Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Inaugural Vancouver Rock & Roll Half Marathon

The Rock & Roll race series is huge in the states and somehow I've never run an RnR event...... Until now.

The annual James Cunningham Seawall race joined up with RnR for the inaugural Vancouver RnR.   Local and new?  I'm in.

With the race being a week before Halloween, I knew people would dress up. And after the fun I had on the Eastside 10K, I knew I had to dress up for this one too.  I went as Clark Kent.  Long workout pants, glasses, tie, and white shirt (ripped open to reveal a Superman shirt.  I knew it would be a cold morning so the long pants and shirt did not concern me.  I was still pretty cold on some parts of the course.

I woke up early, took my time getting ready, and walked to the start line.  I met up with a friend/coworker whose friend was running her first half marathon.  She hung out with me in the back corral and I did my best to calm her nerves while trying to keep a good balance of advice while trying not to overwhelm her.

The race started at 8.15, but the corral I was in did not cross the start line until around 8.45.  I started out feeling really good.  It is always a worry.  You never know how your body will react on race day, plus it usually takes me a couple of kilometers to get warmed up (and for my body to realize, Oh we are running!).

This race course was going to be fun and I knew it.  The route was so different.  It combined so many other races' routes.  It was a mix of the Eastside 10K, Pacific First Half, Scotiabank Half, Chilly Chase, and a few others.

There was a one mile marker (strangely the only mile marker on the course), and I like to have fun on the course.   I shouted:

"Whooo!! Only 12.1 miles to go!!"

I got a few laughs, some cheers, and one very dirty look.

At about kilometer 2.5 I spotted the familiar pink polka-dots of a Team Fin jersey.   I had heard of Team Finn, knew they ran for various cancer charities, but never really knew anything else about them.  A friend (who recently passed away from her long 9 year battle with cancer) participated in the Vancouver Half Marathon with Team Finn.  Marie-Chantal was in a wheelchair and several team mates took turns pushing her.  At the finish line, she got up and crossed under her own power.

As I caught up with the Finn jersey, I noticed that the "In Memory" bib on her back said "Marie-Chantal."  I politely asked her how she knew MC and this started the beginning of my entire race.

The runner (who introduced herself as Doreen) said she had run a few triathlons with Team in Training.  We each shared out TNT stories and our friendships with Marie-Chantal.  

After that, Doreen and I ran together until just after the 15K mark.  We talked about our running experiences, our fundraising experiences, and triathlons.  She had done Lavaman several times and I start training for Lavaman in a matter of weeks.  We talked about our families (I bragged on all my cute nieces and nephews), siblings, growing up, parenting, teaching, and just our mantras on life.  I explained to her how my running was motivated by 3 key factors;  to honour/keep alive Abi's memory, to raise money so no one has to suffer a lose due to cancer, and to ensure that I can get the most out of my life.  Life is short and I want to feel alive.  Running marathons (although torture on your body), makes me feel alive.

I asked Doreen about Team Finn and the story behind it.  She explained that Finn was a 3 year old boy who passed away of cancer.  His family (including his older sister and twin brother) made it their mission to help others touched by this awful disease.  Finn loved a show called The Backyardigans and his favourite character was Uniqua.  She was pink with polka-dots.  The iconic Team Finn jerseys inspiration.  Uniqua, and ultimately Finn's motto on life was run, jump, bounce, dance, sing, smile, and love.  A motto that Team Finn has appended to Run, Jump, Bounce, Dance, Sing, Love, Smile, Ride.

As I held back tears, for both the loss of such a young person and for such an amazing team, I told Doreen that I had been wanting to participate in The Ride To Conquer Cancer (a charity bicycle ride from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA).  I asked if Team Finn was looking for riders and that I would honoured to ride with them.  So it looks like I've found my team for the ride!

Running with Doreen helped keep my mind off running.  My 10:1 intervals seemed to fly by!  I was very grateful to have someone to talk to. Several of my friends like running with me because I tend to talk alot when in a good mood, it keeps their minds off running as well.  But I am always careful to shut up if/when I get on their nerves.

Doreen put up with my jokes all along the course.  From people complimenting me on my outfit (to which I always replied "I would change, but I can't seem to find a phone booth anywhere!) to when we all ran by my apartment and I asked everyone to wave at my cat.

Kilometer 15 dawned the "hilly" portion of the race.  This was when I wished Doreen luck and pulled ahead.  About 1k later I passed my friends Kathy and Sherry.

This time last year, Kathy, Sherry, Kara, a few others, and I,  were pretty much running a race every weekend.  It became a bit of a "chase game."  I would win out almost all the time (there were a few "timing chip errors," my story and I'm sticking to it!).

A few minutes after I passed them, I hear this whisper in my ear,

"Joseph. It's Kathy.  I'm right on your tail."

We had a good laugh, asked how each other raced were going, wished each other luck, then I darted up the next hill.

