Friday, May 26, 2017

Bloggers and Lagers Take Cuba!!

Earlier this month I was in Cuba for Lindsey's wedding! Lindsey and I met a few years ago when I decided to create a Blogger Jogger running group. Her, Shanondoah, and Michelle all came out for a run with me one day. Our "running" sessions quickly died off, but were replaced with dinner and drinks and now we are the Bloggers & Lagers and have all become good friends! So when Lindsey got engaged last year and started to plan a destination wedding in Cuba, all of us were totally on board to go! I had to leave Cam at home because he had to work :(

Blogger and Lagers and Hannah!

I love Cuba (having gone in 2011 and 2016), and I had always wanted to go to a destination wedding, so I was super stoked and it took FOREVER for May to come!! I think in total our group had 30+ people? I never got an exact number, and people came and left on different days of the week, but it was a TIME.

We all met at the airport at the ungodly hour of 3:30-4:00am, but we were a lively group and Lindsey and Evan had paid for us all to sit together so it was a fun morning, despite the lack of sleep! I was bunking with Michelle, and we soon found out our room was SO loud because there was an open air club across the street! Thankfully we were able to change rooms the next day and our new room was great. We said at the Starfish Cuatro Palmas and I really liked it. It is a smaller, older resort, right downtown. The location was fabulous for going out in the evenings and the resort itself was great- amazing beach, nice pool, friendly staff, and decent food! Probably some of the best eating I've had in Cuba!

View from our front door. Our balcony didnt look into much!

Typical breakfast!!

Poolside ice cream

Lindsey and Evan's friends were all super amazing and we quickly felt like we'd known them forever. Somehow we even managed to add her friend Hannah to our little group and made her an honourary blogger. She was a peach, and I miss her already.

We spent basically Tuesday- Saturday at the beach or pool (it got a little too wavy out in the ocean later in the week). It was just a great time enjoying the sun and the beautiful warm water of the coast. I also ran 3 mornings, as this was the week before my 50K! I did 8K with Michelle one morning, then 7K with Lindsey the next day, and then on the weekend I did 15K with Michelle- and this little muffin of a dog ran with us for 6K!!! Poor thing must have been so tired!!

Friday night was the bachelorette/bachelor party (it was a joint affair). We all walked over to Havana Club and had SUCH a fun time! I wasn't feeling too fabulous that night so I remained sober, but that's all the better to remember the hilarious interactions and antics of the group. Probably one of my favourite nights!

Sunday was the big day!! I was in charge of music (on Lindsey's phone), so I didn't have any responsibility until 3:30pm when the DJ would show up, so we spent the day lounging around the pool and I went back to the hotel room after lunch to get pretty (as much as my hair could hold a curl in the heat!). Oh- and by the way- I dyed my hair!! So I was still getting used to that too! I made my way over to the ceremony/reception spot and met up with the DJ and did some good miming with the DJ and we got everything set up! I got the cue from the coordinator of when to start the music and thankfully I think I all my cues alright. I totally teared up watching them all come down the aisle!

Once Linds reached the altar I stopped the music and ran down the beach to listen to the ceremony- but they were already done! It was short and sweet! So I dashed back up to the speakers to get ready for the recessional music. It was all good- apparently it was hard to hear with the ocean in the background, and I had a great view of everything from the back!

Then we had cocktail hour and the food was soooo good- dried fruit, nuts, and lots of bread + toppings of various sorts (the bread at this resort was fabulous). Dinner was a shrimp cocktail (I passed since I'm slightly allergic, but it looked good!), soup, chicken and veggies, and then some sort of cheesecake? It was all fabulous and one of the best meals I had on the trip!

After dinner we just danced away until we had to pack up and move to the lobby bar- where the party continued! And then we went off resort to the Beatles Bar (I swear we ended up there most nights- it's a super fun bar with cover bands playing all night) and danced some more!!

