Archive for September, 2013

The Heartbeat Run Race Report

Two years ago I attempted a sub-25 minute 5K. I’d been running for only 18 months but I had a 25:24 PB and was cocky enough to think I could tackle an advanced plan and succeed at it. I soon discovered that plans like that are most successful with a big base, a lot of strength, and just more overall experience as a runner. I ran a 25:44-ish and swore off 5K’s, thinking “if I have to train this hard and run so fast that I don’t enjoy it, then forget it.”

The sub-25 thing has continued to nag at me though, and this year I decided to tackle it again. I have more experience, more faith in myself, a better base, and more strength than ever before, so the goal is more attainable now than it was then.

Morgan and I ran the Heartbeat Run last year, its first year as a Saskatoon event. We liked it and I decided it would be a good one for me to try for my goal. I used the same training plan that had been too much for me a couple years ago and truly felt I was ready.

I picked up our race packages on Saturday and had a lovely evening at my parents’ in Saskatoon visiting with them and my aunt, who was in from Medicine Hat. Our race packets included a cotton t-shirt (good for my quilt!), a gel sample, a gummi vitamin sample, and our bib chips. I love bib chips instead of shoe chips!

The Heartbeat Run features a staggered start, with the 10K starting at 9:00 and the 5K at 9:30. The 5K is an out and back along the last 2.5 km of the 10K course. Couple this with the face that this race is small enough that it runs on the paved Meewasin trail instead of the road, and this means there can be some traffic on course.

We set off southbound and I struggled to pass a group of four women running together. The first section of the trail is tree-lined on both sides, so passing is difficult. If you’re going to run together as a group that’s great, but please seed yourselves accordingly! Morgan saw a space and squeezed through, but I couldn’t for a few metres more.

My goal pace had been 5:10, 5:05, 5:00, 5:00, 4:45 kilometres. I really felt like I was holding back in the first kilometer, but every time I checked my watch I was around 4:40 for pace. Going out too fast is something I struggle with at every single race I run, and this was no exception.

We ran through what I think is the most beautiful section of the trail in Saskatoon. We went behind the Delta Bessborough Hotel, and along to River Landing at street level. This is where the course could have used some marshalls, there was no way to know whether we were supposed to stay on the upper level of the trail or go down along the river front trail. I decided that if we were supposed to veer left to the river front they likely would have placed a marshall there, so I continued at street level (I was right). However, I did see someone from the 10K on his way back who was down along the river front, so I wasn’t the only one wondering.

Right after my watch flipped to 2.2km I saw two orange pylons on the trail. This was a wider spot, so I thought “oh, we must have to go between the pylons to get the proper distance, running the tangent must make it too short or something.” I started to do just that, then the marshall started calling out from her place on the sideline and making a big circular motion with her arm, indicating that this was the turn-around. But… it’s only 2.2 km, not 2.5… I did what I was told and went around the pair of pylons and headed back. When I met Morgan on my return I called “it’s short!” but with her music playing she couldn’t understand what I was saying.

Just south of the Bessborough, we passed by the bandshell, a landmark and common meeting place for Saskatonians. The Terry Fox Run was being held there later in the day and volunteers were busy setting up. It was kind of odd to run through another event’s staging area, but at least their runners weren’t on the course yet like they were last year when the same scheduling conflict occurred!

I started to fatigue at this point and slowed my pace to around 5:20 for a bit of a rest. I knew from meeting other runners before the turn-around that I was the first female runner and I was pretty excited. A woman passed me at this point but I was able to stick about fifteen feet behind her and another guy (10K) who was just in front of us. I pondered the fact that the course was going to be very short. Just over 2.2 at the turn-around meant it would be 500-600m short overall. What to do? I can’t count a 5K PB when the course wasn’t even close to 5K! I decided I would go through the finish chute and just keep going alone, until my watch beeped for 5K.

As the course passed under the University Bridge and climbed back towards the Mendel I kicked and passed the woman in front. I’m not sure if it’s still a throwback to my track sprinting days or just some psychological “you’re almost there” thing, but I can usually surge pretty strongly for the last 400-500m of a race. The guy heard me coming and surged too. We had a good sprint foot race to the finish, but I couldn’t quite catch him. The woman I had just passed tried to stay with us, but didn’t have enough left. The guy’s answering surge meant I ran that last 400m a lot harder than I had planned, but my competitive streak was yelling “forget going the extra distance, just catch him!”

I crossed the finish line in 21:58 with a distance on my GPS watch of 4.46 km, 540m short of a full 5K. I accepted a finisher’s medal (how amazing is it to have finisher’s medals for all distances?!) and headed for the bushes to throw up (I didn’t though!), haha! All plans of continuing on another 500m were abandoned and I knew I’d just have to find another race.

Morgan finished in 26 minutes and we both grabbed some water and a place to stretch and take pictures!

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When the results were posted we discovered that I had indeed been the first female 5K finisher out of 40 women and third overall out of 63 runners. Small race, but still a pretty sweet accomplishment! Several experienced runners were standing there saying “sooooo… it was short hey?” No one had the heart to say anything to the young woman who was so excited to finish in 29:30 and exclaiming “I wanted so badly to be under 30 minutes, I’m so happy!” We all smiled and congratulated her!

