Race report: 38th Melissa’s Road Race in Banff (Guest Post)

Heather BanffSometimes I think I’m not really a runner. I took it up as part of a new year’s resolution — my friends and I decided to sign up for a 5k race and give it a shot. Two years later, I’m reading my cadence data and learning about zones, and my Strava segments are looking good.

Two years ago, the thought of running a 5k felt like a bit deal. This past year, I’ve been running our local 10k races, and the goal was to try run my first half marathon.

“Without barfing or crying!”

The race:

Melissa’s Road Race is a tradition in Banff — it takes place in late September, and offers a 5k and 10k race that wind through the town of Banff, and up towards Tunnel Mountain Drive. The half marathon — my race — goes out towards Cascade Falls, and then behind the historic Banff Springs Hotel and out to the golf course. Two laps of the golf course road takes you around Mount Rundle, and along the Bow River, and all in a very quiet, secluded area.

Race day: 

My girlfriends and I drove out from Calgary the night before and stayed in a b&b. After an obligatory walk to Banff Avenue for a late night snack, we turned in. There’d been a heavy snowfall warning for Banff two days before the race, but the morning was cold and clear…about 2 degrees Celsius, with fresh snow above the treeline. I had laid out my gear the night before, and I was prepared for the cooler weather: long tights with funky knee socks, a long sleeve shift, arm warmers, a wind vest, hat, buff, globes, and skull cap. A lot of clothing, but as it turned out, I was layering up and down all through the run.

We walked down for the 5k start and I saw my friends off, and then got ready for the half marathon start ten minutes later.

One of the greatest things about Melissa’s is the spirit of the race. Registration is capped at 4,500 participants by Parks Canada and the Town of Banff. The half marathon runners received a wildlife briefing — we had a short elk delay. I polished off a Clif bar while I waited, and then had the first Gu gel while I chatted with the runners around me. I was feeling pretty darn nervous, and had a good case of the ‘I don’t belong here’ frets.

0-7k

I tried to start slow…I really did! The first 5k were easy…running down towards the falls, enjoying the view. I’d seeded myself at about the 7:30 mark, but I found myself passing that pace group and then evening out between the next one, so the crowd had thinned quite a bit.

The first aid station was at the 5k mark, and I walked in to have some water and walked out with the first snack — one of those pressed fruit bars from the grocery store. I’ve been trying to work out inexpensive things to take on runs, and a thirty-nine cent bar is a lot easier to swallow (ha, ha) than the more expensive performance foods and gels.

As we left the 5k station, we were running in sun. The golf course itself was screened from view — it felt more like being out on a back road or laneway, and I only caught a few glimpses of sandtraps and groomed greens. With the sun out, I was warming up…but as the course dipped down and closer to Mount Rundle, we moved into shadow and I had to layer back up. This really was a theme for the run…warm patches of meadow followed by very cool stretches in the shadow of the most glorious mountains.

image description: Road stretching out ahead with three runners in front, green pines on the side, and high, rocky, snowy mountains as a backdrop.

image description: Road stretching out ahead with three runners in front, green pines on the side, and high, rocky, snowy mountains as a backdrop.

8-13k

I am, most definitely, a slow runner. Melissa’s is a race that attracts a lot of fast runners. At this point, there was a lot of room between me and the other runners, and as I got towards eight kilometers, the faster runners in the race were already onto their second lap.

Boy howdy, is that a weird feeling. The first speedy runners blasted by, and I had that moment: what on earth am I doing here? I’m so slow…I don’t belong here. This is awful! I clapped for the faster runners, and to my surprise, they were congratulating ME. “Good pace! Keep it up! Great run! You got this!” It was a real lift to the spirits…especially as I hit 11k and realized I still had another ten to go.

Leaving the 8k aid station, I snacked on a package of Honey Stinger gummies…and shared them with a fellow runner (also his first half marathon). Then off running again, and I kept finished that first lap of the golf course, had a bathroom break, another fruit bar, and charged out for the next lap.

13-15k

This was where everything started feeling hard. I’d trained well through the summer, and I was feeling pretty confident that I had the strength to finish. Certainly the scenery was keeping the run breathtaking in all the right ways. The sharp smell of pine and the croaking of mountain ravens will stay with me for a long time, I think.

But there was something about this long stretch…I’d read about the psychology of long races, and the point where the effort becomes just as much mental and emotional as it is physical. For me, it was the ‘dig deep’ moment…I had to look inward, trust my body, and settle in for the long run still to come. The fast runners had left us all behind, and it was time to get the job done.

