2016 Run For Water Half Marathon

May 29, 2016- Abbotsford, BC

Over the last 5 years I have been helping my friend Greg train to improve his physical fitness. He made the decision in 2012 to set a goal of running a half marathon. We successfully completed the Envision Run for Water, an event raising funds to provide the people of Ethiopia with clean and accessible drinking water. 

After a few years off from running, Greg decided he would like to race this event again. So we signed up and got our legs out training again.

Now the week prior to this race I had run 100 km of the Sunshine Coast Trail (which will be detailed in a later post), so I was not going out to set any course records, only to pace Greg to a sub- 2:15 finish time.

Another friend had come to watch my son and cheer us on along the route. Thanks Chris Hardy! 

We were greeted with a cold and rainy morning at the start, which was a change from the hot weather we had been having leading up to the race. It tapered off fairly quickly and we ended up with great race weather!
The start signal was announced and off we went! Running through the town of Abbotsford, BC, the course weaves through the outskirts of town, past beautiful farmland, and around the University of the Fraser Valley campus. 

I love this course! It has changed from the original route, which used to be 90% flat. It is now full of hills, some steep, some gradual, and lots of nice rolling sections. It is challenging and fun!

Greg was running really well- we were averaging between a 5-6 minute/ km pace the entire route. We reached the halfway mark at a time of 1:02, which put us ahead of our goal finish, and we were tackling the hills in stride.

The aid stations and volunteers were fantastic. I ran with a hydration pack so I didn’t need fluids but I appreciated that there were quite a few carrying GU gels (one of my preferred brands). Definitely helped tackle those hills!

Nearing the finish we had roughly 4 km of gradual climbing with a few flats. Greg was starting to feel fatigued but was doing an excellent job of pushing through. I was feeling strong and eager to get to the finish and eat some food! 

I lost Greg in the final km and I wanted to run him through the finish line chute, so I ended up running back until I found him. I was trying to get him psyched up for a sprint finish and he was probably thinking of telling me to beat it lol. 

We saw Chris and Toby and that gave me good motivation to get a full finish chute sprint on. I love a good finish line hustle! 

I crossed the line at 2:09 and Greg came in about 15 seconds after! We received our medals (which were really quite nicely designed) and headed over to the food! 

Chris and Toby met up with us a few minutes after and we headed over to get some free ice cream, pop corn and hit up the bouncy castles. This event has lots for kids to do which is awesome! Made for a great end to a super race! 

BMO Vancouver Marathon 2016

BMO Vancouver Marathon wrap up! Wow what a day! After transitioning from road to trail racing two years ago, I never thought I would run this again.

Then following the passing of a dear little girl, I decided to sign up and run to raise money for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

So I signed up just before Christmas and began fundraising and carried on with my trail running and occasionally some road runs with Toby in the stroller.

Fundraising was slower than what I have achieved in the past (I blame this on my being ridiculously busy with nursing school), and training was definitely a challenge with my schedule.

Last week I had a huge outpour of support and funds for the cause! Can I just say I have amazing friends and family?!? Thank you so so much for your continued thoughtfulness and generosity!

My training schedule called for a taper and I ignored it big time! Instead I ran 60 km of the Sunshine Coast Trail last weekend and about 10-15 km almost every day this week! Oops!

I went into this race today with no expectations other than to enjoy it as much as possible and cross the finish line. I feared my old and busted shoes would fail me and just disintegrate on the route, but alas they are magic shoes and they have lived to race another race!

My good friend Chris Hardy came to see us off at the start (thanks so much for that by the way). I ran with my friend Joel Krentz (this was his first marathon) for about 15 km before he started to get ahead of me. I managed a sub 2 hour half marathon and then met up with him again. He was doing great but had slowed down to save his legs for the second half.

I forgot how much I love the city of Vancouver on a nice sunny day! What a gorgeous race route- with over half of it along the water! Thank you race directors and the city of Vancouver for allowing this route to be given to us runners today!

I cruised along between 5-6 minute kilometers for pretty much the entire race. I thought for sure I would slow to 7-8 mins by the last 10 km but somehow my race nutrition and hydration and pace worked in my favor and I started feeling really good around the 32 km mark. This is the first time I looked at my watch and really considered my possible finish time. This was also the point where I was greeted by signs from Canuck Place filled with quotes about overcoming pain and hardship and living in the moment and being grateful for what we have experienced. I had a huge wave of emotion rush over me and took in the weight of those words and thought about the amazing things that Hospice facilities and workers so everyday for patients and families. This made me think about my parents and all they have done for so many. I had a good cry and was filled with a new found motivation.

