I love running!

I love running!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Moving forward and Back at it!

My last blog post mentioned the emotionally difficult times I was having in April. These emotional challenges increased in June with the loss of my mom. My mom had been unwell for a long time, 11 years in fact. She was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers at the age of 58 and had a very fast downward spiral culminating in the loss of her ability to self-care, to eat, to communicate and to be mobile. She remained in this state for many years.  I felt I had lost many parts of her over the years and that I had grieved these as they happened, however, I was unaware that despite my grieving over the years I would still feel so unprepared when she went.  The waves of grief continue to come over me, although they do move further apart.

After my mom's death I did do one more race. This had been on my schedule as my final race for the season and I decided I would like to do it. It was the inaugural Toronto Waterfront 10k. I had been running some really good workouts leading up to my mom's passing so knew I was fit but in the couple of weeks after her death I had not had the energy or desire to do anything more than easy comfortable runs. I went in to the race wanting to run a hard effort and see what happened. It was a warm and humid day in Toronto so I decided to just run by feel. I went out at what felt like a fast but conservative  pace and hit the 5k mark at 17:04.  I was in about 5th place I think and mentally kind of gave in. The next 2 k were slow and my motivation wasn't there. At 7k I had renewed sense of competitiveness and decided to work to catch the woman in front of me. I pushed harder and was able to overtake her at about 9k. I finished the race in 4th, and was first master. My time of 35:08 wasn't my best but I was happy I was able to push through and finish.

Following the race was my season break. I took a week off where I just ran a couple of short easy runs then I took 2 weeks where I ran daily but all easy runs. Some people like to stop running completely on their break but I find mentally I need to get some running in. With how I was feeling emotionally as well, running was my outlet and meditation time, a much needed release.  I am now ready to start training again so this week I have added some fartlek runs to get the legs turning over again.

I plan to start racing again in September, with my goal race being the New York Marathon on November 6th. I have been invited to race as part of the elite field and am so excited to line up with the elite/pro women in New York. I will be aiming to be fit and ready to run fast. My last marathon was just slightly over a year ago at the Pan Am Games so I am ready to embrace the training.

I am sure I will continue to navigate through the emotional challenges of life, but I am ready to focus on my running journey again.

I also want to send out a huge congrats to my friends and team mates in Canada and the US who secured their spots on the Olympic Team. What an incredible honour to represent. Also if you anyone is interested in #Rule 40 and what it means for athletes check out oiselle.com for a blog on it's impact or follow Lauren Fleshman or Sally Bergesen on Twitter. I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of a team that supports and advocates for not only it's own athletes but all athletes. http://www.oiselle.com/blog

Thanks as always to my amazing friends and family for their support during these challenges,  to my sponsors Oiselle, Nuun, Forerunners, Zensah, New Balance Canada and RunGo App! And to my coach Richard Lee, I couldn't do it without you all. It really does take a community.

Enjoying some downtime on Savary Island

Heading out for an easy run on the island during my break

Doing some strides with the puppy to keep the legs moving 

Throwback to my last marathon at the Pan Am Games

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Emotional Stress and running

Another long overdue blog post, but I think it's because I have been wondering how to approach this blog. It has been a blog in the making for a while but it is one of those hard ones to articulate as although it's my story to tell, it is personal and also involves others.

The last month or so has been quite possibly one of the more stressful months personally that I've had. This stress has led to very minimal sleep and a huge amount of emotional ups and downs. I am not going to get into the details but I am going to say that trying to train and race while in this state of exhaustion has been difficult.

It's funny as I read stories often of how people continue to thrive through adversity, and I like to think I am one of them, but this experience made me recognize that sometimes attempting to thrive or push through the stress isn't the best idea. In fact sometimes it may be better to be aware of the impact of the stress and to adjust expectations accordingly. The battle between being that outwardly strong  woman while inside feeling lost is difficult.

I did try to push through some training sessions while feeling exhausted. The easy runs felt therapeutic, but the intensity sessions just felt draining, plus I didn't feel happy with the results of the sessions as I wasn't running well. It wasn't that all workouts were bad, it's just that they weren't as strong as I would have liked. However, looking back now, given how little sleep I was getting they were actually not bad.

The culmination of this month was at the Sun Run. This is one of my favourite races of the year. I have run 3 of my best 10kms here, with last year being the fastest at  33:52. I went into the race having not slept at all and feeling emotionally fragile. I got to the start line and already felt defeated. Many of my running peers asked how I was going to do and I just said I was hoping to finish strong. A few already were aware how I was feeling so I didn't explain to everyone.

