dream. train. run. repeat.

“We fail all the time, and we learn from it and we get better. I think that’s amazing. You fail your way to success. That’s how it happens, and I’m super comfortable with that. I have no problem pointing out a bunch of failures in my career. But I don’t define myself or my career as a failure.” —Des Linden

This is about running so bear with me if it’s not your thing… It’s spring which means the running season is in full swing.Next weekend is Bluenose Marathon weekend and I think it’s my 7th time running the Bluenose half. David and Mike are doing the 5km and I’m going to add a bit of volunteering and a lot of cheering to the mix.

The following weekend is the Cabot Trail Relay – year: five; leg: 12; starting time: 12:35 am: distance: 15:78 km; running with a team: priceless. 

and other than the Rum Runner’s Relay at the end of September, I have no big plans…

Except for… The Berlin (freaking) Marathon! Whoa! Jenna, Kristin and I are running one of the World Marathon Majors with +40,000 of our friends.Call us crazy for flying to Europe to run and call us crazier for bringing the families. Yes, that’s right, we have a lovely Airbnb booked for 6 = adults, 1 = nine-year-old, 2 = four-year-olds and 2 = 1-year-olds.Don’t worry, it’s going to be amazing… there will be beer and pretzels and If all goes as planned, this will be marathon seven for me and the third of the World Marathon Majors. (Chicago recap, New York City recap, Berlin, London, Tokyo and Boston).We’re 18 weeks out, and training starts now! After spending the last month obsessing over Des’ Boston win and the past five months obsessing about my last marathon I decided to start dreaming big and putting it out there for all to hear. I want this:

Okay, so I don’t need to win Boston… I just want to qualify. For those who are not familiar with what that means, Boston is one of the only races that you need to qualify for entry. Most races simply follow the “you pay, you’re in” method and the big ones (like the other WMM) have a lottery. Boston qualification is a tricky thing, based on your age, gender and speed. Currently, I am in the Female 35-39 age group so I need a 3:40 marathon finish. My personal best is 3:45:45… but here’s where it gets exciting. Berlin is after the 2019 Boston entry cut-off (early September) so no matter what my time is, it will be used for Boston 2020… which means in 2020 I will be 40 and need a 3:45. Now at first glance, you’re probably thinking “girl, you just need to shave 45 seconds of your personal best…” but sadly that’s not the case. Qualifying for Boston is not just my goal… it’s every runner’s goal and when they BQ, they apply. Because registration is so high, not everyone who qualified in their category will actually get accepted to run Boston. Based on previous years, I actually need to run a 3:40-3:42 to hopefully secure a spot…Are you still with me? Great.It will mostly be Jenna and me suffering through the long runs together because Kristin is in Ottawa but, we signed on with a running coach and are starting to get serious!

When it comes to training, I always do my best to put in the miles but there’s never been anyone holding me accountable for how well I am actually running. There’s something to be said about following a plan and knowing your being tracked. Data is being exposed, and all of my Strava followers are watching (for the record, I have three Strava followers: one is Jenna and the other one is our coach). Even though we just started, the feedback has me excited to see the progress as the weeks tick away. My big goals for training are: learn to run by feeling and pay attention to my pace (easy on easy days to save energy for the hard days) + better hydration and fueling and a bit more strength training.  So cross your fingers that training goes well. Even though I want a BQ, I know a large race like Berlin may not be the perfect place to get it. I am prepared to keep plugging away, even if it takes another 10 years and a few more World Marathon Majors.

Regardless of the outcome in September… it’s BERLIN BABY! It’s fun to have two friends training for the same race and exciting to imagine running around Berlin.Oh, and if you are still reading and want to hear more from my good friend Des, there’s a really great podcast episode. It’s before her Boston win and she talks about the importance of setting a big goal, failing and putting in the time. Check it out: Ali on the Run – Des Linden

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(all gifs are from Giphy)

mountains, nothing but mountains

Unless you are one of my sisters, you likely do not know the movie reference:

Mountains, nothing but mountains. We’ve had it. We’ve, we’ve completely had it.

