Four Munros and a Marathon: week 3

This September and October, I’ll be running two tough races, three weeks apart: the inaugural Ring of Steall Skyrace and the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. Every week, I’ll be reflecting on my training – what worked, what didn’t, changes made, fueling, diet, sleep, etc.

What I learned this week:

  • One of the reasons the Ring of Steall has a huge elevation gain (8200 feet or 2500 m) in so little distance (16 miles or 25km) is that it starts, and finishes, at sea level. There is a sea loch at Kinlochleven, the site of the race start/finish. This means, that rather than the usual inland ascent of say 2000 feet (which is still a lot but doable), we’re climbing from the very bottom to the very top of a munro, immediately. That’s over 3000 feet. Good thing I’m still in the early phases of training.
  • Take more clothes on long trail runs because you never know what Mother Nature will throw at you!
  • My fitness is much better than it was a few months ago. This training is paying off big time.
  • Never drink alcohol, even a small amount, the day of a long trail run. You’ll find out why!

week 3 3 (2)

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Balmoral Race 2 of 2: Glacier Energy 15 Mile Trail Race recap

2014 was all about pushing my limits, bettering my times, and decreasing the space between ‘I can’ and ‘I can’t.’ I entered the 2015 Glacier Energy 15 mile trail race – the BIG race of the Balmoral race weekend – as way of continuing to extend my boundaries and getting familiar with the unknown. I had also entered to Stena Drilling Tartan 10km, the day before this trail race, as another way to push my limits and challenge myself both physically and mentally. My Balmoral Challenge had been set, I had already succeeded in one race that weekend, what would happen in race #2?

All of my mental preparation and focus had gone into the 10km race; so much so that Pat and I referred to the 10km at my race, and the 15 mile trail race as his race. My race plan leading up to last Sunday was to treat this as a long run, but to also experiment somewhat with pacing over a distance longer than 10 miles. I was also hoping to run the entire race, but I wasn’t sure how I would fare considering our three double-digit long runs we did to train for this race consisted of many large, steep hills, all of which I walked up. Going by Rachel’s recap of this race from 2013, I knew to expect three big hills; if I could run all of them, that would be amazing, but I would have to see what the race brought and how I felt.

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The 25th Anniversary Bennachie Hill Race

It all started with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty… Well, actually it started with me getting bored with just road running, wanting a new challenge and switching to running the trails and hills around us. I entered this as a new challenge for myself and to try a different type of race. The days leading up to it, however, I became a bit worried. I hadn’t done much hill-specific training and running lately, and had a 24 hour stomach bug this past week too. I know my fitness is the best it’s ever been – last weekend’s massive 10km PB shows that – but running a road race pales in comparison to an off-road race with a massive elevation gain. I would be basically running up a small mountain, with a healing stomach. Would I be able to do it?

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I was also trying out some new fuel and recovery food. I know, not a good idea for a race…

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Five Years in Scotland OR My Caledonian Experience

The following post is a reflection of my time in Scotland, and is not at all  related to issues surrounding the vote for Scottish independence, or my views on the referendum.

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This summer marked an important date for me: July 29th. That day, five years ago, was the day I left Canada and moved to Scotland to be with my then boyfriend, now husband. It was a big chance to take – having left a good, permanent job with Edmonton Public Schools and permanent teaching certification in the province of Alberta – for what was supposed to be a two-year leave of absence. The plan was to return to Canada together after those two years to start a life in either Alberta or British Columbia.

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{Coconut Friends} Amie the Runner

Coconut Friends is a new, monthly series I’ve started to showcase people’s journeys and success using a variation of primal eating. Primal eating affects us all in different ways, and the reasons we start doing it varies as well. The term comes from my friend Amie’s boyfriend Jamie: whenever she would talk to him about me, he called me her ‘Coconut Friend,’ especially since Amie cooks so much with coconut oil. And, as we know, coconuts and all their goodness are the cornerstone for any primal eater.

