Grand to Grand Ultra: the BIG Day

Day 3 – the LONG DAY

Certainly lots of excitement and nerves today. There was talk around camp that if you could complete Day 3 then it was very likely you’d complete the entire event. This also put in to perspective how hard today could be. Today’s cut-off was 34hrs, with 85km’s to complete. This stage would consist of canyons, caves and lots of sand dunes!

Day 3 - G2G

Again, the beginning of this day started with a serious climb. From the start, I found myself focusing on one check point at a time. There were 8 check points between the start line and finish line with each being approximately 10km’s. Today it was obvious that some people were showing the effects of the previous 2 days.

Some of the issues runners were facing:

  • severe blisters
  • chaffing
  • dehydration
  • fueling issues
  • overheating
  • exhaustion (physical/mental)
  • physical pain (imbalances/injuries)

Starting at check point 1, I believe the first runner of the day pulled out. This continued throughout the day. It was sad to hear about another person pulling out as there is so much sacrifice and effort that goes in to getting to the start line that you want to see everyone get to the finish!

As you can imagine, with 85km’s to cover there would be a variety of terrain that we would be crossing. Each section between check points was spectacularly different!

A glimpse into all the beauty of the day

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The terrain for this day consisted of 75% sand! In addition to that we ran on hard packed gravel road, 2 highway crossings, packed sand with rocks, sandy tracks, paved road, and trails.FB-0927-Stage3-118a

Part of our run today brought us through the Best Friends Animal Society. This is the largest animal sanctuary in the US and provides shelter and care for over 2000 dogs, cats and other animals. They work nationwide in outreach programs with shelters and other rescue groups promoting pet adoption, spay and neutering and humane education programs.

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So much sand!

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It was difficult to train for all the sand I had heard we’d be running on. We just do not have sand like this in Ottawa, Canada!

My coach was not concerned though. He said it needs to be experienced, you “feel” how you should run, land, respond to the sand. He believed I would succeed.

Sand as far as the eye could see!

Sand as far as the eye could see!

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Gary and I managed to run together again today and I think by now we figured we worked well as a team.

Starting at check point 6 through 8 there were 2 tents set up to allow people to sleep if they wanted to before heading out to the dunes. At check point 6 we picked up another running buddy who’s team members had dropped out earlier (Matt). We also connected with another Canadian woman (Crystal).

Before we could change our minds the four of us headed out into the dark to get this day finished! Matt was back for a second time as he pulled out of the race at this stage in 2014. Crystal was back for a second time as she wanted to experience the sand dunes at night (her previous go at G2G she slept at this stage and headed out to the dunes during the day). Gary had ran G2G in 2014 with a large group that had a completely different experience for him. My plan before arriving to G2G was to run through continuously, regardless of when I arrived at the dunes.

this is all we could see

this is all we could see

My coach Ray Zahab instructed me on making my own shoe covers to protect my feet from sand (and of course that meant minimizing blisters). Seriously, not one ounce of sand got in my shoes with this set up!!

my DYI shoe covers with Inov-8 gaiters!

my DYI shoe covers with Inov-8 gaiters!

Crystal taking it all in!

Crystal taking it all in!

Capturing as much as I can! Spectacular Night Sky

Capturing as much as I can! Spectacular Night Sky

Once we finally made it through the sand dunes, we hit more sandy track! Then we hit some pretty nasty dense vegetation that ripped into our legs. Thankfully Gary took the lead here and I tucked safely in behind him when I could. This proved to be quite entertaining for me!! It was in this area that we spread out and eventually it would be just Gary and I again.

24+ hours into the day

18+ hours into the day

There might have been some whining happening here, it was my turn to take the lead 😉

I believe somewhere between checkpoint 7 and 8 we managed to catch up to Matt. The three of us stuck together for the last 8-10km and decided to run in together!

I gained some energy near the end and went ahead slightly but stopped and waiting for the boys because we had endured so much together!

final push!

We did it!! Day 3 Completed

We did it!! Day 3 Completed

You would think I would have been exhausted and crashed for hours but I really couldn’t sleep. Instead I ate and cheered on others coming in. Every check point we found out someone else (sometimes a few people) had dropped out. At night they posted names of those who decided not to continue. Today that number was high. I guess statistically this might be common but it made me sad knowing many had to stop.

Day 4 (which is when we arrived back to camp) was a day reserved for relaxing and recovery. Te race organizers surprised everyone by bringing in Coke and ice cream!!

Camp Day 4

Camp Day 4

I hoped that with the lack of sleep and pure exhaustion that had now hit me I’d sleep hard tonight…..music would be blaring again for a 6am wake up.

Photo Credits: a mix of my own personal photos and the official photographer for Grand to Grand Ultra.

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Let’s Get This Started – Grand to Grand Ultra

How do you start a 273km run? Just like any other run, one foot in front of the other 🙂 It seemed like forever to arrive at the start line and then suddenly Day 1 was here!

