first marathon in 2015 was run in the heart of Vancouver. My second in 2016 was run on the tiny smile isle of Prince Edward Island.  Different sides of the country and different vibes but still a ridiculous length of distance to run! The PEI Marathon is one of the most beautiful courses in Canada. You are bused to the start line on sand swept Brackley Beach in the heart of the national park.  The bus ride was an adventure in itself – the full, harvest moon was setting on one side and the warm gentle sun was rising on the other side.  Beautiful farmland, fields, farmhouses and the sky was stunning. It was chilly but dry and the perfect temperature for running.  We had bought cheap throw away thrift store hoodies/jackets to keep us warm before the start.  Chris’s hoodie cracked us up as it had the name “Hannah” in big red letters across the back.  You have to have a sense of humour to run a marathon!

Around 200 runners lined up alongside the water near a small gantry.  The participants were made up of individuals and also team members from corporate relay teams.  We were lucky to have our good friend, Rod, with us at the very start as he was running the first leg for his relay team.

 

We joked and laughed on the bus trip to the line and joked and laughed as we ran his 6km together.  We were relaxed and kept our steady race pace.  The morning sky was beautiful as the sun rose higher and we were heralded down the road by a huge flock of Canada geese.  Endless giant V’s of birds were above and the air was filled with their honking.

We ran out of the park and moved past water-side cottages and a small golf course.  We ran alongside another marathoner from Manitoba named Doug who was running his 50th or 51st marathon (he’d lost count!) and the conversation was easy and light.  Thoroughly enjoyable and we were so relaxed but equally focused.  At the 7km mark or so Rod left us near the Stanhope Resort to hand over the next leg of his relay to his beautiful wife Joanna.

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Jo, Chris and I

What an absolute treat to run with 2 of our best friends.  Jo and I chatted happily and as usual totally forgot our pace as we sped along leaving Chris a few steps behind.  The course was beautiful and the weather was stunning.  As Jo completed her relay leg and left us we were reminded again how lucky we are to having such good running buddies nuts who are just as crazy as us.

Alone again, well, except for a handful of other marathoners, Chris and I got our pace set again and enjoyed the rolling hills and farmland of the first 21km.  There were funny inspirational signs dotted along the course and one of them encouraged “Hannah” to keep running.  Reminded of Chris’s tossed hoodie we saw it as a good sign!  At the half marathon point we did a sharp right turn and headed onto the Trans Canada Trail.  The soft gravel and protected trail was a bit of a relief after some pesky head winds on the asphalt road.  We passed several farmer’s fields but mostly the trail wound through the woods.

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on the Trans Canada Trail (I’m in gray)

A pumpkin field that seemed to spring out of nowhere delighted us at one point.  It was stocked full of orange and seemed to reach forever.  Smaller farm lands, a few road crossings and some dairy cows (all standing so no rain!) broke up some of the monotony of the trail.  This portion of the course is only 13+km but it did get a little boring.  Endless trees although in their fall finery can get a little dull with not much to look at.

