Saturday, September 24, 2011

Melissa's Road Race in Review

So, I am becoming somewhat of a regular at Melissa's road race. I mean, I haven't done it every year, but since I began running seriously (and seriously being a fairly loose term here), back in 2001, I have run it 8 times. I did the 22km once, and it was a disaster, and every other time I've done the 10km. It's a fantastic race. Truly, the scenery is spectacular. You have mountains all around you. There is the Banff Springs Hotel, the river, Bow Falls, and Banff Avenue. It's just a gorgeous race. It's also a busy race. You are never alone!!

This year, we had the registration date marked in our calendar, but due to husband sleeping in and parenting the children, we forgot to sign up for it. No big deal, there was always next year (even though it's my favourite race!!). And besides, Jeremy ended up being busy with Ironman training etc, so it wasn't really a priority. After my training basically disappeared after the Ride to Conquer Cancer, I wasn't really in a good position to be running it anyways!! But, a friend had a race number and she didn't want to do the race. And, who was I to pass up such a wonderful opportunity?? So, with about three weeks before the race, we committed to completing the 10km. I knew it wasn't going to be a personal best, and in fact, now that I look at my time, it was actually the worst 10km I've ever done for Melissa's. Oops!! However, I have to say, it was an excellent race.

We never had a chance during the week to grab our numbers, so ended up doing this on race morning, which, thankfully, is an option. We dropped the boys off at grandma's house, and off we headed to the mountains. Parking seemed busier than usual and we ended up parking quite the distance from the starting line. If you consider doing this race, keep this in mind, as you need to arrive very EARLY to make sure you can get across the river on foot in time for the start etc. Picking up the numbers had long lines but even longer was the line to check and make sure your chip was you. I was a bit disappointed with this, but again, I could have gone earlier and the week and grabbed my number and didn't, so really, that's my own fault.

There are always tents set up with little samples, including Jugo Juice and Vitamin Water, which is a nice little pre race snack. We also had some Gu gels with us to get us going. I tried the Cherry Lime Roctane and it was fantastic (now, if you are new to gels, keep in mind, that a fantastic gel, is a relative thing, since gels in general, are a unique source of nutrition that many people have not yet developed an appreciation for, yet are a necessary part of distance events etc).

The route had to change this year because of construction at Cave and Basin, and what they did to change it was phenomenal. I loved the whole thing. It flowed so nicely and on Tunnel Mountain, even though it meant, more uphill, there was no sharp hairpin turn where runners got all caught up in each other etc. I thought the course was smooth and loved the new scenery, with a lot of the route even being in the shade, on this very warm day!! The beer signs marking the water stations were nice, and appreciated, even if it was only water at the stations, and no beer (that was for the finish line!!). The race volunteers were friendly and nice, and the race was great overall. I hope this route continues again next year as it was a wonderful and welcome change. I also appreciated the extra entertainment. There were way more bands than I recall from past years, and it was nice walking through any water station, listening to this entertainment.

The food is usually pretty okay after the race, however, the line is always so long, that as per year's past, we simply skipped it. And, although I should have enjoyed my beer, instead I gave my beer ticket to someone in the beer line. So, can't really comment.

I love the shirt. When I first moved to Calgary and ran at the Oval, I always saw all these runners in Melissa's shirts and had no clue what it was, but knew it must be something special. And, it is!! I love my Melissa's shirts. They are perfect for pre and post training. They are a nice shirt on a fall or winter day. And, if you aren't crazy about a long sleeved cotton shirt, you can pay and get a technical shirt instead, or in addition to, the cotton one.

Finally, you get a coupon for half price at Melissa's Restaurant. This is another great perk of the race. It's not valid on race weekend, and there is an expiry date, however, as someone who frequents the Banff area, it makes for a nice inexpensive dinner. As well, the menu is varied and includes fantastic deep dish pizzas, amazing burgers, and even steak and lobster if you feel so inclined. The staff is generally quite friendly, and the restaurant is great.