We lined up on the start line and my stomach dropped. It was strange starting my favourite race feeling so low. The first km went out fast and I knew it would be a tough day. I decided that I was going to finish but my goal would be to win the masters title and not worry about anything else. At 4km I was still in 2nd in the masters race and about 10th overall. We hit the short, steep climb up to the Burrard bridge and I decided to push a bit. Just before 5km I caught Maria Zambrano (1st master at that point) and Lisa Brooking and Lisa and I pushed ahead. I passed 5k at 17:12 which was 12 seconds slower than the previous year and I wasn't feeling good. I decided to just work with Lisa and see if we could get each other to the finish. It wasn't easy, it was a complete mental battle for me. The exhaustion made me want to quit numerous times but I kept pushing. I finished in 34:47, 1st master and 9th female.

Yes I met my goal of first master, but no it didn't feel good. I smiled for some photos then sat down on the curb and just let myself feel. There were tears, not for the race, but for the emotional toll I had been experiencing. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and show my emotions allowed my friends to come and comfort me. It probably would have been smarter to have sat this one out and just let my mind and body rest. I was in no way really ready to push myself this way, but in some ways I'm glad it did as the physical exhaustion allowed me to let go emotionally.

So what does this mean going forward? Well the last week has been a bit better. This is an emotional journey that will continue for a long time as this is not a stressor that will just disappear. I will say that I am getting some more sleep this week and that I am feeling stronger in workouts. In fact I had a couple of good ones this week! The amazing support of friends, family and my coach Richard Lee have really helped me work through this. I recognize that it's important to share when things aren't going well just as it's important to share when things are going right. There are lessons in both. My coach articulated it well by encouraging me to forget about times and to remember that feeling I love of running fast. I am taking that to heart.

I am heading to Spokane Washington tomorrow for a quick trip to race the Bloomsday 12k this weekend and I plan on racing hard while enjoying the experience of a tough challenge. I am excited to connect with fellow Oiselle team mates Lyndy Davis and Trisha Drobeck as well as the amazing masters runner Marilyn Arsenault. I will embrace my love of running and be grateful for where I am, enjoying the journey.

thanks again to my amazing family and friends for all their support, my other family Oiselle and my great sponsors Nuun, Zensah, RunGo, Forerunners and New Balance Canada

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Back to the runners playground

We are now well in to 2016 and I have neglected my blog. I’m not sure why but it is now time to update. So far my running has taken a few steps forward then a step backward. Just as things started to get back on track this year I developed the flu requiring me to take a step back again. That said, if there is one thing I have learned from my injury time off is that patience is crucial and that when my body says it needs to rest for whatever reason I need to respect that. I am not going to say that resting is an easy decision for me. My natural tendency is to push through, however I am trying to be wiser and keep the long term results of my decisions in mind.

When I am healthy and running, I recognize how fortunate I am, so I am practicing gratitude. I am reminded that running for me is my playground (Lauren Fleshman says this and it’s so true) So when I head to run (even on the pineapple express stormy days in Vancouver) I try to remember how grateful I am to be running again and to appreciate the experience. When I am feeling good and running well I can’t get the smile off my face.

When January rolled in, I was back to running most days and was starting to sprinkle a little speed in to my program under the guidance of my amazing coach Richard Lee. This generally appeared in the form of fartlek runs and short tempos. Rich and I decided in January it would be good for me to jump into a local 8k race to see what kind of speed I had managed to maintain through cross training and where I was at. This was scary to me, as I find it challenging to put myself on the line having no idea where my fitness is at. At the same time, it was a great reminder to me of how much I love to race, plus I got to see a ton of the local community out there.

The race was the Icebreaker, and although there was no ice to be broken there were 60km/hour wind gusts to battle along with some cold rain. The course is an out and back along the Steveston dyke, with about 2km of the first half on gravel. My goal was to give a hard effort and just see where that took me. I was really hoping to be under 30 minutes but wasn’t sure what my legs had in them, plus the weather was going to make for a slow day. I set out at a pace that felt hard but sustainable into the wind and rain and found myself in no-mans land for a while. There was a group ahead of me but I just couldn’t seem to bridge the gap. We got to the halfway clock and 15 min something popped up. Uh oh I thought, breaking 30 might be a challenge. Then I made the turnaround and the tailwind felt great. I decided to pick up the pace and push hard. I finished in 29:32 and was first female overall. A nice start back!!

After the race, coach Rich and I sat down to plan out the spring. We decided to make this a fun spring targeting some races I normally wouldn’t run, then focusng the latter part of the spring on speed and getting some fast times on the track. I am really excited about this as last year I spent the majority marathon training (which I loved) but I really would love to develop my speed again! Two races which I am so excited to be heading to include the United Airlines New York Half Marathon and the Bloomsday 12k. I will also be running some local races as well.

