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 ūüėČ

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā ¬†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¬įC, 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 ūüôā ). 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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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 РWhat 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…..

 

 

Prepping Continues – Grand to Grand Ultra

Gathering Up The Gear

Things are moving very fast suddenly with only 38 days to go before the start of the Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G)! I am flying out early so really I have less than a month to finish getting everything organized.

I have been slowly gathering the mandatory items required by for G2G. Testing out all my gear last weekend in the Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU) had me reconsidering some things.

Things that are working for me:
  • My shirt: ¬†I’ve settled on the Lululemon¬†Swift Tech Shirt.¬†It is moisture wicking, light weight and antimicrobial.
  • My back pack: I had to try out a few to find the right fit for me but finally settled with the Osprey Rev 24. I’ll admit I’m concerned about getting everything into my pack but my coach will have the final say of removing things ūüôā
  • Eyewear: I was concerned about this as I have had some eye issues over the past few years when wearing contacts for more than a few hours. I now only wear them to run BUT given we will be running multiple days for hours upon hours this could be an issue. I tested out daily contacts for BBU and had them in for 12+ hours every day and I forgot I was wearing them! No infections so fingers (and toes) crossed ūüôā I will be using my favorite Sundog Sunglasses. Prescription sunglasses are also an option but I’m running out of time (and money)!
  • Shoes: Inov-8 Race Ultra 270 is my shoe. It’s the one my coach recommended to me when I first started trail running. If it isn’t broke why fix it!
  • Sleeping Bag: Check (light weight and very compact)
  • Whistle: Check
  • Lightweight Down Jacket: Check
  • Headlamp: Check (need two with spare batteries)
  • Red Flashing Light: Check (worn at night)
  • Meals: breakfast and dinner is worked out, most snacks but working on in race fuel.
  • Medical Clearance Certificate:¬†My doctor doesn’t get it but has cleared me ūüôā
What I am now tweaking,  re-evaluating or still need to do:
  • Sleeping Pad:¬†As the G2G is a self-supported race, I will be¬†carrying everything including my sleeping bag and sleeping mat. I had planned on using the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress but there are some people that have experienced their mats being punctured on the dessert floor. So the other option is carrying the Solite Sleeping Pad, which is extremely light but bulky and would need to be attached to the outside of my pack.
  • GPS Watch: My faithful (but old) Garmin has served me well but is not as reliable to charge lately. It has a max. of 12-13hrs. battery life. I’ve been looking at a new watch as I will need one in the future but adding this expense before my trip doesn’t seem like a true necessity. During my BBU experience I chatted with an experienced runner who only uses a watch to track time on his stage races. This seems like a more practical option, as I do need to know how long I am out and keep cut-off times on my radar. I have an old Timex Ironman Watch that might do the trick. However, still considering the Suunto Ambit 3 Sport Watch.
  • Fuelling/Hydration: This has not been a big issue for me but after my experience in the BBU, with the duration of being out and the heat, I realize I have missed the mark here. After speaking with my coach, we have a plan in place and will test it out this coming weekend at the i2P Run.
  • Shorts:¬†I have been training with the same shorts since Spring and have loved them, however, with the duration of the time out for BBU and the extreme humidity I was chaffing by day 2. I ended up wearing my sleeping capris on day 3 to avoid being uncomfortable. ¬†That sent me on a search for shorts that would be a bit longer to avoid chaffing. Although the temperature will be hot in the Grand Canyon it will be a very dry heat. I do not know if I’ll have an issue of chafing but I do not want to be dealing with it if I can avoid it by adding 1.5 cm to my shorts. I ended up finding a pair from Under Amour and gave them a test run this week. The big test will be¬†at the i2P run coming up this weekend.
  • Patches: I need to have my Canadian Flag and i2P patches put on my pack and my shirts. It is mandatory to have your countries flag on the left sleeve of your shirt(s). The i2P patch is because I’m a very proud supporter and I’ve been working hard to raise $5,000 for the youth ambassadors heading off to Death Valley in September (they will be running during the time I am running, kind of cool as they will be in my heart)! You can still help me by donating here.
  • Gaiters: I have two options here and I am still torn as to what to do ūüôā This will be my priority after this weekends run. It is a matter of deciding and then fitting the shoes accordingly.
  • Compass: need to purchase and get some basic training!
  • Signal Mirror: min. 6cm diameter still need to purchase
  • Knife:¬†min. 5cm blade –¬†need to purchase
  • Emergency Blanket/Space Blanket: min. requirement 1.4mx2.2m (turns out mine is 1.3mx2.1m *sigh*)
  • Blister Kit: almost complete
  • Precscriptions: I have the prescriptions (required to deal with nausea/diarrhea and pain) but still need to get them filled.
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photo from Nia’s facebook ūüôā