At about kilometer 18, I began to feel the tole I was putting on my body. My energy level was falling and I was taking more walk breaks.  I was still having fun and feeling good.  I knew the finish line was just ahead. A few more curves around the seawall and it would be a good finish for me.

The aid station at kilometer 19 was run by Team Finn.  They were all cheering and making noise while the speakers blared 'The Final Countdown.'  As you ran out of the aid station, there where posters with pictures and stories of all the children Team Finn supports.  I knew then and there that my decision to join Team Finn for the Ride to Conquer Cancer was the right one.

The finish came quicker than I thought, not because of any increase in pace, but because I read the map wrong and thought it was further away.  Earlier in the race I made a comment about how I hate races where the finish line is in sight from kilometers away.  I much prefer races where you round a corner and there it is.

And that is exactly what happened.  I rounded a corner and there it was.  I ran around the family with the stroller (no way were they going to ruin my finish photo (I can do that on my own)). 

I crossed and felt great!  I did not get the time I was aiming for, but the time I had on the course was great!  I walked down the finishers chute grabbing free food and drinks.  A few of my friends were waiting for me, so I stopped to chat with them.

Then, I went back to finishers chute to wait on a few TNT runners from out of town that I had net the day before at the expo.  And of course Doreen.

I saw the TNT runners and then not to long after, Doreen.  She gave me a huge hug and we chatted about our last 6k.

This was my last half marathon for 2014 and although I am still not as fast as I was a year ago, I feel great!

As always, thank you for taking the time to share in my experiences!

I encourage you to check out the following links:

Up next: Fall Classic 10k and/or Vancouver Historic Half 10k

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Victoria 8K

This past weekend was Thanksgiving (in Canada at least).  Last year I ran the Victoria Half Marathon to celebrate the one year anniversary of my first ever marathon (which coincides with Abi's birthday, which is today).  To this day, that still remains my PB (Personal Best, not peanut butter) for a half marathon.  I was luck y enough to have great friends whose family lives in Victoria and invited me to Thanksgiving dinner.

(Side note, today marks the 2 year anniversary of my first ever marathon, and would have been Abi's 25th birthday.)

This year, I was also invited to Thanksgiving dinner in Victoria.  I had not planned on running any races while there, but a few of my friends were running the 8k.  I decided to sign up for the 8k as a late entry.  I had done 20K the week before for training and figured this would be a good way to being my taper.

I ran the 8k with my friend Zahida (, and my friend (and Zahida's sister-in-law) Michele.  The weather was perfect, nice and cool, overcast, and tiny bits of sun creeping in now and then.

Waiting for the start, nerves usually set in.  You never know how your body will perform until you get out and start running.  I decided to forgo my normal 10:1 interval and just run, with the plan to take a small break at the halfway point.

The race started and the 3 of us spread out quickly.  Zahida, I knew, is a bit of a speed demon.  She has taken time off from long distance running to train more for speed.  I had never run with Michele, but I assumed she was somewhere between Zahida and myself.  I was right.

I usually run with one earbud in (leaving one ear open to hear what is going on around me and to hear my watch), but my ipod's batter was dead.  I figured this would be good.  Lavaman does not allow earphones so I would have to get used to running with no music.

As the race started, the sound of the 2,600 (or so) pair of feet on the pavement made a very soothing, almost rain like sound on the pavement. Later, around kilometer 2, we turned a corner and the residential area opened up to reveal the coast.   Now the sounds of raining feet was mixed with the sound of crashing waves.

Here was the first water station.  I stopped for some water and walked so I would not choke on it.  I have still not perfected the art of taking water while running.  And from the sound of a runner behind me, neither had she.

I walked for about 100 meters then started to run again.  It was shortly after this that the lead elite runners where on there way back.  As always, we cheered for then as they went by.  At about kilometer 3, I saw Zahida on her way back and we cheered each other on.  Shortly after, Michele and I exchanged a high five when we passed each other.

I reached the halfway point (kilometer 4), rounded the turn around and took a rest.  During this 200 meter walk, I heard a father yell to his son,

"Be sure to wait for us at the finish line!"

I turned to the young boy and said,

"Just be sure to cross it first"

Now it was me on the back portion of the 'out-and-back' course.  I encouraged those still on their 'out' section.  Around the 5.5k mark, the runners slowly transitioned into walkers.  The thing that struck me was that there were no individual walkers.  They all had a friend, a group of friends, family, or just someone they met that day, walking with them.

I reached the 7k marker and knew there were some uphills.  Good.  I needed a good boost.  I charged up the hills and saw the '800 Meters to Go!' sign.  I sped up, but quickly realized that I did not have the energy to keep the pace I had just set.  I tried to pull focus away from this and began to focus on my breathing.  I changed my breathing from a quick rhythm that matched my running pace, to a calm, easy, deep breathing.  I focused on keeping this calm breathing going, while still maintaining my pace.  It worked.  The more I focused on the steady breathing, the less I focused on my legs, and the more they just did their thing.   