While waiting for the door prizes Morgan and I figured out what our times “would have been” had the race been a full 5K. She, a math teacher, used some sort of equation to figure out that she would have been pretty close to a PB. Me, not a math teacher but rather an iPhone addict, used a pace calculator app to figure out that I “should have been” 24:20. I’m not sure how realistic that is, since my pace did quicken when I realized the course was so drastically short, and it wouldn’t have if it had been a proper 5K distance. However, it encouraged me to try for my goal again at the Mogathon two weeks later, instead of running the 10K as I had planned.

The organizers said a few words, and then a transplant recipient spoke. I’m an emotional person, and I usually cry at charity runs when people who are directly involved speak. At Miles For Smiles two years ago (the failed sub-25 attempt) I bawled when one of the neonatologists (who had seen our twins for their NICU follow-up appointments) said that the Childrens’ Hospital was in the planning stages and would break ground soon. This time I teared up when this gentleman thanked everyone for coming, every single person in his medical and recovery team from the heart health centre, and then thanked the most important person in his life, who couldn’t be there – his donor. “God doesn’t need your organs in heaven, we need them here. Please sign your donor cards!” I was proud at that moment to have my signed donor card tucked in my wallet with my health card, and that all three of my kids have a donor sticker on their health cards. Then I cried again when Terry told of renewing his vows that summer with his wife of 26 years. “I loved her with my old heart, now I love her with my new heart.” Oh, I am a bawling romantic sap! (See Global News’ interview with Terry here.)

After the speeches, the race organizers gave out the age group medals. Age group medals!!! There were gold, silver and bronze medals for each ten year age group, men and women. I was so excited to have my name called for the 30-39 women and accept my heart shaped gold medal!

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After the medals, they gave out draw prizes from sponsors. What prizes those were! Gift cards to the Running Room, Merrell shoe gift cards, hiking pack gift cards, and running skirts! I was thrilled to win a bright pink skirt from Skirt Sports! Matches my shoes. 😉

Overall, this was a great event, and the money supported a great cause. I do hope they publicize it more in future years so they can raise more money (I only knew about it because I ran it last year, I didn’t see it advertised anywhere within the running community) and do something about the course measurement though!

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River Run Classic and Beyond

Nearly two months ago I ran the half marathon in the River Run Classic. The River Run is an event I have a soft spot for, it was my first race when I started running in 2010. Last summer I had trained for and entered the half marathon, then took a bad spill from my  young horse just six days before race day and had to change my plans to a slow 5K instead. For the past year, the River Run half has felt like unfinished business and I’ve been determined to run it.

With just six weeks between the Saskatchewan Marathon (half) and the River Run, I thought training would be fairly simple – just maintain my fitness and things would be fine. The part I hadn’t considered was that my kids had finished preschool for the summer just a couple of days before the SK Marathon, and I had used those mornings to fit in my long training runs. Without a kid-free daytime option for the month of June, and with my husband busy in the field, I was forced to do most of my training on the mile-long loop of my driveway.  The driveway runs are a way to get training in, but they do get pretty tedious when you’re building up to ten laps.

Race day was clear and sunny. It was cool at the start, but a couple of friends were running the 10K, so I had people to chat with while I waited for the start.

I didn’t have any time goals for this race, I simply wanted to complete what I’d started a year ago and actually run it! As we left the scenic River Landing area and headed north I was pleased with the pace I was setting for myself, pretty much on track with what I’d run in the Saskatchewan Marathon half. My parents’ crescent backs onto the paved Meewasin Trail at the north end, so they and the kids had walked down to cheer for me as I ran past. I was pretty excited to see my mother-in-law there too! She had gotten up early and driven into the city just to see me run past. As my Dad has said before “distance running isn’t exactly an exciting spectator sport,” so it meant a lot to see her, my parents, and my kids there. My daughter ran beside me for 100m or so while I drank the water they’d brought me, then ran back with the empty bottle. The turn-around point was shortly after this, so they waited and cheered again.

When we headed back south towards River Landing again, the sun got high and HOT. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I utilized many more of the water stations than I had planned to. My pace slowed and I was glad I didn’t have a big goal to chase. I always want to run under two hours, so I told myself as long as I accomplished that I would be happy.

The second half of that run was so difficult. The sun blazed on. I was so relieved to see the finish line and my friend Melanie taking pictures!

Almost there!

Almost there!

Mel and I at the finish

Mel and I at the finish

I finished the race in 1:59:46. I had several popsicles from the cooler at the food tent and vowed I would never run a half marathon in July or August again! I still love the River Run, but I will definitely choose a shorter distance next year!

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While I was running this race, I also came to terms with the fact that I need a break from longer distances. Between the farm, kids and horses I just have too much going on in the summer and I really resented the amount of running I “had” to do. I decided I would re-visit my goal of a sub-25 minute 5K and put half marathons on hold for a few months. a 5K would allow me to keep running, but eliminate the big time commitment required for a half. I had been training for half marathons for eight months and I just needed a break before I got overwhelmed.

In the weeks since the River Run I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s advanced 5K training plan and have my sights set on the Heartbeat Run 5K on September 15. I ran the 10K in the inaugural Heartbeat Run in 2012 and it was a great event. The last time I attempted a sub-25 5K was two years ago. I used this same training plan that time, but I just wasn’t ready for it. I was still a fairly new runner and now I know that it takes time to be able to tackle a plan like this, both physically and mentally. It’s going much better this time, and I feel strong and fast and ready to nail it!

New shoes = physical and mental boost! Bright = fast! ;)

New shoes = physical and mental boost! Bright = fast! 😉