I have to say this has been an incredible journey since January of this year. I have felt from the beginning that this journey was meant to be and I still feel very strongly about that.  I had the honour of meeting and running with 3 of the i2P Ambassadors that I am fundraising for.

Although the money raised will go directly to support i2P, ¬†when someone gives it’s a special message to me that says, “Leanne, I believe in you and am so proud of you”. I’ve taken it to heart and am so thankful!

Next up the i2P 100K! The focus is the 50km night run to get some training in for running through the night but if I can make the cut-off times and feel like I can do it, I will continue and run the 50km day run.

If you have tips or suggestions to help me finish my check list I’d love your input!

Chasing Dreams…..

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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?

 

 

Lake Superior – Gate to Gate Run

Goals and Friends

Running has allowed me to meet so many amazing people. I’ve met a number of people online and sometimes I get the opportunity to eventually meet in person. That’s what happened with my friend Agnes. Agnes and I met through facebook a little over a year ago when a number of our mutual friends kept popping up in our news feeds. Agnes and I both support i2P (Impossible to Possible) and we have the same running coach, so it seemed natural to connect.

From the beginning we supported one another with our running goals. The very first time Agnes and I met for coffee we chatted about our running goals ūüôā Agnes mentioned an idea she had for an epic run that she wanted to organize to raise awareness for i2P. My hand went up immediately, please sign me up!¬†Over the next several months whenever Agnes came to Ottawa, we would get together for a running adventure of our own making. It’s been fun. She is seriously a beautiful person with a¬†genuine heart to encourage others.

That of course was before I had any idea what my¬†own epic run in 2017 would require of me. ¬†When Agnes messaged me recently, with the details of her run, I wasn’t sure if I could commit. Would it sideline me from my own training? ¬†Did I want to put finances out when I was already under pressure for the financial commitment to my own run? Would my coach think it was a good idea? ¬†When my coach gave the thumbs up, I decided I had to do this with Agnes and the other stuff would work itself out.

I love what Agnes wrote on facebook about what we were doing? (copied below)

“ad‚ÄĘven‚ÄĘture: n. A challenging journey that pushes us beyond ourselves in a positive direction and allows us to engage the world directly, defy personal limitations, expand our understanding, and inspire others.” Tomorrow, this team is heading up to Lake Superior Provincial Park. This Saturday, we will be running from the North Gate to the South Gate, along one of Canada’s most scenic routes on King’s Highway 17 (part of Trans Canada Highway). This 83 km stretch hugs the rugged shores of Lake Superior, providing spectacular views that were a huge inspiration to Canada’s Group of Seven painters. This is not a race, there will be no medals at the end – we are doing this to bring awareness to impossible2Possible, an amazing organization that inspires us all to reach beyond our perceived limits and create memories of a lifetime.

The Weekend

The weekend started with a 12hr drive from Ottawa to Batchawana Bay, ON. I picked up Gesine early Friday morning and we were off. We ended up driving 12hrs, including a 2hr detour accidentally, but the drive was beautiful, the company amazing and I gained a new friend family member. Finally we arrived, met the rest of the team, had dinner and then a quick photo before heading off to our hotel to get organized and hopefully some sleep.

The Runners

The Runners

Woke up at 4:50 am with the sound of trucks whipping along HWY 17, the same hwy we would be running on. I’ll be honest, this made me somewhat uncomfortable to think that we would be running along this for most of the day/evening. There was no turning back, I pushed those thoughts aside.

