The Running Whys – Mary Kate Wedge

Mary Kate

This story ran in the April 29 edition of the Daily Gleaner.

This time a year ago, Fredericton resident Mary Kate Wedge had plenty on her plate.

She was busy professionally as a pharmacist at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital and the Summerside, P.E.I., native was also deep in the planning stages for her October wedding to Rob Agar.

And for good measure, she was prepping for the Fredericton Marathon.

In terms of running, there were no time guarantees last May, considering her hectic personal agenda, but she knew if she put in a strong effort on the traditionally fast course, she’d have a shot at qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon. Continue reading

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The Running Whys – Charlotte Flewelling

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Charlotte finished the 8km race at Hopewell Rocks, a major goal for her.

Running has always been part of Charlotte Flewelling’s life but now more than ever it is essential. Step by step, she is hitting some big personal goals. And she has her sights set on Marathon by the Sea in August. Here is today’s Running Whys.

Enjoy

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This year will mark three years since Charlotte Flewelling took up running. Looking back, appropriately enough after Father’s Day weekend, she says it was her Dad who provided her first inspiration for the sport, which has developed into a critical component so she can meet her health-related goals. Continue reading

The Running Whys – Paul Sands

Paul's Marathon 2015This is the first in a series of stories on runners, walkers and volunteers who will be taking part in the Marathon by the Sea this upcoming August. This is the third year for these stories entitled the Running Whys and in 2016, we lead off with Paul Sands of Saint John.

Enjoy

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It’s been almost four years since Paul Sands of Saint John got back into running. In June of 2012, then 58, Paul started walking, then running, in an effort to combat the effects of sitting most of his work day at a desk. Continue reading

The Running Whys Samantha MacAlpine

An emotional Samantha MacAlpine holds her son at the finish line of the 2013 Marathon by the Sea half marathon. Earlier that morning, she learned her grandfather passed away. She wears his dog tags as a good luck charm when she runs.

An emotional Samantha MacAlpine holds her son at the finish line of the 2013 Marathon by the Sea half marathon. Earlier that morning, she learned her grandfather passed away. She wears his dog tags as a good luck charm when she runs.

This is the 16th story in a series profiling runners who will compete in the 20th anniversary running of Emera Marathon By the Sea Marathon in Saint John. The stories are also running on the MBTS Facebook page and MBTS website.

As the final countdown for the 20th edition of the Emera Marathon by the Sea approaches, many runners are nearing the late stages of their preparations for one of the region’s biggest races.

That includes Samantha MacAlpine of Saint John, who will use this year’s MBTS as another stepping stone in the progression toward her first full marathon in October. Continue reading

In April’s words – The Running Whys

april MBTS

“I remember feeling glee at the 15 km mark, knowing that I had a chance at beating 2 hours. Eventually the two-hour pace bunny caught up to me and I pushed with everything I had to keep ahead of him. I came in by the skin of my teeth at 1:59:54, and burst into tears at the finish.”

I met April when we both worked in the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John. While we worked on a few minor projects together, we were usually in different sections of the paper. However, we did have a great interest in running and we talked a lot about it during breaks from the grind – whether it was the latest event we entered or strategies for the upcoming race.

It was great to have an ally to discuss the sport and help alleviate some of the stresses journalism brings.

April is extremely passionate about running and in 2013, her results reflected the dedication of her training.

Here is her story.

Enjoy

Kevin

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by April Cunningham 

About a year ago, with one half-marathon and a few other races under my belt, I was in goal-setting mode as the new year approached. I had taken a few weeks to recover and wanted a new challenge.

Instead of upping my distance, I decided I wanted to take another crack at the half-marathon. Sometime in February I signed-up for the Fredericton race and took my time preparing for the race, which took place May 12.

The setting for that event was rainy and cool, but the course was very flat. There was one minor hiccup – I forgot my Garmin, which I had come to depend upon for pacing. But it turned out to be a good thing, because I blew away my PR of 2:16, coming in at 2:01:40. It was faster than I ever imagined.

