Monday, 29 February 2016

Dion Red Barn Snowshoe Race - Series finale Race report

   My husband Greg and I raced in our final race of the Dion Eastern Ontario Snowshoe Running Series  yesterday at the Dion Red Barn snowshoe race near Napanee, Ontario.  My coach Derrick Spafford is the Race Director for this one, and having raced in his Sydenham fall trail run last year, I was looking forward to another one of his races.

Photo Credit: Grace Vanderzande

Getting lined-up and ready to go.  Photo Credit: Grace Vanderzande

Love this photo - Justin up ahead, CJ, myself, and Greg in a tight pack.  Photo Credit: Grace Vanderzande

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Greg and Joe climbing and looking strong. 
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I am focusing on Erin ahead of me as I climb. 
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   There was lots of deep snow on course with slushy muck under much of the deep snow.  Most of the 5.6k course was single track, rutty, crusty snow (sometimes with surprise mush underneath - fun!).  It was the toughest snowshoe running conditions that I have encountered so far.  I wanted to go out hard and try to hold my pace .  That's what I did (although the holding the pace thing didn't work out like I had planned).  I flew out of the start, Greg and CJ Best were close behind.  They passed me at around 500m into the race, and I tried to go with them, but couldn't hold their pace.  I ended up running much of the race with Erin McDougall (one of the RD's from the last 2 snowshoe races I ran).  I just focused on him and stayed with him as the course wound through forest, past a cabin, and circled back to the barn.  I watched two falls happen in front of me (luckily no injuries).  In the first km, Graham Ross did some snowshoe gymnastics as his snowshoe was stepped on by another runner, and he tumbled - rolling right into a large puddle.  Erin had a fall in front of me too - within 500m to the finish.  He got up and laughed about it as quickly as he went down.  On this same long stretch, I could see the first place female runner.  I pushed to try to shorten the gap between us, but she was too far ahead.  I finished feeling less wrecked than the last race.  It was tough, but I was just starting to get into a grove and I was wishing the course was a bit longer.  Maybe a bit of me didn't want my snowshoe season to end so soon.   I finished 9th overall, 2nd female.  Greg had another really strong race, finishing 4th overall - just amazing in his first year snowshoe racing too.
Greg finishing - Go Greg go!  Photo Credit: Grace Vanderzande

Moments after the finish.  I'm walking over to Greg, and feeling a bit blah about my finish.  Photo Credit: Grace Vanderzande

     I wouldn't be honest (or human) if I said that I wasn't disappointed that I didn't have the same finishing result as last week.  But that feeling didn't last long.  After the race, while joking about his epic fall, Graham was asking me why I didn't race in the Frontenac Snowshoe race.  I explained that I had a lingering injury that was still bothering me at that time - and it was then that it occurred to me that, I am SO lucky to be racing this well, so soon after an injury.  The win last week threw me into competitive-mode and I forgot how fast I was able to bounce back.  I am so grateful for that!  For the last week I had forgotten about my recent injury, the idea that I may win the series was a nice one to entertain.  I had a great idea about who I would give my hypothetical winning snowshoe prize to, and it was exciting to think about me winning the series in my rookie year as a snowshoe runner.  But that was not to be.  CJ Best won the race, placing her first in the series.  I was second in the race, and in the series.  She is an amazing athlete, and it's wonderful getting a chance to race with her.  Congrats CJ on your win, and all the best in your future racing seasons (on or off snowshoes).  Full results can be found here.

Derrick presenting me the 2nd place female award - Thanks D!  Photo credit:

     After a nice cool-down with Greg, Joe and Erin we enjoyed the post-race food and best post-race coffee ever (Thanks Hillside coffee!) by a roaring bonfire.  Race director Derrick Spafford sourced over $2500 worth of prizes to be awarded at the race.  I appreciate my prize for my 2nd in the ladies division - a running room gift card, lip balm, Elevate me bars, and my favourite out of the heap of goodies was a pair of handmade fleece socks (made by Derrick's mom).  I absolutely love those!  I ended up walking away with a draw prize as well - some Kahtoola Microspikes.  Looking forward to using those on the trails!

     Our drive home was easy and we got through Toronto without any difficulty.  Greg and I chatted about our races, and the upcoming races that we're going to do together.   Greg is thinking about running his first ultra this summer.  I'm thrilled about this - it has taken me 8 years to convince Greg to give it a try.  Greg was joking that if he's going to be an ultra trail runner, he needs to seriously consider growing a beard.  Get that beard growing Greg!

     I love these weekends away together with Greg.  I'm extremely lucky to be able to race with him and do these events together.  We get some time away exploring new places and doing something we love.  My parents hosted another "sleepover at Grandmas" and the kids were happy to spend the weekend with their Grandparents.  Thank you Mom and Dad!