The next day we had a big catamaran boat booked so we were all up early for that! It was a great day of riding out to and island for lunch and drinkies and sun and sand, and then a ride back- where we saw dolphins! The boat was a lot of fun with music and open bar, but I took it easy on the drinks as I am prone to motion sickness! After we go back it was one last hurrah in the pool as it was our last night! Unfortunately while I had taken it easy on the drinks, I did not take it easy on the sun and I got pretty ill in the evening so I slept through most of whatever happened that night and only came down to hang out for a bit at the end.

Then we had to fly home :(. All in all, it was a fabulous trip and I had the BEST time! There is going to be a reunion this summer but unfortunately I can't make it- hopefully next year because I miss everyone!! Oh and congrats again Lindsey and Evan and thank you for having me!!!!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Seaton Soaker 50K!

I did it guys!! My first Ultramarathon and a trail race to boot! I have been training since January for the Seaton Soaker 50K and I ran it on Saturday in 7:32!

I ran it with my friends Steph and Kevin, and Kevin was a speedy demon and finished in 4:42 and was first in his age group (whaaaaaaat). Steph and I knew it would take us a tad bit longer so we set a goal of under 8 hours (the cut off was 8 hours!), and we knew even that would be a challenge! I am not speedy on trails!

The day before the race was my birthday so Steph, Kevin, and I headed over to my mom's where her and my stepdad fed us a hearty pasta and cupcake meal and helped us prep for the race. We stayed over, since the race was in Pickering where they live, and I actually slept really well, which is unusual for me before a race! At 6am we were up and my stepdad helped us all get organized and out the door on time. The race started at my old high school and it was fun being back there to check in! I got my bib (number 29) and was ready to go.

check in selfie!

team purple ready to roll!

The forecast was calling for rain all Saturday, but beyond a sprinkle or two, it ended up being nearly perfect race conditions! It was about 8 degrees in the morning, warming to 13 in the afternoon. The sun came out around 11am and thankfully a breeze came with it not long after so it was quite comfortable. I wore capris and a long sleeve shirt that I cut the arms off of. Women's running shirts tend to have really short sleeves and my running pack chafes me under my left arm- my homemade half-sleeve shirt was perfect!! I also wore some new rainbow socks on my arms for warmth at the beginning- I think I ditched them a couple hours in.

I had my hydration pack for water, and brought stroopwafels (a dutch syrup cookie) and gels with me. I had some peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars in my drop bag, but the aid stations were loaded with chips, candy, brownies, potatoes, pb sandwiches, name it. No one went hungry!

Team Purple coming in!

Steph and I planned to run the whole thing together, but wearing almost the same outfit was purely by accident. It was pretty fun having the aid stations yell "Team Purple! You're Back!". The course was an out and back times two (so each leg was about 12.5K). There are two big hills to conquer, but otherwise the course isn't too bad elevation-wise. Our plan was to only walk the hills and we stuck to that pretty well and walked very little outside of them.

Happy Casey

We set out at 8am and tried to keep a slow pace...we had a lot of ground to cover. Luckily (?) there was a big beaver damn to cross at 2K in, which was extremely muddy and a slow line formed to cross it. After that the crowd really thinned out and we were on our own a lot. One guy we were running with later was covered in mud and said "the beaver dam was too slow, so I just plowed through the mud and I fell....IT WAS AWESOME". I think that just about sums up the fun of trail running! Everyone on the course was so amazing. Soon the lead group was heading back and everyone would be telling each other "good work" or "keep it up!" as we passed. It was just great that someone who finished in 4 hours were just as humble as the people running 8 hours!

We made it to the 12.5K turnaround in about 1:51. Our goal was sub 8, which means each leg needed to be 2:00 hours or under, so this was perfect- we weren't going too fast! Our run back felt pretty great. I developed a pain in my right big toe that lasted about 35km, and I'm pretty sure I had something in my shoe for 40km, but what are you gonna do? I just ignored it. On the way back there is a detour in the course that has you crossing a river! There is a rope to hold onto and some firefighters on hand in case you run into any trouble. It was super cold, but really fun! I had done a lot of running in the rain and snow, so trust me when I say running in wet shoes really isn't a big deal. the right socks really help. At least my feet don't mind. I finished the race with no blisters and all my toenails. It took about a km to feel my feet again after the river...very weird to run like that! It was like running on tow ice blocks for feet.