Our fueling was spot on although I did struggle with hunger pangs from the beginning.  That wee bowl of oatmeal, yogurt and banana were long gone after the bus ride and standing around waiting to start.  I was popping honey stinger chews to stave off the growling beast and I seemed to settle down.  In my head we were right on target.  I felt our pace was good and despite taking a couple of extra walk breaks I felt great.  Strong, my legs were tired but fierce, no obvious pains anywhere and I felt sure we would finish within my self-imagined time goal.  My watch (piece of sh$#t) has not been working well and I basically ignored it and opted instead to run by feel.  I was so sure we were heading to a PB.  Chris’s right calf was mooing a bit and starting to bother him but he kept going and never complained.  Then without warning my world took a spin and the vertigo I had been battling all year dropped me to my knees at the 32km mark.  We were still on the gravel trail and as I went down I thought for a split second that I would have road rash on my palms.  Luckily, I didn’t hit hard and had a split moment to warn Chris I was going down.  This had happened before.  In each of our really long training runs in the heat but usually before the 30km mark.  It was such a surprise as I thought I had finally licked the random attacks.  Nevertheless I only stayed down for a few minutes, got my bearings back and we continued.  I was dizzy, a little nauseous and more than a bit pissed off but I was determined to still meet my goal.  The last 10km back to Charlottetown went by fairly quickly for me.  I felt like crap but I so wanted to finish strong.  My legs felt fine and the headache that replaced the dizziness was lessening. We left the trail – finally! – and were back on asphalt.   We ran through a cemetary (I really don’t like that as I find it very disrespectful), pass the airport, through an industrial area and nailed all the hills. The last 5km were topped off with hills but we had been warned repeatedly about the last 5k and were prepared.  Not overly steep but long and despite my wonky head and Chris’s brick leg we nailed each one.  Our extensive hill work during our training made us stronger and it certainly paid off.  As suspected my watch finally died at the 40km mark. Piece of sh*t.  With only 2.2km to go it hardly mattered and since I didn’t really have a sense of our time I wasn’t overly concerned. We rounded the last turn and saw the finish line.  Anyone who knows me knows I bolt, like Usain, when I see the finish line.  Chris and I planned to hold hands for the last 200m and as I grabbed his hand I shouted, “Wait for it then we will haul ass!”  This is not something most tired marathoners want to hear someone yell at them. At any point of a race. But I’m still a 42.2km rookie and I saw that blessed finish line and wanted to be done. It’s important to note I couldn’t see the time clock at that point. Chris held my hand back briefly and I yelled again, “HAUL ASS!”.  He pretended not to hear or so I thought then suddenly took off like the wind.  We sailed across the timing mats and I heard our names being called.

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hauling ass to the finish line (thanks Jo for the photo)

I felt sick but triumphant. I was about to finish my second marathon and have a PB!  Then I saw the clock.  My finish time was exactly 1 minute SLOWER than my time in Vancouver.  Now most sane people would think WOW, you finished a marathon, you’re a year older, you did it and you were consistent and fought through the vertigo and still crossed the finish line hand in hand with your honey.  And yes, I am sane most times but for some reason I lost all rationality.  All I could focus on was I missed my goal, I was slower than Vancouver, the stupid vertigo killed it, I failed my dream, the best training cycle that made me the strongest yet and with no injuries was a waste of time, it was the worse race ever…you get the crazy picture. I was inconsolable. I sobbed. I hugged well wishers while blubbering on their shoulders. I hugged sisters, friends and even Chris and sobbed. I just couldn’t get past the time thing.  Honestly, I couldn’t later that night, or the day after or even the night after that.  I felt unreasonably defeated. A failure.  I was convinced I would forever call it the “marathon that shall not be named”.  I didn’t even want to show anyone my medal.  I was ashamed. *rolls eyes*

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the beautiful medal

A few days later it still smarts and I am reconciling myself that I am an idiot. Others know this already but it’s always a bitter pill to swallow yourself.  There are so many incredible things about running a marathon and on that one day in PEI I could see none of that.  The MANY months of training, the putting aside of other parts of your life while you train including time with family and friends, the careful attention to diet, sleep and basically wrapping yourself in a bubble for the month previous to race day. The trials of minor aches and pains and in my case the vertigo and in Chris’s case the calf pain and the incredible challenge of trying to train while working shift work. All of those things that we accomplished that got us to race day in the first place and I somehow forgot all that. The huge fact that neither one of us hit the wall during the race –  proudly the first time for Chris after 4 marathons!  The fact that we had the rare and beautiful opportunity to train, race and finish a marathon together – for the first time.  Hand in hand. Supporting one another through it all whether by encouraging words, a helping hand, a swift kick in the proverbial butt, a gentle kiss during the walk breaks, the sharing of fuel, a tight hug, the heed to slow down or speed up.  We had each others backs the whole time.  We are a rare breed running couple who love to run and who love one another. Yup, I now had something more to be ashamed of.  My own pride blinded me to the beauty of what we had done. Together.

