The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Race Day Review

“There will come a day when I can no longer run marathons.  Today is not that day.”

I saw the picture on a friends Facebook wall a couple of days before running the Calgary Marathon and it stuck with me, though during the race it needed to be switched over to a more positive tone.   My mantras on race day were as follows, repeated in no specific order –

Just keep swimming.

Today is MY day.

This is fun!

So a few days after the race, my soreness is gone, yet I am still high as a kite.  To answer the question I get asked by non-runners, “Is there such a thing as runner’s high?”  YES, hell YES.

Back to Sunday for a little race report..

Alarm goes off at 4:30AM.  I snooze it, only to be awakened by the second alarm I set for 4:32AM.  I swear and get out of bed.  The night before I had carefully planned my check bag, running gear, written myself little reminders and piled my running outfit in order of how it gets put on, (so as to not have to turn on lights and wake up JB, thoughtful, right?)  After dressing, I went downstairs for the usual breakfast on the morning of a long run.  Bowl of oatmeal, two pieces of toast, apple juice and a banana.

5AMish – pull out of the garage, head to the train station.  I had signed the “Green Pledge” with the marathon.  I agreed to take public transit to/from the event, would carry my own water and nutrition and whatever I carried in, I would also carry out.  Totally easy.  Actually, carrying my own water and nutrition worked in my favor.

5:15AMish – get on train. Now, as many know, (thanks Jim), I am not a morning person.  I don’t like talking with anyone until I have had a run or coffee or both. It’s not like I am mean or anything, I just like things quiet.  I was quite lucky that the woman who sat next to me talked the entire friggin way to the stop for the race.  The whole way.  It was 35 minutes of listening to this woman go on about her half marathon races and triathlons and how she hated to run but needs to as part of her tri training and blah blah..  I was thinking seriously bad things.  I did not want to engage in conversation, which proved difficult, because true to Canadian form, she was so NICE.  Ugh.

6AM – arrive at Calgary Stampede grounds, go inside building.  It was a little cold outside; I could almost see my breath.  I couldn’t resist crossing the building and walking outside to see the finish line.  Returning inside, I was pleased to see many of the people who I have been training with over the last few months.  We chatted, checked our bags and waited.  BTW, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the bag check was terrific.  Highly efficient and convenient.  The first of many good things done by the volunteers on race day.

6:50AM – time to line up at the start line.  We made our way to the starting area and seeded ourselves appropriately.  What does that mean?  As a runner, you have an idea as to your finish time.  You find the pace bunny with that time on their sign and you line up in their general area.  Our training group had a plan as to where we would line up.  We would start together, but more than likely not finish together.  Another word of advice for newbie runners – training with a group is definitely beneficial, but have “the talk” before race day about your individual race goals and plan to run alone.  Our little group had decided that although we were starting together, we would each run our own race and may not finish together.  As it turned out, we did not.

7AM – GO TIME!  The rest is such a blur.  So here are some highlights.

I love Calgary.  The route went through some beautiful areas and I tried to make mental notes of where I was all the time.  Mostly because I saw a house for sale or a restaurant or something, but the city is just beautiful.  I enjoyed the scenery.

Best signs – “My Mom is faster than your Mom”, “I like your stamina, CALL ME”, and toward the end, ala Ryan Gosling, “Hey, Girl, I am at the finish line waiting for you.  And I lost my shirt.”  I also took advantage of every “Official High Five Station”.  It is so fun to run a race and have children hold our their hands for a high-five.  I tried to thank the police officers and volunteers along the course that held traffic for us and generally cheered us on.  As an aside, why are all the Calgary Police Officers so good-looking?

I had asked JB to be anywhere after the 34K marker as this is when I thought I would need his encouragement.   Funny story, as told from my husband’s point of view..

We (JB and my 2 boys) took the train to downtown so to be close to the 35K marker.  Arrived at our preferred vantage point a minute before the pace bunny Erika had told us she would start with approached.  SCORE!  Pace bunny and group passes, no Erika.  I told the boys to be patient, that perhaps Mom fell back a little and was with the next pace group.  Next pace group comes and goes.  No Erika.  I then told the boys that we had to run back to the train station and get to the finish line/Stampede Grandstand area as we missed Mom.  This was either really good, meaning she was ahead of her anticipated pace, or really bad.. didn’t want to think about nor tell the boys about worst case scenario.  We ran to the train station and arrived in the Grandstand area near the finish line just in time to hear it announced that Erika was coming into the finish.  Luckily, we were right at the finish line to watch her come in.