It’s only fitting that Amie is my first Coconut Friend. She is a good friend of mine: we met through work, but we’ve bonded over some running, but mainly our passion for paleo and primal eating, and spreading the message of just eating real food (aka JERF!) to others. I think Amie is an elite runner, but she’s so humble she’ll never tell you that. Amie will also be a partner in my primal business. Here is her primal journey.

I’m an athlete therefore I’m healthy!

I didn’t get into the Paleo lifestyle to lose weight, far from it; I was just over 8 stone (112 lbs = 51 kg. Amie is 5′ 1″ tall), with an enviable body fat percentage of just 14.5%. I run for a well respected athletic club: Fife AC, representing my club at regional and national events in Scotland. I have been selected to run for the East of Scotland in the international championships on two occasions. I train six days a week and sometimes twice a day. I thought I was fit and healthy. My half marathon PB – 1:24:57 – told me so, right?

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My Primal Journey

I hadn’t intended on writing a post today, and then something special happened this morning: I achieved my goal weight. After having spent my five years in Scotland with my weight number beginning with a 7 – as in 73kg, 76kg, up to 80kg after my first half marathon – I’ve now maintained a lower weight for about two months now, getting into the 6’s – 69, 68, 67, 66 and now finally 65.9kg. You may think that this is a really random number, but convert kilograms into pounds and you get 145lbs, or in UK terms 10 stone 5 lbs. I haven’t been this weight since I graduated from high school, 16 years ago, (that long!!?!?). This was the weight I was aiming for four months ago when I started my primal journey. And now I’m sharing that journey with you.

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When I used to eat therefore run

First, my life as an athlete to help put things into context: I played softball at an elite level into my adult years, and earned two Canadian Championship silver medals as a result. I played high school volleyball and trained five nights a week. As a twentysomething adult, I did Olympic Weightlifting for a few years, gaining serious muscle mass (hello big traps, glutes and quads). All throughout, I ate and drank whatever I wanted and was able to maintain my weight. I also had a decade-long Pepsi habit to boot, and would indulge in a piece of cake here, some gummy candies there, a meal out, takeout, or second helpings often. Everything in moderation, right? (I now hate that phrase). Continue reading

Ballater 10 mile race recap

In my EMF half marathon recap, I wrote about trying new races and training strategies. At that point, I’d been on the same training plan since January, and I was in serious need of something new. If you’re a follower of this blog, you’ll know I changed things up big time, with running and eating, and I now feel like my outlook on things has been refreshed. This is exactly how I wanted to feel going into the Ballater 10 mile race at the end of July. Although I had abandoned my training regime of speedwork Tuesday, hill reps Thursday and long run Sunday, I’ve still been mixing things up and challenging myself in new ways: swimming on a Monday, then the rest of the week contains a hill reps session, usually a trail run, and body weight exercises according to Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Fitness. Push-ups, pull-ups, squats and plank have been part of my routine for the last few weeks and I’ve noticed an overall improvement to my fitness based on the new changes.

Many people in my running club had entered this race, but with summer holidays and a more relaxed approach to running, only three of us ended up running. Pat and I made our way to Ballater, an hour’s drive into the Highlands of Scotland, the same route used to get to Balmoral Castle. I wasn’t sure what to make of this race as it was new to all of us running and I hadn’t properly trained for it. I trusted my fitness would be there to run 10 miles.

We arrived at Monaltrie Park in Ballater, and met up with Brian from our club. He immediately informed me that my friend, Mr Second Last Place man from the Johnston Tower Race, was also racing Ballater. I wasn’t sure what to think: would he say something cheeky again? Or would he even remember me? I just left that up to chance.