One of the local races I decided to run this year was the First Half Half Marathon in Vancouver. This took place on Valentines day this year. It is a competitive race that is one of my favorites, as it is early in the season and a great way to test fitness. I knew I wouldn’t be in top shape going in to this half and that Krista Duchene, Dayna Pidhoresky and Erin Burrett would all be out there racing hard in hopes of getting on Canada’s world half team, but I was really excited to race and to see where I was at. The day before the race about 12 of us had got together to watch the US Olympic Marathon trials so we were all feeling inspired. Although we didn’t have to deal with the ridiculous heat the US marathoners contended with, we contended with strong winds and cold rain, making for a slow day for all out on the course. I set out at a comfortable pace and decided to just take 5k splits and run on feel. I was fortunate to be running in a group of guys and with my friend Anne Marie Madden and we took turns leading. It was a great group and we stayed together until around half way. I believe we split 10k in 36:52 so were rolling along nicely.  Once the group split up I concentrated on maintaining the pace I had run in the first half. I kept my eyes on the people ahead and tried to reel them in. At one point the course turns onto a gravel section around the lagoon and it was here I noticed I was starting to pull some of the group back who had gone ahead and was gaining on some other runners. I was feeling quite good and decided to pick it up. I was able to run the last 5k strong and finished in 1:18:08 which was good enough for 5th overall and 1st master. I was very happy with race as it proved my fitness was coming back.

 At the end of the race I felt really cold and had a very hard time warming up. Setting out for a cool down with a group I still was having a hard time warming up. The next morning, I felt ok so went for a run, however later that afternoon I started to feel awful. What ensued was the full blown flu. High fever, chills, body aches and nausea took me over for quite a few days. I couldn’t eat and had no energy at all. I started to improve after a week but still had barely any energy and developed a deep cough. It was disappointing knowing I was just getting back to fitness to take another week off but there was no chance of running. After a full week off I still wasn’t feeling great but started on some easy runs for another week. By the 3rd week I was still low energy but was able to start some workouts again. The first few felt awful. I really didn’t know how I was going to get back but again knew patience was the key.

Week 4, finally starting to feel better and the end of the week meant another race. The BC Champs were being held at the St.Patricks Day 5k . This race brings in a stellar field of elites. Karen and Steve who organize this race, go above and beyond to ensure it is an amazing experience for everyone. It is a rolling course with a longish hill up to the finish. Again I just wanted to run a super hard effort and again felt a bit like I was going in to the unknown after being sick. I set out fast and figured I would just hold on as long as possible. I realized at the mile I had gone out really fast in 5:10. I recognized I probably wouldn’t hold that pace but just kept running hard. I finished 5th overall and 1st master in 17:03 and was super happy with the effort. My team mate Rachel Cliff won the event in a course record time of 16:05.

So now I am heading to New York to run the United Airlines Half Marathon. I am super excited to see how it goes. I am finally feeling good again and I get to go to New York! My family is coming too and we are making a fun trip out of it. Looking forward to exploring the city.  A huge thank you to David Monti for hosting me as part of the elite field.

I also want to say a huge thank you to my sponsors/supporters. Oiselle is not just who I run for they are my running family. Oiselle has stood by me whether injured or not. My Oiselle team mates provide me with inspiration daily and the relationships developed in person or via social media have been a source of strength for me not only when I was healthy, but also when I was injured and returning to running. As I said to Sally Bergenson, I am in the right place with the right people and that feels so good. So grateful to all of Oiselle for everything to do!

Also thank you to Nuun who are supporting me in their elite team for another year. Their product rocks and again they provide such a great network of support. I love that their product is all natural. My fave flavors at the moment are watermelon and citrus fruit. I also love a Nuun Boost before a race. I don’t drink coffee so a caffeinated Nuun is a perfect substitute.

Zensah, thank you for your continued support this year. Your ultra pro calf sleeves are my faves and I sport them in just about every race I run! Loving all the colour choices.

Forerunners Vancouver in partnership with New Balance Canada, thank you for keeping my feet happy. I love the 1080 fresh foam, the Zante and the Vazee Pace for easy and long runs and I can’t get enough of the 1400s and 1600s for workouts. I appreciate your support of me.

RunGo is my newest sponsor. Check out their app or peruse their website. This app is a great way to explore new routes in your neighborhood or when away travelling. They have tons of race routes on their app too so if you want to check out a course you are running this is the place. RunGo uses voice direction via your earbuds to guide you on your run. You don’t have to look down at your phone or map instead this app takes you where you want to go handsfree.

