Showing posts from 2014

Edit the Sad Parts: A Tale of Two 2014s

In one version of 2014, I am going through the emotionally draining process of fully separating myself from an extremely unhealthy previous relationship. I am interviewed for a faculty position in the town where I live, at the university at which I am already working - but don't get the job. Shortly after this rejection I am diagnosed with breast cancer, and spend the next 6 months in and out of tests, consultations, surgeries, and treatments - all the while grappling with this new reality and the impossible decisions and changes that come with it. All told, I need to take over 3 months off from running while I recover physically from two different surgeries, which is very difficult for me mentally because running is one of my foremost tools for coping with stress. During this period, I start a new job and try to pretend that cancer is not throwing my life into turmoil. As the year closes, I am educating myself on treatment side effects and the statistics of recurrence rates, and …

If it doesn't Challenge you it doesn't Change you

Today, a milestone: my first pain-free run since undergoing a bilateral mastectomy on October 3rd. I've done a couple 20-minute runs over the last two weeks, but neither went very well and I came away from both feeling sore and more deflated than elated. Not so today! Although I was out of shape after over 2 months off, and realized that the last run I had timed read 2h45 on my chrono, I pushed those thoughts aside and thoroughly enjoyed today's short spin on the trails.

I'm cautiously considering today's 28 and a half minutes the start of my winter base training. You have to start somewhere, and I have long known that while the first few weeks back after a layoff are difficult, I just need to keep at it ... and it will get better. My legs will get rolling soon enough and I'll slip back into a groove of feeling like a runner again. I've missed feeling like that, and am excited to turn the challenges of this past year into motivation for chasing after some person…

Now bid me run, And I will strive with things impossible: a Love Letter

Dear Running,
I miss you. It has only been 5 weeks since we last saw each other, but I am scared that you won't recognize me when we finally meet again. I can feel my muscles weakening and my endurance fading - but believe me when I say I think of you every day. When we do reconnect, I know that it is going to have to be in short doses so that we won't tire of each other too soon ... but I also know that what I will really want is to jump back into spending hours with you. Patience. It's never really been my best virtue, but then you know that. 
You have been my companion for so long, even if at times I took you for granted. I remember the high school cross-country days like they were yesterday - I can close my eyes and still picture and smell the course that we travelled so many times, where I trained for four years and won my first race. I have clear memories of long "desertion" runs, dusty country roads, and repeats on grassy hills. I raced through forests and p…

Rubble Creek Classic

I ran the Rubble Creek Classic on Sunday as my last race of the season. A beautiful, challenging 25k in Garibaldi Provincial Park, the route takes runners up the Helm Creek trail in Whistler, across the cinder flats at the base of Black Tusk, through Taylor Meadows, and down the Garibaldi Lake trail switchbacks. When I say "up" and "down", here's what I'm talking about:
It's not a race for the faint of heart, nor for the weak of knees, for that matter. I finished in 2 hrs 49, which put me at 11th woman (again!) and 37th overall. I definitely was not in race mode for this event; I hadn't run much since the 50k last month and, although I still feel like I have lots of endurance, I don't have that spring in my legs that comes with targeted training. I went into this with the goal of simply enjoying myself, and I must say: if there is an event to do for the pure joy of trail running, it is this one. Here are a few pictures I took along that top flat-…

Squamish 50k 2014: From Made in the Shade to Mountain of Phlegm, and Everything in Between

What can I say? This race was incredible. It was brutal. It was a true test of mettle and endurance. And I loved it. 
I finished the Squamish 50k in 7 hours 12 minutes, and came in as the 11th place woman. I have never run for that long in my life (well okay, some of it was definitely more power hiking than running), and it's crazy to think that that time is well over double my marathon time - for only 8 kilometers more in distance. That right there is a good indication of the insane terrain that this race covered. I've already waxed eloquent about the beautiful, crazy ups and downs (literally) of the course in previous posts - so, here, I'll go into the more figurative ups and downs the race presented me with.

I had a fantastic start, just running my usual training pace and feeling very comfortable on the familiar trails. The first 10k flew by; the short climb up Made in the Shade seemed easy, and Rob's Corners was fast and fun. I headed into the big ascent on Galactic …

Countdown to the Squamish 50

In 8 days, I'm going to be running this:
I'd be lying if I said I was feeling completely prepared  - though, I have to wonder if anyone ever feels totally ready for an event like this. The Squamish 50k is going to be my first ultramarathon, and first trail race over a half marathon. It is renowned for being a particularly tough course (as evidenced by the 11 hour cutoff time). Living in Squamish has afforded me the advantage of training on these trails; I've covered the entire route in sections and can definitely attest to the toughness, as well as the incredible beauty of the landscape the race runs through. Here are a few snaps from training runs I've done on the course:

I've never had so much fun training for a race, and am simply looking forward to being out there next Sunday. I've missed about of month of training due to having surgery in June, so am not going into this with any fast expectations in terms of my time, nor am I at all sure how I'm going to…

Loop the Lakes

I raced theLoop the Lakestrail half marathon two weeks ago and, although I missed 10 days of running leading up to it, I was pleased with how the race went. I have run one "trail" half marathon before, but I've quickly learned that this means something very different in BC than it does in Ontario! My previous time was 1:34; in this race, I was aiming to go sub-2 hrs and finished in 1:55. This was good enough to place 13th overall - I was the 7th woman, and 1st in the 30-39 age group. The course was a nice mix of rolling single track along the 4 Lakes Trail in Squamish combined with fun undulating trails, one very technical descent, and a short but steep climb that had us scrambling up the face of a granite boulder (this trail is aptly called "Around the Rock", and is meant to be biked - downhill). I managed to wipe outdirectly after finishing this climb and spent the rest of the race with my left side covered in mud.
I had a great time running this race, partly …

Staying the Course

Nine days ago, after two weeks of hospital visits, tests and anxious waiting, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Complications after the diagnostic biopsy had left me unable to run for 10 days, but the day after I received the news, the antibiotics had done their work and I was feeling physically fine. Mentally I was all over the place, alternating among fear, defiance, sadness, and the relief of knowing at least the first step of what I have to face. So, on a beautiful spring day in BC, I turned off my brain, laced up my running shoes and hit the trails for a run. As Scott Jurek so perfectly puts it in his book Eat & Run, 
"You could carry your burdens lightly or with great effort. You could worry about tomorrow or not ... None of it mattered as long as you moved, as long as you did something. Asking why was fine, but it wasn't action. Nothing brought the rewards of moving, of running." That day I ran miraculously dry, dusty paths through forests and up and down hil…

Elevating Expectations

I've been in BC for 8 months now, and am fully immersed in trail running. True to the expectation I expressed in my last post (which was - ahem - 8 months ago), my road shoes are gathering dust in the closet and I have committed to running the Squamish 50k trail race in August. I live about 100m from a trailhead that opens up into a never-ending network of trails through Western Coastal Hemlock forests and rugged mountain scenery. Since my first exploration run on these trails last August, I have ventured increasingly further into the wilds, running on single track mountain bike trails with hilarious and often daunting names like Entrails, Angry Midget, and Icy Hole of Death. On weekend long runs, I try to run sections of the race course to prepare myself, at least mentally, for what is to come. One trail, fittingly called Climb Trail, is a series of switchbacks that gains 500 m in elevation and takes me around 45 minutes to run up - this is hard enough at the beginning of a run, …