Day 1

what became my corner in the tent

what became my corner in the tent

I think most of us were awake before the 6am music started playing. This was our first night and morning adjusting to sharing a tent with strangers. There was snoring, rustling mattresses, zippers opening for middle of the night bathroom needs, etc.  We were awake, trying to be polite and discrete as we tried to get organized to run almost 50km’s for Day 1.

myself, Lisa and Gary

myself, Lisa and Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jar of Hope - Team Jamesy

Jar of Hope – Team Jamesy

I had arranged to meet up with 2 runners, Lisa and Gary, to see if our pace allowed us to run the day together. There was such an energy at the start line, lots of excitement and nerves. This is where I was first introduced to Jar of Hope and why this team was running. I listened to James share about how he was literally running to save his sons life. I was inspired by his story, in his fight and would later connect with James to get involved.

warming up - first km of Day 1

warming up – first km of Day 1

Back to the start 🙂  We headed out from a remote location on the north rim of the Grand Canyon (altitude 5344 feet). Before we could think about it,139 runners set out to complete the 49.6kms required for Day 1. Previous Grand to Grand competitors shared that the first day could be brutal: it was flatter, a lot of the same terrain and full on sun, oh and consisted of a cacti minefield! They were not wrong. The temperature was actually not that bad, with a high I believe of 24°C, but with no shade to be found it was certainly hot!

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The cacti were a tad sneaky! I’ve never seen such a variety of cacti before. Some could be avoided but there were some little ones that were difficult to see and if you stepped on them it could go through your shoe. At one point I had one leap out from behind me and attach itself to my leg (or at least that is what it seemed like 🙂 ). It must have been loose on the ground and got kicked up by my foot. Thankfully, it did not really attach and was easily removed.

Canadian Gal Pals

Canadian Gal Pals

There were 24 countries represented with the 139 participants, 11 Canadians. Yvonne and Crystal were fellow Canadian gal pals with whom I had the privilege of connecting with on the course periodically.

 

 

 

There were a variety of challenges on this day, however, heading into camp stands out. We were still dealing with cacti but now there was a barbed wire fence thrown in for what seemed miles. Instinctively, I wanted to grab hold of this fence to help me, to offer some support, this seemed particularly cruel to me!  I was tired, hot, not thinking clearly and now had to remind myself continually to not grab hold of that convenient fence beside me 🙂

so many times I wanted to grab the fence!

so many times I wanted to grab the fence!

...Don't doubt it, don't doubt it Victory is in your veins...

…Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in your veins…

 

Lisa and I managed to stay with Gary the entire day, until the end, where we ran ahead listening to Katy Perry’s “Rise” on speaker as we crossed the finished line.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2

Remember the cacti? Well arriving into Camp after Day 1 it was obvious that we would be sleeping on top of many cacti! This made me nervous sleeping as I had an air mattress and heard that in previous years some had been punctured. I did not sleep well at all and woke up numerous times afraid to puncture the mattress (even though I had a tarp down to help provide an extra barrier).

Day two: climbed out of Camp 1 and ended up down in Camp 2

Day Two: climbed out of Camp 2 with a big decent to Camp 3

This morning we would spend a good portion climbing. The reality of what we were in for began to set in. I found Day 2 to be extremely hot and hoped my plan for fueling and hydrating was going to work!

These views though!!

These views though!!

2016-09-26_23-31-14_richardsonThe landscape was truly spectacular, like nothing I had ever seen before. Gary and I had decided to stick together for another day and had started to fall in to a bit of a rhythm. We were figuring out our strengths and weaknesses and how to push each other. We started seeing “regulars” at check points and running periodically with other runners who we would pass and then they’d pass us again later on.

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Day 2 Completed!

Although no one had dropped out on Day 1 (a first for G2G), today 5 competitors had decided to not continue. For all the competitors participating this was not good news, we really did want to see everyone finish.

Resting up, so I can start Day 3

Resting up, so I can start Day 3

Coming up….Day 3 and beyond…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand to Grand Ultra – Getting to the Start Line

The Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G) surpassed any thoughts or expectations I may have had about this adventure.

Its been about a year since I first heard about G2G. I was ending 2015 with a sincere desire to inspire others to chase dreams and to not limit themselves. My desire to run G2G was to demonstrate that we can dream big and choose an outrageous goal, make a plan and work hard to achieve it. This race was beyond my comfort level and certainly outside of any experience I had as a runner.

No sleep but all smiles!

Day 2 of BBU

Participating in the Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU) and the 100K i2P Run proved to be 2 of the best training events I could have done. The BBU gave me the confidence of running a multi-stage semi-supportive ultra. I also gained experience with having an extremely bad run day followed up by an incredible run day. This helped me realize that I could push hard and get through a difficult day, rest/sleep and and do it all over again.

i2p night runJust two weeks after the BBU I attempted my first 100km run (i2P). The goal of this race was to gain experience running at night (the first 50km), but I had every intention of completing it. During the night portion of the run I experienced an upset stomach from about 5km’s on, and extreme knee pain for at least the last 25km’s.  I took off to start the next 50km’s before my coach could talk me out of it, after all we accomplished the primary goal. The pain was so bad during the next 23km’s I had to limp going downhills, eventually it was continuous pain. I chose to pull out at 73kms (after some tears) as this was intended for training and was not my goal race (perhaps I’m maturing??)  I had never experienced this kind of pain and was concerned about an injury preventing me from running G2G. This race gave me incredible mental training and confidence that I could keep going even if I experienced pain.

Both of these races were in August, so by the beginning of September, I was struggling to get out for my long runs. I mentally was feeling exhausted and my life was incredibly busy. I managed a few more quality runs, but not as many as I would have liked. I worried I wouldn’t be ready, began to doubt myself, my training, etc.. It came down to making sure I was mentally in a positive place, so I focused on getting my head ready!

