Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Past, Present and Future

The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind and I have to say that my mind has been all over the place. Thankfully the things clogging my brain up have been running related, although I do feel like things have become a little muddled with the past, present and future.

Shortly after the new year, an old friend from the UK posed the question - how would people feel about a Potteries Marathon revival? I don't think anybody could have anticipated the reaction to such a question, but with at least 1000 followers now supporting the idea, it looks like 2015 will see the return of "The Potts".

Potts Marathon Momentos
I've so many fond memories of my old home town marathon. It was the first marathon that I ever did at the tender age of 23 - I finished in just under 3 hours 47 minutes off the back of just 2 x 16 mile runs and a couple of 5 milers in training. After that first marathon though, I was hooked. I felt an affinity with the distance and to this day, it is still the marathon that I am most comfortable with. I ended up doing a further 7 Potts over the years with my best performance being 3rd lady in 3.19 back in 2003.

With all the recent talk about the Potts Marathon, I've found myself reminiscing along with hundreds of others about the event. It's felt strange talking and thinking about Stoke-on-Trent and the old marathon route, especially as I left my birth place 2 years ago and have been living overseas ever since. Yet there was - and still is - something warm and comforting that I get from the discussions - an old familiarity talking about places and street names that I've put behind me, and I've enjoyed sharing those memories with old friends, knowing that such discussions are meaningless to friends here in Calgary and something to which they cannot relate. 

Realising a dream - winning Snowdonia Marathon
In addition to the Potteries Marathon, an old running club that I used to be a member of celebrates it 50th anniversary this year and although only with Newcastle (Staffs) AC for around 18 months before I moved back to Trentham Running Club, I actually ran some of my best races and achieved the majority of my PBs when competing for Newcastle.  I have many happy memories of my time there, none more so than winning team gold in the National Marathon Championships at the London Marathon when I also ran a 2.47 PB. I also achieved one of my life time dreams when winning the Snowdonia Marathon in 2006 whilst donning the red, white and blue vest of Newcastle.

Needless to say, my thoughts have been elsewhere, reliving old memories of race victories and fast times, celebrating success with friends and family  in years gone by, so much so that I was starting to lose focus of what's ahead in 2014.

To bring me back to the here and now, last weekend I took stock of the races I have already entered for this year and having switched my brain from racing in Stoke and the UK to racing  in the Canadian Rockies, I couldn't quite make the transition and get my head around things. Eventually, the memories receded to the back of my mind whilst the excitement was building when thinking about making new ones.

At present, I'm entered for 15 individual races, along with the likelihood of 2 relays - the K-100 and the Banff to Jasper Relay - and the possibility of another 100 mile race in the fall. With a mixture of road and trail, short and long, training is certainly going to be interesting again over the coming months as I try to avoid becoming a long distance plodder by incorporating more speed into my schedule and reduced mileage.

My goals this year are more time focused and I'm currently following a schedule that will hopefully help me to achieve those goals. I'm now 4 weeks into the program and despite conditions not being ideal for running outdoors every day (we still have 2 feet of snow in some parts of Mahogany and where there isn't snow, we have sheet ice!), I'm managing to do the session with a mix of slower runs outdoors and speed sessions on the treadmill. It isn't easy and I'm making my body work harder and faster than it has done for a long time, but with each session that I successfully complete at the target pace, I'm growing in confidence.

Last weekend, with no races planned and only easy runs scheduled in, I finally managed two successive days of running outside. Despite wearing traction aids, I had yet another fall on the ice earlier in the week, so I bit the bullet and spent a few extra dollars on some khatoolas and decided to try them out that afternoon. As Brandy and Wilson needed a walk and I needed to do a "hilly 10km cross country run", we headed to the off-leash park at Nose Hill in the north of the city where Brandy opted for a walk with her dad, and Wilson opted for a 10km run with me.

Running with Wilson at Nose Hill
 It was a beautiful day albeit bitterly cold, but the sun was shining, the skies were blue, and from the top of the hill, we had the most magnificent views of downtown in one direction and the mountains spanning the horizon to the other. I've only ever been to Nose Hill once before and that was for the cross country last year, so I was in my element exploring and running around with Wilson in tow. Being an off-leash area, Wilson had his freedom and he sprinted ahead, bounding through the snow and hunting for rabbits and mice as he went. At one point in a clump of trees, he stopped in his tracks, ears up and alert, gave a small bark and starting to run forward at which point I noticed 2 coyotes lurking in the bushes ahead. Not wanting a confrontation with the local wildlife, I shouted him back and immediately put him back on his lead whilst the coyotes ran in the opposite direction, turning every so often to check on us, before eventually disappearing from view, their tracks in the snow the only evidence of their presence.

Lovely views from the top of Nose Hill
It was pretty icy up there, and once again, even with the khatoolas, I took another fall, this time tripping on the uneven ground beneath the snow rather than slipping on ice. I came away with cuts and bruises and a rather stiff IT Band, but thankfully nothing too long lasting.

Having had a fantastic run on the Saturday, I was looking forward to the run on Sunday, and having already agreed to meet my friend Alan at Fish Creek, I knew it was going to be another good run.

With having a 50km race in a couple of weeks, I've been trying to do some longer runs to help me prepare and so had every intention of doing around 30-35km on the Sunday. It was once again freezing cold with temperatures around -15, and yet I barely noticed how cold it was as we ran through the park area, through the trees and alongside the river. We didn't rush, we ran relaxed, and somehow managed to keep talking for the whole duration of the run, having some fascinating conversations about life, the universe and everything. The time flew by, and when looking at the distance after we'd finished, I was pleased and surprised to have covered around 38km and even more pleased that I was still feeling pretty good.

It was great to run outdoors again after so much treadmill running in recent weeks, and it reminded me and made me appreciate once again what a wonderful city Calgary is - with so many parks and open spaces, it really is a runners paradise, and that's before we've even added the mountains into the mix. Yes, I have many happy memories of running over the years and I will never forget them or the many friends I met along the way. I'll definitely be there for the Potteries Marathon when it goes ahead in 2015 and I fully support the BiB team over in Stoke that are trying to make its return a reality - but I also know without a doubt that THIS is home now, and this is where I belong.

old friends, good times, never forgotten :-)
old friends, good times, never forgotten

Old friends, fun times, never forgotten :-)

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