Gesine and I realized we were not going to get anymore sleep so we got up and rechecked gear, clothes and of course water/nutrition (in the end we forgot our cooler of extra water/hydration mix)!! We met the other half of the team to start the drive to our drop off point, a 1.5 hr. drive along Lake Superior. We missed our drop off (construction on the road), making our starting time later than we had intended.

On route to our drop off

On route to our drop off

We finally got started close to 9:30 am and the temperature was already climbing, we knew we were in for a hot day.

The entire route was made up of rolling hills (part of the beauty when driving), with some inclines continuing for 2-4 kms at a time. The final 4 km was by far the the worst and steepest, but we completed it!

Shot this video at the 11 km mark along the route.

Some of my thoughts during the run:

  • I am not trained for road running
  • what was I thinking
  • man this is amazingly beautiful
  • no doubt people must think we are insane
  • these truckers are amazing – very supportive – I bet they are messaging other truckers to watch out for us
  • okay, seriously I am not going to be able to complete Bad Beaver let alone Grand to Grand Ultra
  • I don’t think I even want to! (see above thought)
  • Why am I even doing this…oh right, I wanted a BIG goal to demonstrate with hard work and a commitment to working towards my goal I could do the seemingly impossible – to encourage others to dream big….hmmmm
  • UGH why does this right foot always give me issues? I seriously need to have Ryan assess it
  • Just focus on counting, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10; 1, 2, 30, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 20; etc.
  • This is spectacular! There are so many fire flies! ¬†It’s seriously magical.
  • Okay, for sure people think we are insane now – running in the dark on hwy 17 with headlamps/wrist lights and reflectors – what a site!

I’m sure there were a lot more positive thoughts as well but mostly they escape me right now ūüôā The whole experience was truly remarkable, I do not regret any of it! The reward was so great!

By mid-afternoon a thunderstorm rolled in with some lightning.  Obviously this caused some concern and we were careful to take cover when necessary. I believe we thought if we took refuge in the van the run could be over! I think we were all avoiding getting in the van. The temperature dropped significantly during the storm and we were drenched. When the rain finally stopped, the warmer temperatures and humidity returned. It did not take long for things to heat up again.

About 11.5 hrs into the run we needed to start preparing for night running. We had headlamps and reflective gear ready to go and of course we were very mindful of traffic (both directions). It was a unique experience for me to be running on a hwy in the dark with fireflies all around. I was accomplishing something I had never done before, the entire experience being etched in my mind and heart.

This video is of Anna and I with 5 km’s to go (for distance runners you get this time in a run when your brains have shut off and it’s hard to think clearly)

The goal: run from the North Gate to the South Gate along Lake Superior, a total of 83 km’s to raise awareness for i2P.

The start - North Gate

The start – North Gate

The Finish - South GAte

The Finish РSouth Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

The experience: a total of 85 km’s (look out points/beaches along the route, running in and out of bushes (potty breaks) added to the total km’s. ¬†The route provided spectacular views of Lake Superior and gorgeous tree lines. The hwy proved to be incredibly hilly, the first 20-30 km’s seemed to be a consistent¬†incline. ¬†The middle portion seemed more flat(ish) with the decent towards the end. There was a final 3-4 km steady, steeper incline to finish the run. The support from truckers throughout the day was really special. 90+ % of them would move over (if possible), honk their horn and wave! Like cheering us on. Parks Ontario were on route to cheer us on and get some photos, they were really amazed that we were doing this.

Some of the views along the way:

(photo credits to Agnes, Pearl, Anna, Gesine and myself – as we uploaded a bunch and I can’t remember whose was whose ūüôā )

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Park Warden stopping in to meet us.

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Leanne RunsHere is what I learned about myself:

  • quitting was NEVER an option – did not even cross my mind
  • I will need to have salt tablets with me and use them before my fingers swell
  • little pieces of cold grilled cheese sandwiches does the body good
  • my mind truly is able to push my body to do more
  • I can run 85 km WITHOUT music – yup I did not play music the entire run
  • long steady inclines no longer intimidate me (steep hills I still despise)
  • I am trained more than I think – I was shocked at how fast and well my body recovered
  • I need to start asking more questions BEFORE¬†I agree to do things ūüôā

Most of my training has been in trails¬†so my biggest hurdle to push past was the physical and mental exhaustion of running road. It’s boring! With trail running my mind is busy looking ahead and anticipating where my foot is going to land next. I feel more engaged in the run when I’m out on the trails. Thankfully the route was beautiful as road running can get monotonous, just keeping one foot in front of the other.