Okay, back to me.  I felt great almost the entire run.  I had checked my pace band several times, consistently in front of where I wanted to be.  This was scary and exhilarating all at the same time. About the 40K marker, my feet started to feel heavy, like I had lead in my shoes.  I welcomed the uneasiness and gave myself one final pep talk.  My plan was to do 10/1 intervals, run for 10 minutes, walk for 1 minute, and this kept my legs going and my breathing steady.  I stuck to the plan of taking a hit of nutrition and water on each walk break.  Huge fan of the 10/1 intervals.

Upon hearing my name being announced at the Stampede Grandstand, I had to take a deep breath and my eyes watered.  There is something about running into a grandstand with people cheering and feeling great that just kind of gets to you.  As adults, we don’t get many opportunities to work toward a goal and see the culmination of our efforts with a big event and celebration at the goal’s completion.  Think about it.  As kids, we have piano or dance lessons, which result in a recital.  We have sports practices that result in games, tournaments and trophies.  As adults in the workforce, we work hard on projects for promotions and accolades, and at the completion of those tasks we are rewarded with.. more work.  Perhaps the promotion and accolades as well, and those or both really good things, but there is new work that comes with it.  Sorry, I got off topic.

Anyway…  Luckily I composed myself enough for this picture, taken by JB as I came through the corral after receiving my medal.

It was a great day for many people.  I am so thankful for the running group and new friends I have made through training for this event.  I will be back!

One my favorite running quotes.. “It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not the beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

Never quit, my friends, never quit.


The Big Question

The last few clinics have been about strategy for the upcoming Calgary Marathon.  At this point, as any marathoner knows, physically, we are pretty well-tuned.  We have run miles and miles and miles.  Now, it’s all in our head.

So, the question becomes..  Why am I doing this?

It’s a good question.  And one every runner must answer prior to lining up at the start line.  Trust me, you do not want to be searching for meaning at mile 23 on a marathon course.  You will cry.  You will possibly walk off the course and quit.  Good advice I received from marathoners prior to my first race and now I am passing it on.. know why you are out there.

A little background..  I got started in this marathon thing thinking that it was a “bucket list” item.  I imagined JB and I sitting around when we are old, listening our smartypants grandchildren going on about their accomplishments, when their mother/father says to them,  “you know, your grandmother ran a marathon.”  They will immediately bow at my feet, ooing and aahing, in awe of my prowess.  And then ask how I got so old.  So that ridiculous daydream, inspired by a Chicago Marathon poster on Michigan Avenue, is how it started.  From there, I met Jennifer.  She had a marathon medal and some pictures in her “office” ( I put office in quotes because it was really a tiny cubicle only befitting a Skinner mouse) and I asked what they were all about.  Jennifer proceeded to tell me about The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team In Training and the marathon training program.  It sounded like a good charity, good program, so I looked into it.  But I wasn’t quite ready.  At that time, I had never run more than a 5k and truth be told, it had been awhile.  Jennifer suggested a half marathon in Madison and handed me a training program. We trained and ran the Madison Half Marathon in spring 2009.  After completion of my first half-marathon I was hooked.

I proceeded to run two marathons with Team In Training.  The fundraising for cancer research and patients was rewarding, as were the friendships that came out of training for those races.  When we moved to Calgary last fall I continued to run and exercise.  I wanted to run a spring marathon, but did not know where to start.  Also, training can get lonely.  So I took my own advice and reached out, enrolled in a “new school” and made some new friends through the Running Room.

Back to the recent clinic and the issue at hand.  Why am I doing this?  I have been pondering the question a bit during my solo runs.  Here is what I have..

1. I am running for me.  This sounds selfish and I say it a little sheepishly.  I have run for charity and felt great about it, but this time it’s just me.  I have a finish time goal in mind and it is a number that has been on my mind for about a year.