I crossed the finish line and felt a little upset.  I know I should never do this, but all I could think about was how at this time last year I set a PB for a half marathon.  And how since then, I have not been able to come within 15 minutes of that time.  Then my mind went to the triathlon I will be training for.  How did I expect to do well if all my times are getting worse?  The determination was building.  If getting back to my time (or beating it) was that important to me, then I would need to make sure that stuck with all the training and work my butt off to do it.

2014 Victoria 8K: 0:52:16

Zahida, Michele, and I grabbed some food at an amazing breakfast place in Victoria called Spoons.  I treated myself to a nice sack of berry pancakes.

Afterwards, I cleaned up and went back to the finish line to cheer on a few of my friends who were running the full.  I met up with 2 of my friends, Dave and Grace (both TNT alum and members of my RAGNAR team).  Dave had just finished and got his Boston Qualification with a time of 3 hours and a few seconds.  We watched our friend Sean cross at about 3 hours and 20 minutes.  He was going for a new PB and he got it.  At 3 hours 55 minutes I cheered on my friend Lyndsay.  I had one more friend running it, but due to illness she dropped out somewhere in the lat 10k.

While at the finish line waiting for all of my friends, I met a very nice group of ladies who cheered everyone on.  We cheered as we watched struggling runners pull every ounce of energy out of nowhere to cross the finish line.  We cheered as we saw those who were hurting glimpse the finish line, forget their pain, and sprint smiling across it.  We cheered couples, parents running with children, and best friends pulling each other along.

2 finishes will stick with me forever.

One gentleman was being escorted by 2 race officials, each arm over the shoulder of an official.  He was limping badly, but still moving under his own power.  A wheelchair was brought out for him, but he waved it off.  He crossed the finish line, then asked for the wheelchair, and collapsed. This shows the determination of marathon runners.  We put in too much hard work to give up that close to the finish.  Or maybe we are just as insane as we are stubborn.

The other finish that will stick with me was a young lady, who I assume had just finished her first marathon.  She finished incredible strong and immediately began to collapse.  One of the volunteers at the finish line caught her and she turn that catch into a hug.  She was crying and smiling at the same time.  I could not hear what was said, but the volunteer was smiling too.  When the medics came to check on her, she immediately hugged them too.  Through the tears and physical pain was a woman whose newfound pride shone bright.

I always get emotional at the end of my full marathons, but did not realize how emotional I would get watching others cross the line.  Everyone has a reason they run.  Be it for health, to prove they can, for a loved one, for a charity, we all have a force that drives us.  And after 42.2K (26.2 miles), our bodies are so destroyed that the only thing left under the worn away physical is pure emotion.  It's hard not to empathize with that, especially if you have experienced it first hand.

I think my friend Humphrey said it best in his write up of his last marathon.

"We are all a bunch of broken pieces shattered across 26 miles and with each step we pick up a piece of ourselves until we are a whole again."

Thank you for taking the time to share in my journey.

Up next: Vancouver Rock & Roll Half Marathon

Thursday, 2 October 2014

New Blog Title

So those of you who follow this blog may have noticed that the web address and title has changed.

I originally created this blog to share my experienced running with Team in Training, but not all of my races are done with TNT.

Although the underlying motivation for my running has not changed (and is always in the forefront of my mind) I have decided to change the subject of my blog to encompass my running experiences.

The title is inspired by a conversation while on a training run a few weeks ago.  Many times during a run, teammates, coached, other runners will ask me if I am OK.  My response is (usually) always,

"I'm great!  Just slow."

While a very strong individual, I am not built like the image most people get when they envision a marathon runner.  I am like a bulldozer in a Formula 1 race. I may not be whipping around corners at breakneck speed, but I always finish.

And that was the genesis of the blog. 

Thank you for taking the time to check it out!

2014 Vancouver Eastside 10K

On September 11th, I received an email with the subject line 'Eastside 10k Event Confirmation - Bring to Packet Pickup.'  The body of the email had lots of pictures, ads, and race day information.  Then, I saw my details:

Joseph Hayden
Start Corral: BLUE | Start Time: 8:30am
Age: 30 | Gender: M
Bib Number: 666 

My immediate thought?  I have to get some horns, a cape, a tail, and a pitch fork.  The next day, I did just that.  And so began my experience running the Eastside 10K.

The morning of September 13th, my friend Ruth picked me up to give me a ride to the start line.  The look on her face said it all.  It was the perfect thing to wear to this race.  Not only was my bib number 666, but earlier that month there was an indecent with a devil statue at the Eastside Sky Train station.  Someone had erected an 8 foot tall devil statue on an empty pedestal.  

When I arrived at the start line, I received many puzzling looks.  But as soon as they saw my bib number they laughed.   

As the race began, the spectators at the start line clapped and cheered for the devil.  Many other spectators shouted at runners in front of me to "Run faster!  The devil is on your heels!"  These runners turned to see me and smiled!

The race started out on a nice down hill, then went into a few undulating hills before evening out.  The route was a nice out and back, but the way the course was aimed, the sun was in your eyes during the whole 'out' section.

