Thursday, April 24, 2014

All Good Things Come to an End

Well after living my dream life for nearly the last 4 weeks, good things must come to an end. I am finishing my final day of paradise here in Flagstaff Arizona. Not a bad way to end it either. The morning started off at the Bagel Run with locals from town (including NAZ Elite and Team Run Flagstaff Pro members) followed by a few errands around town then dinner with Amy Van Alstine, Matt Llano and Andrew Benford (Eric Fernandez and Danny Mercado showed up too) at the famous Diablo Burger. Yum!

Bagel Run

Dinner (Andrew, myself, Matt and Amy)

Training has been going well up here at 7000ft. There are good days and then there are some not so good days. There are days when I feel like I am flying and then there are days where I am dreaming of sea level air. But as with general training, you have ups and downs. The week started off with me wanting that sea level air, but the last few days I have felt fantastic and wanting to stay a little longer. 

I have spent plenty of time on the FUTS (Flagtaff Urban Trail System), Woody Mountain Road, Walnut Canyon, A1 Mountain Road, Buffalo Park and numerous endless dirt roads including the dreaded 532 hill (evil evil hill). I am going to miss having trails so close to "home." At home I am not a huge fan of driving to find trails each day, so I will leave the endless dirt here and Flag and return to the pavement of home.   

Lake Mary Rd after my final workout

For most of my trip I simply concentrated on training and recovery. Lots of time lying horizontal with the feet up (my favorite time). This last week (as with most of my final weeks in Flag) I ventured out a bit more. I went back and visited Sedona. I may have been there at least 3 times, but I cannot get enough of the Sedona views. I had some fun taking some nice running photos so I could have updated versions in Asics gear. Last year when I went, I got caught in a few monsoon rain storms. This year, not a drop. Sedona is much nicer to see when it is sunny. 

I also visited the Petrified Forest National Park. At first I wasn't impressed, but then there were a few good views. It was definitely nice to see once, but not something I would go back to again. 

This trip has simply been amazing, whether it included a few run ins with Shalane Flanagan or I even saw Julia Bleasdale on Walnut Canyon (2014 Carlsbad 5000 winner). While here I have once again been taken care of by Dr. AJ. Gregg from Hypo2 High Performance Sport Center. Back home I am a regular with chiro and massage, so to go without it here can be tough. Thankfully Dr. Gregg is able to keep me rolling in my home away from home.  

At this point I will leave the post with a few pictures as my brain is starting to go to sleep and the rambling nonsense (even more so) will begin to occur. 





Now onwards to Montreal and the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Toronto Yonge St 10km 2014

On day 9 of altitude, I jumped on an early plane out of Flagstaff and headed to Toronto for the Canada Running Series Toronto Yonge St10km (April 13th). This is a pretty big run in the area and I have wanted to try it; however, it tends to fall on the same day as the Vancouver Sun Run so I have never tried it. This year, due to Easter Weekend, Yonge St is actually 2 weeks away from the triple race dates of Sun Run, Victoria’s Times Colonist 10km and the Montreal Half Marathon. That meant an opportunity to try out a new race and when CRS offered to cover my travel, accommodations and food, I had to jump at the opportunity.

It was a long set of flights that included Flagstaff to Phoenix, Phoenix to Chicago and then Chicago to Toronto. Or as I liked to describe it I went from Coyote Territory, to Blackhawk Territory to Maple Leaf Territory. Yes definitely a huge hockey fan here (Good luck in the playoffs Canucks….. oh wait). So much so that I made sure to walk by the hockey hall of fame the day before the race! More on that later!

I arrived in Toronto shortly after 7pm, and was followed in by Natasha Wodak, Dayna Pidhoresky and Rob Watson who were coming from California. Sabrina Wilkie and Catherine Watkins were coming from Vancouver within 30 minutes after us, so while Clif waited for them, the rest of us caught a cab due to not enough seats in the van.