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Finished!!!

So I am thankful that I have learned these lessons.  I am embarrassed that I made an ass of myself and I hope I did not diminish what an accomplishment Chris and I achieved. I am extremely proud of what we did.  We will learn to communicate better when we run long distances and we will be stronger.  I will proudly display my hard won medal.  I am still stung by my time but it is the truth and it has taught me humility. It was one freaking minute. *Rolls eyes again.* Hopefully, I will learn to set foot in reality again and realize that I am one of the 1% of the world’s population that has run a 42.2km race. And in my case twice in two years!  With any amount of luck and more hard training I will tackle the Ottawa Marathon in May of 2017 with a better sense of my own abilities, a much better watch, no vertigo and hand in hand with the love of my life.  We only get one kick at this can of life so I intend to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. No looking back and not being such a fool and always with a smile on my face.

Until then, just keep running .

Nicola
2 X kick-ass marathoner

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days to go…

Posted: 2016-10-11 in random

Five days. 120 hours. A work week.  In that amount of time I will be running my 2nd full marathon. Last year I ran my first in Vancouver so this year I decided to cross the country and run in Prince Edward Island.  This will also be the first of two things – my first full in PEI (I’ve run other races there) and my first marathon with my partner, Chris.

This training cycle has been the best one so far.  It has not been without its ups and downs and that’s not just due to the additional hill training incorporated into our plan. This race will be the culmination of a very full training year with 3 half marathons, many shorter races, a bout of vertigo BUT thankfully no horrendous injuries which usually plague my training cycles.  Nope, this one has been good.   Chris and I have cut back on the amount of days we run and instead added more cross-training.  We also included hill training not just within specific days in the cycle but built into each week and each long run.  In addition within the last 6 weeks of training we scheduled sport massage appointments after each long run. The results have been noticeable. We both feel stronger. We both feel more confident.  We have even noticed a marked improvement in our times for our long runs (indeed, even managing to shave 10 minutes off of our second 36km run). Most importantly though is we have enjoyed ourselves.  It’s not always about the time at the finish line but rather the time you had while working to the finish line.  I think both of us are more relaxed about this race and excited to do the mileage.

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Marathon By the Sea 2016 Half Marathon

Now it hasn’t all been sunshine and puppies.  We’ve both had our share of nagging doubt, missed runs due to attitude (“For the love of God I just want to sleep in!”), illness (mostly me), minor injuries (pf – yup, me again) and fatigue.  Yet, we’ve managed to stay on plan with a few adjustments, run with some inspiring and amazing friends and even add to our bling collection by doing new races and having new adventures. We even think we have figured out our nutrition.  An increased emphasis on carbing up an entire week (or 2) before a long run has paid off. We have both found gels, chews and other goodies that seem to work for us on the long stretches.

So as we count down the days until Charlottetown I can clearly envision that beautiful (and somehow always elusive) finish line and know that we gave our best as we trained for those 42.2kms. It really is a mental sport.  Your legs will almost invariably carry you through to the end but it’s your noggin that takes the brunt of it.  Forcing yourself to take “one more f–cking step” and run one more GD hill is more about fortitude and perseverance that anything physical. Banning negative self talk and employing my ever helpful swears-like-a-sailor routine will all be employed once again on the course in PEI.

Most of all though is we will run together. 42.2kms of togetherness.  A marathon of being hopeful, running happy, suddenly wanting to be dead, thinking you’re dead, pretty sure you are dead and finally crossing the finish line will be much more enjoyable as a couple. Marathon #4 for Chris and Marathon #2 for me.  I think I quite like the sound of that.

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Training run up Springhill Road

Then after all is said and done we’ll take a few months off from ridiculously long runs then gear back up again in February for the Ottawa Marathon in 2017.  I always wanted to run more than 1 marathon just to know that the first one wasn’t just a fluke.  Three marathons in 3 years ought to put that notion to bed.