My 5k friends were texting encouragement to me and I was reading the messages on my Garmin…and at this point, those little buzzes were really welcome. I knew they’d be waiting for me at the finish, and those motivating messages helped so much. So did the sight of a Parks Canada ranger keeping a close eye on something off in the trees…

16-18k

More snacks. More positive self talk. A few more walk breaks. My pace was feeling good, legs good, feet starting to get a little sore…but I was doing it. When I hit kilometre sixteen, I started thinking about how I only had five to go, and how it was just my evening run. Just my regular, run of the mill, after-work run through the neighbourhood. It helped to look at the distances and think about where I’d be if I was back home.

At 18k, I had my last snack — a gel I’d been saving as a ‘just in case.’ I’d been keeping up a fairly regular pace but I was suddenly very hungry and tired, and in retrospect, I probably needed one more snack than I’d packed. Fortunately the gel — the one I almost put back but left in my pocket after my friend told me to take it for emergencies — did the trick.

The run down along the falls meant a slog uphill. At the top of the hill, I saw the marker for the nineteenth kilometre, and the volunteers were cheerfully calling out that it would be level from this point on.

19-21k

Home stretch! At this point, I was dodging tourists on the pathways and running past 5k and 10k runners leaving the race, but I was determined to keep going. My friends had been tracking my progress, and were waiting close to the turn point into that last little bit.

I managed to put one last burst of speed and sprinted in to the finish…I wanted to finish strong, and finish proud, and coming in as fast as I could manage was the way I wanted to do it.

Image description: Beaming in a "Calgary Marathon" blue ball cap, sunglasses, and a bright pink top, Heather holds up her finisher's medal, with an image of a snowy mountain, green slope, and water and the name, "Melissa" in orange lettering. Behind Heather is a small crowd, pine trees, and cloudy blue skies.

Image description: Beaming in a “Calgary Marathon” blue ball cap, sunglasses, and a bright pink top, Heather holds up her finisher’s medal, with an image of a snowy mountain, green slope, and water and the name, “Melissa” in orange lettering. Behind Heather is a small crowd, pine trees, and cloudy blue skies.

Impressions:

I did it! At 39, I ran my first half marathon. After a year of hard work and preparation, I finished with a chip time of 2:37:45, towards the back of the pack for overall time and for my age group. I am deeply grateful to have the strength and health to do this, and as I approach 40, I’m also very grateful to have friends to share my training and run talk with, and that we celebrated this accomplishment together.

We all went up to the hot springs afterwards, and I ran into another half marathoner — one of the fast ones that lapped us. I was congratulating him on his fast run, and how much in awe I am of the people that were flying by me. But what really struck me was what he said about seeing the slower runners (and I paraphrase):

“I see all of you, and you’re just on your seventh or eighth kilometer as we’re going by on fourteen and fifteen, and I think ‘goddamn, look at them…they’re pouring their heart and soul into this, and look at them — they still have the whole race ahead of them but goddamn if they aren’t giving their all! It’s so %!@#ing amazing, because you’re just made up of grit and will and ^!$#ing determination.”

And that, friends, is exactly what you should remember the next time you think you are too old, too slow, too out of shape, too inexperienced, too amateurish, too whatever to do what you want to try to do. Grit and will and determination. You have it all.

I won’t soon forget it.

Heather Banff finish joy

Image description: Heather in a joyful jump, wearing sunglasses, a blue ballcap, black sleeves and a pink t-shirt, black tights and yellow socks and a yellow race bib #3144. Meadow, mountains, blue sky, and white clouds in the background.

 

 

 

 

Race Report for ITU Age Group Worlds Standard Distance Duathlon (Guest Post)

by Cathy

Race Report for:               ITU Worlds Standard Distance Duathlon, Penticton, BC

Distance:                             10.0 km – 40.5 km – 5.1 km

Date:                                     Monday, August 21, 2017

Weather:                            ~20-25C, full sun with moderate NE winds

Description of Course:  asphalt streets and interlocking bricks run, mostly flat with some false flat up and back down (Run 1 = 4 loops, Run2 = 2 loops, bike mostly flat, head/side wind out and tail/side wind back (2 x 20km out & back)

Actual Time:                      2:50:40

Goal Times: Low Mid High
Sub 2:45 2:47 Sub 3:00

 

Personal Best Times: Lifetime Recent This Race Last Year
2:38 Esprit 2013 This is my only standard distance du this year 2:58 but run and bike courses were a bit different

 

Category Place
Women 50-54 25/29 finishers
All Women 154/220
Overall 467/603

 

Goal Pace: Actual: Overall Placing Heart Rate:
Run 1: 55:00 (5:30/km) 55:02 (5:30/km)

 

25th 168
T1 1:45 Not ranked
Bike:  sub 1:20:00

(+30 km/h)

 1:20:48 (29.7 km/h for 40k per Sportstats, = 30.2 km/h for 40.5k) 24th 148

 

T2 2:59 Not ranked
Run 2: < 30:00

(sub 6:00/km)

30:06 (6:01/km) 25th 159

 

Description of Race:

I had done this race course for Nationals last year, so I was very familiar with it.  The only differences were that they changed the run course to take out the big Vancouver Ave hill, to make an almost flat course, the bike course was a bit longer, the transition area was a bit further away and the transitions themselves were a bit longer.  With better fitness than last year, I expected to cut a fair amount of time off of my 2016 result of 2:58.  2016 was my return to racing after a lot of personal issues in 2014 and 2015 (my concussion, cancer death of very close friend, menopause, weight gain, plantar fasciitis) affected my training and resulted in next to no racing.