We were at the hotel around 9pm and I met up with my roommate Kate Bazeley who was nearly half asleep due to being on Newfoundland time (90 minutes ahead of Toronto). We visited quickly and then I hit the hotel treadmill for a shakeout run.

After a decent night sleep we were up and we headed out for a run. Unsure where we were going, Kate listened to her coach Matt (not my coach Matt)’s instructions on where to run to a gravel path. We found it pretty easily; however, this path was a short circle of a mini park in downtown Toronto. When I say short, I mean short. I think it took like 3.5 minutes to run  each loop, definitely no more than 4. We did a few loops and then around the university near by and then a few more loops. Kate stopped for some strides while I kept going then we headed back to the hotel. I dropped Kate off and then continued on my way to finish up my hour.

An hour is more than I usually run pre-race, but it had been decided that I wasn’t going to taper for this race and "train through" it. I think that as evident by my Tuesday workout leading into it. Definitely a big week for this girl. My legs felt alright after the flights, but on both the treadmill run and the 60 minutes on Saturday my left knee was bugging me on the back inner side. It felt tendon related and it didn’t hurt at all before arriving in Toronto so I am wondering whether I sat funny or tweaked it on the plane which is very possible.

After the run we went and got breakfast; however, poor Kate was hit with the stomach bug that morning and she opted out of breakfast to buy gravol and go back to the room. When I got back she had been sick a few times even though she had barely eaten anything that day. Her hubby apparently was sick earlier in the week. Kate mentioned she didn’t blame me if I wanted my own room, so Ian and Clif from CRS were great and got right on getting me my own room. Hello king sized bed! I felt bad for ditching Kate; however, I really did not want to stay longer and increase my chances of catching anything.

The afternoon I spent walking around downtown Toronto a bit, as I mentioned going by the Hockey Hall of Fame. I did not go in though. I figured you had to pay for it and I really didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet, especially with my knee acting up. Dinner was spent with Sabrina, Catherine and Richard Mosely where we all left still hungry and bought snacks on the way back to the hotel.

I ended up getting to bed at a decent time. I think I was asleep shortly after 11pm and then my alarm went off at 6:30. Of course I was up a few times in the night, but for the most part I felt rested. We met in the lobby at 7:15am and caught the bus to the start line as this was a point to point race. The drive felt like it took forever!

My warm up was done with Krista DuChene and Tarah Korir and then off to the start. The race went off fast of course, with a slight up and then it was 7km straight down Yonge St, which was mostly downhill with a bit of a headwind. I was surprised by a few ups though as I was under the impression it was all down. It certainly didn’t feel all down. At 7km it flattened out as we took a right, then a left, then another right, then left and down towards the finish (I think).

Krista and Tarah went out fast with Rachel hot on their heels. After about a km Tarah fell off and then it let me and Sabrina who was hot on my heels. No real shock there was we are generally pretty close in races. I kept pressing on, trying to lean forward (this girl is NOT a downhill runner) and trying to keep the legs spinning at a good rate. I hit 5km in 16:39 (only 4 seconds off my 5km PB) with Sabrina 1 second back. Sometime after that I began to hear Sabrina’s breathing fade. Cheers for “Erin and Sabrina” or “ladies” turned into “Erin” or “lady” though I wasn’t taken anyone’s word for it that she wasn’t still right behind me.

At 7km I kept pushing and counting down how long I had in the race time wise. Worst case scenario even at 4 min km's (which I shouldn’t be running) that was like 12 minutes. 2km left (ooh less than 8 minutes left), then the final km and I tried my best to pick it up. As I came up to the finish I saw the clock for the first time clicking in the 33:2x section and I pushed in finishing in 33:28 and received a 3rd place finisher sticker on my hip for the effort (so the media and race organizers knew who to grab in the chaos).