Back later with a recap.  In 5 days.  Did I mention 5 days until my next marathon???

Just keep running,

Nicola

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Always run happy, otherwise what’s the point?

 

 

 

Last week Nicola and I tried a vegetarian, fruit recipe called “Watermelon Curry with Black Beans and Paneer” from the recipe book, “The Modern Vegetarian” by Maria Elia. Naturally we didn’t have any Paneer handy so we used tofu. Paneer, by the way, is a form of curdled cheese. We also used Canola oil instead […]

via Recipe of the Week — To Quiet The Mind

Wait. What? Another one?

Posted: 2016-08-16 in random

So many races, so little time. Training. More training. Nine races this year including a full marathon. I wonder if I can squeeze one more in there….

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Race card this year (plus the Beer Run!)

Enough of that. I haven’t published a blog post in a little while.  I’ve been busy. Yes, that’s it. I’ve been so incredibly busy that I haven’t had time.  Or I’ve been lazy. Yup, that’s more probable.

In the year or so since my last marathon and coincidentally my last blog post, several things have changed in my life.  Again.  But all for the good.  And I’m training for a second full marathon. In October.

In a nutshell I took a leap of faith and moved residences. Again. But this new address is the right address and my new home is filled with love. It’s been a way to simplify things, make a home and embrace the future.
I also discontinued my brain vitamins.  A 20 year fixture is now gone.  It was “easy” metabolically but difficult in other ways.  I still struggle with anxiety and depression but I have new tools now and a stronger perspective.  I also have the unwavering support of my partner who never ceases to amaze me with his “jump in with both feet” attitude.  This is undoubtedly my journey but it is incredible to know someone has your back with no questions asked, love and a positive outlook.   He challenges me. Constantly. He ceaselessly manages to break down my walls while equally melting my heart.  I am happy beyond all the cliche phrases and never once will I take what we have for granted.  He also makes to-die-for oatmeal pancakes which are heavenly after a long training run.

Ahem, back to the running.

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crossing the finish line together – Upright and smiling

One more thing: he’s also been my coach for the last few months.  When I say coach I mean he is the the one who is keeping me on track, makes sure I run even when I’d rather stick a fork in my eye, checks my pace and keeps me accountable. Plus his Garmin is more predictable than mine. Bonus.

The ongoing saga of weird obstacles continued this year with a bout of vertigo.  I was reveling in the fact that I had managed to avoid any injuries when I woke up one morning to the room spinning. And spinning. And spinning.  Never celebrate a “no injury status” as it comes back to bite you. No, I didn’t mean that kind of celebrating.  I was not hung over. A few days later came the diagnosis, some temporary meds and a funky physio procedure that finally put it to rest. I still struggle with vertigo when I’m stressed/hot/run too hard or am super tired but I am managing.  I even ran a half marathon with it (not recommended).  That was an interesting experience.

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the Vertigo Half

Humidity and heat seem to be a trigger so I am thankful that my longest marathon training runs will be in the cooler temperatures of fall.  Or so I hope.  This whole global warming thing is kind of off-putting.

Over the summer we have completed 3 half marathons and a bunch of smaller races in between all the training.  Sometimes it’s just nice to get a little bling for those long training runs!  That is totally our reasoning.  We’ve trained alone, together, with friends and tossed in some much needed cross-training which has helped immensely.

The training continues for a mid-October marathon.  The next few weeks are looking interesting and there will be some stupid-long runs coming up but I feel stronger than ever, my hill training has been awesome and I will be ready. Besides, this marathon registration was a Christmas gift.  The gift that keeps on giving.  Just for fun I may give that same gift to him for Christmas.  Look out Ottawa Marathon – we are coming your way next May. :0

Oh hell, that means winter training.

One step at a time,
Nicola
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Keeping up appearances

Posted: 2015-06-30 in random
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Blurry Nicola crossing the line

So back in May I ran a marathon.  Three weeks ago I ran a half marathon training distance and on June 21 I ran another half-marathon at the Johnny Miles Running Event in New Glasgow.