We were five women who came together to share one goal, raise awareness for i2P (Impossible to Possible). We finished, having accomplished that goal but accomplished so much more in the process. The experience allowed some of us time to heal, a time to be renewed, to gain confidence, and a chance to encourage others. We also witnessed that some of our weakest moments  somehow were also our strongest.

My New Family

A highlight of the whirlwind trip was the company, the views were spectacular but the people I ran with are beautiful. When you drive a total of 22 hrs. with someone, you have a chance to get to know each other. I’ve never met any one like Gesine (The German Gazelle), I am inspired and in awe of her strength and her life story. Of course there is Agnes (Aggie Bear) who I admire for her experience and knowledge of the outdoors, her passion for inspiring and helping others achieve greatness and have fun! Precious Pearl is an angel, who took time off work to crew us and genuinely wanted to be with us and encourage us in every way possible. She stayed on course for 14 hrs to ensure we had food, hydration, we were safe and during the storm she circled around to make sure she was available to pick us up at a moments notice! Lastly there was Anna Da Bomb! Anna and I shared the experience of achieving a whole new level of distance together. We had both only ever ran 50 km’s prior to this run, so this was kind of a big deal for both us. Like myself, Anna seems open for anything, seems to enjoy an adventure and doesn’t ask a lot of questions. Anna quickly became my sista, someone who I knew was like me in a lot of ways.

Family

Family

I arrived on Friday in the company of strangers and left on Sunday saying good-bye to family.

Do you have a tribe either in person or online?¬†I’m extremely grateful for the running friends I have, in person and online.

 

 

May Madness

The month of May brought about some crazy weather, crazy training runs and crazy emotions! I am continuing to learn more about who I am during these training runs. Each one bringing more awareness of what I am truly capable of.

The beginning of May brought unusual temperatures here in Ottawa. One weekend training in long pants, t-shirt and sleeves the next shorts and a tank top! Certainly keeping things interesting.

I was finally able to pick up my new back pack and test it out. It is the Osprey Rev 24. So far it is working perfectly, my only concern is that it will not be big enough. It’s hard to imagine carrying EVERYTHING you will need for 7 days on your back! The other options I’ve been testing out are 25L (seems larger somehow) and 34L (love this one as the top rolls down and can be adjusted nicely). However the other two packs do not fit quite as snug as the new Osprey Rev 24 (24L) and fit is so very important.

So now that I’m testing the pack out on my weekend runs, I am needing to find the perfect top. I have always ran in tank tops in the summer, however for Grand to Grand Ultra¬†(G2G) I will need to be running in a t-shirt as it is mandatory to wear your country’s flag on the left sleeve. I’ve picked up two to test out over some long runs. One is from¬†Lululemon and one is from MEC. So far both seem to be doing a good job. It’s important that they are fitted and do not bunch up.

IMG_0941

the bear that was likely 10ft. away from the trail I was on, I took this as he wandered off

I’ve been doing back to back long runs on Friday and Saturday. For Victoria long weekend I added a third long run, making it three in a row. Each run ranged from 2.5hrs. – 4hrs and was 22-27.5kms depending on the duration I was out and how many hills were included ūüôā

I’ve had 11lbs on my back for most of the training runs. For the triple in a row I had 14lbs (including water). I’ve also been going out on new trails where navigating is part of the training, this can slow me down a tad! Running in to my first bear on the trail was also a unique experience.

part of the ski hill I had to run up

part of the ski hill I had to run up

Mentally, it was also a tough month, I began to feel discouraged about my fundraising results. I’m doing okay, but with a minimum requirement goal of $5,000 US and with the exchange rate, it’s not where I would like to be.

Discouragement had begun to settle in and I found myself having to encourage myself to not take things personally. I realize that there are many very worthy causes that are very important to people. People just cannot give to everything! However, knowing that your friends and family believe in you and support you can go a long way. The support I have received has come from some surprising places, and I am very thankful <3

IMG_0850

Back to running ūüôā I have never been a fast runner, and I knew going into training for this event I would likely be in the back third of the participants for G2G. ¬†My coach insisted that I participate in the Bad Beaver Ultra to help give me experience in a stage race, but also to build my confidence for G2G. I’m now realizing that I am very inexperienced with trail running (although I love it!) and I will likely come in LAST at this event. That is humbling….