No we haven’t. Between these mountains somewhere there’s a green valley. See these mountains over here? There’s no snow on them.

Those mountains must be fifty miles away. You think you can walk fifty miles?

If we have to, we will.

I can’t.

Yes, you can.

I can’t. I’m not as strong as you.

Do you know what it is that we’ve lived this long the way we have? Seventy days? That we climbed this mountain. You know what it is? It’s impossible. It’s impossible and we did it. I’m proud to be a man on a day like this. Alive. That I lived to see it, and see it in such a place. Take it in. I love you, man. Look, it’s magnificent. It’s God. And it’ll carry us over every stone, I swear. I swear to you.

***

Best movie ever. My sisters and I were oddly obsessed with ALIVE. Our love for Ethan Hawke probably started it all but, we went through a phase of watching the VHS weekly then read all of the books and absorbed every bit of information regarding this amazing true story about a rugby team whose plane crashed and they had to save themselves. Yes, they ate the bodies of the deceased but they SURVIVED and walked out of the freaking Andes! Unreal.

But I digress… I am actually here to talk about how mountains bookend the week for me. Last weekend was STORM THE MOUNTAIN and this coming weekend we are heading to Whistler for an Ackerman family ski trip (it’s our late Christmas).

My top priority for both adventures is warmth. I’m always cold and do my best to dress for the elements.

Case in point: This is how I feel (Another ALIVE reference):alive-1993-movie-free-download-720p-bluray-4-1And this is how I go outside every day: img_0091

Last month I wrote here and here about these new mittens I discovered and ordered for me and my mom. They’re microwavable and I’ve worn them a few times now. Here is my unbiased (not sponsored) review of the HXT Marathon Mittens.

Cons:

  • Not cheap. $80 US (which is like a bajillion dollars Canadian) + shipping (but we had ours shipped to my sister’s house in the States so it was a none issue).
  • They don’t show sizing information on their site – I emailed the company, it took a week to hear back, and was told the small-mediums would be best… They are big. I think the x-small would be better. Like my head, my hands are small. On the flip side, I can easily wear a pair of gloves under them for extra protection.
  • They are not HOT like the disposable hand-warmers. I was expecting my hands to feel like they’re in an oven but they feel more like a warmish late spring day and although they claim to last up to 4 hours, I’d say 2-3 hours is more realistic. (see the pro side to this).
  • They’re heavier and bulkier than a basic pair of mitts. If you don’t want to wear them, it’s hard to subtlety stuff them in the back of your running tights.
  • You need a microwave. Most ski hills have one in they lobby so I am not too concerned. As for running, even long-long runs don’t go much beyond 4 hours so I should be okay.
  • They’re not the most attractive pair of mitts on the market.

Pros:

  • They have nose wipes. No joke, this is smart. Gross but handy.
  • They have reflectors. I run at 5:30 am so this is good.
  • The cuffs are long and fit nicely under my jacket sleeves. Easy on and off, tuck-ins.
  • Because they’re not HOT like the disposable hand-warmers, the severity of taking them on and off outside is less shocking. During the eco challenge, I had to take them off a lot in order to use the compass and my hands stayed warm the whole time. Mike was shocked. My hands were so happy that I actually walked without the mitts on at times.
  • They have extra pockets for more warmers so if it’s really bad out there, you can add more disposable hand-warmers to them.
  • Less wasteful and although the upfront cost is pricy, disposable hand-warmers are not cheap. Plus, once you open the package of hand-warmers, you have them for 8 hours.

Are they the cure to cold? No. Am I keeping them? Yes. I love that I can heat them up whenever I want. I pop the whole mitt right into the microwave for 35 seconds and I’m ready to go! This means I can have warm hands for my morning run + then again for my morning walk to school + then again for my after school walk + then again if I go out in the evening. That would be at least two sets warmers a day!

I hope this helps. Stay warm friends. I’ll be sure to let you know how they make out on the mountains out west!

