I love running!

I love running!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

I am home now from Toronto and have had some time to reflect on my marathon experience on Sunday. Going in to Sunday's race I knew I was fit and ready to run a great race, I also recognized that this is a marathon and sometimes it doesn't matter how fit and ready you are things happen and the race doesn't unfold as expected. Although I say that, I went in to this race truly believing that great things could happen and that this could be the day that I finally get this marathon thing right. My training all pointed to that, and the half marathon I had run 2 weeks prior also indicated I was on the right path. I was feeling pretty confident that this marathon would go well.

I had been pretty open regarding my goals this training cycle, which can be a scary thing. My A goal being to PB and break the Canadian 45+  marathon record currently held by the amazing Marilyn Arsenault, my B goal to place in the top 10 of Canadian athletes (this race also doubled as the Canadian National Marathon Championships ) and my C goal to get to the start line healthy.  It's hard to put goals out publicly sometimes as sometimes it feels hard when you don't achieve them. I do truly believe however that it doesn't mean you fail, it just means that this wasn't the right time . It also means I am dreaming big and aspiring to higher goals, which is necessary to grow as an athlete and person. I was able to achieve both my B and C goals which is ok but I did want more. I"m not going to lie, I am disappointed in my time result. I wanted more, I trained for more but it just wasn't there that day. In fact it wasn't there from quite early on in the race which made the entire race much more of a mental than physical race for me.

Standing on the start line was amazing. Alan Brookes and Clifton Cunningham of the Canada Running Series had put together a fantastic elite field and provided us with all the support needed to help us achieve our goals, including pacers. My plan was to run behind our 2:39 pacer Johanna for as long as he stayed in the race. I was really excited as there were several women also hoping to achieve similar times, meaning I would have other women to run with over the next 42km. The conditions were pretty nice at the start, a bit warmer than I would have liked and also higher humidity than ideal but I still felt the temps were manageable. I have definitely competed in worse conditions (Pan Am Games Marathon 2015).

The horn blew and we started, Johanna said something and seemed to bolt ahead. I didn't quite catch what he said but Melanie Myrand thought he said we would all connect around 1k, so Melanie, Anna Boniface Lyndsay Tessier, Kate Toohey, Faviola Perez and I set off together. Lyndsay was only with us briefly before she moved ahead, a very wise move, as she had a stellar race with a huge pb and a second place Canadian placing!  It wasn't long before the rest of us connected with Johanna and we formed a strong crew all working together. We ensured we gave each other space around getting our bottles and would move up and down positions within the group. It really was a fantastic group of women to work with and I feel extremely lucky that I had them. Running always feels easier when you are working in a pack.

I had decided before the race to only look at my splits at 5k intervals as I don't like to get caught up in splits too early. I had wanted to run by feel, plus having a pacer took much of the guess work out. The pace felt pretty comfortable early on so I just went with it. Our first 5k split was slightly faster than our goal time  at 18:39 (goal was 18:50) however the next 5k went by in  18:27. This meant our first 10k was in 37:06. Around this time we also arrived on Lakeshore Drive.A nice long stretch of road, however it was in full sunlight with no shade to be had. I started pouring water on my head during this stretch to ensure I didn't get to overheated as I was definitely feeling a bit warmer.

Our little group stuck together for around another 6-7k but around this time Faviola and I fell off the back of the pace group, Anna disappeared (I found out after her foot was injured and she had to DNF)  and Kate had also fallen back behind us. This left Melanie with the pacer and she was running really well (she finished 3rd Canadian in 2:39, great racing). Up ahead we could see Natasha Lebeaud and her husband Marco.  Natasha was having a rough day and had to DNF but she was really encouraging to me and told me to keep going even though I wasn't feeling great. Basically at 16-18k I was feeling like I thought I would feel at 35k. Part of me thought maybe this was just a rough patch and things would improve but sadly that wasn't the case.