I was feeling very good.  Coming off the Dumbo Dare a few weeks before, I was worried about my endurance. I had to drop my normal 10:1 intervals to a 6:1 for the half marathon.  But the day before the Eastside 10K I had run 12K with a friend and teammate at 10:1 and felt great.  It's amazing how much confidence can be restored after a good training run!

The volunteers on the course were some of the most encouraging people I have ever seen/heard.  The route took us through some of the more downtrodden areas of Vancouver, but people on the streets cheered for us like they knew us.  

On the 'back' section of the course, the sun was behind us, casting long shadows in the road.   It was then that I noticed that my tail was swinging in a very rhythmic, pendulum swing.  All I could think about what how girls' pony tails do the same thing and how memorizing it was. Often times when in the zone, I find myself staring at the motion of the pendulum ponytails.  Then it hit me.  Someone behind me had to be staring at my butt.  This gave me motivation to keep my pace up.  It must have worked, because my 5K splits were only 2 seconds apart. 

As we approached the opposite side of the undulating hills, the sun was in a position to cast my devilish shadow up the hill.  Runners in front of me would see my shadow, exclaim that the devil was chasing them up the hill, and began to run faster.  This was their own downfall of course.  Little did they know that this handsome devil runs faster up hill than on flat ground.

I crossed the finish line with many laughs and applause.  While waiting for water, food, and my body to cool down, several people asked for a picture with me.  One woman told me that she would had never made it up those hills if it was not for my shadow chasing her.  One of the race officials told me that he wanted my picture because I "embraced that bib number."  Apparently when that number was given in the past, people would complain and request a different number.

The race seemed to fly by.  It did not seem to last as long as most 10Ks I have ran.  I honestly do not know if this was a personal best on a 10K (mainly because I don't know what any of my other 10K times were).  Most 10K races I've ran were part of training for a half, so I focused more on doing the distance than the time. 

Great race, great support, great crowd, great atmosphere.  If you are looking for a local 10K come September of next year (and live in Vancouver), I highly recommend this one!

Pace: 6:48/k
1st 5K split: 33:59
2nd 5k split: 34:01

Thank you for taking the time to share in my journey as an endurance athlete.

Up next:  Vancouver Rock and Roll Half Marathon! 

Dumbo Dare and Coast to Coast

Welcome to the 'revamped' blog of my adventures in endurance sports.

I should really start writing these closer to he actual event they recap. But, just like the new title says, better to be slow and get it done to not do it at all!

The weekend of August 30th marked the annual Walt Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend.  This year I signed up for the Dumbo Dare Challenge.  This was the second (or 3rd and 4th) race in my Disney series for 2014.  Back in January, I ran the Goofy Challenge (  This was a half marathon on Saturday followed by a full marathon on Sunday in Disney World. The Dumbo Dare is a kind of 'mini' Goofy Challenge.  It consists of the 10K on Saturday followed by the half marathon on Sunday.   And since I participated in a race in both Disney World and Disneyland in the same calender year, I would also receive a special Coast to Coast medal.

I ran the Disneyland Half for an injured friend in 2013 and did not do very well at all.  I was in LA visiting friends and it was a last minute decision.   I was out late with friends almost every night and drove to the start line (about an hour drive) rather than staying in the park.  And with a 5:30am start, I was up pretty early for that drive.  These factors, multiplied by the fact that is was already 24 degrees (about 75 for those reading in the States) at 5:30am made for a very slow race.  I ran it in 2:52.  Not a good time given my previous half marathon times.

This year I was determined not to repeat the bad time (and bad time) I had the previous year.  I arrived in Disneyland Friday night just in time to pick up my race pack at the expo.  I then went immediately to the hotel.  No hour drive at 3 in the morning this year! I was staying close.  Once in my room, I laid out all my gear for the 10K and went to sleep.

The next morning was race day, or at least the first race day.  I geared up, got on the bus, and headed toward my corral.  The corrals differed from Goofy in that I had 2; One for the 10K and one for the Half.  My 10K corral was C.  This seemed strange to me.  The way it works is that faster runners are in closer corrals.  The elite runners start, then A, then B, and so on.  This was the closest corral I had ever been in.  

While waiting in my corral, I spotted a friend of mine from LA Team in Training.  She had also run Goofy and is doing her first Ironman next year.  We caught up on races we have each done and talked a bit about the state of TNT and the LLS (it's a rebuilding year).  She went off to her own corral, which I am sure was either B or A.  But, slow or not, I always finish.


Every year, the 10K race has a theme.  The theme may be a character or something from a Disney movie.  This year the theme was Ohana from Lilo & Stitch.  One of the central themes of this movie (which I immediately watched when I got home),  is that Ohana means family and no one gets left behind.  I reflected on this while waiting for the race to start.  It had so many meanings to me.

My own family, who has always loved and supported me in everything I do.  Sure, they all thought I was insane when I told them I was going to run a marathon back in 2012, but they all had faith that I could do it.