All of this would have you believe that I am a runner.  Don’t be fooled by appearances.  I am a runner but not a fast or technical one.  However, I’m working on it.  I keep plugging away and in spite of obstacles thrown in my path I am determined to keep going.  Ok, back to the story.

My guy and I along with our wonderful friends Jo and Rod traveled to Nova Scotia to run the 40th annual Johnny Miles Running Event Weekend.  We were all doing the half marathon.  I must admit my training wasn’t what it should have been.  And the nagging neck injury was acting up again with sporadic bursts of pain.  As all runners do, I ignored all that and thought myself ready to run.

Chris (my guy), me, Paul, Rod and Jo (in front) - ready to rock

Chris (my guy), me, Paul, Rod and Jo (in front) – ready to rock

We started out as a foursome and after some jockeying back and forth we all settled in our individual paces.  I was feeling fresh and ready to hit my goal of a sub 2 hour half.

Then the rails came off around 6k.

I felt and heard a pop in my neck and pain shot down my left arm.  Well, that can’t be good.  I tried to position my arm to lessen the motion on my neck and shoulder. Running with your arm against your chest, alternating with it tucked around your back and once in a while a good stretch to the back usually helped.  A technique I mastered when I was training through the injury for my marathon,  Body mechanics get all wonky but I was able to keep going.  So I tried that.  I had to take frequent walk breaks, the pain would lessen and I would find a good pace again.  I was fortunate to have Rod run with me as support.  The last thing I wanted to do was to ruin his race but he stayed with me the whole time. I was so glad that my guy and Jo got a chance to run their own race.  I NEVER want to be that whiny runner no one wants to run with and my nagging for them to “just go run” paid off.  Rod on the other hand was determined to listen to me gripe. 🙂  I must admit we laughed a lot of the way through.  He was nursing a serious back injury and a weakened/turned ankle and I was running with a numb hand, one arm and a whack of pain.  We were medically challenging the course.  With smiles though. So enough sob story.

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Gimpy numb hand (me) and Bad back speedster (Rod) caught actually running

The course consisted of 2 loops for the half marathon.  Not an ideal course for my taste but certainly doable.  I think I would draw the line at doing a full marathon there – 4 loops of the same course and you’d have to commit me to a nervous hospital. The run was pleasant with part road, part trail, quite flat and only one hill and barely any elevation at that.  There was so much hype leading up to the race and I admit to being a little underwhelmed.  I had never been to New Glasgow though so new places are always a plus.  Our hotel was close to downtown and although our room had a sketchy aroma we had no complaints.

Rod and I  continued the race alternating between walking and running and me whining about my arm/neck/life/people yelling “you are almost there!” (liars) and laughing over goofy things.  We even took a couple of selfies.  One near a fun couple who had set out beer and jelly beans at the curb.  I love it when neighbourhoods support the runners.

We crossed the final bridge and turned the corner to the finish line.  The finish chute was lined with locals and very festive. The final leg of the race was particularly painful for me and I don’t think I would have actually run it if Rod had not talked me through. I will always remember his words, “breathe deep; you are breathing too shallow!.”  I obeyed and it gave me an extra burst to speed across the finish line.  I have never been so proud, ashamed and embarrassed of my finish then I was that day.  I hugged Rod and when I finally felt my guy’s arms around me I lost it.  It’s not that my time was all that bad: 2:23 but rather that I had dragged a good friend through my pity party.  I felt numb and not just my hand.

What I learned is that your body will screw you over many times all the while proving that you can pretty much handle a lot of crap.

So I will keep up the appearance of being a runner.

At the finish line with Rod on the left!

At the finish line with Rod on the left!

I will stop the pity, anxiety, stress and other useless things that keep me from reaching my goal.  And yes, sigh, I will listen to my body and take this neck thing seriously.  Sheesh, just when you think you’ve got life figured out it comes back to bite you on the ass.  Oh well, it could be worse.