My training this year was affected by the illness and death of my mother in the winter/spring, followed by a viral infection that knocked me out for almost two weeks in July.  I had intended to lose at least 20 pounds since my 2016 race, and I had lost 10 pounds by mid-March but stress-eating caused me to gain that all back by May.  Once my training increased again after that, I found it very difficult to lose weight, and decided to just maintain my food intake to fuel my workouts, and deal with weight loss after Worlds.

Lead-up to race – We arrived four days prior to the race, which was enough to get settled and complete all the tasks required at a World Championship race, such as the Parade of Nations, run and ride course familiarization and team meeting, not to mention socializing.   With this being my third Worlds, I knew what was involved in the lead up and I was determined to minimize the changes to my normal routine.

I was able to do my assigned workouts for these days although not exactly as planned, due to various factors.   No excuses, but it’s not as easy to head out the door in an unfamiliar place, as it is at home.  I felt good during the workouts since my quads were finally rested and my ongoing tight calves were no longer tight.   What a relief.  It made me wonder if that calf tightness might be related to my desk/chair position at work, and being away from work resolved it.  Will have to look into that further once I’m back to work.

We stayed at a motel on the Penticton lakeshore strip and made most of our own meals to avoid sitting in crowded restaurants waiting for food, and having to worry about not getting the type and quality of food I wanted.  I slept in every morning until I woke up naturally so I was getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

Race Day:

Warm-up – about 15 minutes of easy jogging on and off.  All good, no hamstring or calf tightness.  Nutrition good, bathroom good.    I did my sighting of the Run In/ Bike Out/Bike In/Bike Out, which was a bit of a serpentine path.

Run 1 –  We (Women 40+) started in a corral, about the fourth wave to go.  I felt happy and calm at the start…. It had been a long journey back to being at Worlds, with my last one being Ottawa in 2013.

I always view the first 10k of a standard distance duathlon as something to be gotten through, so that I can get onto the bike.   It always seems to go on forever and you have to push hard, but not quite as hard as a standalone 10k.   This day, it went fairly well.   There was a long stretch on each of four 2.5k loops that was a false flat uphill but this was followed by coming back down it, so I don’t think I lost too much time due to this.  By the second loop, I could see that I was pretty far back in the pack, but this was not unexpected so I did not get too discouraged by this.  I kept on at a steady pace, trying to keep my pace below 5:30/km.  When I finished, my Garmin said 5:25.  Sportstats says 5:30, which was my goal, so close enough.

Bike – I had my bike shoes on my bike already (new strategy for me this season) and had a fairly good mount.  Not a full flying mount, but I got my left foot in, got rolling, swung my right leg over and I was off.  Much better than running to the mount line in my cycling shoes as I used to do.

I was expecting my ride to be a fair bit faster than last year, as I am fitter, the course was the same and the forecast was for very low winds (last year 1:23:38, 28.7 km/h).  I was a bit disappointed to only be 3 minutes faster in the results but given a couple of mitigating factors, I’m satisfied.

  • The wind was definitely stronger than last year, which slowed us down on the out portion of the double out & back course, but it didn’t feel like we got a pure tailwind on the way back. My speed was only about 3-4 km/h faster on the south bound course versus north bound.
  • Last year, we rode in the far right and far left lanes. This meant that the traffic was still flowing in the two inner lanes (and was halted at the turn around). This made for some scary moments when transport trucks passed us, but we were all amazed by the slip stream effect we got from them. It was almost like we were pulled along when they passed.  That was definitely missing this year as they had us ride in the two lakeside lanes while the traffic was in the two mountainside lanes.   It made for a much safer race course, but we all agreed that we lost a bit of speed that way.
  • The course this year was about 0.5 km longer, with a dogleg near transition that required a real slow down.

My power number was a bit lower than we had hoped for but my average HR # was good as a measure of effort.  As I finished the bike, my Garmin said 30.4 km/h.  I was very pleased to be over 30 km/h, but Sportstats has me at 29.7 km/h, I think because they divided by 40km and the course was at least 40.5km.  Either way, I am still satisfied as this is the first 40km effort I was able to do this season due to scheduling conflicts.  I had feared that I would falter at 30km and end up with a 90 minute split.