My Heart Family.  This is Abi and her family.  A family I have known since I was 4 years old.  We all grew up together, practically siblings.  To this day I still refer to family members as Aunt Ruth, Grandma and Grandpa, and Teresa and Denny refer to me as their son.  Unfortunate events in our lives led me to my new found passion for running.  Ohana. No one gets left behind.  I do this to honour and keep Abi's memory alive.  Her legacy (ultimately now locked with mine), will not be left behind.  She is with me on every run, on every training session, and at every finish line.

My Running Family.  This includes those I train with, those I inspire, those out there running whatever crazy race I am doing, the volunteers, the race marshals, and the cheering spectators.  I am humbled by the sheer amount and the vast diversity of runners.  I may be a bulldozer among F1 race cars, but I look around and see minivans, SUVs, hybrids, and a myriad of other makes and models all out enjoying what makes them happy.  We support, encourage, inspire, and lift each other in our own small way.  Be it a smile, a high five, a Go TEAM, a song, or just a simple 'You're doing great,' we are a family who recognizes the struggles and supports our own.

That was quite a bit to think about while waiting in the corral, but soon we were on our way!  The 10K course was primarily through Disneyland and California Adventure.  The weather was nice and cool and the sun was not quite up yet.  I met quite a few people from all over the globe, even a few from Vancouver.

I ran the 10K in my usual 10:1 interval.  I found that I was feeling very good.  My legs and energy level were holding up.  It was not until the end that I realized......

I ran the 10K at my normal 10K pace.

This would not be a problem if I was only running a 10K, but I had a half the next day.  Even when I ran Goofy, I knew to run the half slow to conserve energy. 

Too late now.  The race was over and I went to collect my medal.  On the way back to the hotel I met a man wearing a TNT jersey.  I chatted with him on the way back.  His name was Sean and he was on the Ohio Flex team.  As always with runners, we talked about what races we have done and where.  Turns out he had done the Vancouver BMO Marathon back in 2012.

The 10K was done.  I went back to the hotel, foam rolled the hell out of my legs, got cleaned up, then spent the afternoon in the park with some old friends.

Before I go into the recap of the full, I just wanted to (once again) say that I love runDisney events.  Despite how expensive they are, they are organized extremely well and the on course entertainment is always great! Most people show up in costume as their favourite Disney character.  Sometimes I question how they can comfortable run in some of them.  I saw a team of 5 running as The Incredibles, several varying Disney Princesses, tons of Star Wars, and even more Marvel superheroes.  The best costume I saw was worn by a couple running together.  The girl was dressed as Peter Pan and the guy was dressed exactly the same, except all in black.  He was Peter Pan's shadow.  Genius.

Sunday. Day 2. Race 2.  The Half.  I try not to predict how I will do in a race.  I reserve any sort of predictions until I am at the half way point.  Here I can better gauge how I feel and where I am.  No predictions where made about this race.  I knew going into it that running the 10K at my 10K pace was going to hit me at some point.  My goal was to find a pace that felt good, stick with it, and finish.  Pretty much my goal for any race.

I was in corral G this time.  This seemed more like the corral I am usually in.  This year, they were letting corrals go 2 at a time.  This was great for 2 reasons.  One, those of us in the back of corrals would not have to wait so long to start.  And two, we did not have to hear the song they played at the start of every corral as often.  Which was great because the song was...... You guessed it.........

Let it Go.

The race was off to a good start. I was feeling pretty good through the park. I took in all the sights and characters along the route.  Once out of the park, I noticed my energy level beginning to wane.  I took note of when this was happening during my run intervals.  My energy dropped with about 4 minutes left.  I took a moment to adjust my watch and switched to a 6:1 interval.  To lower my interval was a hit to my ego, but you have to listen to your body.

There were many race photographers on the course that day.  I believe that they hold a magical ability to know when the majority of runners will be taking their walk breaks. This is because they are always right there!!  At one particular moment this happened, I turned to a runner beside me and said,

"These photographers always catch me in a walk, but I'll be damned if all my race photos will be of me walking!  Let's run by him!"

She laughed and we began to run again.  Later on the course she thanked me for the laugh and told me it was just what she needed.

Later along the course I ran into the Eds.  When I first started training, I had 2 coaches, both of whom are named Ed.  Once again (as runners do), we caught up by listing what runs we have done.  It was great catching up with them, but at some point you have to let them run their race. 

At one point on the course, I found myself surrounded by the Puerto Rico Team in Training team.  One of them smiled at me and asked me if I was doing ok.  I told him I was fine, just slow.  He reminded me that I was at least out running the race and my speed was irrelevant.  They were running intervals as well, and our intervals lined up in such a way that we were playing leap frog all the way to Angels Stadium.

Just before Angels Stadium, there was an aid station.  I stopped to refill my water bottles and the Puerto Rico team pulled ahead.  Disney always packs Angels Stadium with Boy and Girl Scouts.  While you run one lap around the field, the whole place fills with cheers.  Just before entering the stadium, I noticed a runner who looked beat, walking up the ramp to the stadium entrance.  I ran up beside him and said

"You hear that?  That is for you!  You have to at least run through the stadium!"

