Archive for May, 2013

Lead-up to the Saskatchewan Marathon

The Saskatchewan Marathon is by far the biggest running event in Saskatoon. It boasts a large 10K and half marathon in addition to the feature full marathon and draws several thousand runners – a lot for our sparsely populated province!

It was announced several months ago that the speaker for the pre-marathon pasta dinner would be Reid Coolsaet. The Saskatoon running community was buzzing with excitement about this, and the buzz heightened when it was announced that Dylan Wykes would be speaking as well. Reid and Dylan represented Canada at the London 2012 Olympics in the marathon; this was the first time since 2000 that Canada had any men meet the tough 2:11:29 Canadian standard. Canadian runners were thrilled when THREE men met the standard and ran for Canada last summer.

Dylan Wykes and Reid Coolsaet at the 2012 London Olympics

Dylan Wykes and Reid Coolsaet at the 2012 London Olympics

A week or so before the marathon Brainsport announced that Dylan Wykes would be leading a group run from the store on Thursday evening! A friend graciously agreed to watch my kids for a couple of hours so I could take advantage of this rare opportunity.

Professional runners (at least Canadian ones!) are such fantastic people. Dylan held back to stay with the group for a 5.6 km run at about a 5:50/km pace – good for us, but painfully slow for him I’m sure! About 15 people had come out for the run and Dylan migrated through the group to chat with each of us. When we stopped at a water fountain he posed for a picture with two kids who were playing in the park. Dylan was very humble about his accomplishments and offered encouragement to all of us. It was an inspiring experience to run with an Olympian!

Dylan and I before our run.

Dylan and I before our run.

On Saturday the kids and I headed in to the city for the race expo. Having three kids at a race expo definitely makes it easy on the wallet! I’m not a good shopper with kids in tow. 😉 We did manage to get a picture with Reid Coolsaet and listen to his Q&A. He answered some great questions about fueling, sleep habits and other hot topics among runners.

Reid, my kids and I

Reid, my kids and I

The kids “helped” me pick up my race package. It was loaded with coupons for local running businesses including Brainsport and my favorite granola-type cereal, Choo-It. I was also happy to see that the back of the adidas technical t-shirt included a picture of a Boston Strong ribbon.

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I dropped the kids off at my parents’ place then and headed back over to the expo for the pasta dinner. This is an event I buy a ticket for every year. Just the speaker alone is worth the very reasonable $25.00 ticket price, the supper is a bonus!

I was alone at supper, but found a lovely group of ladies to sit with. Julianna was running the 10K and her friend Kim was running her second half marathon. Both women had brought their 15 year old daughters along to hear Dylan and Reid speak.

Dylan took the stage first to tell us about his Olympic experience. Canada doesn’t have as many elite runners as the U.S., so our athletes qualify for the Olympics by entering existing races and running them under the Olympic standard, rather than having an offical Olympic Trials like they do in the U.S. Dylan didn’t make the standard on his first attempt at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, so he tried again in Japan where he had to withdraw from the race and received a disappointing DNF. Just three weeks later, with the Olympic deadline looming, Dylan traveled to the Netherlands where he had run his first marathon (in 2:15 just four years earlier). Everything clicked and he finished in 2:10:47, a personal best and the second-fastest marathon by a Canadian, ever. Dylan went on to finish in 20th place in London.

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Reid, who placed 27th in London, told us about his winters spent training in Kenya at the high altitude training centre. Of course, Kenya is known for producing a large number of elite runners. As Reid said, “running is their NHL.” Kenyan children aspire to become professional runners like North American kids want to be professional hockey players, doctors or lawyers. It was entertaining to hear Reid’s stories about transportation, nutrition and the differences between running in Kenya and running in Canada.

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Both Olympians then responded to open mic questions from the audience. My question: When you go for an easy, slow run, what’s your pace? They told us that their easy pace is a conversational pace, about a minute slower than their race pace. With a race pace of 3:05/km, their easy pace is about 4:05/km! WOW! That’s crazy to think about and blew my mind!

After supper Julianna and I got a group picture with the guys before heading for home.

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I was happy to have the opportunity to have both Dylan and Reid sign my race bib. It was a little mental boost to have something like that along for my race. Last year’s Saskatchewan Marathon speaker was Bart Yasso and he signed my bib, so I wanted to have Dylan and Reid sign it this year!