At that point, the Tri-Cities Run Challenge had been initiated by the running community in New Brunswick. I knew I would probably participate in all three major races – in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John – but wasn’t sure I would be up for running three half marathons. Well, after the Fredericton race, I felt a lot more committed.

I knew it would mean near-constant training straight through until October, but I enjoy running so much, I knew it would be worth it.

By the time August rolled around, I was ready to take on the hills of Saint John. The Marathon by the Sea is always a tough one, not just because of the hills but the weather can be warm and humid. This year, the weather was fine at 20 C. I knew I wouldn’t beat my new PR, but I was eager to blow away my course record from 2012. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face at 2:09:09.

The final race would be at Legs for Literacy in Moncton on Oct. 27. My training had been steady up until this point, and things were looking good. I felt strong and ready, but due to a slight health issue, I wasn’t pressuring myself to beat 2:01.

Race day arrived and it was cold and very rainy. But with another flat course, everything lined up. My pace was faster than expected. I remember feeling glee at the 15 km mark, knowing that I had a chance at beating 2 hours. Eventually the two-hour pace bunny caught up to me and I pushed with everything I had to keep ahead of him. I came in by the skin of my teeth at 1:59:54, and burst into tears at the finish.

Looking back, it’s kind of hard to believe I accomplished my goal of running three half-marathons in one year. Running 21.1 km in under two hours wasn’t even really a goal until I had it within reach. Ever since I started running races a couple years ago my goals have always been just to keep improving – and it works!

For me, the enjoyment and fulfillment that running brings continues to surpass anything I ever imagined. I feel good. I feel confident. I am happy. It’s simple and joyful. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun.

Along the way there were a few challenges: between work commitments, holidays, heat, cold and rain – but nothing was insurmountable. I’ve made running a priority in my life, and I have fortunate not to deal with any injuries.

In a way accomplishing my running goals has filled me with pride, but in another way, it just seems like something I needed and wanted to do. Running is now a part of who I am, and I can’t imagine not doing it.

Race recaps:

Fredericton: http://aprilcunningham.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/running-by-the-blossoms/

Saint John: http://aprilcunningham.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/my-third-half/

Moncton: http://aprilcunningham.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/icing-on-the-cake/

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Here is April displaying her Tri-Cities medal.

Continue reading

Shooting for 3:59:59

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As I mentioned earlier today, there are always a lot of questions regarding goal times for big races and those standards, I have found, become deep secrets for many runners. It is quite understandable why this is the case.

PHOTO above: That’s me, yellow shirt, left, crossing the finish line at the Legs for Literacy Marathon last year with my daughters (pink and blue jackets). The chip time in my first marathon was 4:13:13. (April Cunningham photo)

First, there are a host of external concerns that are totally out of control – weather, wind, temperatures, a slightly long course, hills you did not count on seeing when you registered and others aspects that can add to your anticipated goal.

Second, and probably just as telling, is the impact of training. Did you get out enough times per week? Have you racked up enough distance in your preparation? Are you running easy courses (i.e. no hills) in training? Will you go out too fast in the first kilometre and not run the smart race? Was your goal time in training too ambitious? Did you eat properly? How is your weight? Were you sick or injured recently? Did you sleep enough?

As you can see, it is quite easy for doubts to creep in before the horn sounds.

So there are a number of reasons why many, including me, are reluctant to ‘broadcast’ anticipated times prior to the big event. Finishing healthy is a good response to goal queries, with a smile of course. And then there are the accountability questions no one really wants after a long run if you come up short, in what is a recreational setting. Generally  though, I have been too conservative in my quiet goal setting, thinking there is no way I’d do better than X:XX:XX, only to surprise myself with a great result. The best example of this was the Fredericton half in 2012, when I hit 1:42:53 on the flat and fast course on a nice and cool morning when I was not too certain my training regiment was up to par after a long winter.It was a PB by almost 5 mins.