He smiled and began to run.  I did not see him on the other side of the stadium, but part of me hopes that my encouragement in conjunction with the cheering masses, gave him the energy he needed to finish the remainder of the race feeling strong.

At every race, there are always spectators holding signs.  Most are encouraging, some are funny, and a majority are both.  One such sign I saw simple said "Do it for the D"  The D was drawn in the Disney style.  As I approached the woman holding sign I said,

"I am not sure how to take that sign."

The guy with her just smiled and said,

"Take it any way you want"

There was of course a very quick 'That's what she said' from a runner behind me.

As we approached the finish line, I was feeling spent. My legs were shot, the sun was up, and the weather was warming up.  I looked ahead and saw Ariel from The Little Mermaid.  Well, not Ariel, but someone dressed as Ariel.  As most of my friends know, I have a small thing for red heads.  I decided to follow Ariel to the finish line.  Not in any sort of creepy way, but as a way to keep me motivated to finish strong.

I ran into the finish chute smiling and waving at the mass of spectators there cheering.  I looked up at the clock. It said 3:30.  I knew it had taken 30 minutes to get to the start line after the gun.  This means my time was at about 3 hours.  I felt horrible.  I wanted to do better than my 2:52 time.  I knew better than to beat myself up, so I began to take mental stock.  I ran a 10K the day before.  I was running 6:1 instead of my normal 10:1.  It was a crowded course.  Disney runs are more about having a good time.

I began to feel better, reminding myself that this was still quite a feet to accomplish.  19.3 miles in 2 days.

I received my half marathon medal, walked down a chute to receive my Dumbo Dare Challenge medal, then another chute to receive my Coast to Coast medal.

As the masses moved away from the finish to their vehicles, buses, hotels, etc, there was a symphony of clanging medals, race recaps, and laughter.

I walked back to my hotel barefoot (my feet were killing me) smiling at yet another race under my belt.  I could not wait to get home and proudly display my 3 Dumbo Dare medals beside my 3 Goofy Challenge medals beside my Coast to Coast medal.

But first, I had a few more days in LA and the rollercoasters at Six Flags were calling my name!

10K time: 1:16:54
Half time: 3:01:29

Thank you for taking the time to share in my journey as an endurance athlete.

Up next:  Vancouver Eastside 10K!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

RAGNAR, 200 Miles of Underestimation.

It's been a while since I have posted.  It has been a busy summer.  This past July, a team of 6 of us answered the challenge of The Northwest Passage RAGNAR.  The RAGNAR Relay Race Series is a 200 mile, 12 person, 2 day/1 night relay.  (  There are 15 of them around the United States.  The Northwest Passage RAGNAR, started just across the border in Blaine, WA.  This had been on my bucket list for a very long time and wanted to get a team together.

I started asking my running friends who was up for joining the team.  I soon found that wrangling 11 other people would be difficult.  I read on the website that you could run the relay as an Ultra Team, 6 people, instead of 12.  Now THAT was a challenge.  I quickly found 5 people who were as crazy..... I mean who were up for the challenge.

Running as an Ultra team came with it's own set of challenges.  When you run a RAGNAR with 12, you have 2 vans.  Van 1 has runners 1 through 6 in it.  This Van does legs 1-6, 13-18, and 25-30.  While this van runs, Van 2 rests.  And Van 1 rests, when Van 2 is doing the other legs (36 in total).  Each runner runs a total of 3 legs each.  With a team of 6, each of us did 6 legs and had only one van.

I cannot speak for the whole team, but many of us thought "Oh with 6 people, I run , then get a rest while the other 5 are running. No problem!"  Let the underestimation begin.  With the exception of myself, everyone on the team was fast.  So when we dropped one runner off at a relay point, we had just enough time to let the runner coming off their leg cool down and change before we had to race to the next relay point.  I think they were thankful to have me on the team so they could rest up while I took my sweet time.

Like I said before, I cannot speak for the whole team.  So this entry will primarily focus on my legs and experiences.

We joined as an Ultra Team under out team name TNT.  We all (started out) wearing our Team in Training gear and we decorated the vehicle (which we all still called a 'van' even though it isn't) accordingly.

We got the start line, checked in, and were pumped.  Alanna (a fellow Goofy Challenge finisher) started us off!

After Alanna, was Sean, and then me.  My first leg was 8.2 miles.  It was my longest leg of my 6 and it was hot.  I started my run just like any other.  Find a pace that felt good and keep with it.  I will be the first to admit, I did not train as hard as I should have.  But this first run felt good.  I told myself that the next run would better.  I would be all warmed up and loose.  I passed the sign that said "1 Mile to Relay"  That was the longest mile I had ever ran!  There was no way that was just one mile!  I get the to relay point and other teams are cheering.  But my team was not there.  I looked around dazed then called them.  The maps were a bit confusing.  If it was leg number 3, then they relay point was relay point 3.  Even though it was the start of leg 4.  It helps if you think of the start line as relay point 0.  Luckily relay point 4 (which was where they were) was not too far away.  This mistake would happen again.