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Runners at the pasta supper were also told about a couple from Utah who were in attendance and would run on Sunday. They had run a half marathon in every state and province, except Saskatchewan! They ran Red Deer last weekend to check Alberta off their list, and after finishing the Saskatchewan Marathon would be able to say they’d completed this ambitious project. They chose a truly beautiful city to finish in, and seemed happy to be there.

Overall, it was a very inspiring evening and was the perfect lead-up to race day!

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SRRA Women’s Run

Our family’s Mother’s Day celebrations always involve something outdoors. My husband and father-in-law are always busy in the field by Mother’s Day, so my parents, mother-in-law and I usually pack up my kids and head to the Forestry Farm zoo or to the carousel and train at Kinsmen Park. We follow that up with a picnic and a nap. 🙂

This year, however, we switched it up a bit. The Saskatoon Road Runners Association was sponsoring a Women’s Run on the Saturday of the Mother’s Day weekend. The rules were simple: only female runners, only male volunteers. The one exception to this was that a male could run only if he was running with or assisting his mother. When I saw that there was a 3 km distance I knew I wanted to run this with my five year old daughter! We invited her Grandmas to come too and convinced my Dad to hang out with my sons while we ran. Everyone was on board (though my Dad was a little nervous to be the sole adult in charge of the boys)!

The women of our family (just missing my sister-in-law) ready to run and walk!

The women of our family (just missing my sister-in-law) ready to run and walk!

The SRRA sponsored the installation of a seating area and drinking fountain (with three heights for adults, kids and dogs!) along the Meewasin Trail on the east side of the river in Saskatoon. The scenic west side is more developed and has multiple water fountains, but the east side gets a little forgotten. Runners use the east side a lot though to make a loop around the city’s bridges on long runs, so it only made sense for the SRRA to place their water fountain there. Affectionately known as simply “The Node” by members, it is a scenic outlook with a beautiful view of downtown Saskatoon.

Photo by Dave Stark

Photo by Dave Stark

View from the node

View from the node

"Anything is possible, choose your path"

“Anything is possible, choose your path”

This run was the first to use the node as the start/finish point. At 10:30 we all gathered around for route instructions before beginning our run. A few women were disappointed that the male volunteers weren’t wearing Speedos, but the men had good excuses – something about shrinkage and cool mornings. 😉

See the little pink girl in the back, behind the start post on the left? That's us! (Photo by Dave Stark)

See the little pink girl by the start post on the left? That’s us! (Photo by Dave Stark)

We set off along the riverbank and my daughter set a ferocious pace! I expected her to falter soon, but she didn’t. It was so inspiring to run beside her. Her arms were relaxed and low, she has a natural forefoot strike and a short stride with quick turnover. All those things “they” say we should naturally do, if not for our shoes encouraging a heel strike and too-long stride. It was fascinating to me to see how naturally those things really do come to a child. This defintely has me second-guessing the type of shoes I buy my kids!

About 400m into our run she surged to pass a group of adults ahead of us. She glanced over at me and I assured her I was right behind her, and off she went. As we passed, one of the women looked over at her and said “oh…. that’s…. good…” I cracked up. Everyone thought it was great that a kid was out running, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re excited when that same kid passes them!

When we got to our turn around at 1.5 km two other women who had been right behind us carried on for the 6.5 km route. As we turned around they said to me “she has beautiful form!” I beamed! What a fantastic compliment for a young runner.

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The Grandmas were setting a good walking pace and were about 400m behind us. We passed them on the way back, but Alyssa didn’t even slow down. She waved and kept hauling ass back to the finish line. She did stop for a few short walk breaks, and to check out the view, but never for long.

We crossed the finish line to the cheers of the men who were BBQ-ing up lunch for all the women with huge smiles on our faces. I am so proud of my little girl and so excited to see the runner she will become. She says, “I’m proud of myself too! And I was the first kid!”

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We walked back to find the Grandmas and walked with them to the finish, then enjoyed a hot dog and a juice box. The organizers had several massage gift certificates and hanging flower baskets to give away, and several rounds of heads or tails determined the winners (put your hands on your head or tail, flip a coin. If you were right you move on to the next round until there’s only one person left). We didn’t win any prizes, but we all had a blast!