But last year, when I went to run in Moncton, after a subsequently tough 1:52:53 half marathon clocking in the humidity and hills of Saint John, I really did not have a firm marathon goal. I was thinking anywhere from 3:50-4:30. Would I even finish? Had I not hit the wall because a number of poor training factors on my part – I might have cracked 4 hours. But lessons, many of them, got registered.

I followed a familiar script in goal setting for that race though. That is, have a lot of mini targets and then, you can adjust based on the external conditions and how you feel. That day, I thought about the absolute best possible result, based on pre-race perceptions. Then the very worst. Then three goals inside of those windows. I did this in my first race about three years ago and most every one since. I just did not say them out loud.

So why all the talk about the final time here in the third week of training for the P.E.I. Marathon, an event that does not kick off until October?

Because, as the Pfitzer training logs say, every training run needs a target based on a final goal pace. Your critical long slow runs clock in 10-20 per cent slower than your anticipated marathon pace. Recovery runs are 15 per cent slower than goal pace. Tempo runs are right at half marathon pace or even 15k pace. Hills are, well, subjects of profanity.

So even before you get going in your first training run, you need that firm target.

Therefore, given last year’s race, my decent base of work in the first quarter of this year, and a manageable 22 weeks of training to get things right, I think I can break four hours. It won’t be easy. First, the goal is about 5.5 per cent faster than my last marathon. That is 13 minutes, 14 seconds faster. It will take a big improvement in a  number of areas and training in that summer heat. But I am ready for that. It will also take regular hills and tempo runs. Ready for that – I hope. And just to make sure, I am training for a 3:55 marathon. That puts me at about a goal pace of  5:35 per kilometre. 4 hours is 5:41.

So there it is. Fingers crossed.

Looking back before racing ahead

It had been a while since I was that nervous for a sporting event. I mean, I never really reached any significant level in minor sports but the 2012 Legs for Literacy marathon was a special event personally – a Bucket List moment which I delighted in sharing with my family for a weekend getaway in Moncton.

That was last October and while I was so happy I finished in 4:13:13, I never truly evaluated my performance, other than feeling fantastic about finishing and understanding there was a lot of room for improvement.

So before I get too far into the 2013 Marathon training, I needed to review my result in Moncton.

BEWARE – Number crunching ahead!

My optimism levels were reasonably good for that first marathon, considering I had a 38:02 clocking in the Hampton five miler about five weeks before. I had a tough time in the half at the Marathon By the Sea (August, 1:52:53), dealing with hills, no taper and high humidity but I was thrilled with a 1:42:53 in the Fredericton half marathon in May. It was this result which gave me the confidence to go ahead and give the 42.2k a try. Looking back, that time provided a little too much confidence during the dog days of summer training and I think caused me to believe I could always maintain that speed with basic maintenance running in the summer (i.e. no tempos or hills). One of many lessons learned along the way.

For Moncton, I used the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan, which called for long runs on Sunday that grew in distance each time out. There were also two weekly medium long runs that progressed in length throughout the journey as well. Things were completed with small maintenance runs that assisted in boosting mileage. I tried to run throughout each of the runs, not deploying the 10-1 philosophy some suggest. Mileage peaked at approximately 45 miles per week.

Generally, my pace for the shorter runs was at 5:45 per kilometre and the long runs clocked at 6:00-6:05 per kilometre. A massive challenge was discipline, particularly with eating, diligently completing those medium runs. At times, I struggled in longer runs with stomach issues.

Using past performance as a guide and the great unknown as a reality check, I figured I might fall anywhere between 3:50 and 4:30.

Prior to the Moncton, we arrived the day before, enjoyed the carbo loading meal and took in Crystal Palace with the girls before calling it a night.

The next morning, I was up early and because the hotel’s entrance was adjacent to the start line – I was one of the first ones there! There were some anxious pre-race moments as my battery for my MP3 player went dead and at 6:30 a.m., it was hard to find another. Thankfully, I got one from a generous hotel clerk, who had a supply on hand!