 My next leg was 6 miles.  A 10K.  No problem!!  The course had strict safety guidelines.  Between 8pm and 6am all runners had to wear a headlamp, a reflective vest, and a blinking red tail light. It was not quite 8pm, but I would be on the course when that time hit.  The leg took me along side Lake Samish and there was a nice cool breeze coming off of it.  I decided that since it was a 10k, I would not do my normal 10-1 interval.  I ended up pushing myself a bit too hard.  I still took walk breaks, but only about 2 or 3.  I wanted to make up for lost time on my 8.2 miler. We had started out keeping track of each person time for each leg, but soon (once the sun went down) we were all too tired to keep writing them down.

I was listening to my "Running Mix" (mostly cheesy 80s rock songs) and began to sing Bon Jovi.  Another runner passed me laughing.  I just smiled and said "Don't tell anyone I was singing to Bon Jovi!"  He ran on and I sang on.  I reached the '1 mile to go marker' and thought I was almost there.  Those signs lied.  There was no way that was 1 mile!!  3 at least!!

After leg 9, I was not feeling well.  I could not explain why.  I just knew I felt.... off.  Others on the team were feeling he same way.  We blamed it on food and lack of rest.  Leg 15 was 6.7 miles.  My night run.  I cannot remember what time I started, but it was close to midnight.  I remember starting out listening to music, then deciding to turn it off.  It was so quiet, but really nice to run to.  The leg started out though Mount Vernon, WA. It was a little town that kind of reminded me of where I grew up in Mount Vernon, IN.  Once outside the town, it reminded me more of where I grew up.  Corn fields, farm houses, a highway off in the distance, and at one point a train stirred up some coyotes, just like at home.  During this leg, my legs decided to stop working.  Every time I tried to run, I just could not do it. I could walk though.  So I told myself "If you cannot run slow, then you are going to walk fast!!"  And that is what I did.

A girl passed me and said "Oh am I glad to see a guy running this leg. This is scarey!!"
I just replied "Safer than in a city.  It reminds me of when I was a kid"
"Well I have my pepper spray just in case"

I laughed so hard inside and wanted to know where she was from that the wilderness at night scared her.  But she was far ahead now and I didn't want to shout in the middle of the night.

A little while later, a van pulled up beside me.  It was a race official.  She asked if I could use some company.  So for the next hour I trucked on while chatting with a very nice lady about all the races we each had done.  We approached a farm house around 1.15am and there was a couple at the end of the driveway clapping and cheering for me.  I asked them what team they were there to cheer for. They told me that they lived there and cheer for every team, every year.  I thanked them and made a mental note to write about them in this blog.  It was 1.15am. they should have been in bed, but instead they were out cheering on strangers.  It was one of the best moments of the entire race. 1 mile to go.  I knew better. Those signs are liars!

After that leg, I crawled into the back seat of the 'van' and slept. I woke up about sunrise during another runners exchange.  I needed to stretch.  My legs were extremely stiff and sleeping in the back seat did not help.  My next leg was only 2.7 miles long.  I was still dreading it.  But, I was tired and told Dave (the runner who was driving at the time) the wrong exchange number (not on purpose).  Sean called us and asked up where we were.  I apologized and Sean said "Well it's just about 5k.  I'll go ahead and run it for you."  Sean's next leg was 3 miles, so I agreed to run that one for him in exchange.

So then I was up for leg 26 (Sean's leg).  It was 3.0 miles long, then I had my leg (27) at 2.4 miles long.  I stared out running but this leg has a pretty good incline and I soon lost steam.  It was though the downtown of Oak Harbor and I had to wait for traffic lights and run on sidewalks.  Not ideal.  When I got to the exchange I thought to myself  "This is halfway."  Then I saw Dave running towards me.  He asked me if I wanted Sean to do my 2.4 mile leg.  They all knew I was not doing well.  I told him only if Sean waned to.  I could do it, but could use the rest.  Sean said he wanted to do it and that in the end, it would not have added too much to his total mileage. So I let Sean do leg 27.

Finally! Leg 33!  My last leg. One last 6.8 mile run and I was done with this horrible, horrible race.  Leg 33 was labeled at "very hard" and was very hilly.  It was all though a wooded area so it was not out in the sun.  I told myself I would walk the uphills and run the downhills.  I did not need to conserve any strength for any future legs, but had very little to begin with on this leg.  So, I walked up the hills and ran down them.

When I run, I do not heal strike.  I run on the balls of my feet, but as I get tired it slowly slips into a mid-foot strike.  When running the down-hills, I noticed that I was heel striking.  It didn't matter.  I had to finish.  If heel striking was all I could do, then that was all I could do.  Suddenly, a man passed me and said,

"I never told anyone about Bon Jovi"  I laughed and continued running.