Wasn’t that why I chose G2G though? To take on something that is beyond my comfort zone, that stretches me completely beyond what I would ever think I could do. I’m not a seasoned trail runner, I’ve never ran a stage race, I’m taking on a huge event to demonstrate that with a plan, hard work and an attitude to not give up, you can accomplish your goals. ¬†As individuals we need to look past what we think we are capable of and begin to allow ourselves to dream BIG for our lives. Make a plan, commit to the process and work hard to achieve whatever goals YOU have!

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I have resolved to not give up, even if it means I may come in last. To continue to work hard and to do whatever I can to make this goal a reality.

What about you? Do you have a goal that you want to accomplish? Are there steps that you can take to begin to work towards that goal?

 

When the going gets tough….you just gotta keep going

When you set goals, do you count the cost before making the commitment? Do you consider the sacrifices you are going to need to make? What about the kind of support that you will need? Are you willing to put the hard work in to make your goal a reality?

It doesn’t matter what kind of goal you set, these should be questions you ask yourself. When the idea of doing Grand to Grand came about I felt very strongly that I needed to do this. It was outside of¬†my comfort zone, it was beyond what¬†I was currently trained to do. I seriously thought that suggesting this to my¬†husband and coach would get an immediate response of,¬†“you’re just not ready”. I think often its a¬†good idea to bounce ideas off friends and family members, but in this case¬†it only mattered to me what my family and coach thought.¬†To my surprise,¬†my husbands response was simple “you can do it”, not as given me permission ūüėČ but he believed if I made the commitment to make this run happen then it would happen. Equally surprising was my coaches response, his only question was why I wanted to do it. As I shared with him my desire to encourage people, particularly young people, to look past their current situations and dream big for their lives,¬†it became very clear that it was extremely similar to the vision he has for i2P. I laughed out loud when this occurred to me.

Have you ever met someone whom you just know there is a reason why your paths crossed.¬† That is how I feel about my coach. We connected “by chance”, kept in touch and eventually¬†he became my running coach.

So why inspire young people?¬†Or really anyone who¬†might be limiting themselves to dream big or see a different life for themselves? I was raised by a single mom (with my father in¬†jail), with little extras in life. I grew up in neighbourhoods where patters were repeated, generation after generation. My mom wanted more for us, she wanted to break the cycle. I see¬†young people, especially today,¬†that have many challenges to overcome. Many kids today do not have the kind of support that says to them, “Believe in yourself”! I want to send a message to people to not focus on why you cannot accomplish something but instead start to look at what they would need to do in order to accomplish what they really want.

I knew the message I wanted to say but did not know how to tangibly demonstrate that message. How could I show people, that with a goal and hard work, the seemingly impossible could be accomplished.

Grand to Grand Ultra came across my newsfeed on facebook one day. I remember seeing it and thinking, wow, maybe one day. I had been running for a¬†number of years now¬†and loved training for marathons but this was beyond my current level of running. Then it hit me, wasn’t that the point. If I made a decision to chase this goal, to commit to the training and to work hard, wasn’t it possible to accomplish this. It terrified me but I felt that this was the kind of “out of my comfort zone” goal needed to encourage others to start dreaming¬†beyond their own comfort zones.

To my surprise my coach was immediately on board. Once I shared my reasons for wanting to do it, he said, “okay, lets do this”. He then went on to say how much he believed I could and would get me ready to do it.

I have been doing back to back long runs for a while now. Running 20km Saturday/Sunday, then 23km¬†on both days the following weekend, and even 29km back to back. All of it has been road running as I had sprained my ankle snowshoeing and couldn’t handle the instability of the trails/snow. It’s been good and I’ve been building up consistency. I had been running at least one of these long runs with the Running Room group for company as well.