     My very short snowshoe racing season is done. I hope to race in the series again next year.  I had a great time.  My focus quickly changes from getting myself ready for racing to getting my student-athletes ready to race.  I coach and help to prepare a large group of kids to race in a local charity 5k race in April, and then those runners become my distance team for track and field.  Since I've missed a few years of teaching/coaching due to maternity leave and illness, I hope to begin to build the team again to the enthusiastic group of distance runners that I had a few years ago.  I'm looking forward to getting out there and running with my team.

   Thanks to my sponsors CLIF bar for the delicious CLIF shots, CLIF bars, CLIF bloks, and CLIF builders protein bars, that I use in my training.  Thanks to Dion Snowshoes for the amazing Dion 121 Racing Frame snowshoes from Spafford Health and Adventure.  Thanks again to Spafford Health and Adventure for the entry to the race.  Thanks to RD Derrick Spafford (and his team of family and friends) for a very well-done race.  Everything went great.  The course was well-marked and really beautiful.  And it was one of those races where you can see the race director's personal touches in it (some good example are the dozens of hand-made socks given away, the live music, the food, and the enormous amount of draw prizes - almost everyone got a little something that they weren't expecting).  Special thanks to my coach Derrick - thanks for introducing me and Greg to this awesome sport, we both had fantastic rookie seasons - you created two more snowshoe running enthusiasts!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Hey Toothfairy, Funny story....

Clara had an exciting day at school yesterday.  She lost her first tooth.  The tooth has been wiggly for a week and she has been waiting anxiously for her chance to put it under her pillow for the toothfairy.  During lunch, she was enjoying her apple when she noticed that her wiggly tooth was missing.  She absolutely panicked when couldn't find her tooth. She was so upset when she realized that she had swallowed her tooth as she was eating her apple.  Her teacher Mrs. F jumped in quickly to calm her down.  She helped Clara craft a letter to the toothfairy explaining her situation, and why there wasn't a tooth to put under her pillow (thank you Mrs. F!).  Clara put the letter under her pillow last night, and the toothfairy gladly took it -I think the letter was better than a tooth anyway :)  Congrats Clara on loosing your first tooth in such a memorable way!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Ella's art is first in Southwestern Ontario and moving on to the Provincial Level. Go Ella!

Way back in October, Ella was encouraged by her art teacher at school to enter a Remembrance Day Art contest held by the Royal Canadian Legion.  Ella drew a beautiful black and white poster of soldiers in forest brush, escaping a war camp.  Today, she told me that she won $100 for her art.  She explained that a lady from the Legion came to her school and presented her the framed certificate and cheque for $100 in front of her class.  She has been awarded first place in Southwestern Ontario for her poster (out of 1800 entries), and Ella's art moves on to the Provincial level where her poster will be in the primary (grades 1-3) black and white poster division.  She is so passionate about drawing.  Hours and hours, and too many filled sketchbooks to count.  So glad she's getting a bit of recognition for all her hard work.  I'm so proud of her.  Way to go Ella!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

My second Snowshoe race - Dion Ganaraska Forest - a win!

   My second snowshoe race was yesterday.  I am so excited to write this report! After a few more practice runs on my Dion Racing Frame Snowshoes, I was looking forward to racing again.  The kids slept over at their Grandma's and Grandpa's house, and my husband and I were set to have a day away together to compete in the Dion Ganaraska Forest Snowshoe Race, near Port Hope, Ontario. This is the 6th race in the Dion Eastern Ontario Snowshoe Running Series.

   We woke up early to make the 2 and a half hour drive to the race.  The rain overnight had melted all the snow in Cambridge, so we were expecting to see increasingly more snow as we drove closer to the race site.  Nope.  The neighbouring farmer's fields right beside Ganaraska forest were completely clear.  Greg and I couldn't believe that there was enough snow for snowshoes.  But there was.  Inside the forest the snow was abundant. Most was deep, packing snow, but in some spots it was the kind of snow that's so much fun as a kid - the snow that you step in and it splashes apart and gooey, slushy-mush is underneath.  The deeper snow was harder to race in than the last race, but I was just glad that there was enough snow for a race, because I knew that I wouldn't be wearing my snowshoes again back home for a while.