Toward the end of the leg, it was all down hill.  I am talking at least a 45 degree grade for about 1.2 miles.  I sprinted them.  As I was coming down one of the hills, I saw the spotter.  This person radios ahead to the exchange to let them know what team is approaching the exchange. I kept sprinting down the hill.  I saw Alanna for brief moment.  She saw me, realized I was coming in fast, and went back to warn Tara that I was almost there.  I beat Tara to the exchange, but it didn't matter.  I was done!  About 31 miles over the course of 2 days and one night and I was spent. This was the only time that the '1 mile to go' signs had been accurate.

We had to hurry to the next exchange because it was a bit of a drive and Tara did not have far to run (and she is fast).  Once we got there I noticed it was a harbor (Holmes Harbor).  I took my shoes off and waded about knee deep in the freezing cold water.  It felt amazing!!!

A few legs and exchanges later, we got to the finish line.  We all hobbled our way to the line up to meet Dave so we could all cross together.  After we crossed, we got our medals.  Sean said it best when he said "I've never had to work so hard for a medal."  We got some team photos, some swag, some merchandise, then it was off to pizza and beer!!!!

Finish time: 31:49:11
14th in our Ultra Division
29th overall Ultra Team

During dinner, all we could talk about was "Well if we do it again we should ...."  Or "Oh that is something to keep in mind in case we do this again!"  Here we were. In pain. Barely able to move, and all we could talk about was the possibility of doing it again.  These are my type of runners.  Not only are they all TNT alum (with causes of their own), not only are they a blast to be around (even in a smelly van for 2 days and a night), they are the kind of people who see a challenge and want to do it. Over and over.

My kind of people.

Despite the pain.  Despite the agony.  Despite the underestimation.  It was a great weekend and I look forward to doing it again.

Next up.... Disneyland Dumbo Dare. 10k on Saturday, Half on Sunday.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend (in the States) is Memorial Day Weekend.  First off let me be clear that this blog post is not intended to belittle the great men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.  But this weekend also has special meaning to me.  This weekends marks the 2 year anniversary of joining Team in Training.

I won't go into the reasons for joining TNT.  That was in my first blog post if you are curious.

Looking back over these 2 years I cannot help but feel proud of all I've accomplished.  That may sound a little arrogant, but there is a difference between boasting and recognizing how far you've come.

Over the past 1 year and 7 months, I have ran a total of 4 full marathons, 11 half marathons, and several 10k races.

First and foremost, I do this so that one day families and friends will no longer have to see their loved one suffer and die from cancer.  I do it to remember Abi, honour her memory, and share her story with others so she may live on, inspiring other with her strength.

I do it for me as well.  The feeling I get when I finish a race has not diminished over the past 2 years.  I still feel more alive than ever when crossing the finish line.  

The friends I have made, the memories we share, the obstacles I have overcome, the health I am keeping, all continue to encourage me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I also want to thank all those who supported me.  Family, friends, team mates, coaches, staff, 
fellow runners, and you.  Yes you!  Sitting there reading my blog on your computer, ipad, phone, where ever.  Thank you for sharing in and (hopefully) continuing to share in my journey.

Thank you!

A look back over the past year and 7 months.  Cue clich├ęd slideshow music.  

Nike Women's Marathon, San Francisco CA
October 14th, 2012
6 hours 27 minutes.

Malibu Half Marathon, Malibu CA
November 11, 2012
Chip Time 02:47:10

Green Sock & Shamrock'n Half Marathon, Burnaby BC
March 17, 2013
Chip time 2:25:22. 

Sunshine Coast April Fools Half Marathon, Gibsons BC
April 7, 2013
Chip Time 2:23:15

Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon, Indianapolis IN
May 4, 2013
Chip time 2:18:35

Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon, Anchorage AK
June 22, 2013
Chip Time 06:23:18  (Current Personal Best for Full Marathon)

Disneyland Half Marathon
September 1, 2013
Chip time 2:52

Surrey International World Music Half Marathon, Surrey BC
September 29, 2013
Chip time: 2:25:38

2013 Victoria Half Marathon, Victoria BC
October 13, 2013
Chip time 2:17:31 (Current Personal Best for Half Marathon)

2013 Fall Classic Half Marathon, Vancouver BC
November 17, 2013
Chip time 2:29:03

2013 Vancouver Historic Half Marathon, Vancouver BC
November 24, 2013
Chip time: 2.23.45

Walt Disney World Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, Orlando Florida
January 11+12, 2014
Half marathon:  3:29:16
Full marathon   6:28:49

2014 Pacific Road Runners First Half Half Marathon, Vancouver BC
February 16, 2014
Chip time  2.34.58

2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon (Full), Vancouver BC

May 4, 2014
Chip time: 6.44.24


June, Scotiabank Half Marathon
July, Northwest Passage 200 mile Ragnar Relay
August, Disneyland's Dumbo Dare Challenge
September, Eastside 10k