My friends Brie Hemingway and Kyle Conway were manning an aid station along the seawall so I got some hugs and more energy from them! Thanks guys!

I realized that a sub 4:20 finish was within my reach, so I fought through the hip and lower back pains that I always get on road and just kept moving along. It was so tempting to stop and walk but I just figured I would have been pretty pissed if I slacked so close to the finish and messed up my time. Also, walking would be more painful anyway and would take longer!

Can I just point out the first half of this marathon is awesome (hilly, tougher than the second half) but the second half feels harder because it has lots of long flat sections (10 km around the seawall) followed by one long gradual uphill to the finish (where you can see the arch from forever away). Honestly that hill up to the finish just won’t end! I wanted so badly to walk it, but I didn’t. I really dug deep and kept increasing the speed until the end. The photographers definitely got my pain face and nothing else haha!

I also got to see my dear friend Shawn Smith complete his first marathon! So proud of him and Joel!

This finish is a huge accomplishment for me for many reasons. Many of you know I was having some health concerns over the last year and I was diagnosed with two chronic illnesses: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Endometriosis. This, combined with an extremely stressful semester at school and multiple deaths within a short time frame, rendered me pretty exhausted and unmotivated. I did not know if I could finish this run today, let alone some of the bigger ultra races I wanted to tackle this season. A postpartum PR was completely off the radar and such a gift.

I am feeling so grateful not only to have had such a good race, but also to have raised over $500 for Canuck Place. I am so happy I am crying again!

Thanks to all of you who make my life that much more radiant! Xoxoxo

‪#‎TAUR‬ ‪#‎BMOVancouverMarathon‬ ‪#‎CanuckPlace‬

 

Vancouver Sun Run 2016

We were treated to a gorgeous sunny morning waiting in our corral for the 2016 Vancouver Sun Run. I was running pushing my son Toby in the stroller, so I had to start in the very last corral behind all the runners and walkers. This proved a challenge along the course!

As I would normally be running in a much faster corral, I quickly found myself having to weave and bob around thousands of walkers and slower runners to be able to run at a pace close to my regular speed. It was an exercise in patience and tactical maneuvering. My friends Brie, Chris, Jesse, and Greg agreed to run with me (despite also being way faster than the corral) and ended up acting as blockers for my stroller to get in and out of the crowds of people we were passing.

The course weaves through downtown Vancouver’s beautiful waterfront and over the Burrard Street bridge into Kitsliano and back to downtown Vancouver again via the Cambie Street bridge. We were treated to live music, super soakers to beat the heat, and lots of cheery volunteers along the way. This is a really fun race to enjoy- as long as you aren’t overly concerned about achieving a PR!

The course is mostly flat with a few undulating rollers and a couple short, steep climbs (really not bad- I managed to run them all pushing the stroller without stopping so definitely runnable). It finishes with a downhill from the Cambie bridge to the finish (nice for a sprint and great photo).

The post- race area was chaos- very very busy (with 50,000 people I guess that is to be expected) and they ran out of some foods, but I managed to get some chocolate milk and bananas and get out before claustrophobia set in!

I was so glad I put on sunscreen before the race, as I still managed to get a gnarly sock and short tan! This time of year in Vancouver is always a toss up for weather- so having a hot sunny day was a nice treat compared with the cold and rainy day the last year I ran it! We got to sit outside and soak up the sun and relax.

 

Gorge 100k Race Recap

Last weekend I travelled down to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon to crew my friends Brie, Chris, and Kyle who were all running the Gorge Waterfalls 100k trail race from Rainshadow Running. Brie’s husband Jesse also came down to help.

We all met in White Rock and loaded up the Tesla full of our gear and ourselves and headed out. The ride down involved many snack stops, Tesla charging stations, and more food stops but was a lot of fun regardless of being crammed like sardines in one car!

We made it to our hotel in Troutdale, OR, and headed to find a late dinner. We found McMinamen’s Pub and ran into many other racers and event pizza- makers to socialize with before crashing back into bed.

We spent the friday touring around Portland, picking up last minute race must- haves, grocery shopping, lunching, and specialty donut shop (VOODOO) drooling. This took up our entire day but it was a lot of fun. Love this group of friends!

I took everyone’s orders for their race needs (in detail- KYLE) while the runners packed and then we hit the sack in anticipation of our 4am wake- up….

….Which came way too soon! Surprisingly we were all awake and ready to go in time for bib pick up, drop bag organization, and pre- race meetings.