Run 2 –  this run was 2 loops of the run course, so I knew what to expect.   I was aiming to go sub 6:00/km overall.  I started out very slowly at closer to 6:30 but pressed on and eventually got my average speed down to about 5:55/km.  I was able to hold this until about the 3.5km mark, when I really started to slow down.   I tried my best to keep my speed up but the final uphill did me in, and I finished up with a 6:05/km average per my Garmin, although Sportstats had me at 6:01.  I’ll take it!

Finish – I crossed the line and immediately felt very faint, which is pretty normal for me with my low blood pressure.  Dan and my friends were at the fence and saw this and got me hooked up with a fellow Canadian finisher to hold onto me and guide me through the line.  Once I got some food into me, I came back to life quickly.

We got a very nice medal at the finish line and further on, we got a duathlon finisher scarf which was a nice touch.  The finisher area opened up into the spectator area and I was able to meet up with Dan.

At this point, things got a little weird as the solar eclipse was at its maximum.  The sun clouded over, the temperature dropped quickly by 5-10 degrees at the same time my body was cooling off, and people were stumbling around with eclipse glasses and boxes over their heads.  It was a bit surreal!

Final Thoughts:

When I describe Duathlon Worlds to someone who hasn’t done it, I say, it’s like being the smart kid in your high school, then going to university and realizing that everyone else there is as smart or smarter than you, and it can be pretty intimidating.  This time around, I knew I would be closer to the back of the pack than I was in Ottawa 2013.  I purposely didn’t say, “I don’t want to be last,” because you don’t have any control over who else shows up, and really, what’s wrong with being last at this level of competition???

Leading up to the race, I was getting really sick of training and really tired of thinking about the race.  I felt like I didn’t want to put myself through this very long lead up again.  I also felt like, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could get myself fit enough to participate at this level again, and then maybe put this level of competing behind me.  I purposely had not attended any qualifying events for 2018 Worlds.

However, a day or two after the race, I had decided that I wanted to at least consider qualifying for Worlds 2018 which will be in Odense, Denmark ….. but that’s a story for another day!

Gratitude:

A big thanks to my family for supporting me emotionally and physically and for tolerating the bikes in the kitchen!

Thanks to my coach Mike Coughlin, of Discomfort Zone Performance Coaching, especially for that phone call in the final week.

Thanks to my training partners, especially the two Mikes.

Thanks to my technology guy, Spencer.

Thanks to my nutrition coach Michelle Goldrick for steering me in the right direction.

Thanks to Tracy my trainer, Dr. Tina my chiro and Andy my physio for fixing my broken body last year.

Thanks to the Girls Who Bike, 20 Minute Daily Groove, London Centennial Wheelers, Cycles London, Runners Choice and Nordic Cat CX peeps.

Thanks to all my friends, both athletic and not, who have pushed, prodded and propped me up, when I lost the faith so many times in the past year.  It was so very much appreciated.

 

Cathy is a 54 year-old duathlete based in London, Ontario. When she’s not running and cycling, she’s a sole practitioner CPA and the co-manager of a family unit, aka a wife, and mom of two young adults. She is very excited to be entering a new age group next year!

Kincardine 2017 Race Reports: Sarah and Sam’s Turn, #kwt2017

Before the race, it's Susan, Sam and Sarah sporting ball caps and a scarf. Ready to run!

Before the race, it’s Susan, Sam and Sarah sporting ball caps and a scarf. Ready to run!

Sarah: I went into this year’s duathlon having hardly trained for the run at all, thanks to the springtime trifecta of bad weather, long hours at the office, and laziness.No personal bests were in store for me, so I went for a nice jog and a bike ride on the shores of Lake Huron, and learned some things along the way.

1) There is some weirdness in the final results. I assume this is of my own making – I started one age group late (with the 45+ crowd) so I could pace Sam for the beginning of her run, but ended up with a super slow result on the first 3km (26:30?!), and a guntime almost 3 minutes slower than Sam’s despite starting at the same time and beating her to the finish. I can only guess they used the “gun” for the start of my age group and added the difference between it and when I actually started. My inner competitor is frustrated that the result doesn’t reflect all the people I’d doggedly passed on the 2nd run, but if I really was just going for a leisurely run and cycle along the lake, I oughtn’t really care. Lesson learned, start with your age group!

2) Speaking of competition, I’m normally pretty anxious before any kind of race / performance test. Serious, focused, short fuse, can’t eat, etc. Kincardine is unique for me – staying in a tiny tourist cottage with Sam and Susan T, hanging out at the start with Susan F and Tara, meant eating breakfast and smiling while I stretched and warmed up. Lesson learned, the feeling of a community event built around supporting individual efforts is unique and to be treasured.