IMG_0687About a month ago, my coach wanted to add hill training into the mix.¬† Both my long runs were now going to be up in Gatineau Park, still mostly on the road but with lots of hills mixed in. To get comfortable with the hills, my coach had me start with 10km both days, increase to 20km (both) the following weekend and last weekend he had me do 30km back to back. I have also been running these runs alone. I’m learning a lot about myself during these training runs.

What I learned this past weekend:

  • I enjoy the solitude that running alone gives me
  • I am no longer intimidated when seeing a huge hill
  • throwing an extra layer in the car “just in case” is a very good idea
  • figure out what you need to do BEFORE you set out for your run in order to get it done and not quit (ie., avoid going back to car in between loops)
  • use positive self-talk while running and recognize how well you are doing
  • avoid sitting on the “evil” chair (as a friend put it) when doing loops for your long run ūüôā

thechair

IMG_0659Preparing for these double long runs is requiring a bit more planning. I am now needing post run snack for the drive home and figuring out fuel for during the run. So far Nuun Active and Nuun Plus has been keeping me hydrated well. The weather has also been making it tricky to know just what to wear starting out as it warms up by up to 10degrees by the end of my run. Oh, and of course I’m training with my pack now so am carrying an extra 11lbs on my back!

Getting a recovery week and then training starts back in the trails!

Do you have dreams or goals that you’ve been putting off? What’s holding you back?

 

 

Bags and Hills

So thankful to see the temperature rising!

Making the decision to tackle a huge stage race, completely out of my comfort zone, was for a reason. If I wanted to inspire others to dream big, then I had to believe I could accomplish a big goal for myself.  Read my previous blog on Bringing Together My Two Loves for One Grand Adventure for more information on who I am running for.

Wishing does not accomplish much, you need to commit to¬†working¬†hard for your goals/dreams.¬†Training for Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G)¬†is so very much more than the event itself (although I’m sure it will change me forever), its about the journey getting there.

Once your application is accepted for G2G you are invited to join a private facebook group. The members of the group are¬†either previous¬†G2G¬†participants or current¬†participants training for the¬†race coming up.¬†Grand to Grand Ultra 2016¬†will be the events 5th year and as a way to celebrate, many past participants have been invited back to run it again. It’s hard¬†not to feel intimidated knowing that there¬†will be very experienced runners¬†way ahead of you on the course. However, ¬†I can imagine that these faster runners will be great cheerleaders for the middle and back of the pack runners, on the course hours longer ever day.¬†Just as intimating¬†is knowing that, like previous years, there will be some who will not complete the race. For some it might be lack of training, but I think for most, there are things that can happen outside of our control.¬†Regardless of why, anyone who does not finish would likely be devastated.¬†There are months and months¬†of¬†training required and sacrifices that need to be made to put long runs in week after week.¬†There is also the cost involved, registration, flights, hotels, etc.

I could not imagine tackling this kind of race without a running coach.¬†I had no idea when I first met my coach that I would be even considering anything like this. My goal¬†when I hired Ray¬†was to have an experienced coach take my running to another level.¬†I’m pretty sure neither one of us could have thought that I’d be training for G2G just 16 months later.¬† Less than a year ago the thought of an 80K was on my radar, although just barely and that¬†for me is¬†a challenging goal. The way¬†this race came together was bigger then ourselves, and I knew I had to go for it!

Okay, so update to my ¬†training!¬†Ray agreed to the big goal of G2G if I made the commitment to run a local¬†stage race¬†coming up the beginning of August. Bad Beaver Ultra will introduce me to stage racing and¬†Ray’s¬†¬†goal for me¬†is to¬†build my confidence for G2G. This is the first year for this race and he happens to be one of the organizers. Currently our focus is getting prepared for this 3-day stage race covering 150km in Gatineau Park.

Another focus, is figuring out the right back pack, this¬†has been a wee bit of a challenge. It appears Ottawa is limited in trail running packs, so I’ve had to order online. Obviously this is not ideal as you cannot test it out beforehand. As a Canadian runner participating in an International event I was really hoping to find and use a red pack, I know silly but hey why not. The Inov-8 is a great pack and met that silly ideal, however it only comes in one size/unisex.

I’m only 5’3.5″¬†and do¬†not have¬†a very long torso so¬†playing with the pack and figuring out just how it can fit right is challenging, although likely can be custom fit¬†if¬†required by making some adjustments to the pack and the straps.