We got back to the start (or rather, the halfway mark for us) at 3:30 hours! That gave us an hour buffer to finish in under 8 hours! A volunteer was immediately on hand to help us refill water and get some food in us and then we were off again! It was much quieter the 2nd half as all the 25K runners were done- the 50K only had about 81 runners and about 5 dropped out after the first half, leaving us with 76 on course! We made a wrong turn somehow, but thankfully a person running behind us saw us and corrected us. Then we were across the beaver dam again (much faster with no line up!) and back on our way. We knew we were somewhere near the back of the pack at this point, if not in last. We ended up running a large chunk of the last two legs of the race with a man named Ron, who was clearly a staple of the race as everyone knew him. He was speedwalking the whole thing and was basically the same speed as us running!

Somewhere around 30-31K I tripped and broke my fall with my face. I actually nearly-tripped about 10 times on the course (so many roots), but this was the only one that truly got me. I thought I might have a bloody nose, but I seemed fine. My right calf got pulled, but loosened up a bit quickly so I was alright to keep going! Luckily I didn't seem to have any bruising or further injury from the fall- just a tiny cut on my hand.

We didn't see any photographers after I fell so I made sure to keep my "warrior paint" on until I could get a good photo
We hit the turnaround at 5:30hrs, which gave us 2:30 hours to get back to the start. Thus far we had completed each leg under 2 hours so this was looking good for finishing on time! It was kind of fun hitting some new milestones- like when my watch clicked over 6 hours and it was the longest time I had ever run, or when we hit over 42.2km and knew it was now the farthest we had ever run.

We got back to the last aid station near the river crossing and they told us the firefighters and rope had gone!!!! We got to the river and had to cross unaided, which just seemed super dangerous, and we were kind of upset because we were still within the time limit so to lose the course support seemed unwarranted. There were still about 7 of us on the course. Plus, we ended up crossing at the wrong spot, which was much deeper (over the knee). But we made it across and waited for a woman (also doing her first ultra!) who we knew was just behind us. We wanted to make sure she got across safely.

Then we were off again! I had about 50 tiny river rocks in my shoe, but there was simply no way to get my shoes off now! We kept trucking along the course and finally- finally!- broke out of the wood and onto the fields near the finish. Our parents and Kevin were waiting at the top of the hill (who the hell put a hill there??) and Steph and I both got so emotional while we walked up it. Then it was just a lap around the finish line and we were done!!! 7:32!!! We waited around and watched the last 3 runners come in after us before the cutoff (two others finished over 8 hours, but I couldn't wait that long) and eating some of the post-race food (Thankfully Kevin saved us some of the delicious samosas). I ended up coming in 10th place in females age 1-39 (out of 10 people....HAHAHAHA...I love that statistic). The race gave out really cool buffs instead of medals, but Steph and I really wanted medals to commemorate this race so we made each other a medal, keeping them a complete surprise until after the race. I LOVE MINE SO MUCH!

coming up the final hill!

Post race!

My Medal!!! <3

The medal I made Steph...100% different inspirations

My buff! It has the course map on it!

My mom brought me some comfy slip-on shoes and very nicely untied and removed my mud-caked, wet shoes and helped me into the clean ones. Felt so heavenly!! Then somehow I managed to climb into their car and showered at their house after. Cam came over and he offered to carry me to his car (hahaha), but he also brought me roses! Such a sweetie. He loaded all my stuff in the car and drove me home and gave me a massage and put me to bed. I slept until midnight, and then woke up and ate half a pizza that Cam left out for me, and then went back to bed! I burned 5300 calories during the race and I look forward to eating them back!

Today I am super sore, but overall just super happy with the success of my race! Next year the race is ON my birthday, so we shall see if I attempt it again!

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