So, is it a race worth doing? Well, no baby joggers allowed, no pets allowed,no walkers allowed, however, as this is a busy race, I understand why in both cases. The route is busy and it could end up causing an accident. We do the Mother's Day race every year with a Chariot, and are often stopping quickly etc, so as not to clip someone's ankles. Since there are portions of this race, on narrow trails, the joggers just wouldn't fit. So, find alternate arrangements, or someone to watch your kids at the race. But, if those issues are okay for you, then go for it. This race, is well organized, and lots of fun. It truly is my favourite race. And, I've had my worst race ever at Melissa's, and it was also the race where I broke an hour in a 10km for the first time. The field of athletes is quite varied. There are definitely those who are rather fast on their feet, but there are many people also who are doing their first 10km, or who mix running with walking (10 and 1s). If you are looking for quiet solitude, this is not the race. It's busy and you are never alone. However, that makes it a race that everyone can enjoy and find support from. It's a fun race, and when you go back to Banff to enjoy your coupon, you get to remember the race and enjoy a great meal.

If you are looking for a fun race, with spectacular scenery, this is the one. The 10km is tough, but not impossible, after all, what goes up, must come down, and then down some more, but hey!! After you finish that hill, you feel great, cause you conquered it!! So, it's certainly a race I will continue to love, and even though this might not have been a stellar performance, I finished the race feeling good and strong. And at the end of the day, I know I put forth a good effort, so for that, I'm extremely proud. So, mark the date, it's usually in February sometime, and come join us. It's a great race, and you won't regret it!!

P.S. The 22km is nice as well, however, I've only done that distance once, and it was my first, and worst, half marathon, so although tons of people have great things to say, I haven't done it, in so many years, that I don't really want to comment on it, except to say, that those I know who do this distance, love it as well, and it does NOT have the big huge hill that the 10km does!! Food for thought...

Friday, September 16, 2011

The journey versus the goal

Goals are important, that's true. Goals often form the basis of our training and help us formulate our plan. They give us something to work towards and something to plan for. But goals are just the finish line. We must not forget to enjoy the journey. Sometimes we might not reach our goal, despite our best efforts, so it's important that the journey along the way be fun as well. In a society that is so driven for achievement and success, often people discount the steps it takes to reach their achievements. Take for example, climbing a mountain. It is very cool, when you reach the top, you feel like you accomplished something, and as you look down on where you have been, it feels pretty good. But sometimes we forget to appreciate the journey. And, in all reality, the journey, really does matter. After all, reaching a goal can take days, weeks, months, even years of hard work. Think about earning a degree, or getting a promotion, or finishing your first 5km or marathon. Each of these goals is something where many hours are put into it, yet reaching the end takes but a moment. Therefore, it's very important to make the most of the journey. After all, it is the journey that you live day in and day out. And, if you don't enjoy the journey, then certainly, you have spent a lot of hours of your life, possibly in a state of unhappiness. Now, I don't mean that hours of studying or exercising have to be "fun", but if it's something you have to do, and want to do, to reach your goal, then make sure you take moments to appreciate the journey and what it is to you. Let's go back to the mountain for a moment. If you spend every moment climbing the mountain focused only on the top, you might miss the beautiful scenery, or the chirping birds, or the little chipmunk scurrying about, or the beautiful flowers you will pass. If ever you need to be reminded about the journey, climb a mountain with a two year old. Last weekend, I took my one son, and together we climbed Sulphur Mountain. It's not Mount Everest, it's just a basic set of switchbacks that take you to the top. You gain a lot in elevation, so certainly you are working your lungs, but it's a simple enough hike, that can be completed in a couple hours or more. Sullivan alternated between hiking and hitching a ride in the baby backpack, but he illustrates the beauty of the journey. He is too young to truly understand the goal. For him, it's about living in the moment, the hear and the now. And it's incredible to realize just how goal focused, we as adults become. Many times I heard myself telling him to keep walking, to keep moving, to hurry it up a little etc. Sully however, was concerned about the flowers he saw, and the rocks along the path, and the sticks, and the chipmunks. If I saw the forest, he saw the individual tree. He had no regard for time, just for exploring. He had fun with all the little things, and although he appreciated the reward of our goal (he LOVED the gondola ride down that we got), he really made me notice what it means to live in the moment. I think we can learn a lot from watching a youngster enjoy the journey. In this case, Sully had so much fun, collecting little rocks, trading out one for the other, making up little games with me, and truly taking in everything around us. He taught me a big lesson that day, and one I hope to carry with me. Even though we might have goals and dreams and plans, it is important to also remember that the journey matters. Don't forget to live in the moment, and not always focus on the future. Enjoy the journey, because each step of the journey takes you closer to your goal and you might as well enjoy the time it takes you to get there!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Support when you need it most...