Thank you to my coach Richard Lee, who ensures he challenges me in my training program and racing, and pushes me to be my best. He is a great coach and also a friend. Thanks so my running friends. I love getting out for training runs with you all and lining up beside you racing, but I also love just hanging out and supporting each other. Grateful for you all.

Last but by no means least, thanks to my family who have stood by me through all the training, the injuries and the racing. I couldn't to it without you.

Pic from the First Half Half Marathon photo cred: Rita Ivanuskus

 St Patricks Day 5k finishing photo cred: Greg White

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Testing, cross training and patience

I am running again! It is not far or fast but it is running and I can feel my body starting to remember. It's the most amazing feeling but also so hard as I must be patient. Coming back is going to be a long road but one I can't wait to run!

It's been over 12 weeks now since my foot gave me the signal to stop running. Yup 12 weeks. Those weeks have been filled with appointments at my Physio, Chiro, Sports Med and Osteopath as well as many minutes of cross training in the pool and gym. They have also been filled with the emotional ups and downs of not running. Some days just seem harder when you can't get the endorphins flowing. That said though, in general I think I've managed the cross training pretty well and have kept the tougher emotional days in check. I have had some good cries but also some great highs along the way and I've made some great connections with other runners who are experiencing similar setbacks.

Over the last 12 weeks I've had the following diagnostic tests to determine what is going on: x-ray, bone scan, CT, MRI and diagnostic ultrasound. Yes they know me at the hospital imaging department now. So with all those appointments and tests what do I know? The X-ray was clear, however a follow up bone scan indicated a hot spot leading my injury to be treated as a stress reaction/fracture. I began using a bone stimulator (thanks Dylan Wykes for the loan) and avidly cross trained in the pool with lengthy pool run sessions and some swimming. Not my fave but I was lucky enough to have friends hop in and join me, making the pool much more tolerable mentally.  I also started some bike spinning. A few weeks into cross training I didn't notice much improvement so  a CT was ordered for more detail. This ruled out a stress fracture/reaction. Great news as my sports med cleared me to run. YES!!! I was so excited, that was until I took those first few steps and it hurt. It didn't seem much better than a few weeks earlier. I was supposed to do a  6min run but it hurt too much. I started to panic, called my sports med and explained my predicament. He suggested trying the run again a few days later but running 30 seconds with a 4 min 30 second walk. This felt a bit better than the continuous run but I knew that my foot wasn't ready for full running yet.

This led to the MRI, which indicated some thickening of the tendon under my second metatarsal and some mild bone edema. Again not a lot of info but helped explain why my foot was still sore. After that a diagnostic ultrasound was used to check for a neuroma. No neuroma but I do have some fluid in my second metatarsal joint as well as osteoarthritis in my big toe (likely due to a bunionyectomy many years ago). Interestingly enough after the testing which was completed over about 9 weeks my foot started to improve. I started using a toe separator, a metatarsal pad and having lots of massage, physio and ultrasound on the area. AND I was again given clearance to try running again.

In conversation with my coach we agreed we needed to take things slowly and see how much the foot could tolerate. This meant starting with sessions of a 1 min run followed by a 1 min walk. I did this using the toe separator and metatarsal pad in my shoes. I did this every other day for a few sessions,  then progressed to 5x1min run/walk followed by a 3 minute continuous run followed by the walk/run again. A few weeks into this I have just started running 3 days in a row followed by a non-run day. My middle run between the walk sessions has grown to 35 minutes. It is huge progress for which I am really grateful. I am still cross training on top of these run sessions so the pool is still happening as is the bike, and I've been able to also add in the elliptical. I am also doing lots of rehab physio exercises as well as strength training in hopes of improving my running form and preventing further injuries going forward. It is amazingly time consuming rehabbing an injury but it is gratifying to be busy rather having too much time to think about the injury.

I believe that I will come back stronger as a runner as I continue to build back my milage. I know that  I will be more disciplined with my core and strength exercises going forward. I also plan to be on top of my nutrition. It's the little things that can make a huge difference. I am so excited for when I can go for long continuous runs with my friends and team mates or I can push myself running intervals on the track or road. I visualize this, I know it will happen but I must practice patience now and listen to my body. It is so easy when things start to feel good again to jump back in full force but I know this will just affect me negatively in the long run.

I plan to enjoy this journey as I return to elite running form and I am so excited for what is to come.