3) Sam passed me on the bike (no surprise there!) so I had a chance to play with my pacing as I tried to catch her. I had always supposed that I would be faster overall running 2-3 minute intervals with a 1-minute fast walk between – but I definitely gained more ground on Sam running at a steady (tempo run) pace. Lesson learned, worth it to just keep running if I can.

4) I’ve been learning that eating sooner and more frequently on long bike rides really helps to prevent the lulls in energy I start to encounter after the 1-hour mark, so I thought I’d try some quick nutrition (one of those performance energy gel things) during the transition from the first run to the bike. Lesson learned, there is no amount of water I can guzzle that will keep that gel from making me nauseated during the first part of the ride.

5) I also have trouble with my calves and feet cramping up – albeit on long ride more than running – and was curious to see if I would encounter them in the duathlon. I certainly did – at the beginning of the second run. Fortunately I had my usual cure, Endurance Tap (a Canadian-made salted maple syrup “gel”), in my pocket. I was able to walk off the cramps in a couple hundred metres, with (yay!) no nausea in sight. I think I’ll stick to these for future races.

6) For those nerds interested in numbers that remember Sam’s Sunday post about heart rate, here is my heart rate for the bike portion of the course – truncated a little because I didn’t actually start my Garmin until I was halfway up the hill that starts the course.

Average heart rate : 165

Max heart rate : 175

You can see that Sam and I both have maximum heart rates very close to the standard calculation of 220 minus our respective ages. I’m ten years younger and run 10 BPM higher. Our average heart rates were at 92-94% of maximum – even when I felt like I was “taking it easy” in the middle portion of the course to not completely wear myself out pedalling into the wind, I was still up over 90%. And otherwise you can see the effect of the hills on both our hearts.

Sarah is a duathlete that doesn’t actually like running. She is riding her bike from Toronto to Port Hope on the Friends for Life Bike Rally’s 1-Day ride with a few fellow Fit Is A Feminist Issue bloggers. You can sponsor her here.

Sam: For me Kincardine is one of those events that I seem to enjoy at any speed. I’ve been struggling with sore arthritic knees that get in the way of training for the run. Instead, I’m the Queen of Knee Physio. My goal has been to run slowly and pain free. And I did it. Sarah has been encouraging me to find a sustainable slow running pace and it seems to have worked. Her coaching efforts paid off at Kincardine and at the Pride Run a few weeks before that. As usual I had a blast on the bike even securing a couple of personal bests on the Strava segments on the course. Thanks tailwinds! But best of all this was doing the race with friends. Great to see Susan F, Tara, and Carolyn there. Susan T, Sarah, and I shared a funky little cottage nearby, so close we got to shower and clean up between the race and awards and prizes. Will I do it again? Sure. And next year, this Queen of Knee Physio even hopes to be able to train for it. Wish me luck.

All cleaned up after the race! It's Susan, Sarah, and Sam

All cleaned up after the race! It’s Susan, Sarah, and Sam

You can read more race reports here and here and here.

If you want to do it with us next year, we’d love to have you along! You need to get up early on New year’s Day though. The registration sells out in the first hour or so.

Bookmark it now and mark your calendars! It’s the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon and join the Facebook group for added reminders, (Facebook) Kincardine Women’s Triathlon.

 

Kincardine 2017 Race Reports: Julie’s Story, #kwt2017

by Julie M

Reflections on my first duathlon ever are mixed and embedded with my own approach to life of not necessarily reading the directions! 

I was not that committed to the race but I was up and it was paid for and what else was I doing on a Saturday morning, right? So off we went for the 2 hour drive from home to arrive at the registration tents at 8:20 am. (Just as a note the cut off for registration was 8:30 so in my world we were there with plenty of time.) 

The women staffing the tent seemed distracted and handed me my number and sent my tag to be ripped for a prize draw. I was quickly passed a bag and a shirt and almost dropped it all on the ground. These facts will be important later. After this I went and took my bike to the place marked ‘Bikes In.’ 

I then went to the washroom where I realized there was some organization to the bikes and I was in the wrong place but no worries. I moved my bike to the right place and tried to figure out where to go. Then I realized something was missing … chip yes the chip! As well everyone else was marked up with numbers and I was not and it was now 8:45 – 15 minutes to race time. 

No worries I figured I was here and I had my t-shirt and this is half the battle. A kind woman assisted me in getting my chip which after a great deal of back and forth and then the MC announcing and calling for chips and more back and forth I was chipped and marked. I thanked the kind woman who assisted me and we talked for a bit. She was originally from London and had 3 children who were all present to cheer her on. She was wanting to stay fit for her children and to be a good role model and she asked me if I was ready, trained and prepped…my response ‘well it’s just a 3 k run and a 12 km bike, that’s doable’ and she mentioned another 3 k run but I was unclear as the announcer came up to state the race was about to start.