I headed down to Kanab, Utah on Monday to get acclimatized to the altitude and adjust to the dry heat (race start was the following Sunday). Runners began arriving throughout the week and it was nice to connect with others who were about to experience this amazing race.

little shake out run

little shake out run

Some I ran with during the week to loosen up and explore, others I had either lunch or dinner with. To my surprise, there were many  first time stage racers. Of course there were many experienced and elite runners as well. I loved hearing everyone’s stories as to why they were taking on this challenge, it put me at ease.

My Gold Sticker!

My Gold Sticker!

The Grand to Grand Ultra is a self-supported race requiring you to carry everything you need for the 7 days, including food. A tent and hot water was provided at camp every night (and morning) but everything else was your responsibility. The mandatory gear check-in was Friday afternoon, runners were given a gold sticker if they had everything necessary.

My bag weighed in at 23.2 lbs, I believe 10lbs of that was food 🙂 Many of the people I was chatting with had bags weighing approximately 13-16lbs. Of course, this caused me to second guess my gear/food and I wanted to eliminate more weight but I had crazy light gear and I was sure I needed the food 🙂 I purged a little more and think I came back starting around 22 lbs. Turns out the average weight for bags was just over 19lbs.

My coach called me and gave a big pep talk and told me to trust the plan and follow it! He convinced me that I would be happy I didn’t get rid of things and would need the food to fuel properly to get through the event. So, I did what I was told and more than once I said to myself during the race, “Ray, you were right”!

Friday evening was the welcome dinner and a chance to meet all the runners, volunteers and of course race directors. It was a fun evening, but I think we were all extremely antsy to get started! We were given our race bibs, tent mate list, race booklet and other essentials for the race. Much to my surprised I was sharing a tent with my fellow Canadian friend and 5 men! I had a chance to meet so many runners but none of them were the names listed as my tent mates, with whom I’d be sharing a tent with for 6 nights. Honestly, by this point, everything just became all part of the adventure. I guess I would meet them eventually 🙂

There were 139 racers heading to the start line from I believe 24 different countries.

First van out!

First van out!

It was a long drive so of course there was a mandatory pit stop for a bathroom break.

Bathroom break - boys on one side; girls on the other

Bathroom break – boys on one side; girls on the other

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Arriving at Camp 

My home for 7 nights

My home for 7 nights

Dinner was catered (and delicious), last minute guidelines and rules were given and before you know it we were heading off to bed for hopefully a good nights sleep.

Dinner - What a view!!

Dinner – What a view!!                           pc: Grand to Grand Official Photos

 

pc: Grand to Grand Ultra Official Photo

Goodnight Moon                                      pc: Grand to Grand Ultra Official Photo

Music blared on speakers at 6am sharp to get everyone moving, hot water was ready. Let’s do this!

Stay tuned for the journey after crossing the start line…..

 

 

My First DNF – Or Was It?

The Run

The i2P Run is a celebration of trail running and intended to highlight some of the amazing trails in Gatineau Park. The distances range from 10K – 100K so as to encourage a wide range of trail runners, it’s not a competition against others but instead against yourself! It is also a fundraiser for i2P (Impossible to Possible) with all proceeds from the run going to support this amazing non-profit organization.

My big training run was the Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU Recap) making my original plan for the i2P Run to volunteer. I asked my coach (Ray) a few weeks back if I should volunteer or run one of the races. His immediate response was to register for the 100K! I texted back a huge LOL and his response was “no I’m serious”. I then ignored him for a bit 🙂 This seemed insane to me. When I connected with Ray on the phone, he explained how the 50K night would be amazing night training for the Grand to Grand Ultra. He believed I could do the 100K but said lets focus on the 50K night and whatever happens the next day we can decide as we go.

So with just a week before my first stage race (BBU), I found myself now signed up for my first 100K! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, right?

Fast forward 3 weeks, and with the experience of BBU now available to me I was not really nervous about attempting the 100K. I actually felt strong mentally and physically leading up to it. Last week I was experiencing a little bit of tight muscles, more noticeably my right quad, and my right arch continues to need attention but overall feeling very good.

The Night Run (50K)

Participants of the 100K met at Breton Beach at Lac Phillipe in Gatineau Park as this would be the finish line (and most check points). Participants were encouraged to drive and park there as it was a perfect option to go back to the car to rest and/or refuel, again allowing you to carry very little.

From there we were transported to Cafe Les Saisons in Chelsea where the owner graciously allowed the i2P Run Organizers to host a private dinner for the runners. After dinner Ray Zahab, John Zahab and Mike Stashin shared some amazing tips. There was then time to get our things organized, chat with some new and old friends and then walk over to the Chelsea Visitor Centre for the start of the race.

I believe my lessons started with dinner.  As with BBU, dinner was provided,  more than likely you will be eating foods you do not normally eat. There was a note sent out to us that dinner was casual and if you wanted to bring your own food that was certainly an option. I didn’t worry about it and honestly only one person did bring her own food. I’ve never had an issue with food or hydration (until BBU). BUT then again, I’ve never ran these kind of distances before. Even with my training runs my longest are usually 25-35km back to back runs, with my longest being just under 45km.

my view as we headed out

my view as we headed out

We started at approximately 9:45pm from the Visitor Centre, up trail #1 (3+km climb), a loop around trail #6, down #30 to catch #8 and make our way up King Mountain. Lots and lots of stairs, no doubt contributing to my quad issue. We then began to make our way back to trail #1 and this is where my stomach issues started again. Gassy, bloaty and a wee bit nauseous.  By the time we hit the first check point I felt like throwing up. It took everything inside me not to call it quit right there, but I didn’t. Of course, I did not let the amazing volunteers know I was considering calling it!