Post-run hot dog! (Photo by Peter Goode)

Post-run hot dog! (Photo by Peter Goode)

This was a fantastic, fun, casual event. It was great to see so many women of all ages and fitness levels come out to run and walk in honor of Mother’s Day. There’s nothing a Mother Runner loves more than to get to run a scenic route and have a man make her lunch afterwards! I hope this will become an annual event – if it does we’ll definitely be back next year!

We thanked the organizers and headed out to the zoo, then back to my parents’ for nap time. My husband, father-in-law and some friends joined us all for supper out as an early birthday celebration for me and some more friends came over for appies and drinks that night. All in all it was a great Mother’s Day and early birthday weekend!

(Huge thanks again to the men who put together the Women’s Run. It was so much fun and really did make it a perfect Mother’s Day.)

The Saskatoon Police Half Marathon

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Every April the Saskatoon Police force hosts a 5K/10K/half marathon event which starts and ends at the main police station downtown in Saskatoon. The course is scenic, relatively flat, and loops around downtown and the river. This has become a popular tune-up race for runners who are entered in the Saskatchewan Marathon at the end of May.

Last year I ran the 10K event in the Saskatoon Police Half Marathon after battling illness for several weeks and still managed to set a huge PR. I set another new PR in the fall at the Heartbeat Run, and was itching to try it again!

This race fell on April 21, just six days after the Boston Marathon attacks. My friend Morgan suggested we wear blue and yellow ribbon on our bibs for this race, and we were pleased to see that we weren’t alone! Many runners had similar ribbons or Boston messages written on their bibs and shirts. I thought there would be some mention of Boston or a moment of silence or something at the start line, but there wasn’t. That made me even more glad we had taken our own steps to recognize and respect the tragedy.

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I toyed briefly with the idea of running the half marathon instead, but decided it wasn’t the best idea. I had run one in March in Vegas, and had one booked for May, so thought that three consecutive months of half racing might be pushing it a bit. With the way this race turned out, I’m SO glad I wasn’t out there for the whole half marathon!

Saskatchewan has had the worst winter in sixty years. Six months long, frigidly cold, and many feet of snow made all things outdoors very challenging – including (especially!) running. I have no trouble admitting that I’m a weather wimp, so most of my runs this winter were on my treadmill.

By mid-April it had finally started to warm up and we were all so excited! Mother Nature is cruel sometimes though, so we’d have one or two nice days where the temperature would hover around melting, then plummet again the next day for several days.

April 21 was race day. The temperature actually wasn’t that cold… until you figured in the windchill. With winds gusting to 50-60km/hr it felt like -12 Celcius outside (that’s 10F)! I’d had capris and a long sleeved shirt out for my race outfit, but ended up wearing lined tights, a long-sleeved base layer, another long sleeved top, a jacket, a toque, a buff and gloves. I felt rather bundled up, but was the perfect temperature throughout the whole run!

The 74 5K runners, 114 10K runners and 98 half marathoners all started together at 8:00 a.m. The course is actually fairly sheltered, so the big winds weren’t as huge a factor as I’d thought they would be. There was a stretch of about 300m through Kinsmen Park that is in a very low spot and was completely ice covered. Our pace was forced to slow to almost 7 min/km at this point, which cost a lot of time. My running friend Janaya was sadly injured, but had volunteered as a road marshall and was assigned to this area, so it was nice to see her smiling face! All the volunteers deserve a huge round of applause for showing up to do their jobs in that weather!

This race was well organized, well executed and had a good route. Their port-a-lets weren’t delivered on time, but the police station was open and runners were able to use the bathrooms in there (and also wait for the start inside where it was warm!). I also wasn’t able to find a map of the course or any information on aid stations, so was relieved to find that the course was the same as last year and there was a water station at about the 3km mark to serve both the 5K and 10K runners. I assume the half marathoners had another aid station later on, and I did see volunteers leaving with boxes of gels to hand out to them.

 

I ended up finishing in 53:25, setting a 7 second PR! Considering the weather and ice we faced I was pretty darn happy with that! That was good enough to place me 38/149 overall and 8/40 in my group (F20-29). My friend Morgan also set a new 10K PR and boosted her confidence for her first half marathon at the end of May. Our friend Glenda ran the 10K as well and did fantastic! It was a good day for our little group.

The finish line featured bottled water, candies and PANCAKES, coffee and hot chocolate! YUM! The perfect end to a race that ended up being better than anyone expected it to be.

Next up: the SRRA Womens’ Run on May 11!

Gotta run.