So, it just so happens that not all women are built the same. This will come as no surprise to most of you, but when it comes to bras, there isn't always the best selection out there for those of us that have a little more to support. I have been to various sports stores over the year, and tried all sorts of different bras, and generally speaking, most of them just don't have the support I'm looking for as far as running is concerned. When I do find a bra I like, I often can't find it again the next time. It's been a frustrating run of things. Oh, and I should add, that often I am a victim of chafing on the bra line. This is not fun, and as someone who has done a variety of endurance races, this becomes quite painful, either during the race, or especially after the race. The first time I was alerted to this, was during my first ever marathon, where afterwards, I could barely shower it hurt so much to have water splashing on the raw skin on my chest. Really, it's not a pretty site. Add to this, the fact that I'm a fairly sweaty person when I'm exercising, and you can see why a properly fitting sports bra can make a huge difference (that and some body glide of course!!). A few years ago, I discovered and this was huge. It is an online retailer specializing in sports bras, but also, has a shop in Calgary, open by appointment only. The first time I went there, I tried out the Enell bra. This is the bra that Oprah raved about at one point. And, although very supportive, I ran into the same issue with chafing with the Enell, and this was simply not acceptable. So although I do use that bra sometimes, it really only helps for shorter events, lasting no longer than an hour. And on these events, it's great, but I just can't depend on it for my long runs like I would have liked. Then, I had a baby, and back to the I went, only this time it was to find nursing bras. They had awesome options and I ended up with a bra, that was super supportive, but also able to help me with my little one. To this day, it's one of my favourite bras, simply because it actually takes what I was given, and makes me look good!! What I need to do, is go back and find another supportive bra, that is good for every day, but that's for another time. Bring on my favourite sports bra. The Shock Absorber. This is a bra that comes from the United Kingdom. And I have to say wow. It looks stylish, it's supportive, and chafing, although still an issue, sets in much later, making it the perfect choice for some of the longer training days, or even for hikes and such, where my body is in motion for hours at a time. It's almost time to get some new sports bras, and this is at the top of my list. It's a fantastic bra, and has done well for me, for well over two years now!! Of course I'm pretty careful with washing and hanging to dry and all that stuff, but all in all, it's been an amazing addition to my sporting wardrobe!! And as for, well, they are fantastic. They take the time to fit you, and give you options that fit with your needs and different sporting options. They have bras that cover more than just sports, and they are super friendly and knowledgable. They take the time you need, to make sure you end up with products that you can use and match what you are looking for. And, they have choices for all shapes. They often will recommend different products to different people, so even if you are at an appointment with a friend or group, likely everyone will come out with slightly different bras, matching the needs and sizes of the individuals. Although some of the bras definitely are on the pricey side, I can tell you first hand, that the Shock Absorber was worth every cent I paid in terms of its support and comfort!! So, if you are a runner, and can't seem to find the right bra, check out the website, you'll be glad you did!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weigh in Wednesday