By the way, Storm the Mountain is a winter eco-endurance challenge put on by the Pugwash Ground Search and Rescue. A really fun 4 or 8 orienteering adventure in Wentworth.img_0087img_0081img_0085

psst. Random “fact” about my sister… her son’s actual name is Nando although everyone calls him Sam. He’s named after the rugby player which Erin swore she’d do when she was 15. 
psst. The full movie can be found on YouTube. You’re welcome. Movie image from here.

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empire state of mind : NYC marathon 2016

I have been trying to figure out if this will be a positive or negative race recap… so please bear with me.

After running Chicago last year, I was itching to try another marathon – I was on a personal best high and loved the energy of a big city race – the crowds offered so much positive energy that I decided to sign up for the biggest marathon possible: The TCS New York City Marathon assuming I’d probably not get in (my last attempt to get in the lottery was a bust three years in a row about 10 years ago). But oops, I got in and so began training.

The thing about running a marathon (I’ve now done 5) is it’s more about the training than the actual run and my training had always been just running but not thinking about speed and tempos. I decided I wanted to chisel some time off my PB (3:56.20) and thought about finding a coach however, in the end, I went with the more affordable option – I purchased Hal Higdon’s Marathon – The Ultimate Training Guide and enrolled in their 18-week online Advanced Marathon Training Peaks program. It provided daily emails and a well-detailed plan which involved 6 runs a week (from 48 to 95 km / week). This was a lot more running than I’ve ever done but I stuck to it and really noticed an improvement in my speed and strength. In the end, I was confident that I could reach my race goal: sub 3:50

Tip: Always have 5 goals for a marathon because you’ll never know what will happen during 42.2 km! Mine are 1. Show up. 2. Finish 3. Finish Strong 4. Personal Best 5. Goal Time

But about a week or so before the race (during the dreaded taper), I started reading a TON of NYC race recaps and online advice. Despite everything I read:

  • It is a tough course
  • The second half is harder than the first so less than 5% get negative splits
  • It is about the experience and not a race where you’ll likely get your fastest time
  • It starts late in the day (10:15 am  for me) but I’d have to get up at 4:30 to get to the start line on Staten Island
  • It starts on the biggest uphill and there is another long incline at the end (plus there are 5 bridges)
  • Its crowded (+50,000 runners)

I still thought I could hit my goal … SPOILER: Nope.

So here’s how it all went down 

We arrived in New York on Friday evening and went straight to the expo. Although Chicago had a huge expo, this one felt really overwhelming… I am not sure if it was due to a long day of travel, but I was exhausted and only stayed long enough to grab my kit, a souvenir hoodie and my Nuun water bottle. We met up with my parents and took the subway back to Brooklyn for pizza and checked in to our lovely airbnb Brownstone in Park Slope (great neighbourhood!). The next morning, (the day before the marathon), Mike and I went for a 3km shakeout run in Prospect Park (great park, 500 m from our place). After, we left for Manhattan and met my sister and niece for an afternoon tour of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. On our way home, Mom and I found the Highline and could not resist quick stroll. Mike, David and my dad had tickets for the Islanders vs. Oilers game so mom and I went home and made spaghetti.nyc-marathon_2 nyc-marathon_3 nyc-marathon_4 nyc-marathon_5 nyc-marathon_7The next morning my alarm went off at 4:30 (which actually felt like 5:30 thanks to Daylight Savings) and Mike and I were out the door and on the Subway by 5:00. I signed up for the 6:00 am ferry to Staten Island and after the boat ride, a bathroom stop in the terminal and then the shuttle bus ride, I was at the start village for around 7:30-8:00. Only leaving me +2 hours to kill. The ferry is great – you go right by the Statue of Liberty and feel like a rock star because of the police escort following along. I was really happy I brought extra clothing, a hat, mittens, a towel and a plastic bag to keep me warm because it was about 8 degrees and a little windy. Since I selected the post-race poncho, everything I brought with me was left in one of their Good Will donation bins. I ate my bagel and some chews and waited.