I have to thank all my friends and family who have been very understanding and supportive of my injury.  My amazing coach Richard Lee who always knows the right thing to say and the right guidance to give. Thanks to Dr. Jim Bovard, Marilou Lamy, Chris Napier, Dr. Donald Grant, JP Snip and Bobby Crudo who have been supporting me and treating my injury. What a team! Also thanks to the amazing Oiselle who embrace the sisterhood whether injured or healthy, Forerunners Vancouver who along with New Balance help to support these feet, Nuun for ensuring I drink enough and Zensah.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Getting into the cross training groove

It's been 3 weeks since I last ran and yes I miss it. Running is such a huge part of my daily life that it's removal has taken some time to adjust to. At times it feels like part of me is missing. The bone scan showed a hot spot on my second metatarsal head, although it didn't discern if there was an actual fracture, a hot spot still means to practice caution and let things heal. Fortunately, prior to getting the bone scan results, the decision had already been made to take a break so I was already in the "no running" mindset.

The first week without running felt surprisingly good both mentally and physically.  I made sure I rested lots and actually felt no inclination to run or cross train. My body has worked hard for me this year and it was definitely letting me know it was needing a break. It is very rare that I don't have the desire to run so this made the start of my break much easier. I am always amazed how much "free" time I have when training is taken out of my routine. I replaced that time with baking (one of my favourite activities) and reading ( you must check out Elena Ferrante's Neapolitana series).

I also headed down to San Jose the weekend of the half marathon, as my ticket was not refundable. I was hoping to take some photos of fellow Oiselle team mate Shaluinn Fullove but she ended up not being able to run. I did head down and cheer though as I knew lots of people running. As much as I love competing, there is such a great feeling being on the sidelines cheering on the runners. I felt so lucky to see Meb break the American Masters Half Marathon record, and was inspired watching so many different people achieving their goals. It was also lovely to spend the weekend with my fave girls Tash & Dayna.

As week 2 of no running began, the running itch returned. This is when it became harder. I find the first thing to go is the positive mental attitude and I had to work hard at trying to not feel sorry for myself. Surrounding myself with great friends and having lots of family time really helped me. Plus thinking about the challenges many of my friends and team mates have had with injury and recovery, reminded me that being positive and focused is important, and that it is possible to come out the other side stronger and more determined. I'm not going to say I am always positive, I definitely have my days where I am low, but I am trying!

At the beginning of the 3rd week I was able to start cross training. What a relief mentally that was. Just knowing I was able to go and move and expend some energy made a lot of difference. I've primarily been pool running and swimming, as with no impact this is the best choice for me. I have also done some light spinning on the bike, however, I am trying to limit the bike until my foot is more stable. My friend Dayna has lent me a waterproof MP3 player which has made the pool running experience much better and Dayna has been amazing about joining me in the pool. Keeping the pool running social makes it much easier. Thanks also to Kendra for keeping me company.

As I begin week 4 the pool running is starting to become easier as is the swimming. I am focusing on my core workouts, which I am adapting to have no foot pressure  (meaning no planks), and on my active isolated stretching and rolling. When I get the clearance from my sports med I also hope to add back in some strength training so when I start back running I am strong.

I know I still have a few cross training weeks ahead of me and than even when I start running again it will be a  slow, gradual build up so I am going to try and embrace this stage of my journey. This running journey is definitely full of ups and downs but I do believe it is how you respond to the challenges that is important.

In other news I have a new running relationship. Forerunners Vancouver, has partnered with New Balance Canada to support me with New Balance shoes going forward. I am so excited about this partnership, as I have known Karen and Peter for many years and we have worked together on previous fundraising runs such as The Joshua Run. They are huge supporters of the running community and I am extremely grateful for their support of me going forward. New Balance makes some fantastic shoes. My favourite shoe this summer was the New Balance Zante. Perfect for long runs. I've also raced my three marathons this year in the NB1400. I am excited about when I'm back running again in my New Balance shoes.

Thanks again to all my sponsors, Oiselle, Forerunners, New Balance, Nuun and Zensah for standing by me through this journey!

Also a huge thank you to my family, friends, teammates and coach who have supported me through all the ups and downs.
                Enjoying the sunshine in San Jose (the Rizzo bikini from Oiselle is amazing by the way )

                                                Doing some Active Isolated Stretching

                    Part of my Fall Oiselle Shipment. This cheered me up as it arrived in week 2

                                        The position I spend lots of time in to rest the foot

My new training venue!  

                                               Bike spinning, so sweaty even at an easy pace

                                                                   core workout

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time for a break

Today is a beautiful fall day and it felt like the perfect time to sit down and write about running. Normally on a day like today I would be out running but I'm not as I am on a running break. This break came a few weeks earlier than I had anticipated, however, I am trying to embrace the rest and let my body and mind recover from a huge year of training and competing. Originally my break was scheduled for after October 18th, when I was hoping to be competing at the Canadian Marathon Championships in Toronto at STWM. That goal has now been put to the side.