Okay, so it isn't really pretty. I was doing pretty good in the earlier part of 2011, however, all of that progress has disappeared and here we are again, back at 188. Seriously? I can attribute almost entirely to my horrid eating over the summer. Basically, after the ride to conquer cancer, I have been in some sort of funk. Exercise has been so-so, but eating has been terrible!! I'm ashamed really!! What the heck!! I know what I want, yet I sabotage myself. I keep saying I'll start tomorrow or next week, or whatever. I used Jeremy's ironman as an excuse for me to eat. That makes no sense, but it worked for me. Terrible terrible terrible. So, here we go again. I will try and be more disciplined and pay better attention to my eating and work harder at including exercise on a more frequent basis. After all, I'm set to do ironman next year, and at this weight, I'm carrying around way more than I should. Grrrrrrrrr... Oh well, at least I'm aware of what I need to do, and will focus on my eating and trying to develop better habits again before the new year starts (read: I'm starting now, NOT in the new year). My plan? Well, I'm going to use MyPlate from the livestrong site. It's got a truly amazing database, and with the app for the iPhone, there is no excuse not to watch my eating. Try and include many more vegetables and fruits. Get back to 8 glasses of water a day. And most important? Portion Control. So that's my focus for the next little while, and we shall see if it works...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ironman from a spectator/volunteer point of view...

Now that I'm all signed up for Ironman Canada 2012 (which, is already sold out!!), I thought perhaps I'd reflect on my experience this year with ironman. Of course this is entirely from the point of view of a spectator and volunteer, since, I most certainly was not one of the over 2800 athletes that started out on the race on Sunday morning.

They played the national anthem. It was quite incredible really, listening to that, while all the hustle and bustle came to a virtual standstill. And, there were athletes running around everywhere trying to get all their last minute stuff done. Dropping off special needs bags, pumping up tires, saying goodbye to loved ones, getting wetsuits on, bodygliding those spots that just are troublesome, applying sunscreen, since the weather was hot and sunny and being out there for multiple hours would make the importance of sunscreen that much more so. First off went the pros. Professional triathletes. People who swim, bike and run for a living. How cool is that really!! It was neat seeing them enter the water and head off in search of the Ogopogo, or at least the first corner buoy anyhow!! Next up came the masses. The age-groupers. Just regular people out there to try this amazing feat. And there were a lot of them!! The anthem was played again, and then the original founder of ironman Canada was there to start the race. I should also point out, he runs the twitter handle for ironman Canada and was instrumental in creating a group of athletes that supported other via social media (Jeremy included). When the age-groupers started, it was quite incredible. There were arms flapping everywhere, really, they looked like salmon or something. It was a sea of flapping arms among the pink and blue swim caps. Pretty much everyone wears a wetsuit. Jeremy was in goggles and ear plugs as well. Off they went.

Next, was the epic battle of the tri-supporter. I wanted a coffee, and not just any coffee. I wanted a Starbucks. After all, I had been up since before 5am, and it was only just after 7am. And I didn't sleep well either, tossing and turning and worrying that Jeremy might sleep in or something (he, on the other hand, slept great!!... I like to think I took away those woes for him!!). So, I headed to the Starbucks on Main Street. The streets were busy, with people trickling over from the swim start to secure a spot to watch the first bikers go by. I found the Starbucks, and no kidding, there were probably about 40-50 people in line already. For a coffee. And, crazy as it may seem, I joined the line. In moments, there were about 20 people behind me. Oh, I will also point out that the Tim Horton's just up the block, was equally as busy!! I waited, I chatted, I waited some more. People walked past in disbelief at where the end of the line was. I waited more, slowly moving on. Soon, the pros started going by on their bikes. It was incredible. Truly. I was in awe. Lots of cowbells, cheering, and just a great spirit and energy in the air. I secured my mocha, and found myself a spot where I could watch the athletes pass. I was fortunate that my mom was watching the boys, so I was able to wait around and see Jeremy go past on the bike.