2. I am running for my family.  I would simply not be able to do all the training, etc, if not for the support I receive from JB and my kids.  I miss weekend breakfasts, stretch while I help them with homework and they always are there to listen to my running stories.  The kids are even willing to help me roll out my legs when needed, (for the going rate of $0.25 each).  So I also run with thankfulness for JB and our kids, my parents and parents-in-law and all those in my family that support me through this masochist adventure.

3. I run for a lot of friends.. some listed here.  Jennifer, who first told me I could run a marathon.  Mike, who probably thought I would not take him up on an offer to be a running partner when the mileage got upwards of obnoxious.  Seth, who is running his first full marathon on the same day as me, though a country and time zone away.  In my mind, I will be running with him.  Rick, who I roped into a couple of half marathons and is running his first marathon this spring.  Lisa, a friend from long ago.  Her mom told my mom that she started running after seeing that I had done it, (we are from Lake Wobegon :)).  She is running her first half marathon this spring and I am proud of her.  For so many other running buddies.  Jess, Dione, Dano, Lori, Captain Efficiency, Mike, Dayo, Paul..  Other friends that, while not runners, are stronger than I can imagine.  Lisa, who is battling brain cancer.  Cheryl, who is battling breast cancer.  Leslie, who battled and WON the battle against breast cancer.  All the other folks fighting battles that make the fatigue/soreness/delirium we face at mile 23 seem so insignificant.

Five days and counting.  I would say that this will be my last marathon, but who am I kidding?

One week before running a marathon…

..its important to do a few things.  When I say this, even when I’m serious, it makes me giggle.  Why?  Last year I ran the Rock n Roll San Diego Marathon with a group of people from Wisconsin.  We had a coach with us, Dan, who has enthusiasm like no one I have ever seen.  He is an experienced runner and also full of good advice.  It seemed that he started a lot of sentences with something of the following..

  • When training for a marathon, its important to…
  • When traveling to run in a marathon, its important to…
  • Three days before running a marathon, its important to…
  • Two days before running a marathon, its important to…
  • When lining up at the start line of a marathon, its important to..

It became a little joke at Dan’s expense.  I think it started as we were devouring pizza and beers the Friday night before the race.  “Two days before running a marathon, its important to carb load.”  The next day, we rode the bus to beach.  “The day before running a marathon, its important to dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean.”  It went on and on.  Luckily, Dan is a good sport and generally nice guy.  And the day of the race, I needed him so very much at the 23 mile marker and he delivered.  Joking and encouraging, he stayed with me for over a mile, renewing my strength to complete the race.

So here I am, one week before the Calgary Marathon and I am starting to get the prerace jitters.

I thought of Dan today.  One week before running a marathon, I thought to myself, its important to relax.  I went for the usual 5k run this morning and then did a few things..

One week before running a marathon, its important to take on a new sport.  Rollerblading, for example. 

My boys have been asking for inline skates for a while and we finally had the opportunity to purchase them and skate around a bit.  As an aside, it is humbling to have your 7 and 8-year-old kids teach you how to do something.  It’s really fun and hopefully someday I will be good enough at it to venture past our street and we can all go rollerblading together.


Also, one week before a marathon, its important to let loose a little.  Go to an amusement park, maybe.  Take your kids on a roller coaster or something.  Now, I don’t like rides.  JB takes the kids on the roller coasters, etc.  When I go on a ride it is usually a kiddie ride and only because I have been begged by one or all of my kids to go on.  (See left picture of aforementioned kiddie ride and how could I say no to the adorable boy with me?)  I pretend to like it, like a mother will do from time to time.  Usually at the end of the day I will be asked why I only went on a handful of rides, while the kids and JB tore the place apart with reckless abandon.  The kids know I don’t really like all the rides.  Between us, I think they enjoy seeing me uncomfortable spinning, zipping and twirling through all of it.

Of course, these are not hard and fast rules.  I am hoping that no one actually goes out and starts rollerblading or recklessly riding roller coasters just prior to running a race.  I will say that the week before running a marathon its important to relax and find a way to calm your prerace jitters.  I just happen to do so with my family, trying to act as if I just have a usual group run in a week.  Only this time the group will be a few thousand people through the city streets, 42.2 kilometers and I get a medal at the end.

Here’s to one more week!