Not going to sugar coat it… The start for me was the hardest. You wait around a long time (from wake-up to run time was 6 hours!) questioning how much to eat and drink and how many times you can wait in line to pee (3 times)… then you move into your corral about 45 mins before the start and are herded like cattle through this bizarre road/field/bridge terminal and can’t really see much. Besides the nervous chatter, there are helicopters flying over and in the far-off distance you can hear Frank Sinatra’s New York playing and then BANG, we were off! The first mile or so was up the bridge and everything I read said take it slow… it’s the biggest hill… which was easy to do when there were so many people. My pace was slow and I kept it that way up to the top and back down.

One of the coolest parts of the race is coming off the Verrazano Bridge – it goes from a ghostly silence to a loud roar – the crowd was insane and I had goosebumps when I saw the signs “Welcome To Brooklyn”. As the course flattened out, I tried to find my pace. It was hard. I kept looking at my watch and I was all over the place. I felt like I was loosing control and my pace was not mine – I was dodging elbows and thick packs of runners and there was so much congestion at the water stations. I quickly realized this was not my race but kept reminding myself NYC is all about the experience so I took a deep breath and tried to have fun.nyc-marathon_8

At about mile 7, I was at the neighbourhood where we were staying and started looking for my family – and there they were! A quick wave and a high 5 from David gave me a huge boost. At this point, I was not cold and happy to be wearing a tank top and shorts. Brooklyn was amazing – there was never a break in the crowds and there were a ton of bands along the way. At one point, the road tightened and a band was playing “Celebrate” – all of the runners had their hands up in the air clapping. Wow.nyc-marathon_9Once I got to the Pulaski Bridge, I was halfway. I felt great but knew my PB was vanishing. I still could not find my pace, it was so crowded and felt like a game of dodge ball. Then we were in Queens and I was excited to reach the Queensboro Bridge and enter Manhattan. The Queensboro Bridge however was probably my lowest point… my pace was slow and I was panicking. loosing hope. sad. lonely. It was a bit of a hill and then a big downhill into what’s the most loudest part of the run – 1st Avenue. On the way down the hill I felt a little pain in my knee but it quickly went away. Phew. As I ran along 1st Avenue, I kept an eye out for my family but knew it’d be hard to find them in the thick crowds. The next thing I knew, it was mile 19 and the bridge to the Bronx was right there! I loved the Bronx – I had read that it’s where you hit the invisible wall but I was so focused on 5th Avenue that I just kept moving. Back in Manhattan and on 5th Avenue, I kept looking ahead – wow, this is almost done and I feel fine. Not amazing but not bad. Oh wait, is this THE hill? Not so bad. Oh wait, mile 24 and I’m heading into the park? Not so bad. Honestly, this marathon was a blur, it did not feel like I ran 42 km. Near the last mile, in Central Park, which was a tunnel of noise and excitement, I saw my family – what a surprise! As I ran the last mile I knew I was not going to get under 4 hours. No!!!!. I tried to weave but there was a wall of runners in the way and my energy was dwindling.nyc-marathon_10In the end I finished in 4:00.18. Although that is my third best marathon time it is the first time I never hit a wall at 34km. As soon as I stopped the pain hit me and I felt sick. It was a long (like it felt longer than that marathon long) walk to the family meet and greet. On the way, I went from hot to cold really fast and my fingers went numb. A very kind volunteer wrapped my poncho around me and helped fasten it up (they’re fleece lined!). He then looked at me and said I should be really proud of myself. That’s when I cried.nyc-marathon_11I finally found my mom and we slowly made our way another 9 blocks to the Natural History Museum where Mike, David and Dad were. A few other marathoners had the same idea and I wandered around like a zombie for a few hours before we caught the subway back to Brooklyn. At the end of the day, I clocked 55,900 steps and happily devoured a veggie burger and two beers.nyc-marathon_12The next day, we went back downtown and visited Ground Zero, The Rockefeller, Time Square and Central Park. It was a lovely day and seeing the park again was great.nyc-marathon_1So why am I a little sad? I missed my goal by 10 minutes and although I know 4:00.18 is nothing to be ashamed about, it was a bummer because I trained so much harder than pervious marathons and feel a bit disappointed in myself. However, despite those feelings, the experience was worth every penny I am now even more determined to find a new race and start all over again. Any recommendations for a less crowded, fast Spring run? I have Ottawa, Fredricton and Sugarloaf on my radar.