I was definitely slowing and then my stomach began to churn. I have experienced GI issues several times in marathons and I really had thought I was on top of it this time as was only taking in liquid fuel and had taken Immodium prior to racing. Sadly though at 23k I had to pull off to the bathroom. Never a fun moment but thankfully it was only the once i had to stop. When I came out of the bathroom I was on an out and back stretch of the course and was able to see Leslie Sexton, Tish Jones and Lyndsay coming by the other way and all looking strong. I yelled encouragement at them and then continued to grind out my miles.

Basically from here until the finish of the marathon I was in survival mode. I was dealing with a bit of  calf cramping and my body just didn't want to cooperate. 19k is a long way to be in survival mode and it took a lot of mental grit to keep moving forward.  For me it was really important that I finished this race. I already knew there was no way I was going to get the record but I did know that I would feel so much better going home having gone the distance. I also knew there was still a strong possibility of achieving my B goal of top 10 Canadian. So I kept running.

What I will say is when you are in that zone of hurt it's amazing the power of someone yelling your name or encouraging you. I may not have looked up or over every time but the crowd really made a huge difference to me being able to push forward. When I see the photos from the race, I see how deeply focused I was on moving forward. I am very proud that I was able to be that mentally tough for so long and it did pay off. I was able to finish. No it wasn't pretty and yes I did almost collapse at the line but I finished and to me that was everything that day. My time at 2:49 was well off my goal but it represented mental strength and perseverance and that means a lot. That time did give me the Canadian National Masters Marathon win and took me to a top 10 performance overall and 5th Canadian.

What do I take away from this experience

1. the marathon is tough. it is a beast and it beats you up but it also can give you the highest of highs. Three women: Leslie, Lyndsay and Melanie killed it out there and had those highest of high experiences. They ran well and they deserve a huge congratulations for their efforts.Watching them achieve that makes me want to get out there and chase that feeling again, maybe not in the marathon for a while but I love that feeling when it comes, that elusive feeling when it all comes together and you just flow

2. The race is just the pinnacle of the hard work you put in. It is important to celebrate the journey there, and  I loved the journey. This training cycle was a huge confidence builder for me and even though it didn't come together in the race all that work is still there and will pay dividends going forward

3. Our running community is amazing. I had the opportunity to run with some amazing women and we all worked together. I also got to meet marathoners from other countries and that is always fun. The crowd support out on the course was phenomenal as was the support from runners on the course.

4. It's ok to dream big and not reach those goals right away. Yes it's disappointing but it's ok. It's not the end and there is always more time to grow.

5. Getting selected for doping control post marathon it is tough to pee! I spent a long time trying to produce a sample but I am extremely grateful to be part of a running community that respects the integrity of sport and importance of athletes competing clean. Thank you Canada Running Series and Athletics Canada for ensuring drug testing is in place at these competitions.

Lastly I need to say a huge thank you to so many:

Firstly my family, who support me in this passion of mine for running, my friends and running community who sent me so many beautiful messages both before and after the race. Seriously they brought me such joy and lifted me up. My friend and Oiselle Team Mate Sasha Gollish who hosted for a few days before I moved into the hotel.

My coach Richard Lee who knows what to say even in those tough moments. My BC Endurance Project teammates who encouraged me in workouts, who sent me funny messages about oatmeal, who all love this sport as much as me. Also a huge thanks to Brian McCalder and BC athletics for supporting and believing in high performance training groups.

Alan Brookes, Clifton Cunningham and all the Canada Running Series Staff who put on an exceptional event and really promote the sport of running here in Canada.

The volunteers who ensured we were fed, well rested and got where we needed to be over the weekend.

Lastly thanks to my sponsors who have supported me as a masters athlete. Not all companies are willing to support older athletes and I love that these companies believe in the life long pursuit of goals and running. Oiselle, Nuun, Zensah, Addaday Canada, Forerunners, New Balance Canada Thank you !

                JP Bedard &  I. JP  ran 6 marathons over  the course of the weekend to raise awareness for childhood sexual abuse. What an accomplishment and inspiration!                  