The weather was cooler than I expected and I was grateful for opting out of the swim. Lake Huron is a force on a good day and today it was choppy, lots of white tops, the wind was my friend. (Again, this will be important later.) The run started good I held back and did not want to make the error of other races and blow my energy in the first km! It was a quick and beautiful run along the lake the water, trees, birds, butterflies and locals all out to cheer you on. 

I finished my run strong and started the biking and there is a quick uphill and you are off on a long cool out and back. It was amazing the ride was nice going to the ‘1/2 way mark’ and at this point I thought they made an error as it should have said ‘3/4 of the WAY’ but it was good. I saw a sign that said ‘Pedal to the Medal’ and figured these are just things I need to let go funny errors in spelling and comments are par for the course as you race away. 

As I turned back the wind picked up but as I stated the WIND IS YOUR FRIEND perhaps the kind that you don’t always want to hang out with but I was embracing the unexpected and just seeing what came with, no judgement. I saw the trail run as I headed back and thought ‘wow there are a lot of people on that run’ and then I started to ponder the comment of the woman who assisted me with the chip and the 1/2 way mark and as I headed back the last couple of km of the bike ride expecting my medal and my banana I realized as I came off my bike that there was another 3 km run. 

So SURPRISE but everyone was cheering and telling me to hurry and I, like a teenager suffering from severe peer pressure, looked to Steve and said ‘I think there is another 3 km run’ he smiled and said ‘why yes there is’ and Charlotte had her sign and I was dumping my bike and now I was running passing the chip marker on the final 3 km run.

So I think there are times that it is good to read the directions of putting things together and knowing what to expect is good; however, in this case I think this was good. All races are like lessons. Some are amazing and you surprise yourself and others surprise you with another 3 km run! I embraced that as the women that ran past me with their age numbered legs at 53, 57 and 60 were inspiring and defeating but I was amazed at their stamina. I felt a bit better with the early 30 somethings going by but I embraced my marked 43 with pride.

Overall, I highly recommend this race for anyone at any level. The energy and the challenge are amazing. Small towns are a gift of community that I miss coming from London and afterwards when I ordered breakfast the familiar ‘Are you’se guys ready to order?’ reminded me of my Grandmothers home

Kincardine 2017 Race Reports: Susan’s Story, #kwt2017

Tara and Susan before the race start. Tara is wearing a red ball cap. Susan is wearing sunglasses and a bright blue t-shirt.

by Susan F

For the last three years, I have done the sprint duathlon. In 2015, I had not done any training and found the transition from the bike to the second run to be particularly troublesome. Last year I did some training in anticipation of that transition. However when I started the second run, my feet felt really flat and I had difficulty running. I attributed this to my somewhat overused running shoes and opted to finish the race in my bare feet. 

In hindsight, the problem was not my sneakers. In April, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. My symptoms include an inability to make my right foot do what I want it to do. I now think this is why I had difficulty last year.

I used to like running. Now I find it frustrating because it just doesn’t feel normal. I almost bailed on the race this year, but my cousin Tara convinced me to participate. I decided that I would enjoy the morning, hanging out with my friends and fellow competitors. I walked most of the second leg, enjoying the sunshine, the views of Lake Huron and the amazing support from everyone involved. Fellow competitors, volunteers and strangers on the street smiled, waved, honked horns, and yelled words of encouragement as I passed by.  I had fun.

I don’t know if I’ll do the race next year.  I’ll decide how I feel closer to registration but I might volunteer if racing  seems like too much.

Susan (left) and Tara (right) post race, smiling, with their medals.

Susan Fullerton, a lawyer working for the government, lives in Toronto. She is an avid traveller who has had varying levels of fitness throughout her life. These days, she’s focused on being a reformed hoarder, trying to make better choices about how she spends her time and money.

Competitor or Coach? (Guest Post)

by Claudia Murphy

I’ve been struggling lately with my exercise routine. In the last couple of years belonging to a fitness group has helped me to avoid a pit of depression, so I have been feeling perplexed that what seemed like a lifeline has now become quite a challenge. Even if I can get myself to show up, I don’t enjoy it or even enjoy having done it.

I am 65 and have been working out with a group of long distance runners for a couple of years. They are a great group of people. They have been very kind and accepting– downright encouraging. Even at my bluest, there is something amazing about high intensity workouts at 5:30 am with positive and affirming people.

But in the last few months, I have been facing motivation issues. There could be several reasons.