When I came back from Pan Ams in July, my coach Richard Lee and I sat down to determine my fall goals. Knowing I had already run 3 marathons, Houston, Eugene and Pan Ams we knew aiming for a 4th was a gamble, however, I had managed to stay healthy throughout the training, and with Pan Ams not having a marathon build training cycle prior, due to the short notice, I had really only completed two marathon training cycles. We recognized it was a gamble as to whether I would remain healthy building to Toronto and were cognizant that I may have to pull out if my body or mind led me to. Richard developed a training plan for me that included 2 lead up races, the Eastside 10k in Vancouver, followed by the San Jose half marathon in California.

With it being summer I also had a couple of trips planned. In August, I had the opportunity to go to Bird Camp. This is a camp put on by my sponsor Oiselle and was held in Leavenworth Washington at the beautiful Sleeping Lady Resort. Prior to camp I had only met my team mates via social media, so I  was really excited to meet them in person. What an incredible experience. Oiselle is a company that truly practices what it preaches. Oiselle's love of running, along with their belief in pure sport, and their creation of communities and relationships made me even more proud to be a part of their team. I met some amazing women and had some incredible experiences that included running, hiking, eating, river floating, meditation, yoga and core work.

Following camp, I headed with my family to Naramata in the Okanagon. This is a usually one of my favourite trips as it is a beautiful lake getaway. The running involves lots of hills and it is typically hot but it is a great strength builder during a marathon build. Unfortunately, this year the forest fires from Washington were enclosing the area in a smoke filled haze. The air quality wasn't great and it made running not so much fun. It caused my asthma to flare up which made running more difficult but I was able to continue running.

Upon returning to Vancouver, my running workouts were going okay. I didn't feel as fresh as I had hoped to and I was experiencing a bit of a foot niggle with my left foot. It was strange as the bottom of my foot began to feel bruised. The pain wasn't anywhere specific and it tended to come and go and move around. I had a callous buildup on the ball of my foot, and some swelling on the top of my foot, but again this came and went and with treatment would often dissipate. I consulted with my sports med Dr Bovard and with my physio Marilou Lamy and we determined that I could continue to train as long as the pain didn't increase. 

My first race, the Eastside 10k was on September 19th. It was a very wet rainy day making the roads a bit slick. I warmed up for the race with a group of running friends and did not feel fresh, although I often feel this way in the warm up. I also was aware of my foot as it was hurting a bit. I didn't feel the pain was greater than usual and believed I would be fine to race. I put on my flats, the gun went off and I started to run. I knew from the start something was off. My left side just wasn't turning over probably and I had limited power from my left foot. I wasn't able to turnover any faster and it was frustrating. I didn't feel any pain in my foot, however, I was aware I wasn't planting my foot properly. I finished the race pain free but nowhere near as fast as I knew I was capable of. Starting on my cool down my foot started to really hurt. I realized I was limping and this scared me.

Fortunately I had a pre-booked appointment with my sports med doc for the Tuesday following the race. When I saw him and explained what had happened he decided we needed to do some testing to see what was going on. He sent me for an X-ray and a bone scan. He also told me I needed to stop running as he suspected a stress reaction or fracture. The X-ray came back clear and the bone scan showed a hot spot. I am still waiting on final results from the bone scan as they had a CT component that should be able to pinpoint whether there is a fracture or not.

After meeting with Dr. Bovard, prior to the tests,  I talked with Richard again and we decided it was time to call it a season. There is  no point in trying to recoup quickly from this. We both know it is better for me to get healthy and strong again for the spring season. So where does that leave me now?I know I am not running until I am pain free. I will start cross training next week, but until then I am having two full weeks off to recover from the year. It has been quite a while since I had a long break and I am managing it quite well at the moment. I always find it hard when it is a beautiful running day and I wish I was out there doing what I love to do, but I know I need to be smart, patient and remain positive if I want to come back and compete.

I am also embracing running by cheering on my friends who still are running. So many of my amazing running friends will be competing in marathons over the next few weeks and I can't wait to see how all their hard work pays off. I will continue to enjoy the journey as I get healthy and strong.

A huge thank you again to my coach Richard Lee, whose guidance and support are exactly what I need. Also to my sponsor Oiselle, who not only make the most kick ass running gear, but who are an example of the power of a running community that speaks up for what it believes in. Thanks to Nuun who keep me hydrated by making such yummy flavours (especially watermelon and grape). Thanks to Sports Uber and Zensah Compression who make sure whenever my calves get tight or I am flying somewhere that I am compressed and supported. Also thanks to Fast and Female, for whom I am an ambassador. They work hard to help motivate girls to stay in sport. check them out!!