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Paleo Pancakes (primal, gluten-free, dairy-free)

Yesterday, I shared my recipe for Primal Chilli con Carne, which, prior to leaving for our camping trip to the Isle of Mull, I froze and used as an extra ice pack in my cooler / cool box to chill our food as we traveled across Scotland, hopped on a ferry, drove some more and set up camp in Mull. Yes, that dish was prepared at home, not on a campfire, which is totally acceptable in camping preparation. Fidden Farm, where we camped, had a freezer where ideally camper’s could put their gel blocks and ice packs to freeze, and then use in their coolers during the day. Some people used this to keep their premade dishes, like Bolognese Sauce, soup or stew, frozen to then thaw one day while away. Pretty clever if you ask me 😉

When full out camping, without the access to a kitchen and all its luxuries, you can still cook and eat primal, and in quite a delicious way. Take our breakfasts for instance: we had instant espresso (bulletproof for me), bacon / sausage and eggs with avocado, one morning we had fried mackerel (which I’ll speak about in tomorrow’s post), and we made the most amazing 3-ingredient, Paleo pancakes!

I was first introduced to this recipe by my friend Alicia, when her and her boyfriend André visited back in April. Alicia adopted a paleo lifestyle at the start of this year and taught me about it and its benefits. I won’t divulge any more information from her or about her because she’s going to be doing a guest post on her primal journey soon!

IMG_20140420_145035As I was trying to figure out what primal meals to eat while camping, this recipe came to mind. It’s made with easy ingredients that most people have in their house, and we would be taking all the ingredients with us anyway, why not make them? Continue reading

2014 Edinburgh Marathon Festival half marathon recap

It’s been about a week since the Edinburgh Marathon Festival Half. Stress time is now over: training is finished, our school inspection has taken place (we did very well!), and our schedule of jam-packed weekend after jam-packed weekend is finished. June will be a quiet month, on purpose. I now have more time to write, and first on the agenda: this half recap!

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The EMF half started at 8 am Sunday, which gave us a very good reason to book a room in a  (posh) B & B in Edinburgh’s New Town, take our time driving down, and dine at our favourite Chinese food restaurant, Chop Chop in Haymarket, the night before the race.  And this is exactly what we did.

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Pat and I walked the 15 minutes-ish from our New Town accommodation to Haymarket, stopping for an alcoholic beverage on the way. Continue reading

Arbroath Footers Smokies 10 race recap #PR

The first race of the year is in the books! And with a new personal best…. yesss! I entered this race way back in November, while still basking in the glory of the Templeton 10 and Glamis 10km. This race is what kept me running through the holidays and into 2014, not missing a Sunday long(er) run to maintain my fitness. I think entering this race was a great way to keep up my motivation during the winter.

Race day started yesterday with choosing my outfit:

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What to wear, what to wear…

I went for my winter Brooks tights (with pink waist band) and my blue Gore half zip. I should’ve worn my compression tights and Adidas top instead because *spoiler alert* the weather was ideal for running: warm and sunny, with a slight breeze. Much better than all the Sunday’s this year has given us so far, and much better than the weather I’ve heard about from previous year’s races.

I woke up this morning, not to my alarm, but to what sounded like ducks laughing and talking. It’s moments like this that make me happy to live so close to a stream. I had my ritual smoothie and vanilla latte, browsed the Ikea website, made a raspberry-oatmeal recovery shake, and was out the door to my friend Wendy’s.  We headed down to Arbroath and to a very busy sports centre, just in time for registration.

20140302_102941If you can’t tell by the photo, Smokies 10 is a women’s only race, so the men above were there only for moral support. It’s presumably called ‘Smokies’ because Arbroath is famous for their smoked haddock, also known as a smokie. Wendy and I picked up our race numbers and had just enough time for a performance enhancing toilet break (and for me to down my pack of Jelly Belly Sport Beans) before making our way to the start. My only goal for this race, despite also doing speed and hill training for it, was to better my time from the Dundee Templeton 10. The race organisers, as well as a colleague from work, informed me of hills from miles 2 to 4.5; I just hoped they wouldn’t be as steep and frequent as Templeton. The gun went off at the non-existent start line and we were off!

My race plan was to run easy for the first half, especially for the hills, then to pick up the pace at mile 5, then again at mile 8. I also planned to eat my second pack of beans at mile 5. The race took us away from the sports centre turning left from Keptie Road onto a road that would take us into the countryside Arbroath. I maintained a slower pace of around 9:45 to 10 minute miles, but this took some discipline to keep me from charging ahead.