Sasha and I after my last workout pre marathon! best host and pacer around 

 Me in my focused zone through the beaches (thanks Claire for the pics)

 the final push to the finish (thx Mimi for the photo) 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spring races & Nutrition tweaks

I am back to full training and it feels so good and so tiring at the same time. I am running 3 workouts a week, with one of those workouts included in my long run, while keeping my milage relatively low at around 70 miles per week. I am finding that the half/marathon pace workouts are starting to come back, but my speed still needs a lot of work. I know it will come so I am just plugging away and enjoying the process.  Apart from a bout with the stomach flu and a tough emotional week I have managed to keep my training pretty consistent. I am working on ensuring my easy days truly are easy days and that I am taking the time to recover between sessions. Lot of rolling, attempts at good sleep and proper nutrition are the focus.

Speaking of nutrition, in early February I had a slew of blood taken by the lovely people at Inside Tracker www.insidetracker.com. My intention was to see how well my nutrition is holding up while starting back to training, A baseline of my blood values so to speak. I am hoping that learning more about my blood levels will help me to have less colds/flus and also help me to stay healthy physically and recover well from training. I will be interested to see how increases in training, moreover  racing impacts these values with future testing.

I was happy to learn that in general my current nutrition and supplement use has me on track with optimal levels in most of my blood levels. I have been concerned with ferritin levels in the past but my ferritin levels were optimal with this testing. I had never previously had my Vitamin D levels tested, and living in the PNW I was concerned about these, again these were optimal indicating my daily Vitamin D and Iron supplements are working.

Also of interest to me were areas where I can improve to bring myself to optimum levels. I plan to use food as my primary intervention. The fantastic thing with Inside Tracker is they provide you with food suggestions to help increase levels that aren't optimal. Another great thing with Inside Tracker is they also answered any questions I had when I didn't understand certain levels.

For instance my TIBC was low. I wasn't sure what this meant, but after consultation with the dieticians at Inside Tracker it turns out this isn't of concern as my Ferritin is optimal. Here is what they let me know

 "ferritin is the most important metric for iron metabolism. Since that is optimal, no need to tweak anything related to iron intake. TIBC is a function of iron and TS. Since these measures can change on a daily basis they are less important for overall iron function. Ferritin takes much longer to change. TIBC is in relation to serum iron in the blood, not the stored iron, ferritin. It does not mean that the body cannot use the ferritin stores, but rather has to do with iron before it is stored. But again, since ferritin is optimal, it is not a concern."

I was also low in DHEAS and here is what they said regarding this: 

"DHEAS does decrease with age. The optimal zones are adjusted for age so your result is in relation to where a women your age should expect. Yes, it can be low due to stress. It is not necessarily related to colds; however, stress and high cortisol negatively impact the immune system. WBC may be in the optimal range, but they fluctuate frequently. Cortisol suppresses the immune system which makes you more susceptible to illness. "

This to me means I need to be really focused on recovery both with nutrition and rest to keep my stress levels lower. I also need to be diligent in using yoga or meditation or both to keep my cortisol levels down. I have quite a few outside stressors and I need to manage these as best as I can to optimize my health.  My low DHEAS also can be a reason for my feeling of fatigue often through training. Some of the foods that I will increase in my diet to help my DHEAS levels include fish, avocados and dark chocolate, all foods I enjoy! 

Anthers area I need to improve is my LDL. Again increasing fish intake will help with this as well adding spirulina to my smoothies and increasing my oat and barley intake. 

I am hopeful that by tweaking my diet, improving my sleep, and adding meditation and yoga daily,  I will be able to continue to train at a high level and to recover efficiently. My coach Richard Lee and I have decided that going in to the spring racing season I will be focusing on short races. My longest race will be Bloomsday in May, and that is a 12k. I am starting my racing season with a rust buster this coming Saturday at the West Van Run 5k. I am truly excited to get out there and try and run fast, while getting a sense of where my fitness is at. I am also going to be racing way outside my comfort zone and running a couple of track races this spring. I will return to the longer races in the fall. 

I am really excited to get the race season underway and to see how little changes in my lifestyle impact my racing and training.  A huge thank you to my family, coach Richard Lee, BCEP team mates, Oiselle, Forerunners, New Balance Canada, Nuun, RunGo, Addaday and  Zensah for their continued support. It takes a community! 