Before we knew it, the race had begun and then it was up to Jesse and I to navigate the Tesla around to the various stops on the course to crew our runners. But first….COFFEE!!!!! Starbucks princess points for the two of us- because the gas station coffee would not do!

We headed to the first aid station we were allowed to crew at- Yeon- which was literally on the side of the highway, where runners ran up a long paved hill to hit the aid station before turning sharply and heading up the steep hilly trail. Jesse and I were barely set up before Kyle came flying towards us! He was moving quick! We got him all sorted and sent him on his way. He was followed by Brie and Chris about 20 minutes later and they ate some Doritos and kept going.

Cascade Locks was the next stop for our rolling runner- aid mobile. This was a super fun aid station- nicknamed the Grateful Dead station for the volunteers’ awesome costumes and music choices! We had a lot of fun here. All of our runners were looking super strong at this point, so it was all about quick fluid refills, some food, and they were off again.

Wyeth aid station marked the 50k mark, as well as the turn around point. I like to refer to it as the “go big or go home” point of the course, as it was so tempting for runners to call it a day at this point. Having the strength to hit this point and turn around to go all the way back requires huge mental determination! I am proud to say all of our friends didn’t hesitate in turning tail and heading back with awesome attitudes! Way to go guys! So proud of you all! We saw a lot of people drop at this point!

After Kyle, Brie, and Chris had all left Wyeth, we became the pack- donkeys of all their gear! We decided to bring all their gear bags to each station afterwards in case they needed anything else they hadn’t thought of. I must have looked ridiculous with about 8 bags hanging off me!

Cascade Locks is where we saw them next, but while we were waiting for our runners, a random runner mistook me for an aid station volunteer, and absconded my chair! He then began barking orders right left and centre to me about what I should get him and what he needed. I just went with it thinking this would be a funny story later. He ended up demanding pickle juice from another volunteer and then drank the juice from the bowl of pickles everyone had been sticking their hands in all day! I was beginning to think I had lost my chair forever, but then he got up and left, leaving all his garbage in my chair! We nicknamed him “chair- stealing pickle- juicer”!

We got Kyle through the station but he was having fuelling difficulties due to an upset stomach. We hoped it would settle down as he was not keeping much down and he needed to get calories in to finish! Brie and Chris came through looking strong (albeit tired) with minimal issues- they were about 20 minutes ahead of cut off so I gave them some quick fuel and then lovingly kicked them in the butt to get going again.

Our last access point was Yeon again and poor Kyle was hurting. We were desperate to get food in him, but he was vomiting almost everything- until we got some plain bread, some chips and a gingerale! That did the trick and we got him on the road again. Brie and Chris came in about 15 minutes ahead of cut- off so we rushed to get them fuelled and back out again quickly to save time for the final 21 km!

From that point it was nervously awaiting them all at the finish line. I had so much anxiety and excitement inside me for this 2-3 hour period. We knew it would be close for them finishing under the 17 hour mark and just couldn’t wait to give them big hugs and stuff pizza in their faces!

Kyle came in first, about a half hour under the 17 hour mark. He was very relieved to be done, sit down, and get into some comfy clothes. So proud of him! He fought through so much to finish with barely any calories in him- it was an incredible feat of determination and guts!

From that point on it was dark and we were watching the clock counting down the time to finish! Chris and Brie were cutting it close, and every headlamp I saw- I shouted “hurry your butts- you have … minutes to make it before cut off!” Each time I saw it wasn’t them, I became more worried and anxious- were they ok? did they need help? Finally, about 10 minutes after the 17 hour mark, I saw two headlamps running together. I yelled out “Chris, Brie- is that you?” To which I heard a reply “Yes!” That’s when I lost my voice and ran as hard as I could in my slippers to run them in to the finish. I was so proud of them and they finished their goal of 100k, regardless of the “official” time cut off of 17 hours. They rocked it! We found out Chris had suffered a terrible nosebleed and had to stop for about 15 minutes to get it under control. They definitely would have finished within the time cut off had it not been for this.

Afterwards there was pizza, there were donuts, and so many hugs! I will never forget how amazing it was to watch my friends take on this huge beast of a challenge and I am so unbelievably proud of what they accomplished!

Fat Dog 120 mile race recap- August 2015

It’s official. I’m a Fat Dog! 120 miles with elevation gain just shy of Everest from sea level. 46 hours and 4 minutes of digging deep and pushing through.

My Fat Dog adventure began on a thursday morning at Manning Park Lodge for package pickup, drop bag drop, and UBC fit testing. Then we headed up to Princeton for the mandatory race meeting and to rest up for the night before the long weekend ahead.