                                                 Enjoying the view after a hike at Bird Camp

                                                  A beautiful long run with Oiselle team mates

                                                   Some of the Oiselle crew post long run

With Leanna Keto, a fellow Canadian Oiselle team mate and Kristin Metcalfe the best team leader!

                                           post long tempo run in the smoky Naramata haze

                                          A Naramata sunset our last night, after the smoke cleared

                                             The start of the Eastside 10k in Vancouver
                                                photo cred: Dave Burroughs

                                                  Racing the raindrops in the Eastside 10k
                                                     photo cred : Dave Burroughs

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The week that was Pan Ams #PanAmazing

Wow, where to begin. I have just returned home from one of the most incredible weeks and I am still relishing the experience. What a crazy ride life is and I am certainly enjoying it.

About 4 weeks ago, or 3 weeks before the Pan Am games marathon I received a call from Athletics Canada offering me a spot on the Pan Am marathon team. I had pretty much put aside my dream of competing for Canada at the Pan Am games after my Eugene marathon, so this call came as a complete surprise. It turned out that a spot had opened up after another athlete decided to compete in a different event. I immediately said YES! The next question from Athletics Canada inquired as to my fitness. Well I was fit but not necessarily marathon fit. Post Eugene I had taken a break and some down time in training so I had only been doing workouts for a couple of weeks and was still at relatively low milage. A call to my amazing coach Richard Lee was made and he said that YES we could be ready in 3 weeks and that instead of a taper we would build to the marathon.  Now that the decision was made the work began.

Three weeks to a marathon is not ideal but I was determined to get there and to be able to compete. Instead of a typical taper my 3 weeks pre marathon consisted of long progression runs, long interval workouts and an increase in milage. My body seemed to remember and I was running quite well. I was also getting extremely nervous. I had thoughts that I was out of my league, that I wouldn't represent Canada well, that I wasn't ready. My coach, friends and family all reminded me that the training I had completed earlier this year when training for Houston and Eugene would still be in my legs and that I was just as capable as anyone else out there. A week out from Pan Ams I did a 20 mile progression run and the legs felt great.

Just over a week out from Pan Ams I started to have some GI issues while training. I'm not sure whether it was the heat and humidity, nerves, or a virus, or possibly a combo of all the above but my confidence was a bit shaken. I am extremely thankful to Dr. Jim Bovard and Dr. Trent Stellingwerff who worked with me to  minimize the issues I was having.

I arrived in Toronto the Tuesday before the race. I wasn't able to access the athlete village until the Thursday prior to the Saturday race, but had decided to fly in a bit earlier to get time adjusted and climate adjusted. The weather in Toronto for the marathon was anticipated to be hot and humid. Thursday I moved in to the Pan Am village. The village is amazing. Each country has it's own building or block in a building and then we all share the cafeteria, and gym areas. I was in a room for 6.  My roommates were great and love chocolate as much as me, always a bonus! We had access to IST support and I was able to get a flush out massage from the incredible Danielle and a physio tune up with Ron O'Hare and I felt great.

The Friday prior to the race involved a tech meeting, course briefing and outfitting for Team Canada gear and race kit gear. It also involved me eating lots of rice, yams and some chicken. It is tough to be in a food court filled with so many options and have to stick to plain food, but it was necessary with my upcoming race. My first view of the course was on an elevation chart and it didn't look easy. The course consisted of a 2.195k loop to start then a 10k loop we were to complete 4 times. The loop headed along Lakeshore Drive then headed into High Park where we climbed a steep long hill. It is a 9% grade at parts. There was also a hill on our return up Lakeshore which luckily wasn't as steep or long but was still noticeable. Rachel Hannah (my team mate also running the marathon ) and I realized that this was going to be a tough course with 8 climbs and 4 of them being long and steep. To add to the difficulty the forecast for the marathon was for the hottest day so far this year in Toronto with an extremely high humidex. I was told that when we started running the humidity was over 90% and the temperature over 20 degrees and that while we were running the temperature was over 30 degrees celcius.

The morning of the race I woke up at 3:30 am to go have breakfast. My awesome room mates had left a fun note on the door to get me going :) (thx Jess & Sasha) Rachel and I both opted for oatmeal that we had brought with us. It was already hot at that time in the morning so we knew it was going to be rough. We took a bus to the start with the other athletes and our Team Canada support team just after 5am. I did a short warm up with drills and strides. Thankfully Team Canada was prepared and after running my warm up I was given an ice vest to wear while doing my drills and strides. The ice vest keeps your body core temperature down so that when you start the race you are not already overheated. It wasn't long after that they called us to the start. It was funny I had been quite nervous leading into the race but once we were corralled to be introduced and led to the start line, a feeling of calm came over me and I just became excited to run. When both Rachel and I were introduced the crowd went crazy and it was such an amazing experience. My dad, husband and kids were in the stands and I was able to see them before I started running. My coach Rich was also out on the course on his bike, so I was well supported.