I totally recommend the New York City Marathon as a bucket list experience and really, I should stop sulking. I did it, I ran the 5 boroughs!
nyc-marathon_13And  New York, I still LOVE YOU.

Not sure if you’ve seen this but it’s very accurate:

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random thoughts during the marathon taper

Do you ever wonder what an amateur marathon runner is thinking about during the days leading up to the race?

Probably not, but I’ll share with you anyway…

  • Why did I sign up for this?
  • Maybe I should just skip it
  • I’m so excited!!!
  • Should I invest in real arm warmers?
  • No, I’ll just cut out some old nylons
  • No, I should get arm warmers, it’s November
  • Should I wear throw away gloves?
  • Yes
  • No, it’s November wear your good gloves
  • I hope I see my family on the course
  • Shorts, leggings, short leggings, short short leggings?
  • Tank top, long sleeve, t-shirt?
  • Should I put my name on my shirt?
  • Hat, no hat, visor, sunglasses?
  • I just want to start running
  • Next year I am doing an October marathon
  • I am never doing this again
  • Maybe I should stick to half marathons?
  • I want to run in a smaller race next year
  • I want to run London
  • I want to get a PB
  • It’s New York, it will be hard to PB
  • I can totally PB
  • Should I run with my phone?
  • Blistex, don’t forget the Blistex
  • Spring ahead fall back!
  • Central Park is not really that big is it?
  • New York is flat, right?
  • Bridges, whatever. I live in hilly Halifax
  • I hate hills
  • The biggest hill is in the first two miles
  • I may never love New York again
  • I am running in the F$#King NYC MARATHON!
  • I hope I finish
  • What if I win?
  • What would Kara do?
  • I just want one nice race photo
  • Who are these people who take good race photos?
  • Avoid wide turns, remember Chicago? you ran 42.9km!
  • Remember to start my watch
  • Remember to stop my watch
  • Carb-load starts now
  • DRINK WATER
  • Should I raise my arms at the finish?
  • I can’t wait to finish
  • Where is the closest veggie burger to the finish?
  • Run so hard it hurts to run for the rest of the year
  • Should I stock up on Halloween candy and save it for after the marathon?
  • Wine or beer to celebrate?
  • Remind myself to remind Mike to have a chocolate milk for me
  • I am most excited about the poncho
  • I hope I see a famous person
  • Maybe I will make it on TV
  • Who even has cable?
  • There’s a reason they call it the BIG CITY
  • Mile markers, ugh. KMs are so much better
  • Why do I always pick American races?
  • 50,000 people, that’s a lot
  • Believe in the teff
  • Believe in the taper
  • How do others run so fast?
  • It’s going to be an AWESOME RUN
  • I hate wind, it better not be windy
  • I hope it’s warmish – like 12-15
  • Not too hot, not too cold
  • Sneakers – which pair? The ones I trained all summer in – they make me feel fast
  • OR the ones that are newer – I haven’t bonded with them as much
  • WHICH ONES???
  • Pack both
  • The new ones right?
  • Embrace the bridges, take it the view
  • I should of made a playlist
  • My relay playlists are pretty good, thanks team
  • Where will I be when Chariots of Fire plays?
  • Remember to remove my earbuds near the finish
  • PACE YOURSELF
  • 24200… all my favourite numbers… that’s a good sign
  • I want people to track me so I will feel the motivation
  • I don’t want people to track me in case it all falls apart
  • People must hate marathoners – they never shut up, ever
  • My friends and family will be more excited when this is over than me
  • I should run a spring marathon?
  • Pack the peanut butter
  • Eat in the morning. Drink in the morning
  • Why does it start so late?
  • HYDRATE ON COURSE
  • I hope I don’t get cramps
  • I hate everyone who can eat those gels
  • Waiting around at the start will suck
  • Bring a magazine for the long wait
  • Remember all the good training runs
  • It’s totally a phantom pain
  • The biggest hill is in the first mile
  • Visualize the finish
  • Smile