The race meeting got me both fired up and nervous, but it was very cool to be among so many 100+ mile veteran athletes.

Extremely grateful to Michael Senior for letting me camp out with him for the night! The managers of the motel were amazing- got breakfast organized for us an hour earlier than usual so we could be well fueled for the day. Farm fresh hard boiled eggs, waffles and fruit and maple syrup, yogurt- they went all out to feed us!

We hopped on the bus and headed out to the start line (about 30 km outside of Keremeos). My pack weighed a ton and I was really hating that I only had my heavy gore tex jacket instead of the light- as- air ones everyone else was carrying!

Once the race started, we were straight into the climb. Up and over Red Mountain. It was hot and muggy and I felt slow and my legs were already feeling heavy (main reason I do not like to taper). The views were outstanding though and well worth the effort in the 30+ degree heat.

I managed to pace myself with a woman named Francine, who has completed seven 100- mile races- oh yeah- she is also a grandma! Humbling to be able to file in with her. She gave me a great mantra for completing distance races: “start slow, hold back, settle in, work hard, finish strong!” This stayed with me throughout the entire weekend.

On our way down from Red Mountain the rain and thunderstorms began. We made in into the first aid station and fueled up quickly as the torrential downpour and thunder and lightning raged above us. What would have been a 40 km stretch of nice runnable terrain turned into knee deep mud with extreme winds and freezing rain, resulting in us all falling multiple times and sliding and slopping our way slowly. I lost count of how many times my shoe came off my foot in that mud. It was nasty.

Volunteers at the aid stations were amazing! Wrapping us in emergency space blankets to preserve body heat and serving us grilled quesadillas, hot soups and broth, coffee and anything else they could to keep us happy. I love each and every one of them!

The following section took us down really steep muddy embankments- many a bum slide was had by me during this part- and across a river. I crossed the river at 9pm and ran a 2 km section of highway 3 to the entrance to Manning Park. This is where I met up with my first pacer Craig Frizzle who was going to accompany me up the next section of the course and keep me on track timing- wise. It was a 19 km steep uphill climb in the forest in the dark. I was grateful I had him with me as it was a bit creepy in the woods at night.

Made it to the top just before 4am- well before the time cutoff. This section is another place where many people dropped out because of the cold. It was whiteout and blizzard conditions mixed with freezing rain on an exposed ridge for about 50 km. I managed to keep warm and dry enough to keep moving. I saw a cougar early that morning, crossing in front of me. Pretty amazing!

Had a rapid descent from the ridge because I was concerned about the time cutoff to the next aid station which was 18 km away. I ran quick and managed to make it down in under 3 hours, two and a half hours before the time cutoff.

I was grateful to finally have a dry pair of socks and shoes to put on at this point (I had been in the rain for over 24 hours). The volunteers at the aid station were once again amazing- cooking up hot quesadillas, bacon and soups for us to warm up and stay nourished.

The next 8 km I made up some time and stayed ahead of the cut offs and met up with my next pacer Chris Hardy for the 37 km section ahead. This section was the most runnable but I did not initially think I would be able to run (already being 125km into the race). However Chris and Kyle Conway pushed me to keep going and I managed to run/ walk/ shuffle my way to the final cut off point at the base of Skyline trail in Manning, almost 3 hours ahead of the cutoff, buying me some extra time for the huge task still ahead of me: 33 km of big steep climbing over 7 summits through the night.

My final pacer Mike Jones met me here and we began to ascend for what felt like forever in the darkness. I was feeling the sleep deprivation (by that time I had been awake for over 30 hours). Every bush or stump looked like a person, a bear, an elk, or a building or vehicle. I think I actually managed to sleep while running for a few minutes- what a weird experience. One neat thing was that it had finally cleared up and you could see all the stars and the Perseid meteor shower happening- very cool.

Once dawn broke and I was on my way down the final peak towards the finish, I realized that I was actually going to finish this race. It was surreal. I never expected to make it this far through the race and so the thought of finishing was overwhelming. I managed to run the entire last 8 km down to Lightning Lake (where I heard Alley Vause yelling “YEAH WILLA!!!”), and across the finish line, where Johnnie and Toby and many amazing friends were waiting. I cried. It was just an extraordinarily emotional feeling to have completed this event. I was finished in 46 hours and 4 minutes, well ahead of the 48 hour cutoff.

I have to say a huge thanks to everyone who supported me this weekend! I could not have done this without you guys!