After a warm up and seeing some friends near the start line, the horn sounded and we were off. It was hard to hold back from the surging pull of the rabbits in the early stages but I tried to keep in mind that a 5:41/k pace would get me near 4 hours at the end. As it turned out, I went out a little too fast, held on for about 32 k and then hit the dreaded wall. That is not a smack, slamming feeling but one of sheer and utter exhaustion. Next time, I hope to avoid that stage.

Anyway, here are the splits with a few comments: For nutrition, I ate a chocolate gel every seven KM and drank a few sips of water every 2.5 k.

First 10k (55:35) – 5:41, 5:39, 5:30, 5:29, 5:21, 5:27, 5:38, 5:34, 5:36, 5:36. (Felt too good at 4-6 km, was high fiving volunteers, low fiving others, thumbs up to all, not conserving energy)

Second 10k (1:51:40) – 5:34, 5:39, 5:29, 5:46, 5:35, 5:36, 5:35, 5:33, 5:36, 5:38 (pretty consistent but 3-11 seconds per km faster than desired pace, not  a big deal I thought. Wrong).

Halfway 1:57:13 (the turnoff toward the finish for the half marathoners took place at about 18-19 k, so midway through, there were very few of us on the full course, alone with our thoughts in the middle of a nice flat trail).

Third 10 k (2:50:00) 5:32, 5:34, 5:36, 5:52, 5:25; 5:40, 5:45, 6:04; 6:28; 6:18 (still felt pretty good until I encountered the gentle rolling hills in Dieppe. Stopped a couple of times in 28th, 29th and 30th kilometres but always got back at it and felt I could deal with it, which was evidenced early in next segment. I also thought since I had banked some time earlier, that as long as I resumed, I’d be OK to finish steady…of note, banking time in a marathon is not a good idea).

Fourth 10 k (3:55:05) 5:49, 5:37, 6:39, 6:49, 6:42, 6:41, 6:40, 6:10, 6:45, 7:07 (at 31-32k I thought I had recovered from the worst. But the continuing rolling hills in Dieppe and my earlier enthusiasm got to me. From 33-37k, it was a lot of 2 minutes run, 30 seconds walk, or 1 minute run, 1 minute walk – in other words, slow going; I recovered slightly for 38th kilometre and then fatigue really hit. I had a hard time lifting my legs in 39th and 40th kilometres. People were passing me with ease. The finish seemed light years away. Honestly, it was quite a fight at this point.

Moncton run 053web

The final stage (4:13.13) 7:43, 7:15, 3:11 (My Garmin measured 42.52k which from what I understand is normal. I read prior to the event that apparently Garmins can be off one per cent, which accounts for the difference from the official distance. But the 41st and 42nd  kilometres were torture, really. The pace bunny for 4 hours had come back to help, encouraging me to the finish. Finally, the last turn came and the final stretch run of about 400 metres was down Main Street in front of the crowd that remained. When my daughters joined me, I mustered up whatever bit of energy I had and pointed toward for home. It was a special moment, with them along for the ride. Prior to the race, the girls and Kathy each gave me a stone with an inspirational message on it that I did hold at various times in the race.

When I finished, I could barely walk and was surprised how instantly cold I got. I was elated to finish, caught off guard on emotions and thankful the girls were there. I got a massage but it was awful as I cramped the entire time.

I chugged 4-5 chocolate milks, warmed up and that was that! My friend April snapped some great shots and at Christmas time, Kathy gave me a framed print of one of the photos along with the stones and a small plaque with my time engraved. Very special.

Start 8:15 a.m. finish 12:28 p.m.

Average pace 5:57; calories burned 3,797 (that is the equiv of two of those massive bags of nibs – trust me, I know).

Looking back, it was an accomplishment I took more and more pride in during the winter. Reviewing it with an eye on improving, my long runs in training were too fast, and for various reasons, I had to stop on many of them, even briefly. Also, on race day I went out way too fast (55:35 for first 10k) in the big race and I paid the price. I probably should have paid a bit more attention to my diet (damn Party Mix!).

All lessons learned.

All in all, a wonderful experience and when looking back when I weighed 235 pounds in 2006, it was something I never envisioned taking place.

Now for the second one!