Coming up to the finish (photo stolen from Rob Brouillette's FB)

In the end, it sounds like Krista led the whole race with Rachel Hannah hot on her heels. With around 400m left Rachel made her move and had a finishing kick that Krista couldn’t match. Congrats to both Rachel for her 32:33 and Krista for her 32:40. I was gunning for a bit faster time than my 33:28 considering the net downhill of the course; however, based on my week I am super happy with my effort. Not to mention, honestly I am not a strong downhill runner so while it might be a huge advantage to some, it is probably less of an advantage for me. Don't get me wrong, still and advantage, just not as much as others. My lungs felt great, my legs just wouldn’t spin as fast as I was hoping. Considering I went 16:39 for the first 5km, I went 16:49 for the 2nd 5km which was actually less downhill than the first, so I am again also happy with that.

We hung around for the awards where the top 3 overall, then top 8 Canadian and finally the East vs West Challenge (East won easily) were all recognized. Then a fun mission to find the bus that would take us back to the hotel. We arrived back there shortly after 12pm in which that left me less than 30 minutes to pack my stuff and get ready to head to the airport. My flight wasn't until 2:51pm; however, new Canadian citizen Kip Kangogo had a flight at 2pm so we needed to leave in time for his flight. It was rushed, but I made it though unfortunately without a shower (sorry to my plane buddies).

Results from Yonge St found here

Now back to Flagstaff for some more hard training!   

Top 3 Overall Women and Men (L-R: 2 CRS members, myself (3rd), Krista (2nd), Rachel (1st), Paul Kimugul (2nd), Eric Gillis (1st), Kip Kangogo (3rd)

Top 8 Canadian Ladies

Top 8 Canadian Men and Women

West vs East: Who would win?!

 East wins!

East vs West challenge 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Disneyland! aka Flagstaff


On March 30th I made the trek down to Flagstaff Arizona for another altitude stint. For the past 2 years I have gone in late summer (August/September); however, this year coach Matt and I decided to change things up a bit. Each time I have gone to altitude in the past, I find that I gain overall fitness. There is something to say that working hard at 7000ft does really pay off, at least for me it does. 

This time around I am staying in the Flagstaff Ranch area with a house full of runners including Jonny Wilson, Amy Van Alstine (2014 USA XC Champ and 5th at Carlsbad 5000 in 15:30), Matt Llano (61:XX half marathoner who was just on Team USA for World Half Champs), Maegan Krifchin (70:xx half marathoner) plus Rob (non-runner). 

I arrived in the late afternoon on the 30th to mega windy conditions. Let me just say that it was an interesting landing in Flagstaff. It was also an interesting first run. Let me tell you, the headwind that day and for a few days after that was brutal! The good news was that I didn’t really have too much of an adjustment period. My easy runs were pretty much the same pace that I was running back home. The only difference being the hills. Hills at 7000ft take it out of you no matter what I think.

Wednesday I think it snowed. At first I was thinking it wasn't too bad. I had an easy run to do and I had run in snow many times before. Then the storm picked up including the wind. Wow was that wind ever cold! Hands and face frozen, nothing that a hot shower couldn't fix though! Thankfully the snow was mostly gone by morning. 

By Thursday I was ready for my first workout. The first workout at altitude is always brutal. Or at least it is for me. It is a reality check that you are up high and that you have to work that much harder. Once you get the first one over with, it gets easier though.

For the most part my days are relaxing. Filled with running, eating, reading, movies, computer time and sleeping. Initially the days would go slow, but soon they would speed up. Of course I want them to slow down, as the faster they go, the faster my holiday time is over!

The only downside of the trip so far is that on April 1st, I learned via Facebook of all places that my entire work (seniors facility) was being terminated. With some questioning, I found out that all 120+ employees received pink slips on April Fool’s Day stating that as of September 25th of this year, we were all unemployed. No April Fools Joke unfortunately. Basically my facility has lost 3 million dollars since it opened in August 2008 due to lack of proper funding by VIHA or Island Health. Or at least that is what my work is saying. We are all being laid off and we can reapply for our jobs back with a significant reduction in pay and benefits. 