From there we made our way to Wolf Trail and headed down. This is when the knee pain started. Pretty mild at first, but the stomach issue was getting much better. I was now only drinking water and eating a few pretzels and crackers. Obviously this is not going to sustain me but it’s what I had to do. I also had a ginger-chew which is a bit like a treat and seems to calm my stomach. We caught trail #1 again and continued down to Meech Lake Parking Lot for another check point. This is when it was confirmed that a trail runner was missing. She was not from Ottawa and had somehow gotten turned around. Short story is she was found, she was fine and I was crazy impressed at how well she handled it all!! She caught up to me (and passed me) just after trail #36 that was very dark and lonely to run in the middle of the night. It is a beautiful trail that I love to run on during the day, if I had company I might have enjoyed it more through the night.

I continued making my way back to Breton Beach going through Lac Phillip camp grounds. I am not sure how long I ran with the knee pain but it continued to get worse, especially all the downhills. I’m guessing at least 15km’s or so till I finally made it in. I had 1.5hrs. to rest, recovery and get ready to head out for the 2nd 50K.

The Morning Run (50K)

When Ray heard my knee was giving me some pain his response was, “okay then were good. You did what we wanted, you got the night run in.”  I of course, had not even considered not continuing. I immediately suggested that I’d go out for the next 23k and if I limped in we’d call it. I argued that he knew me and that I recover quickly and I could do this. He agreed 🙂

85km Lake Superior Gate to Gate Girls (top photo Lake Superior, bottom photo i2P run photo bombed by Ray

My running sisters! 85km Lake Superior Gate to Gate Girls (top photo Lake Superior, bottom photo i2P run photo bombed by Ray

So at 8am it was back out to do the next stage, 23km. We headed out onto trail #55 with a smallish climb and then at about 1km we hit a downhill. I immediately felt shooting pain in the knee, I had to stop and walk down. If I was smart I would have turned around right then, but I’m more stubborn then smart. I could manage the straights and the inclines but had to walk almost all of the downhills. I finally hit the 12.5km turn-around. My sweet dear friend was there for the check point. I should have stayed with her and hopped in the van to go back to the finish, but instead we ate some grapes and I told her not to tell Ray 🙂 Again, stubborn!

So now I had to make it back to Breton Beach. At this point I was at the back of the pack. There were 4 walkers behind me and that was enough motivation to keep moving forward. I could not let them get ahead of me. I was now practicing mental toughness and doing everything I could to rid myself of the pain I was feeling (still mainly on the downhills). I started singing out loud for every step, and it worked. I was mastering the pain, I was pushing through and I could now start to run more downhills.

At this point I ran in to Steve and Sylvie and admitted to feeling the pain. They both told me firmly that I had to call it. It wasn’t worth it and I knew they were right. This wasn’t my goal race, I had to be in good form for G2G just one month away. BUT did I mention I’m stubborn?

I was still contemplating doing the next loop of 12.5km as it is more technical which I love but it would also allow me to complete 85km. With 8km’s to go I knew I had to call it when I got in. I finally shed a tear or two accepting that the right thing to do was call it. BUT I still had 8km’s to get back to the beach. I used that time to work on my mental toughness and pushed hard to run without pain! I was lying to myself and it was working. I knew that when I arrived at the beach I couldn’t look at my watch or talk to anyone before finding Ray and telling him I had to call it – I needed the accountability to not let me go on. In the meantime, I came upon 3 separate runners at 3 different times. With each one my goal was to run enough to pass them and keep them behind me. Just a little win for me at the end.

Here is what I’m walking away with:

  • I ran a night run even though I was scared/nervous to do this alone (yay me)
  • Every run gives me an opportunity to learn and develop as a runner
  • I am mentally tough (yes, and stubborn but I can push past hard)
  • I have amazing and wonderful friends that celebrate effort as much as completion
  • I get so much enjoyment at seeing others achieve their goals
  • If you don’t go through the hard stuff, then you miss out on the lessons
  • I’ve come a long way! I only started running trails 2 years ago. My very first trail run was the i2P 23km run. I only seriously considered doing Ultra running less than a year ago.

So as my husbands said to me, “Did you DNF or did you run an extra 23km?” The goal was the 50k night run, I just wanted to do it all 🙂

Have you experienced a DNF before? What was your experience?

 

Bad Beaver Ultra Recap

The Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU) is a 3-Day 150km  semi-supported stage race taking runners on a journey through Gatineau Park, Canada. As part of my training for the Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G) my coach insisted that I participate in this event. Of course that was way back in January of this year so it was only in the last few weeks that I started giving this race any serious thought.

It’s not that I wasn’t training for it, I just wasn’t focused on it. My coach laid out  my weekly running scheduled and I followed it, usually without questions. I had settled in to a routine of  long runs Friday and Saturday with Sundays thrown in when a third back to back was required.