Up next is a 10k run in Hartland and another 10k on my favourite island of Grand Manan.

The murky photos above are because I’m too cheap to pay for them even though the finish line photo is one of the few where I’m actually smiling!

Keep moving.  Otherwise, you are just a target.
Nicola

As I head into the last bit before my first marathon I am reminded why I started on this journey in the first place.

Challenge, stupidity, friends, the “what if”, stupidity, pride……all words that come to mind. These last 2 weeks of tapering have been interesting.  I had my mind set that I wasn’t going to go the “taper tantrum” route.  My training seemed to grind to a halt.  I experienced an issue with a rock hard quad that required deep and I mean, deep massage.  My neck injury flared up again and I could not seem to fill my belly enough!  On the bright side I kept on running albeit shorter distances than on my schedule and a little less frequently.  The taper tantrums set in but weakly as I refused to allow them full access.  In talking with other marathoners, my coach, my running instructor and reading online I learned this was normal. Wait, I was doing something normal???  The weird twinges and aches that suddenly appeared, the anxiety that I wasn’t training enough or was losing my fitness, the feeling that I couldn’t do this crazy thing mentally all appeared at my door.  Some I let in for a brief visit, to test the waters, and others I refused entry.  In all honesty I’m both exhausted and revitalized.  I want to do the race now and I’m going to do it on my terms.  All the months of training, worrying, getting up early on Sunday mornings in butt cold temps and running with friends, enduring countless slippery, icy, snowy and just plain stupid conditions are finally coming to a head.  I will run 42.2km in one of the most beautiful cities in North America.  I will have my boyfriend there at the finish line to cheer me home.  I will do it.

So for training in the last 2 weeks I have managed to squeeze in some speed work, some long slow distances, some rest and a couple of massage treatments.  I second guess and think I should have run more but I think I really started to listen to my body.  It’s tired.  Strong but tired and every ounce of courage will be needed to get me across the finish line.  I started out on a 23k long last run and about 7k in I started to feel a sharp pain in my left quad.  I thought it was just tiredness from the previous week’s 36.5k run.  I shook it out, did a wee stretch and continued on.  It’s what we runners do apparently.  At 9k it was getting worse.  I slowed and even walked a bit but it was not loosening up.  I was worried that I had injured myself and not wanting to chance something long term I cut my run short at 11k.  I immediately made an appointment with my sports massage therapist and had her pound the hell out of my left quad.  It felt like a brick in there but she worked long and hard at loosening it.  It was painful.  The treatment was brutal and I almost twice wanted to belt her in the face but I hung in there.  I was certain I would be so sore and bruised the next day.  I was happy to see that although I was a bit sore the following day I was not bruised and the brick was pulverized in my quad.  Whew!  Thankfully a crisis was averted.  I ran a short distance the next day just to shake things out.  On Sunday my boyfriend and I were visiting friends and all four of us went for a run.  Beautiful county roads, the rain held off and we were really enjoying ourselves.  Then my hand went numb.  My shoulder tightened up and my neck stiffened.  Terrified, I slowed right down, cut my distance in half and trotted home.  I was pissed off, teary, sad but determined and started to beat myself up mentally.  I sputtered out all the fears that I had and my boyfriend (and coach) did the best thing he could.  He told me to stop it.  Well, his words were harsher but it was what I needed.   I let the tears flow a bit more and all of a sudden I was ok again.  It’s ok to get inside your own head but just don’t dwell there.  Renting is fine but don’t buy the house!

So I am about to board a plane for a crazy long flight across the country to run in a city I’m not familiar with but love.  I will see things that I have never seen before, experience things I have not before, and I hope to complete a distance I have not run before.  Best of all is I will have a PB!

Then after that I can relax, sip wine, read a book (not on running), relax and maybe start to plan my next race.  I’ll do a post-race wrap-up in a couple of weeks.

Keep moving – I plan to!

Nicola