First, I have been dealing with a chronic and persistent pain in my left hip. I have pursued multiple diagnosis and treatment options, including orthopedics (MRI, cortisone shot), physical therapy, massage, chiropractic therapy and acupuncture. The consensus seems to be that my left hip and adjacent areas need strengthening. But in the meantime, running, walking, and yoga, and even sitting all hurt. It is easy to feel discouraged.

Second, internalized ageism has become a significant force in my mind. I am one of the oldest in my fitness group. Still quite competitive, I often feel as if I’m losing. I can’t run as fast as I used to run. I can’t run as fast as most of the younger people in the group. I haven’t yet figured out the antidote to this aspect of aging.

Third, I’ve been fighting a giant battle against oppression in the workplace. Here, I’ve had to be very deliberate in guarding against internalized sexism and ageism. I have had to consciously remember my own significance and value. I have had to repeatedly decide to quash the oppressive thinking. My vigilance has been focused on this fight.

In the middle of all of this, without awareness, negative self-talk crept into my exercise time. I found myself thinking “you are too old, you look ridiculous, you are embarrassingly slow.” And these thoughts seemed true at the time, even justified. I looked for evidence to support them. Is it any wonder that my routines became less fun, less satisfying?

I’ve had to become more vigilant about this self-talk. I can be my own coach. I can replace my own negative feedback with something more positive. I find it helps to aim for messages that are somewhat neutral while still being encouraging. My mind revolts against “you are the best” But “go Claudia” or “you can do it!” work pretty well.

I recently tried this strategy in a 10K race, with some mixed results to be honest. I had signed up to run as a member of a relay team in the 2017 Fargo Marathon. About a month before the race, we discovered that the legs of the relay were not very even. One team member would have been required to run 8.5 miles. None of the team members wanted to run that far. So we decided to switch our registrations to the 10K. Even this decision felt like a bit of cop out. Last year I had run a half-marathon at this time. While it is true that I had only been able to do so with the help of a cortisone shot, I still struggled to feel OK about running a 10K.

The night before the race I was still struggling with feeling positive about running. My husband held out the perspective for me by reminding me that not that many women my age could run a 10K. He also agreed to drive me to the race and to cheer me on. The day of the race the weather was perfect. It was cool and clear. We arrived early enough to witness the start of the race for both the marathon runners and the half marathon runners.

I had a good start and ran well. I kept my mantra forefront in my mind—“go Claudia.” Since we shared the route with either the marathon runners or the half marathon runners, there were people out cheering us on for most of the route. There was music blasting or bands playing, even though it was quite early morning. I had two young women tap me on the back as they passed me by telling me that I was doing well for someone so old. (BTW this is not a very helpful way to support an older runner.)

I finished in 1:12:09, 8th in my age group of women 65-69, 37 of us running the race. I was staffing a women’s leadership development conference that weekend and decided to wear my hoodie and medal throughout the day to force myself to celebrate my achievement.

Ageism is nasty. But it helps if I do not participate in my own oppression. This is an ongoing battle for me. I would like to be able to be my own best supporter. What strategies work for you?

Claudia Murphy is a philosopher who is semi retired but still teaching part time at Minnesota Technical and Community Colleges.  She is also likes to run, bike, garden, cook and knit.

Half marathon: Not quite a hot mess, but a humid fizzle

Tracy in dark pink running tank, blue cap, and sunglasses, wearing race bib uber 38046; Anita in short sleeved red v-neck t-shirt, sunglasses atop her head; inflatable MEC Race Series arch in the background.

Tracy and Anita in front of the start/finish arch pre-race, Pottersburg Park, London, Ontario.

Anita’s Take on the MEC Series Race #3 Half Marathon

This race was different. Unlike the Niagara Half Marathon, or the Florida Keys Half Marathon, or others, this time it was just Tracy and I doing a London-based race.  In the past a handful of us would make the fun trek to a different city to race.  We’ve avoided London simply because it’s a bit dull racing on the same path you train on week after week, but this race was different because the route took us along parts of the path that we’d never been on.  There were also some pre-race emotions thrown in as this was the last race that Tracy and I would run together for a couple of years owing to our forthcoming consecutive sabbatical leaves.

We went into the race with good spirits. For this one we’d tried a completely different training approach with a coach. Our weekday runs consisted mostly of speed work, which we found challenging at first but eventually we enjoyed conquering the quick, fast workouts that depended on keeping track of our pace. The weekend runs were not as long as we typically would map out for ourselves.  Nevertheless, we both felt that our bodies had responded well to the new training approach. We aimed to shave a couple of minutes off our personal best time.