I’ve been eating mostly “real” food and/or trying out different protein bars for these runs. I’ve also been using a few different hydration mixes as I try to dial in to what is going to work for me. I have had no issues so far with any of the food/hydration that I am trying but I am still working on timing, calories and of course sustaining energy. Days before BBU I had just picked up a new hydration mix that was full of good stuff and more affordable than what I was using. Seeing as BBU was a training race, to give me experience with stage racing, it seemed appropriate to test this hydration out over the weekend.

I was dealing with some difficult news leading up to the weekend, and true to “Leanne style”, I pulled away from everyone, including my coach, in an effort to deal with the emotions I was feeling. I made some race decisions on my own and because of that I experienced some valuable in race lessons.

IMG_1674As I packed my back pack for the three days, I was not concerned with the 15lbs weight (before water) as for G2G I will be starting out with approx. 20lbs on my back.  I later learned that most of the other runners packs weighed in at around 8lbs-10lbs. In addition to new hydration (I had a selection of what I was currently using and the new format), I was also determined to get my nutrition figured out. I limited myself to a variety of bars and discovered I really lacked imagination and experience as to what would benefit me.

Pre-Race

We arrived  Wednesday afternoon at the Wakefield Mill Hotel and Spa giving us a chance to meet the other runners and settle in before we shared a meal together.  We were given a swag bag and assigned our own beautiful room. IMG_1678After dinner there was a mandatory gear check and race directors went over the next days race course.

As this was the very first BBU the race was capped at 20 participants.  It was clear from the beginning that there were many experienced ultra runners as well as a number of first time stage racers. My goal was easy, learn as much as I could from these amazing people and complete the 3 days!

Day 1 (55km’s)

The start line was just outside the hotel and ended at Brown Cabin near Lac Phillipe. Temperatures were in the high 30’s and was certainly felt when we were out in the open especially on Trail #55. We headed up to Lusk Caves where we dropped our packs and made our way through the very cold water. I was nervous about this very early on in the day, but with the heat it ended up being all I could think of through the day.  I was thankful to go through the caves with another runner and the cold water was so appreciated. From the caves it was maybe 7km’s or so to the finish line.IMG_1724

The volunteers were like angels at each check point! After a few check points, I realized the doctor was pretty much at every check point as I arrived. A high five was in order on Day 3 when I celebrated not needing his services 🙂

Day 1 I also realized that there were sweepers on the course to pick up the flags after the last runners. We ended up having Neil as the sweeper on Day 1 who ended up hanging out with us for the first 25km’s. I offered to pick up the flags so he could get a good run in 🙂

IMG_1722When I entered this race, I suspected I was the slowest runner so knowing there was a sweeper on the course was very comforting in the event I was out there at night by myself.

Day 2 (70km’s)

The heat was unbearable over night in the cabin, no air circulating at all. As I was one of the last one’s in the night before I was left with a top bunk for sleeping. After unsuccessfully trying to sleep we were up for 4am for breakfast and coffee.

No sleep but all smiles!

No sleep but all smiles!

By 6am we were heading out for Day 2. It was another high humidity day with temperatures reaching “feels” like 40+!

From about 12km’s on I was having stomach issues, this is the first time I have ever had issues and it was awful. Another runner was experiencing his own challenges that day and we ended up running together most of the day. I was very thankful for this as he is an extremely experienced runner and had completed G2G 2014. We climbed lusk falls, dealt with full sun as we made our way to the fire tower and down Trail #1. The funniest moment was when Colin suggested we find some shade and lie down for a minute, where he shared his chips with me (I will be forever grateful) and the sweeper caught up with us. She was a little surprised to see us lying on the trail and cautiously asked if we were okay. She shared her ginger candy with me to help my stomach issues (see they’re angels, all of them!!)

Embracing the suck together

Embracing the suck together

We didn’t lie around to long, a few moments at most and continued making our way to Wolf Trail. I was thankful to be climbing down this trail as it would have just been cruel to make us go up.  We eventually made it to Meech Lake and then shortly after that came some rain. Most of the day is a blur of familiar and unfamiliar trails, including our last check point at Champlain Lookout. We then made our way to the final trail of the day. Within 10 minutes of hitting Trail #9 (quite technical), it was like the lights went out. We now very much depended on our headlamps as we made our way through the trail to Camp Fortune, the finish line for Day 2.

pc: Jordan Thoms

pc: Jordan Thoms

I’m not sure exactly how late it was that we came in but I found it difficult to eat anything. I forced some pasta down simply because I knew I needed something. Tonight we were sleeping in one large room. This was the night I was testing out my sleeping pad that I was planning on using for G2G. Unfortunately, it was another almost sleepless night with lots of tossing and turning. We were up again early for coffee and breakfast.

Day 3 (25 km)

I felt better heading out and decided early on that I was going to just run for me today. I texted my husband “if all goes well I should come in around 1:15pm”. The route for the day took us back onto Trail #1, #17, down #8 across to King Mountain, did the loop and then out to I think #15 back to P7 and eventually down Penguin to the finish line. I crossed the finish line at 1:11pm, I’d say it went pretty well then. I felt like myself the entire run and enjoyed so much about this route.

There are so many memories mixed up between the days now but the entire race was full of incredible views and experiences.

Post-Race Celebration

Crossing the finish line did not mean we were finished yet! Once everyone arrived we headed on over to Le Nordik Spa for a special time in the baths and to enjoy the brand new VIP area. There was an open bar and an amazing post-race dinner cooked on their brand new outdoor grill. It was a wonderful way to end a truly epic event! IMG_1795 (3)

The race directors wanted to use this event to highlight some of the amazing trails throughout Gatineau Park but they also wanted to highlight some of the local businesses in the area. We were treated to our first night at the Wakefield Mill Hotel, breakfast and dinner each day were provided by local businesses, bars on the course, and so much more.  Instead of receiving a medal at the end of the race we were given maple scented candles, crafted locally as a keepsake of our amazing journey.