I should also mention that we were planning to go to Penticton for the weekend even before Jeremy won an entry because I wanted to volunteer and sign up for 2012. But, as Jeremy won an entry, it was even more exciting as there was a live person to cheer for that I actually knew. Sugoi actually gave away two entries, and the two winners both got a kit of Sugoi apparel to wear for the race, and it so happened to be the brand new, brand champion gear. It is very stylish and looked great. Anyhow, both Jeremy and JR (the other Sugoi winner), were wearing their brand champion clothes, so as the age groupers started wheeling past, it was very cool to see JR wheeling past.

The other thing, smart phones. Changes your whole outlook on the race. You can watch for splits and know when someone has crossed the mat for the swim into transition, the halfway point on the bike, the bike finish, the halfway on the run etc. So, between watching people go past, I was also checking for Jeremy's swim time, and a few other twitter folks I was rooting for. So, I had known that JR was out of the water, and a couple other people. And then, Jeremy's swim time came up, and I knew he was out of the water. Was SOOOOOOO excited as he was a wee bit nervous about the sheer enormity of the swim. And, his swim time was excellent for him also!! So, then, it was just waiting for him to get through transition and wheeling past on Main Street. And, then I saw his race kit, looking mighty fine. I cheered as loud as I could and my eyes were filled tears. I was in total awe at what he was doing and so proud of him finishing his swim. After he passed by, it was time to head back to the hotel.

I will point out that there was a lot of downtime for us in the afternoon. I had two little boys to entertain, and as awesome and amazing as Ironman is, for their attention span, I didn't want to push it and have them dreading going to races etc, so the afternoon was mostly about watching for splits on the various athletes I was rooting for. The favourite pro had an amazing nearly tragic story and it was awesome for him to win the whole thing!! And, the female pro winner broke the course record for the first time in over 25 years as well, so that was pretty awesome as well.

Oh, and being the main point of contact for Jeremy's fan club, meant that I had to update his progress on facebook, twitter, email etc, and really, that's a lot of work, not the same kind of work obviously as the athletes, but still!! And, of course, I just wanted to know that he'd made it. It was a brutally hot day, truly scorching. And the ride is not an easy ride. So, I was anxious to watch the splits!! Saw him get through the first split on the bike, and then it was a long wait until he finished the bike. In the meantime, I took the boys on a little hike, we had lots of fun. We also played a little Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. It was fun!! All the while, all those ironman athletes were pushing and working and you know what I mean!!

Next up we were heading out. I packed all our noisemakers, glowsticks, diaper bag, snacks, drinks and away we went. Part way down (we were at Apex Mountain about 30km from Penticton up a winding mountain road), I realized I had forgotten Jeremy's post race recovery drink. It was the one thing he had asked of me, and I didn't want to let him down. So back up I went. Then, I get to the halfway point and realize I have the diaper bag, but not the glowsticks, cowbells and other noisemakers. I was in tears. And, up again I went and got those. In the end, we parked, loaded up the stroller and headed to the intersection where I was volunteering traffic control. There wasn't quite as much time as I was hoping, so didn't get to grab Jeremy's stuff. Cheered on athletes for a few minutes and then took up my posting for the next hours.

Pretty soon, saw JR run past. That brand champion gear is really good looking and with only two people in the world wearing it that day, it was pretty distinct!! I was amazed at the absolute variety of people. There were fat people, skinny people, muscular people, ordinary looking people, young people, old people and everything in between. It was incredible really. And all of them, with only 2km left to go before being declared an ironman!! Oh, and also interesting was the variety of expressions on the athletes. Some were smiling, some were focused, some were in obvious pain, some were exhausted, some looked like they could go on forever. It was very interesting. Some were walking, some were running, some were shuffling, again, pretty much anything goes there!! I continued to check the phone as I wanted to see that Jeremy had reached the halfway point of the marathon (yeah, don't forget, it's 3.86km swim, 180km bike and 42km run). The thing about ironman, is you are kind of chasing the clock, at least the first time. You know you have 17 hours to finish and that's it. There are various checkpoints that if you don't make it past, you get pulled. And one of those checkpoints was the halfway point of the run, you have to reach it by 9pm or you get pulled. Luckily, at about 8:11pm, Jeremy had reached the halfway point. At this point, I knew, without any doubt, barring some medical emergency, he would finish. He had almost 4 hours left, and only 21km to do it!!