The gun went off and we started the first 2k loop which went out and back in front of the stands. It was hot and I reminded myself to be conservative as I wanted to finish strong. My goal going into the race was to finish strong and to hopefully place in the top 10. There were 17 women listed on the start list and one didn't show so it was a 16 woman race. I hung on the back of  the pack with another woman from Paraguay and Sarah Cummings of the USA. Sarah had a similar lead up to me and hadn't had  a lot of notice coming into the race. After about 5k the race started to pick up with an increase in pace. I elected to remain at the pace I was at, knowing it would be smarter for me in the long run. It was hard to watch the pack move ahead but I had to trust that given the course and conditions people would come back to me. Both my coach and Trent had told me prior to the race that this would be a race of attrition, and it was.

Around 7k we hit the High Park climb for the first time and it was steep and long. It was also an incredible part of the course, as all the way up and down the hill were Canadians cheering on the runners. They had written chalk messages to Rachel and I on the road up the hill and they were cheering so loudly for us. It was surreal and amazing and their support meant everything as I was able to focus on them and it kept me smiling even when the going got tough. The crowd support was beyond anything I have experienced before and I truly appreciated it.

The first two loops I felt pretty good and focused on staying relaxed and in control of my pace. I was taking bottles of Eload every 5k and was also pouring water on my head whenever possible to keep cooler. Team Canada was manning our aid station and Trent would update me on my splits and how others were doing in the race. At 20k I took a gel (my plan was to take one at 20 and 30k). The gel did not sit well in my stomach and I spent the next 5k cramping. I hit the bottom of the hill climb again at 25k and recognized a pit stop was in order. Not what I had wanted to happen but thankfully there were lots of bathrooms. After the stop I felt much better, although I lost a couple of minutes I was able to get back on pace after. Trent had also let me know that competitors were dropping out due to the course and heat and that I was getting close to top 10.

The last loop was a mental battle. It was so hot and to climb that hill again was daunting but I was determined. I could see a woman ahead of me and she looked like she was slowing. I passed her just before the climb. About 2k from the finish I could see another woman ahead who was also slowing. This was a great motivator for me and I pushed as much as I could. I passed her about 500m from the finish. Running down the final stretch with my family cheering me on in the stands was incredible and a moment I will cherish. I finished in 9th and was so happy. Rachel Hannah finished in an amazing 4th place. Tough as nails!

Running the marathon for Team Canada on home soil was definitely a highlight in my life. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity and so proud that I was able to run a decent race on limited preparation.

The night after the marathon I was able to celebrate with my family. Then for the rest of the week I was able to enjoy cheering on my friends and team mates at the track. I saw some unbelievable races live at the track with some outstanding Canadian performances. I watched friends get medals, some while they were running with one shoe only half on (Sasha). I also got to experience Canada House and the village and a fantastic dance party on the last night.

I made lots of new friends and got to spend tons of time with some of my best friends. It truly was a #PanAmazing week. I am still enjoying this amazing journey


I want to thank my coach Richard Lee, who prepared me so well for this race in a limited time frame.

My family who flew out to watch and support me and who stood by me when I had to miss our family vacation the week before Pan Ams.

My friends who sent me so many words of encouragement, who showed up to cheer me on and who support me in so many ways.

Athletics Canada for believing I could do this and for supporting me on the team. Also for handing out bottles, providing us with treatment pre-post race, for the ice vests and for the support.

The running groups and people who showed up and cheered us on during a really hot day and who made the experience one I will never forget. You guys seriously kept me going!!

Alan Brooks and the CRS Staff who manned the course, who have supported me on my journey to Pan Ams and who were there at the finish. These guys love running!!

The amazing volunteers! Thank you for cheering for helping us athletes and for making this such an incredible experience.

My incredible sponsor OISELLE. The Oiselle manifesto is how I choose to live my life and their love of sport is admirable. They have taught me to challenge myself and recognize that although situations are scary it is better to give it my best shot than to run away.
 photo cred; Cathy Vandergeest
at the entrance to High Park, my name in chalk and an amazing cheer crew from Pace & Mind running club

 photo cred : Cathy Vandergeest

  An amazing crew of talented, fun and strong women before the closing ceremonies

The BC Endurance Project crew on the last night of Pan Ams
 photo cred. Cathy Vandergeest
being cheered on the hill, amazing crowd support
 Worlds biggest smore made by the Pan Am cafeteria chefs. It was delicious :) 

Enjoying life in the village

Our last run at Pan Ams 

On our way to the closing ceremonies on the bus.