What sucks? Is that I, along with many of my coworkers, started with that place upon opening. We just celebrated (delayed) our 5th year of service not even a week before the pink slips. Happy 5 years, you lose your job! I had been counting down the time until this August when I would hit 6 years, where I would then begin to earn extra holiday pay. As a runner, my holiday time is important to me. It helps me with training camps and also to be able to attend races. Instead, right when we reach that marker, we are laid off. We can try to get our jobs back and start again at ZERO. FIVE FREAKING YEARS OF TENURE GONE! So much for seniority.

People keep asking whether or not I will apply for my job back or move on. Trust me, I would love to move on. I feel like I am getting screwed over. I have residents who have been with me nearly 5 years and I can’t imagine they are happy. I will likely reapply for my job because it works well with my training; however, anything can happen between now and September. I will definitely be exploring options. My question is, what happens again in 5 years? My work promised this would NEVER happen and here we are.

The one thing I can say though is that I am glad to be away from the facility during this time. My coworkers are going on a rampage to stick up for our residents to ensure they get proper care. I support my coworkers and my residents, but at the same time I am glad to be away and avoiding the immediate stress. I can’t imagine what it was like to be there when the news broke. Thank god I am away.

In the meantime, I am here to train and that is what I am going to do. I will put work behind me and not worry about that until I return home. Good luck to my coworkers. Fight hard and I will join you when I am back. I have completed workouts 2, 3 and 4 here now and each one gets better as I get more and more used to the altitude. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

St Patricks 5km 2014

With another race coming up this weekend, I guess I had better do a quick re-cap of my last race, which happened to be the St. Patrick's Day 5km in Vancouver back on March 15th. This race came 6 days after my 16:35 PB at Bazan Bay. I had also done the back to back last year and let me tell you, I knew it was going to be hard going into it and boy was I right. 

I headed over to Vancouver the night before, stopping for a quick cookie (yum) and chat with Natasha Wodak before venturing a few blocks down to my sister and brother in law's place. I had dinner with them (sorry for barging in) and then headed off to stay with one of Canada's best Master's runners Catherine Watkins for the night. We visited for a bit and then headed off to bed where I had my usual pre-race nights sleep where I was up multiple times to the washroom.

The next morning we headed off to Stanely Park, arriving just in time to get settled and head off on our warm up. The legs felt decent, so I was hopeful I could run a good time. I have run this race for the past 3 years and this was the 3rd course I had run, each year the start and finish have been completely different. This year was no different. The start was in the same place, but we headed in the opposite direction. The finish was also in the same place, but we took a different route to get there.

This race had a stellar elite field, with race hosts Steve and Karen bringing in the best from the area. I knew I was in for a hard battle and that it was. The race started off super fast on a downhill before taking a left turn. The nice thing about the event is that it was run on the roads throughout the park instead of along the seawall. This led to a lot more room to maneuver around. The bad thing about the event was that it was run on the roads throughout the park instead of along the seawall. 

Wait what? Did I just contradict myself? You bet. I love the open roads; however, being on the open road meant more hills. The seawall is fairly flat, whereas the road is undulating. Boy did this hurt. Not to mention the final km is mostly uphill still. 

I went through the mile in 5:11 I believe, and felt as though I kept pressing on. Around this time I think I was 4th female and I held my spot the rest of the way. As I said, I felt as though I was pressing on; however, looking back on my splits made me say "oh my." The legs were definitely not as fresh, but I knew that going into the race and it was pretty much the point anyway. It was treated as a workout on tired legs. 

I finished 4th in 16:53 and was closing in on Sarah Iginlis in front of me, but ran out of time. Not to mention I think Sabrina Wilkie was also closing on me! The race was won by Rachel Cliff in a fantastic PB of 16:14 (she recently went on to run 15:49 at the Stanford Invite on the track), followed by Natasha, then Sarah, myself and then Sabrina for the top 5. Catherine of course was the top Master and 7th overall I believe.