The race itself was a low key affair, with smaller crowds than the other races we’d done but just as well organized.  Bagels, bananas, gum drops, Clif bars, hot chocolate, coffee and water were available before and after the race. Not too many spectators cheering us on but the route volunteers were terrific. We thought the heat and humidity wouldn’t be a problem once we realized that much of the race route was shady. And it was a lovely route with lots of greenery!  A bit of flooding too but the organizers had built a bridge over the worse part, plus they warned us about the water with an early morning email.

And now to the punchline: it wasn’t the best race for us…yes, we finished, with a respectable time, but…We felt good for the first third of the race. We held on during the second third. Sometime during the last third (around the 16K mark) the struggle started. Hoping it would pass, I didn’t let Tracy know I wasn’t feeling great until the last 3 km or so. And it wasn’t an injury or ache – it was just a ‘not feeling great’ feeling. Like maybe this feeling might progress to feeling like I need to puke.

It crept up silently because we felt like we were doing well with our pacing the whole time. We were also good to ourselves by taking a few longer breaks during that last bit. Was it the humidity? Maybe (but we’ve run in much worse). During our after race de-briefing I said to Tracy: “I never felt the runner’s high. I didn’t feel the happiness on that run.” After some thought, she agreed. Although we’re pleased that we finished in good time, the joy of running eluded us that day.

Tracy’s Take on the MEC Series Race #3 Half Marathon

Despite that we rarely do local races and have never done a local half, Anita and I were both pumped for our local half marathon last Saturday. It would be our last event together for two years. We’d been working with a coach leading up to it and were feeling good about our speed work. As Anita said, we like to travel, so the whole thing lacked the “glam factor” of some of our previous events. And because it was local, we didn’t even think to book off the night before to go out for Italian food (a pre-race tradition whenever we’re at an out of town event).

We were both in a bit of a tizzy that morning trying to decide what to wear. Shorts or capris? Short sleeves or long? I made a good last minute decision to go with shorts and a tank top.

There was a small and friendly crowd at the race site, with ample refreshments for pre- and post-race. The massage therapy students from Fanshawe College had their tables set up under a canopy for post-race massages. It was clear and sunny, but a good portion of the path was shady and we thought we’d be okay.

And at the beginning, we were keeping a fantastic pace, right on target for our simple strategy. Basically, we divided the race into three parts. The first 7K was for finding our rhythm and keeping a steady pace. The second 7K we focused on staying present with the task and maintaining a good even pace. And finally, in the last 7K we wanted to pick it up just a bit, particularly towards the end, laying it out in the last 800m or so.

Like Anita just said, we faltered in the last few kilometres. There’s a part of our long runs that we call Death Valley because it’s a hot stretch with no trees. The turnaround for the out and back for this race was just about half a kilometre or so past Death Valley. And by then it was pretty hot and humid. So no sooner had we passed through DV than we hit the turnaround and had to do it over again.

For me this was the turning point. I started to feel overheated. Subsequent water stations I knew I needed water and Nuun (though I had never trained with Nuun before, I had to drink it for the electrolytes).  We had kept up reasonably well with two other women who were running just ahead of us at a similar pace. They stayed steady steady with no walk breaks. We were taking 30 seconds every ten minutes, consistently for most of the race until the last 3 or 4 km when we started walking a bit longer.

I tried to maintain my energy with some energy balls we had made with Linda–oats and chocolate and coconut mixed with syrup and other goodies. But it was hard to chew and tough to swallow. I really needed my shot blocks, which I hadn’t had time to buy. I forgot I had a Vega gel in my belt, so that went uneaten (truthfully, I don’t know if I’d have been able to hold it down).

Most times when Anita and I run together we prop each other up. If one is struggling the other is able to encourage. But this time we both felt our energy get sucked away around the same time. After the race we both confessed that we felt like we were going to puke. I had a definite feeling of wooziness with more than 5K left to go.

I hauled out all the mantras I had, focusing on “fast feet” (which was a lie!) and “perpetual forward motion.” MEC has good signage, with lots of motivational sayings along the way (all of which elude me now).

When we crossed that finish line, later than we’d hoped to, my legs felt stiff and unsteady. I grabbed water and a half a banana. We both made our way over to the massage tables. Anita’s upper body was all seized up around her neck and shoulders.  My calves and hamstrings felt hard and tight, so much so that even a relatively gentle massage made me wince. My feet ached. This was not my usual post-race feeling. I was drained.

After our massages we walked slowly up the hill to the car. Having told ourselves earlier that we would treat this as a usual weekend run, we tried not to feel disappointed in our performance. Anita was disappointed that we didn’t get a medal for finishing. But we took a couple of post-race selfies anyway. It may not have been our best event, but we made the best of it.

And as a usual weekend goes, we treated ourselves to breakfast (or in Anita’s case, lunch) at Billy’s.

mec2

Tracy (left) and Anita (right) post-race in the parking lot, looking reasonably cheerful.