Out for a tempo during my long run with Coach Rich

Enjoying the sunshine and scenery of Jericho Park on a gorgeous day

Post snowy run with the New Balance crew

Showing off our favourite New Balance Shoes

snowy trail runs have been more often than usual this year

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A new year and I'm back up and running...

So I've neglected this blog since being injured in September. Perhaps as the injury lingered for 12 weeks and I didn't have a lot to report on in the running front, and I didn't feel motivated to share all the joys of cross training (elliptical, cyber arc, pool and bike workouts just don't seem as fun to me).  Now, however, I am back up and running and excited for the new year. It's been about 8 weeks since 
I started my walk/run program and I am now back up to running every day. Last week I started back to a full workout schedule. Every time I start back I realize how much I missed running, while simultaneously recognizing how much running fitness I have lost and that running is not easy!

I plan to take the next month to continue to build some fitness while continuing to focus on the little things, or the foundation if you will. I have been diligently rolling every day and performing my physio activation exercises before every run (thanks to Addaday Canada for taking me on as a rep, their tools are extremely helpful with pre run and post run recovery). I have also been getting massage and visiting my physio as frequently as needed. I have started back with strength training that involves more than just body weight exercises and am working at getting in at least one yoga class per week. I signed up for online yoga (@jasyoga) as it enables me to do quick yoga sessions when I can't get out to class. I am scheduling all these workouts as if they were a run to ensure I get them done, as in the past, these were always the first to go if I was busy, I am now giving them as much priority as a run.

I am also being proactive with my nutrition going forward. This piece of the puzzle is one I feel will make a big difference in my training. Generally I eat well and maintain a healthy diet, however I do have a sweet tooth. Moreover, during parts of my training blocks I often feel run down or tired, or get  sick, or have difficulty with sleep.  I have decided to partner with Inside Tracker after reading many other athletes positive experiences with this company to help me get on top of my nutrition, and hopefully get on top of these issues. A rep from Inside Tracker (www.insidetracker.com) will be drawing some blood from me next week and they will be analyzing it to determine where I am being successful with my nutrition and will pinpoint areas I can improve on. I look forward to seeing the results and implementing their suggestions in to my diet in hopes that this will keep me stronger and healthier going forward. As a masters runner I really feel that I need to be on top of all aspects of my health even more so than when I was younger. I feel that right now is a great time to get a base level of where I am at nutritionally as I am just building up workouts and milage and am not into peak training and racing season yet. I plan to repeat the tests throughout my training cycle to see how my nutrition tweaks make a difference with my training and racing. I do believe they will make a big difference.

As for my training and racing plans going forward, I plan to follow the guidance of my amazing coach Richard Lee who knows when to push me. There is a possibility I will be lining up at a half marathon in about 12 days. It is a local, yet very competitive event. If I decide to run it will be to test were I am at in my fitness and to get a hard training session in, as I am not race ready with only a couple of weeks of workouts under my belt.  I love getting out to race and it is never easy to toe the line with a big question mark as to pace, but it's a great opportunity to get back out there, see a ton of my running friends and to push myself. After that I will be making some decisions as to what I want to focus on in the Spring for racing. I might try hitting the track at some point, getting really out of my comfort zone! I will also be planning some road races. I will definitely not be doing a marathon this spring as I want to give my body plenty of time to get used to running again before putting myself through a marathon training cycle.

Thank as always to my amazing sponsors Oiselle, Nuun Hydration, Zensah Compression, Forerunners Vancouver, New Balance Canada, Addaday Canada and RunGo app.

Thank to Inside Tracker for helping me get on top of my Nutrition.

Thanks to all my friends and family who support me through the highs and lows and to my coach Richard Lee for all his support.
 Yes there have been some chilly days in Vancouver this training season :) Beautiful though!

 Running in Poco with my training partner Kirsten Lee

 First run back with the BCEP crew

 warm, sunny family vacation days make for great recovery 

 showing off some of my new training shoes courtesy of Forerunners and New Balance

Enjoying being back out there