Reflections on Mother’s Day

Its Mother’s Day, so I feel compelled to write an obligatory toast talking about how great my mom is.  You know, how she always encouraged me to do big things, how she was on the sidelines at every tennis match, basketball and softball game and how selfless she is when it comes to my brother and I.  I could write a post about how terrific she is, but anyone that knows her already knows all that.

Instead I want to tell a story about what it means to be a mom.  It means watching your child struggle and allowing them to overcome it on their own, against all your longing to make things right.  It’s about being an advocate for your child no matter the circumstances to be sure they get a fair shot.  Its teaching your bratty-pain-in-the-ass-giving-you-gray-hair-teenager about keeping your word, no matter how it embarrasses her at the time, so she knows that you will not allow her to stray down a very dark path.

And even when we’re adults, we still need our moms.  My mom was at my bedside whenever possible while I was on bedrest in the hospital, pregnant with my first child.  I vaguely remember after my daughter was born, lying in a dark hospital room with drugs flowing into my system to prevent a stroke and for pain control.  People took turns coming to sit with me, although I wasn’t allowed conversation (too much stimulation).  A nurse brought in a Polaroid of my small, premature daughter, then one day old.  I asked how she was doing.  The nurse confirmed my Girl was doing well, was no longer completely dependent on the breathing tube and my husband was with her.  I dozed off after the nurse left the room.  Enter my mom.  When I awoke she was holding my hand.  Her hand was trembling and I could tell she was crying.  “Don’t cry, Mom,” I told her, “the nurses said my baby is doing well.”

“I know,” she responded, “but my baby is in pretty rough shape.”  So there you have it.  I had no idea of my own condition.  I just knew my baby girl was doing well, (or at least Okay), and it carried me.  My mom knew her granddaughter was OKay yet still wanted to absorb my hurt.  I was 29 years old, with a child of my own, yet still her baby girl.

Just last summer, my daughter and I ran a 5k race.  As we crossed the finish line, the image of her in the NICU came back.  But she’s not a baby anymore, right?  Don’t we all see our kids as babies, no matter their age?

Happy Mothers Day to all those with this life altering, joyous, frustrating, painful and always exhilarating gift of motherhood.

Bring on the Taper!

Saturday brought snow to Calgary.  Soccer games were canceled.  I made soup.  It was an inside day.  Which made me antsy, because of what was on the schedule for Sunday.  Sunday (today) was IT.  Weather forecasters talked of a great spring day today.  I hoped and prayed for a nice day.  Thankfully, the weather forecasters were spot on.

Any marathoner knows the run.  The longest run of training.  The last run before the taper. For our group, it was 34 kilometers from our usual training spot to a park, where we would complete the run and congratulate ourselves on doing so with homemade treats.  I was psyched.  I feel really good this training cycle.  The usual aches and soreness, but nothing major.  It’s hard to believe my spring marathon is only three weeks away.  Where did the winter go?

Three week taper?  I do a doublecheck.   I am accustomed to a two-week taper and this program calls for three weeks.  Hmmm..

My short runs have been great.  They’ve been fast (for me), a slightly uncomfortable pace a little quicker than race pace.  It has built some confidence in my legs that, if pushed, I can go a little faster for a little longer.

So, the run.  Our group started out on the trail in the usual manner.  It was a brisk, clear morning.  The sky seemed to promise good things, though.  As I should be, I was a little chilly at the start (and don’t make fun of me for always being cold, everyone was a little chilly at the start).  We started off north along the reservoir.  Around “the res” is always windy.  We usually joke about it and just brace ourselves.  Since training started in February, I have experienced both windburn and sunburn this training cycle, both from running around the reservoir.  True to form, once we head away from the water I have not a clue as to where we are.  Coming home to upload my Garmin is always a treat, as I take a look at the area of town that I just explored.  In any case, we followed the river, winding north to City Centre and then turning west.  The first part of a long run is always jovial, we recap our weeks and talk about how we recovered from the previous week’s long run.