My coach Ray Zahab has become like family! His belief in me and ongoing support has helped me succeed in ways that I never knew were possible. He understands the commitment and dedication required to chase my dreams and try to have an impact on others to believe enough in themselves to chase their own dreams.

My coach but more importantly my family!

My coach but more importantly my family!

I would highly recommend this event to anyone who is interested in an amazing 3 day stage race. Whether you are very experienced or just thinking about a stage race, this race has so much to offer everyone. I have no doubt next year will be even better!

Do you have some go to snacks you use on a long run?

 

 

Ottawa Race Weekend Recap 2016

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend certainly had some extra publicity leading up to the races. Extreme heat was putting some of the races at risk. It’s not like we have not run in hotter conditions, most of the summer training runs are extremely hot, however, this was the first hot weekend of the year, so runners were not prepared for it. The Race Director, along with the Team, needed to be watching the weather very closely.  It was amazing how well the information was getting out to the runners. Through the website, emails, social media and of course the media – there was a lot of news circulating leading up to the start of the races. Also, I believe for the first time in Ottawa, the coloured flag system was put in place. To everyone’s surprise, the weather was actually fairly decent at the 7am start of the marathon. We started with the green flags, indicating good conditions, however somewhere along the route I realized we were now showing red flags, alerting us to watch for course changes.  Weather Update on Run Ottawa Site.

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Only some of Team Awesome Members – new friends!

13233063_10156973704745192_4909925577072335454_n Being involved with Team Awesome, a social media team to help inspire/encourage and connect with runners online, has allowed me to get to know some of the team at Run Ottawa.

Here is a clip that Rogers TV put together of Team Awesome this year.  Team Awesome

There were some tough decisions to be made, and they were not made easily but in the end I believe they made the best decisions for everyone involved. Of course, keeping the safety of the runners at the forefront of any decisions. There were some slight changes to the start times for the 10K and the half marathon races. The marathon course was also cut-off later in the race (for those running over 6+hrs.) when the heat, combined with the hours on the course, could prove to be problematic not only for the runners, but also for the volunteers.

X-Mile Crew 2016

X-Mile Crew after running the last runner in

New this year to race weekend was The X-Mile Crew. I was so excited by the idea of this I decided, last minute, that I wanted to participate. That meant running my own marathon first, and then changing shirts to go back out and run other runners in as part of the crew. I had no idea what to expect of my own run as race day can be unpredictable on it’s own but add to that hotter conditions, it was unclear how the day would go. In the end, it was a tough run. Due to my training for Grand to Grand Ultra, I did not taper as most runners would prior to their races, in fact I completed my first triple long run the weekend prior (3 long runs; 3 days in a row). I also had been dealing with a cold/chest congestion that just wasn’t going away, making breathing a challenge in the heat.

I was doing very well up to the first 16 km’s or so. Then over the next 16+ km’s I watched almost everyone I knew pass me. I knew it was not a race to attempt a personal best, however, I didn’t think it would be my worst time recorded 🙂 At some point in the last 10 km’s or so, I decided the goal was to just complete it and then get back out to help others run it in. I knew how they would be feeling, as I was in fact feeling it as well. Discouraged, tired, and wanting it to be over. Until you see the finish line, then there is a new sense of empowerment and the idea that you did not give up! You did it!

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After the sponge station

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Water misters along the route

IMG_1145I was so proud of Ottawa/Gatineau and how the cities came together to do whatever they could to help the runners out. The residents were out all along the route with hoses, sprinklers, freezies, even strangers holding up bags of ice for you to grab what you needed to cool off. I particularly liked the fire station along the route with the fire hose ready to open it up when given a simple head nod, confirming yes soak me! It was awesome!

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Just before the fire fighters let loose the hose on me 🙂

If all that wasn’t enough, heading back out to run with the runners still out there, making their way in after being on course for well over 5.5+ hours was so rewarding. I met some pretty amazing people, with some remarkable stories. Many first time marathoners who did not quit. I even met a women, 72 years young, who was running her 84th marathon! Many of those in the last few years….amazing!

Being involved with Ottawa Race Weekend, in a variety of capacities, has helped me discover the many wonderful aspects of this race. The team works year round to ensure we have the very best race to offer anyone who would like to experience it, including making it the biggest multi-distance race in Canada! It is also the only running event in North America to be given TWO Gold Label Standards from the International Amateurs Athletics Federation (IAAF). More interesting facts.

If you are a runner can I encourage you to register for one of Ottawa’s races next year. Guarantee you’ll love your experience! If you do not run, volunteering is one of the most amazing, rewarding experiences that allows you to make an impact in a runners life. As a runner, I cannot adequately express how much we appreciate and need the support and encouragements along the way! Volunteers give us the ability to keep going.

If you are on twitter, follow Ottawa Marathon (Race Weekend) to stay informed. Also, please connect with me as well so I can support you along your journey!

Have you run one of the race distances in Ottawa? Are you considering running Ottawa in 2017? I’d love to hear your experiences and your goal race for 2017.