I finished up my volunteer time, and then decided to get Jeremy's bike and gear. This would save us extra work later and then when Jeremy was done, we could celebrate his victory without having to worry about all his stuff, and when I say all his stuff, I'm not kidding, it was a lot!! There were 3 bags full of stuff, everything from a wetsuit, to all sorts of clothes, a bike pump, bike shoes, helmet, various bottles of drinks and food. The guy sure didn't pack light!! He kept his options open cause wow, it was a lot of stuff!! So, I was balancing his bike, 3 bags of stuff, that didn't really make it easy to get the bike quickly to the car!! Oh well, I also started kind of freaking out that I might miss him go past. I mean, rationally, I knew I had the time, but every moment away from the course was a moment he could have gotten past and we'd have missed him. Bike went into the car, along with all the bags, and then I moved the car a little closer, since we were parked so far away!!

Met up again with mom and the boys, and cheered on all the people going past. Fielded messages, texts etc updating people who were curious how it was going. And then, off in the distance, I spotted that awesome SUGOI Brand Champion gear. Seriously, he was a way's away, but it looked like it could be him. The only thing that threw me off was his white compression socks. I knew he had compression socks, just didn't realize they were white. He was power walking and looked great. He was one of the people who seemed to be in good spirits. He stopped very briefly to give us hugs, we cheered him on, and off he went for his final 2km.

Oh, and I should mention, brutal!! The athletes turn a corner, and they can see the finish, but instead of going to the finish, turn the opposite direction and finish off their 2km along the shore and then turn around and come back to the finish. It might not seem like much, but after all the kilometres they've already logged, to be that close to the finish, it's one of those salt on the wound kind of moments. We moved closer to the finish, saw him go past, watched his finish on the big screen and then met up with him. It was actually pretty neat, the group he'd done most of his long rides with, and the camp in July with, and open water swimming with, the coach was one of the finish line catchers, so he was able to congratulate him and stuff. I was totally impressed. What amazing dedication to the people you worked with all year!! I'd use Vitalize in a heartbeat based on that alone!!

So, there you have it. My amazing husband, is now an ironman. He has had a passion for ironman most of his life, never truly believing he'd do it, since up until last year, he couldn't even swim. But, he put in the time, the effort, the energy and On August 28th, 2011, he became an ironman. I am married to an ironman. So proud. So amazed. So in awe at what he did!! Great job!! It sounds especially cool when it's Sebastian saying, "My dad is an ironman!" Or ask Sully, what is dad, and he says "eyeman". You've made us proud Jeremy!! Great job!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's really real!!

So, of course I said I had signed up, and I had. I filled out the application form and handed it in, but never got anything more than a purple bracelet to confirm I had. That is, until today... Yes, today, I got an email confirmation that I was, in fact, registered for Ironman Canada 2012. I go online next week and add more details to my registration, but I have a confirmation email saying I'm on the list. So now, it's really real, there is no turning back. It's funny, even though it's the plan, seeing the email really makes it more apparent what's in store.

But, the good news is, I'm starting to realize there's other people out there that I know that are signed up as well!! So, I won't be alone!! There's a guy a work with who is signed up, of course he already is an ironman!! And another friend who has been doing all sorts of triathlons with her eye on the big event and took the plunge and signed up. And the other brand champion for Sugoi at this year's race is signed up. And a friend in Washington has put me in touch with someone else chasing their first ironman... and I'm certain the list will continue to grow... so exciting!! Still scary, but mostly exciting!!