We even felt playful enough to alter our plan a bit, adding a little distance, to run over the Peace Bridge.  The Peace Bridge in Calgary, a beautiful structure designed by Santiago Calatrava, is for bicycles and people only.  Consistent with what I learned from Calatrava’s project in Milwaukee, (The Art Museum), the Peace Bridge was over-budget and opened behind schedule.  The conversation about whether we should run over it brought political debate (it’s a hot topic in Calgary) and our pace quickened.  Thank goodness for a leader reminding us (almost constantly) to RELAX.  We stopped for brief group photo at the bridge and continued.  I am glad we made the little change to run over it.  It was a fun little diversion during a long run.

About the half way point, the conversation seems to naturally turn one of two ways..  food or sex.  Since it was decided that it was too early into our run to talk about food, well..  you get the idea.  I don’t think this conversation needs to be revisited.  Again, our pace quickened and we had to be reigned in to keep a slow steady pace.  Funny how there are always three things to get the juices and conversation going.. politics, food, sex.

Closing in on the end of the run, we started to talk about food.  I imagined my energy gels as cheeseburgers and another spoke of cinnamon buns.  Pace quickens.  We are slowed.  Do you see a pattern here?

At the end of the run, I let out a cheer.  Our group shared treats made (or bought) with love.  JB brought me a cup of coffee, (isn’t he great?) and I enjoyed a stretch in the park while the kids played at the playground.  It was a good day.

I am ready.  Bring it.

Get it together, woman!

I am having a bad week.  You know, not like a terrifyingly tragic life threatening week, but I just can’t seem to get my poop in a group, (as one Jess would say).

Monday was Tax Day, so naturally Sunday evening and Monday were a bit stressful.  I also had sore legs on Monday, (thankful for rest days when training), due to a run in  the Saturday AM, Soccer Coaches Clinic Saturday afternoon (who would’ve thought they would have the coaches running like MLS players for 3 hours?) and wrapping with a 29k run on Sunday morning.  I am tired again just typing it.  The usual laundry I do on Monday did not get quite done.

Then Tuesday came along and I had the opportunity to do some work in Apprentices’ class.  It is always fun to help out at school, but I gotta tell ya, it throws off my whole week’s rhythm.  So the laundry that was waiting from Monday did not quite get finished, and the cleaning that I usually do on Tuesday also did not 100% completed.  I know, at this point you are all “screw you, these are not problems”, but stay with me here.  Contributing to a perfect storm of scheduling difficulties, JB had a work thing into the evening on Tuesday (11pm, but who notices?) which meant that I was not able to meet my running buddies for the usual Tuesday evening run.  No problem, I thought, I will just run during the day on Tuesday.  As noted above, Tuesday was not the productive day I had hoped for, plus it poured all day, so the run did not happen.  Runners, you know how missing a workout totally screws with your head.  But I digress.

Wednesday I flirted once again with entering the professional world and interviewed for a job.  Still on the fence about that.  However, having to be all presentable threw me off yet again and I failed to get another run in on Wednesday.  So there I was, waiting for the kids to come out of school on Wednesday, having not run in 3 days, but totally ready for Girl’s soccer practice.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone.  As I relived the last few days in my head on Wednesday, I decided that I do not like being the fly, much prefer being the windshield.  So there.  After Modern Family and a Vodka Cranberry, I went to bed, determined that I would be the windshield on Thursday and get my shit together.

So today I come to you a satisfied woman.  I finished all the crap I started on Monday and Tuesday around the house.  I ran.  OMG, I ran.  For those of you that do not run, it is really tough to explain how running makes you feel.  It was a great run on a cool, cloudy day.  I had a nice steady pace for a 10k run around the neighborhood and simply felt GREAT afterward.  I had shaken this “meh” that had been plaguing me in the beginning of the week.

My point, and I do have one, is that when I feel like I have to get it together, I run.  Some may say that I am running away from all that I am responsible for.  I would argue, (successfully, I may add), that running helps me to focus.  While on my run today I mentally prepared the rotations for the girls in their first soccer game.  I (mentally) arranged dinner preparations for the rest of the week.  I (mentally) wrote this post.  Running clears my head, helps me to get things in order.  There are bumper stickers and such that say sweat is your fat cells crying.  For me, it is stress leaving my body, defeated.

My advice to anyone that is willing to listen, is when you are stressed, feel the need to just “get it together”, go for a walk.  Go run.  Get out there!

Post Navigation