Mile 1: 9:44

Mile 2: 9:59

At Mile 2 we had our first water station on a picturesque stone bridge before beginning our climb of the hilly section. That first hill was steep! But short, and luckily it leveled off again to allow us to recover. I managed to pass quite a few ladies who decided to walk up the hill, only to have them speed past me in the downhill sections. The so-called ‘hilly’ 2.5 miles were undulating, with another steep hill later on, but nothing horrible and long like Templeton. This section actually felt like the routes we do for our Sunday runs, so I felt quite at home.

Mile 3: 10:59

Mile 4: 10:31

Mile 5: 10:15

We hit 4.5 miles with a race marshal yelling to us “It’s all downhill from just after this last [small] hill!” I love it when race marshals yell that. The hilly section was over, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as my mind and others made it out to be. I played a game of cat and mouse with a few women who would walk up the hills then bomb it down them; I maintained an easy pace on the downhill sections to save my legs. I also met a race friend named June and we stayed together for the majority of the race.

At mile 5, I took my second batch of Sport Beans and picked up the pace. So much so that by mile 6, I looked at my Garmin and said “Shit, I’m running too fast:” sub-9 minute pace with 4 miles left was not a good idea. I still needed to pace myself until mile 8. The heat and light wind was also taking its toll as I had to take off my buff and top layer, and run in my thermal top instead, with my fleece gloves sticking out of the wasteband of my tights.

Mile 6: 9:15

Mile 7: 9:33

We made our way back to that picturesque stone bridge and our last water station, then headed back along the road that took us out of town. Mile 8 came and I picked up the pace. I was feeling a bit weird though and tired in the head. I was glancing at my Garmin frequently to make sure my pace was below 10 minute miles; I knew that a PR was within reach. I was averaging about 9:15 pace but it felt hard. I was telling myself that the race was over in less than 20 minutes and to make space between I can and I can’t. Over and over again. At this point, with my hair all over the place, top layer tied around my waist, and having just spit on my hand, a photographer took my photo. That will be a great #keepingitreal shot!

June was in my sight all the way back to the sports centre and the finish, and I managed to pass her just as we entered the parking lot. We ran through the field towards the non-existent finish, and my watched beeped 10 miles. I wasn’t actually sure where the actual finish line was, so I ran through the finisher’s chute and stopped my watch. The time was 1:39:05, a new personal record (or best). I beat my Templeton time by two minutes!

Mile 8: 9:56

Mile 9: 9:17

Mile 10: 9:07

Because the finish was kind undetermined, I’ll take 1:39:05; looking at my Garmin time, 10 miles beeped at 1:38:40, but I’m not going to get pedantic about it. Wendy and Nanette,who we’ve run with in the past, were waiting for me at the finish. Wendy smashed her Templeton time by 13 minutes! I opened my goodie bag to find a cool race t-shirt and hat, and promptly downed my water.

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We went into the sports centre for the treats we were promised post-race: sandwiches, rolls, sausage rolls and plenty of baked delights from Pie Bob’s in Arbroath. I managed to eat a small egg salad sandwich, but couldn’t eat the red velvet cupcake and chocolate fondant fancy I took, I just didn’t have the appetite. I chatted with Kirsty, our host when we ran the Aviemore half, and with Rachel, whose story of a lost toenail during her beauty appointment last week entertained Wendy on the race course.  We then headed back to the car to make our way home.

But first we snapped some photos!

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Including a #keepingitreal first attempt at the photo above:

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I look like I’m farting actually

 I’m so happy with my result and my start to the 2014 racing season. I ran the majority of my miles faster than 10 minutes, which is really encouraging going into half marathon training this Tuesday. Yes, Half Mary Musings is making a comeback! 2014 only gets better from here!

Have you run Smokies?

Did you race this weekend?

What’s the best post-race treats you’ve ever had?