Keep Chasing Dreams

Bringing Together My Two Loves For One Grand Adventure

I did not go into 2015 with the intention of running so many races.  I knew that I would do a spring and fall marathon but all the in betweens just kind of happened.  Running can be an individual sport but also very social.  Given an opportunity to travel with running friends and run my first Ultra was too good to pass up!  AND I have no regrets in doing so.  I found out that my mental strength was quite strong.  This of course boosted my confidence for bigger goals.

I remember just prior to running my Ultra I thought I was going to take it easy in 2016.  Allow myself to recover fully and give my body a rest.  If I could just get through running this race then I would likely slow down for a bit.  Ummmm, so that didn’t happen!

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Why You Should Volunteer At Your Local Running Event(s)

Volunteering – Is It For You?

Is volunteering for you?  Personally, I think volunteering can be for everyone!

Having worked behind the scenes at a number of different events in our city, I know the work involved in making an event successful.  For months and months, sometimes close to a year, there are people working to make the event a success for everyone involved.

Races are no different.  Whether it is a smaller local race or the city’s main race of the year, there is much work to do.  As a runner, I so appreciate the races available to me in my city.  As a way to give back I try to volunteer for a number of them. IMG_0168My kids have even come out to help when they can.  Races depend on their volunteers to help in a variety of roles, from race kit pick ups, water stations, safety/first-aid, bag check, the list goes on.

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Running Adventures with Friends

Depending on where you live, this past week may have brought some snow!  Not everyone is an all season runner, but for myself it’s no longer up for debate.  My goals keep getting bigger and therefore my running season continues to expand.

My training in 2015 started pretty much in January, leading up to some early spring races, one of which was Around the Bay.  It only continued to grow from there!  Before I knew it I was booked with races in May, June, August, September, October and into the first weekend of November.  Not all marathons, but regardless I seemed to be racing most weekends.  I have one race left to go on New Years Eve.

The race I think I was most looking forward to this Fall was the Ottawa MEC Race.  I wasn’t originally going to run it because it was 2 weeks after running the Toronto Marathon.  After having a conversation with Chris Chapman, the race director, I decided I wanted to see how I’d do in what is quickly becoming known as one of Canada’s toughest races. Besides how many races offer poutine at the end! I had seriously considered running the marathon, however, after running Toronto I had a minor lower leg issue surfacing and did not want to risk an injury.

The morning of the race was beautiful.  I woke up excited and nervous.  I had gone up to Gatineau Park a few times for training but really did not know what to expect of the hills for race day.  I happened to run into a friend of mine before the race started.  She was already running with a friend of hers but invited me to join them if I wanted.  So I did, at least I figured starting out it would be nice to be accompanied by others.

The race start line is approximately a km from the finish line.  So it required a light jog or walk down the approximately 1km hill (the race is set up to require a km climb at the finish, brutal)!

By the time we made it to the start line we had about 30sec. to get organized and then we were off!  I believe the first 4 km’s or so were relatively flat with minimal climbs.  Then the hills began!

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The views throughout the race were spectacular, but this one was worth stopping for.

Beaver damn

Beaver damn

At the top of the longest stretch of an incline someone yelled out in victory and I think those of us within earshot celebrated with them!  The best part was the 4-6km decline towards the end of the race, followed up of course by the last km climb to the finish line.

Allyson, Kristina and myself managed to keep each other in our sights for most of the race.  During some of the more difficult climbs Allyson came up with a 10sec. run/10 sec. walk chant to get it done!  We used this near the finish line as well.   You can do anything for 10sec., right?!

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This was the first time I met Kristina. What an experience to share.  We ended up with a very respectable time considering we were only wanting to complete it!  I loved the company and would seriously consider doing the marathon in the future.

The week after this race I ran the Cookie Run.  I decided early on in 2015 that I was going to participate in more local runs.  This was the 2nd last race of the year for me.  The weather was perfect, the course was fantastic with a 5K loop, that we did twice.

What I love about the running community is the friendships you can make.  Your life can be completely different from one another and yet running can bring you together.

Start line

Start line

That’s how I met Agnes.  We are huge supporters of I2P and through mutual online friends we connected.  There was an event where Ray Zahab (founder of Impossible2Possible and adventure runner) and Christopher McDougall (author of Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes) were speaking in order to raise support and awareness for I2P.  Agnes was coming up to Ottawa for the event so she figured she might as well run the Cookie Run in the morning. 🙂

leannerace 2We made arrangements for coffee the day before to meet in person for the first time and then decided to run together the next morning.  It was a blast!!  We ran very well and talked throughout most of the race.  So fun!

I’m currently enjoying my down time from formal training.  I am continuing to get out for runs and doing back to back longer runs in the trails on the weekends, no pace in mind just a length of time on my feet.

2016 goals are now set and I’m working on the details.  I cannot wait to announce my BIG race goals!  This year will be more about training and much less racing!

How about you?  Do you have your 2016 goals set yet?

 

Favourite Running Clothes and #STWM Marathon

Getting ready to run my third Toronto Waterfront Marathon was very different than the two previous years.  Perhaps it’s because I still had the Ottawa Mec Race to come, and that is the race that I’m nervous excited about.  It also may have had to do with the fact that I trained differently this time around.  September was a busy month for me and I was travelling and racing more.  I managed to get three 32km training runs in but they were a tad earlier than I would have liked.  I had also started training in Gatineau Park for my long runs, running on rolling hills for 22+ km’s.