If you want to see how the hot mess plays out on November 6, download the app and track me 24200… please. Actually, don’t. No, do.TCSNYCM16 CourseMap v3_web

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our tenacious team

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when your team doesn’t get in to the Cabot Trail Relay Race lottery, fake it.

Introducing #team71CTRR16_Team71 TeeLast weekend was the 29th annual Cabot Trail Relay Race. A relay run around the Cabot Trail in beautiful Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. “70” teams. 17 legs. 185 miles. ~24 hrs.

It was supposed to be our team’s third year – and with the CTRR being a live and learn kind of event we were excited to put our veteran experience to use.  However, when we found out we didn’t make it in, we were bummed. Luckily we all found other teams to join and here’s a peak at the weekend.

But first, how to prepare for the CTRR

  1. Training: Run a few races (like the Hypothermic half and Bluenose) and run hills because there are no shortage of hills on the Cabot Trail.
    CTRR16_train1 CTRR16_train2 CTRR16_train3
  2. Uniforms: If you are not really a team, it’s best to look like a team so other will know you are not a team but still are. If that makes sense. I designed team shirts which we had printed by Fresh Prints.
    CTRR16_T-Shirts
    And Robyn & Steph made team buffs (see peacock green below)
    CTRR16_ameliedrum
  3. Signage: Who doesn’t love an opportunity for a good craft & wine night? Plus, roadside signage support is crucial for running events.
    CTRR16_poster
  4. Music: Because you are not allowed to run with music during the CTRR, for the second year, we made a mix of all our Power Songs – which can be heard from the support car as you run by.
    CTRR16_MusicOur team also rented drums and entertained runners with their pop-up drum sessions on the road.
    CTRR16_drum

Back to the weekend…

Amelié and I caught a ride up with Kristin and her family Friday night and because Kristin and I were not running until the early hours of Sunday morning. We spent Saturday in Baddeck – hiking then relaxing on the patio of the B&B.CTRR16_driveCTRR16_hikeCTRR16_k&mThe others set off and conquered the Saturday legs and on Sunday morning, the alarm went off at 2:00 am, and we drove an hour up to Margaree. My leg (14) was 19.81 km at 3:45 am and I must say it was lovely. Although it was dark, I could hear the Atlantic Ocean and spring peepers and then the sun came up as we ran inland. Despite feeling a little pukey, I managed to finish with a 5:03 min/km average pace (1:39:53) but only placed 35 out 0f 70 (sad face emoji) Note: The pace at the CTRR feels a lot faster than an average race and if you don’t keep under a 6:00 minute/km pace, the finish line moves on to the next leg and your time is +5 minutes of the last runner across the mat. Our fellow Miramichi Lucky Charms teammate Hughie ran leg 15, followed by Kristin who ran leg 16 and then we rushed back to Baddeck to cheer in the finishers in at the end of leg 17.CTRR16_kristinCTRR16_finish4

Team 71 – not all present and accounted for. L-R: Duncan, Joe, Erica, Robyn, Mike, Steph, Grahme, Marcel and Jenna (and Liam). Missing: Jon, Josh, Amelié, Kristin, Greg and Me.CTRR16_team CTRR16_LegDescriptionsHappy trails!

More on this year’s CTRR : CTV Atlantic News – ‘It’s just completely different’: Cabot Trail Relay Race wraps up in Baddeck

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psst. I checked three things off my 100 Days Of Summer list including # 20, 62 and 74