   The race course was beautiful.  8 kilometers of heavily forested trails.  It was single track for the first part, but widened for the majority of the snowshoe trail loop.  I ran with Greg, and the lead female runner, and another runner for the first 2k.  Greg decided to pull ahead, so I followed.  The trails were rolling, with a large climb in the middle of the race.  It was a tough climb.  I slowed right down and worked hard to get up it with any kind of speed.  It was nice to only have to do that climb once :)  I had the 4th place male runner in sight for most of the race.  We would switch positions and I would take the lead (mostly on the downhills - which I run like an animal), and he would pull ahead on the ups.  It was nice to have someone to run with and I could stick to him.  He slowly pulled ahead at about 6k.  Since 2k, I knew I had the female lead in the race.  I was pushing as hard as I could go, and hoping to hold my lead, knowing the 2nd place female runner was a very strong competitor.  I was approached in the last 200m by another runner.  I was relieved that it was a male runner, but I also didn't want to lose a position at the end of the race, so I pushed again and ran with him.  We crossed the line at the same time - he squeeked ahead of me by 0.7 of a second.  I thanked him after for the push at the end.  I finished in 6th position overall, and first female!  Greg had his best race of the season too -placing 3rd overall. Those were fun results to text to my coach Derrick Spafford.  Full results can be found here:
The top 3 at the Dion Ganaraska Snowshoe race - Greg, Justin, and Gonzalo

Me, at the awards presentation with RD Joe Turner
   I wasn't expecting a win.  That was a nice surprise.  Greg and I ran our cool down with the overall winner of the race Justin, and 4th place Eric.  Cool downs always feel really good after a nice strong race.  We were all very happy with our races, so discussing our experiences was fun as we relived parts of the race.  Justin's win was an interesting one.  He's a teacher and had a parent/teacher interview on the morning of the race, he didn't arrive until moments before the start - he jumped out of his car and onto the starting line.  Amazing!  Greg and I are new to the snowshoe racing scene, so it was nice to meet more people.
Greg getting his granola from Joe :)
 The awards ceremony was fun - lots of draw prizes (thank you RD's for sourcing those out).  My first prize award was an entry to next year's race (awesome! I'll be back), a Running room gift card, and some granola from Living Primal.  Greg won a bag of granola too.  My sister joked through text that we should be throwing that stuff around like confetti to celebrate our races.  It's tempting, but this granola is too delicious to toss around :)  Thanks for the awards. Our next race is the series finale Dion Red Barn Snowshoe Race.  We're looking forward to it.
 Thanks to Race Directors Joe Turner and Erin McDougall (and their volunteers) for all their hard work in putting on the race.  The course was well-marked, the race was well organized, and things ran smoothly.  Thanks to my sponsors Dion Snowshoes which you can order in Canada through Spafford Health and Adventure's Online Store, and to CLIF Bar for your delicious CLIF bars, CLIF shots, CLIF Bloks, and CLIF Builder's protein bars that I use during my training and racing. Thanks to my coach Derrick Spafford for helping me prepare for the race. Thanks to Greg for sharing another great race with me - I always try to catch him, but he keeps getting away! And huge thanks to my parents for having "Sleepovers at Grandma's" which the girls look forward to. Thank you very much.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Physio Graduation day

After some nagging knee pain lingered far too long, I got the injury diagnosed and started physio to try and heal and strengthen the injured area.  I have been going to twice-weekly physio appointments since early December.  Having been pain-free for two weeks, today was my last appointment.  Thank you very much Gopika and Kevin at Grand River Sports medicine in Cambridge for their awesome care and exercise routine.  It's so exciting going into my racing season without pain.  The healing process has been hard - there has been some ups and downs.  But I have had wonderful people on my side to keep me motivated and on track.  My coach Derrick Spafford has been wonderful and has adjusted my training to align with the doctor and physio therapists recommendations.  I also received Active Release Therapy from Dr. Dale Harrison at Coronation Chiropractic and Massage, and Naturopathic treatments from Dr. Sharon Rutledge.  I have been really lucky to have such a talented bunch of professionals working with me.  I'm at the point that's hard to imagine when you're dealing with an injury that's taking forever to heal and messing with your training.  I'm on the other side and very excited to be there.  That was such a test of my patience.  Glad its over.

Merry CLIF-mas!

Waiting on my porch today was my first product shipment from CLIF bar.  It feels a bit like Christmas.  Thanks for the CLIF shots, CLIF Bloks, CLIF Builders bars, CLIF organic trail mix bars, the CLIF mini bars, and the hats and socks.  I'm looking forward to wearing the toque in my race this weekend (the Dion Ganaraska forest snowshoe race), and getting into those delicious CLIF products.  Thanks again CLIF bar.
Tessa was very excited about the CLIF product delivery, she liked checking out the packages.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Snowshoeing in Arrowhead Provincial Park in -27 degrees!