I recently¬†tried an Osprey Hornet 32 and it worked pretty good, but again seems a bit large and I have most of the adjustments on the smallest setting.¬†My coach and I were searching for a women’s specific fit to try out and think that it might be worth trying the Osprey Rev 24.¬† Most of the packs recommended to me can only be purchased online, so tracking a Rev 24 here in Ottawa was amazing!¬† I managed to get the very last one and put it on hold so I can go retrieve it.

My favourite spot on the loop I'm running.

My favourite spot on the loop I’m running.

Training now includes a lot more hills to help build up strength and no doubt mental toughness!¬† We’ve changed my double long run dates,¬†giving me Sundays off completely.¬† I’m loving this!¬† It gives me a day off to relax and enjoy before a new training week and work week¬†commences.¬† Mondays and Wednesdays are now easy runs (for now),Tuesdays are all about hills and¬†Thursdays are¬†off.¬†¬†Friday and Saturday are back to back long runs with hills throughout the run, increasing the distance on both days every weekend.¬†I’ve only completed two weeks of this and am¬†amazed at how encouraged I am.¬†I feel like I have nothing left at the end of my runs and then I get up and do it again the next day.¬†I’m also encouraged in the improvement I’m seeing in my ability to tackle hills.¬† Hills that used to be daunting to me no longer affect me the same. It’s not that they are no longer tough, but I view them, or go at them with a different mindset.

I am now entering a stage in training that is new for me. Like when I was training for my first marathon, every weekend promises new challenges but with it new reward.

What about you? Are you experiencing anything new in your training? Are you continuing to challenge yourself with your goals?

 

Spring has Sprung!

Washing Away Winter

With spring comes warmer temperatures but also rain! ¬†What I love about spring rain is how it washes away the snow, cleans up the streets and prepares us for summer. ¬†Running is more enjoyable again, instead of enduring some days. ¬†We’ve turned our clocks forward so we are getting more daylight and generally people just seem happier. ¬†We’ve made it through yet another winter. ¬†At least that is how I feel ūüôā Some people love winter, I do not hate it but it is the least favourite of the four seasons for me.IMG_0307

Sick and Tired

I cannot remember the last time I was sick, like at all, but it has been years. ¬†I was hit with what seems to be a cold almost 2 weeks ago now. ¬†Started with a severe headache but seems to be mainly a dry cough and heavy/congested chest. ¬†It makes running a wee bit more challenging. ¬†I was so sick last week and not sleeping well, that I was not able to run at all. ¬†It was a challenge just breathing so running was not wise. ¬†I felt better for my long runs on the weekend so on Saturday I tackled 23K with a friend. ¬†It was good. ¬†The weather was beautiful, the sun was out and overall we did great. ¬†By that evening, I was coughing up a storm and struggling to sleep. ¬†I had decided to skip Sunday’s long run as we need to be wise when we are sick, sometimes the body needs the recovery time more. ¬†I woke up, after a few hours sleep, feeling pretty good so I decided to get out for my run while I could. ¬†Another 23K was completed, and it wasn’t pretty. ¬†The first 10Km’s were pretty good, the in between was becoming a struggle and the last 5km’s were down right challenging. ¬†My legs were tired!

Training and Learning

Sundays run was difficult but was a fantastic training run because I learned a few things:

  • I’m mentally tough – I whine in my head but I get it done.
  • I figured out what genuine tired legs felt like and it’s okay to push on tired legs.
  • Tapping into why you run or why you are training for long distance really helps when it gets tough.
  • It’s great to save music for when you really need to zone out or be motivated by a good beat.
  • I recovered better and faster than I usually do, which means I am getting stronger.

Life is busier than ever and going to get even busier for the next 2 months or so.  Figuring out how to cross-train is going to be even tougher as the weeks progress.

My goals for the next few weeks are to include yoga and strength training into my weekly training.

I’m also working on a few fundraising ideas for April and May. ¬†My coach has just returned from his own amazing epic adventure so we will be kicking up my training even more in the weeks to come.

It’s an adventure ūüôā

How do you fit it in?  What kind of cross-training do you include with your running?