After returning from Halifax, mid-September, I kind of lost my drive to run.  I was getting in the minimum but it was a struggle getting out the door some days.

The week leading up to the race I wasn’t feeling very confident in my training, I knew I would complete it but wasn’t satisfied with the last 6 weeks.  I also knew that if I reviewed my training I would be surprised and reassured that I didn’t do all that bad.  However, at this point it would be what would be and I needed to get my head in the game.  So, I refocused, did a head check and made the decision to do my best, regardless of how I felt.

I enjoyed girl time with a friend as we drove up to Toronto the night before the race.  We started discussing racing options for next fall.  Neither of us were convinced we would return to Toronto again the following year.  It’s an amazing race and if it was my home city I’d do it every year but there are so many races/cities that we want to experience.  We settled on a tentative game plan. 🙂

We hit the expo immediately when we arrived and I was able to pick up some Run Happy arm warmers!  (I actually got a different pair as well because they are so soft and I love sleeves!)

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I wanted to have them as a friend of mine, Jean-Paul Bedard, was running the marathon 3x to raise awareness and support for sexual abuse.

photo credit: Edison Yao

photo credit: Edison Yao

He is sponsored by Brooks and had shared a post wearing the sleeves.  I figured it was a fun way to run happy and think of him during my race.  I would highly recommend that you follow Jean-Paul as he will continue to be an outstanding influencer.

You can read about his adventure running 126.2km’s on his recap of the race.

Okay, so the start line.  After going back and forth as to whether we should wear shorts or pants, we settled on pants.  It was a very cold start to the morning but it looked like it might get up to 5°C. 😉

I had been approached by MEC to do an honest review of their brand of clothing.  I had been given a few items to test out during my training runs.  I seriously loved every piece and have since only purchased MEC running clothes as I am that impressed with them.

I wore the MEC Agility Tights. Here’s what I loved about them.  The tights do not skimp on length and I suspect even if you are taller (which I am not) you would be pleased with the length.  They are incredibly comfortable, providing complete freedom of movement without feeling restricted anywhere.  The flexibility, breathability and moisture wicking features allowed me to almost forget I was wearing them.  They have a mesh backing behind the knees that allow for venting.  This feature was helpful in my decision to wear them instead of shorts.  There is a rear zippered pocket and a front smaller pocket that provided extra storage for gels, etc.  On top of this, they are a fantastic price. I purchased the Agility Capris after trying out the tights and I highly recommend them.

MEC tights/t-shirt

I also wore the MEC Vitality Short-Sleeved Tee.  This shirt is fantastic!  I was given the tank to try in the summer and it became my favourite tank to run in.  After testing the tank out I purchased a few more, including the t-shirt.  I love the length of the shirt.  Often I find I’m having to pull down t-shirts when I run and I do not at all with this one.  The shirt is highly breathable and light-weight.  It is made with flat seams to help prevent chaffing, and the colours are fun!  It also features some reflective elements to help you be seen when running in the dark.

Alright, back to the race.  My girlfriend and I started out together but got separated when I ran into Jean-Paul around 10-12km’s in.  I walked and listened to how he was doing at that point.  He would have been approaching 96km’s or so (having already ran 2 loops of the marathon route).  I could tell he was exhausted, you could see it in his eyes. After a quick hug I was back running.  In hindsight, I kinda wish I had stayed with him for the duration.

I felt pretty good until about 25km’s where my right arch was giving me some pain.  By 27km’s my right outside knee and right hip were also giving me grief.  I continued to run with the right side of my leg causing pain for the remainder of the race.  I’m not sure what was going on as I had not had any pain going into the marathon.  At around 26km’s I made myself sit down and loosen my laces as I felt like they were tight and cutting off circulation. Either that or my feet were swelling and they became too tight? Not really sure.  It seemed to help, but by the time I adjusted the laces, I think the damage was done.  Around 32Km’s, I began having a serious discussing with myself about NOT running the MEC Marathon but instead running the half.  I told myself, to remember this moment and be smart moving forward.  I wanted to start 2016 healthy and ready for a great winter/spring training season.

The spectators were great!  I enjoyed the cheer stations along the route.  They helped keep me going when I felt like I wanted to just walk.  I felt like I was pushing myself to keep a decent pace, like I couldn’t possibly be holding the pace I needed.  Then I’d look at my watch and be like, okay I’m doing good, this is okay.  My legs felt tired early on but somehow I just kept running.  I know we all earn the reward of every race, but I felt like I had to dig deep for this one.  It felt physically harder, both in the pain I was feeling but also in the effort I had to put out (or felt like).  Of course this plays with your head and you end up battling through your thoughts!! I did terrible again at tangents and ended up running 44.2 km’s.  In the end, I’m happy with my results.  Another successful marathon in the books.

We did it!

We did it!

We drove home after a quick shower.  A little stiff on the ride home and the next day but by Tuesday I was feeling great again.  Of course by Monday I was already debating whether I should just go for it and run the marathon 🙂  I was out for a little jog on Tuesday and felt good, more reason to run, yes?  I decided to leave it up to my coach.  He agreed and we decided to stick with the half.  I was able to get out for a trail run on Saturday.

Next up is the Ottawa MEC Race and the week after the Cookie Run with an awesome fun medal!

Do you have a race coming up?  What about a favourite fall clothing pieces you love?

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