Whoa! It was cold this weekend.  Greg and I took the kids to Arrowhead Provincial park near Huntsville to enjoy some outdoor winter fun.  Well, it turned out to be WAY too cold to have the kids outside too long, but I did get to enjoy a very cold snowshoe run on Arrowhead's trails on Saturday afternoon.  The temperature was -27 degrees before the windchill.  I was wearing many layers, and I covered up all skin.  I even had dollarstore handwarmers (which worked wonderfully).  I didn't notice the cold at first.  The trails were very packed-down, but hilly.  I passed a few groups of people who were walking with snowshoes on, and they commented on my running in snowshoes.  I wanted to stop and explain that these Dion Racing Snowshoes are designed for running and if they were wearing these, that they could run too.  But it was very cold and I had to keep moving.  I loved running through the trails.  It was just beautiful.  I held an easy and relaxed pace and had a fantastic run.  I decided to stop the run at 48 minutes, as I approached my car. I noticed that my quads, hips and butt was pretty cold (only 2 layers there - I know to have more layers next time), everything else seemed ok.  I snapped this pic as I was getting ready to hop into the car to go back to the hotel.  That neck warmer is originally black :)

Greg, will you Brie my extra special Valentine?

This year, Greg and I agreed to no cards for Valentines day, so he found this in the fridge yesterday:
Oh so cheesy - horrible, I know.  Happy Valentines Day!!!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

My first snowshoe race! - Dion Brighton Snowshoe race report

   I raced in my first Snowshoe race this weekend.  It's funny because before a few months ago, I didn't even know that this sport existed.  Last winter, I was barely running, and definitely avoiding going outside now I'm watching the weather- hoping for snow and joking about doing "snow dances" to will the snow to fall.  It's great that I have found a fun winter activity where I can enjoy the trails that I love even in the snow.

   My husband and I traveled to Brighton, Ontario this past weekend to race in the Dion Brighton Snowshoe race.  We stayed in a little resort called the Timber house Resort.   The small resort was right on the water.  We had a cozy room with a fireplace, and a king bed. Throughout our room and the hotel was lots of beautiful exposed wood beams.  We had a quiet night in, getting ready to race in the morning.  The hotel owner Dan was very accommodating to our needs as runners, and allowed us a late check out, so we could come back to the room to shower before our drive home.  That was great.  Thanks Dan!
Just after the start - I'm trying to get my gps going, and look at Greg - he's all business! - photocredit Dalila Seckar
Photocredit - Sean Scally
  I woke up nervous for the race.  I commented to Greg, that I was more nervous for this race than I was for the World 100k Championships in the Netherlands in September.  I was wondering how I would feel, pushing myself with the snowshoes on.   My three other runs with snowshoes have been at a very casual pace.  I was hoping that I had changed the cleats properly and that they wouldn't fall apart as I ran.  I was wondering how I would place in the field.  This being something new, I was definitely more nervous than usual.

   The race was held at the Goodrich-Loomis conservation area. As we were walking to the building to pick up our race numbers, Greg ran into a guy he knows from work.  Neither one knew the other snowshoe ran.  We warmed-up together and waited with Tim and his partner Dalila at the start for the race to begin.

   The course wound through the trails of the conservation area.  It had two sizable hills, the first being at 900m into the race, so to avoid the potential bottleneck, Greg and I had a quicker start than I was intending.  I was passed on the first hill by the 2nd place female runner, and then by another runner.  I caught up to him and ran with him for a bit, then moved on.  I could see the 2nd place female ahead of me for most of the race.  I was trying to catch her, but my legs wouldn't turn over any quicker.  I finished 7th overall, 3rd female in 33:08.  Greg ran a fabulous race finishing in 5th overall, 4th male in 31:55.
Photocredit - Sean Scally

Photocredit - Sean Scally

Photocredit - Sean Scally

At about 2k in.  I see Dalila, thanks for the cheering!-photocredit Dalila Seckar

Greg's approaching the finish.  Go Greg Go! -photocredit Dalila Seckar

Just around the bend and then finished. -photocredit Dalila Seckar
I didn't realize that I was smiling most of the race -there's a lot of photo proof of that :) I had a blast.  It was so much fun getting to enjoy the snow-covered trails.  I was very happy with the pace I could hold, and how great I felt.  I'm ready to run more snowshoe races.
Greg crossing the line - awesome race Greg! -photocredit Dalila Seckar

My prize for 3rd female overall - Granola! -photocredit Dalila Seckar

   Whoa - I get to write this officially now - Thanks to my wonderful product sponsors - Dion Snowshoes for the Dion121 Racing Frame Running Snowshoes which performed very well during the race from Spafford Health and Adventure and to CLIF bar for their excellent  CLIF bars, CLIF bloks, and CLIF shots to help fuel my performance during the race (and in my training leading up to the race too).  Thanks to the friendly and helpful race directors and volunteers for the enjoyable first snowshoe race experience.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

High Five for learning how to use my GPS watch!

This was my running route this morning.  It turned out better than I thought it would.  More doodles to come - oh and my first snowshoe race report is coming soon too.