Right after finishing, I grabbed some water and then headed off for my post-race workout. Man that was tough. If I thought my post Bazan workout was tough, this one was longer and hurt even worse. The legs were definitely tired.  I was happy to be under 17' on this course though, especially only 6 days post Bazan.

Results can be found here

The following weekend I was suppose to race the Modo 8km; however, my body overruled my brain and told me to sit it out instead. It was a tough decision but in the end, it was the right one. 

Photo Credit: Rita Ivanauskas

  Race Video

Race Interview

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bazan Bay 2014

On March 9th I headed south to Sidney (outskirts of Victoria) for my first 5km road race of the year. After a disappointing indoor 5km at the end of January I was ready for some redemption. This race would be run without much of a taper so I was curious to see how the legs were going to respond. I carpooled with some Nanaimo boys (Byron and Damian) with the strict instructions that we must be down there by 9:45am. I think we pulled up into the parking lot at 9:42am. You are lucky BT! ;) 

I found a spot to store my stuff and met up with Vancouver runner Catherine Watkins before we headed out on course to do a warm up. Catherine was new to the course, so we ran almost the entire way until I could point out in the distance where the turnaround was so that she would have an idea. We headed back finishing up a good 25 minute warm up, changed into our flats, shorts etc and then headed back to the start which was like a 10 minute walk away. On our way we did some of our drills and strides. 

On the race start, I was announced as female race favorite, followed by Kim Doerksen and then Catherine. Oh boy, pressure. I had already figured I was ranked 1st female based on the #6 bib I received. #1-5 went to the boys and then #6-10 I believe to the girls. I did some more strides off the start line and then lined up with the crew.

The race started off fast, which of course is normal, especially for a 5km. I saw some ladies shot out real fast and wondered if I had taken off too slow. I looked at my Garmin and saw 3:07 at one point so I told myself to reel it in and relax. The first km was 3:14 and then I stopped looking at my watch. By the 1st km I believe I was lead female but I could feel Kim right on my shoulder. I kept pressing on, or so I thought, but it turns out I slowed my 2nd km to 3:21. Whoops. There is a slight incline in the road though, so maybe that is why I never felt like I actually slowed.

About 1.5 to 2 km Kim and her pacer Nic Browne passed me and she gapped me slightly. I don’t think she ever got more than 5m ahead of me. As we approached the turnaround I was hoping for a much speeder 180 turn than last year where I practically stopped after running into the person in front of me. This year was better, but I still lost a lot of speed. At 3km, I saw Trent and Hilary Stellingwerff standing there and he yelled out 10 flat. My Garmin auto lapped around there at a 3:22km. Whoops again.

We started heading back and once the course plateaued over the small incline, I pressed on pulling up right behind and eventually beside Kim. I brought that km down to 3:18. With 1km left I kept pressing as it appeared as though Kim was tiring. I kept pressing hoping that I had more left than she did. The legs were burning but I still felt strong. Chris (Athletics Illustrated) on the bike beside me at this point told me she wasn’t giving up so I kept pressing.

With about 200m left I heard my coach Matt on the sidelines. When I hit the 100m mat I tried to pick it up even more so, while I watched the clock tick closer to and then over my ultimate 16:30 goal. I crossed the line with an auto lap of 3:14 for the final km. Bob Reid announced me at 16:33 and I was happy, but slightly disappointed to miss that time goal. Turns out I was 16:34.60 which rounds up to 16:35 officially. Doh!

Start of the final 100m

I didn’t have much time to really celebrate my new PB though, as I was off to find Matt so he could advise what my post-race workout was going to be. Off I went on my workout and surprisingly it felt pretty good. I hit a pretty great time for my tempo considering it was post-race. A good sign of things to come that is for sure!

Overall winners (with Geoff Martinson)

Female 30-34 

Results are found here. 

Post-race article here.

Video of the race

Post-race interview

Up next, another delayed race report. St.Patricks Day 5km!