Mind, Body and Goal

Fall is for firsts. This, being the first year I have ever actually stuck with running across multiple seasons, has brought many firsts. The first time I’ve ran enough to wear out a pair of shoes. The first time I successfully set an alarm, got up, and ran in the wee hours of the morning. The first time crying happy tears at a finish line. The first time calling myself a runner.

The fall season however brings a certain feeling about firsts, as it’s the season of first days of school, first turning leaves, everything changing and bearing down for winter. Work gets busier, the city fills with students, and races fill with enthusiastic runners who have dedicated their hot, grueling summer training to be there. For me, this first fall as a runner brings a new, very welcome meaning – an exciting challenge and a refreshing payoff from the hard work throughout the hot summer.

I understand why runners love fall race season. Running feels amazing in the crisp fall air after a hot, humid summer of training. You’ve got one more chance to achieve the goals that you set for the year before winter sets in and then you’re back to (hopefully) training for next year.

Some runners may have gone into 2016 hoping to run their first half, or to PB, to run their first out of province race, or maybe just to stick with it all year. For me, when I set goals for 2016 they included figuring out a way to get out of the funk I was in – trying to lose weight, find happiness and contentment, and first and foremost to enjoy the moments I’m in instead of planning too far ahead. Like everyone, I wanted to get my health on track. Running was not included in these goals, because running was not something I knew I would do in 2016. I didn’t realize that running was the ticket that would help me achieve all of these things and more.

Yet here I am 10 months later having finished four 10k’s and six 5k’s in 2016 thus far. I’m feeling like I checked every box, wrote a new list, and checked those off too. I went into my two more serious fall races (Maritime Race Weekend and Valley Harvest Marathon) hoping to PB, to make it closer to my goal of the coveted sub 1 10k. To think 7 short months ago when took a leap of faith and joined Team Myles, I did not believe that I could run 10k at all, that I would maybe complete the 5k, if I could overcome the doubt first and really, truly commit.

If you are thinking about changing something you are unhappy with, just start. Start tiny and be realistic with yourself, because you deserve to be successful. Care about the person you are now enough to help them make the changes. Don’t take on too much just to crash and burn. Be patient, and things will happen faster than you think. It’s as easy as starting.

What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best moments haven’t happened yet.

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Valley Grown & Harvested (Valley Harvest Marathon Race Recap)

Thinking back to when I was a student at Acadia University, living, studying and working in the beautiful town of Wolfville, NS gives me nothing but the best memories. I get warm & fuzzy feelings remembering the people, the growth, figuring things out the hard way, and achieving something much bigger than the education that got when I was there. I was one of the lucky ones who really got to know Wolfville as something more than a University town – so my love for it really runs deep.

Living in Wolfville I started running one summer. I ran because I was going through some personal hardships and I could not sleep. Running filled my morning up – after waking up at god knows what hour and not being able to fall back to sleep because of a racing head, I’d put on my gym shoes and go outside, but walking didn’t help – so running it was. I’d run until I couldn’t, walk, then run some more. I’d explore new parts of the town; go out on the dykes or around the reservoir park. I overcame a lot during those runs, they stood their purpose, and I moved on.img_2436

I was aware of the Valley Harvest Marathon when it came through on Thanksgiving Weekend each year. It made the town busy, music blasting from the athletics complex early in the morning. There was one year that I went to cheer two of my friends on for their first half marathon. This I felt was something absolutely incredible – and I still do! Those same friends convinced me to do a 5k at New Years in Wolfville – my first and only race until this year. Still, I never thought in a million years I’d actually be the one running in the Valley Harvest Marathon – but this year I did!

Knowing how significant this race was to me, I decided to go in with the goal of enjoying it and giving it my best. Three weeks prior was Maritime Race Weekend – where I PB’d shaving over 4 minutes off my 10k time, making it 1:08. Therefore, I really didn’t expect to beat it, but hoped I could stay under 1:10:00.

Well – it sure was tough! The weather (although not the hurricane that was forecasted earlier in the week) was humid and the hills were steep. I didn’t sleep as well the night before as I should have – which I am learning is a common denominator in feeling crappy while running (the 4:15am wake up wasn’t helpful). Right out of the gate I went way too fast, keeping up with the 1:05 pace bunny for the first 2k which was not smart at all. I got too competitive with myself – thinking perhaps I could beat my PB after all. I quickly realized this couldn’t be sustained when we hit the first hill and I fell way behind. From then on I was not comfortable. I came across a few friends along the way from the BLT Runners, some from 360fit and Team Myles. I even came across Lisa, who I had ran that New Years 5k with back in 2011 (who has an absolutely beautiful baby belly, and did the 5k while pregnant! Wonder Woman.) Everyone seemed to have felt similar to me – that it was a rough one.img_2466

I was super lucky to have my biggest cheerleader, Shamir along this time – he doesn’t always get to come because of his crazy work schedule but I do love having a designated race boyfriend. When asked why he didn’t take pictures coming into the finish, he said “I didn’t think you’d want to see what you looked like”. Good call Sham. It didn’t feel pretty either.

It was the craziest feeling running in Wolfville again. I never ran more than 5k there, and never thought I ever would. So, I’d pass milestones along the way and think “holy crap I ran to Port Pub!!!” (obviously also extremely tempted to stop for Brunch instead of continuing the race..). It was surreal to be back there, running so far, with so many people, in an event that was so very elite in my eyes a few short years ago.

Regardless of the fact that it was a tough race, and even though I got in my head in the second half, stopping to walk up some hills and thinking I would be well over 1:10 by the time I got to the finish, I managed to pull it off in 1:10:47 (those blasted 47 seconds). After I caught my breath I started to appreciate the run for what it was – a milestone, and one of those difficult races that makes you stronger.

Even in the weakest moments, I am strong.

 Thanks to Valley Harvest Marathon for organizing such a great race – the volunteers were cheery and enthusiastic at each of the water stops, the course was beautiful, the swag is awesome and the medal is the cutest! This race is a must-do in Nova Scotia – even if it is hilly!

Busting my barnacles at Maritime Race Weekend 2016

I know, I’m late at publishing this post.1044581_10155374170777575_6542025887843723486_n

Maritime race weekend deserves all the hype that it gets year round. I heard about MRW long before I became a runner – that crazy weekend where pirates take over Fisherman’s Cove. I never thought I’d be a crazy pirate, yet now I’ve got photographic evidence that I am – and I always want to be (want to help me do that? see below for my shameless plug).

What is special about MRW is that it has the option to two races – a 5k at sunset, where many people dress up and enjoy the festivities that include live music and fireworks to name a few. The next morning runners have 5k, 10k, half and full marathon options. They call this the “Tartan Twosome”, because they haven’t given the race enough Maritime flair already. Each route includes breathtaking views of the ocean, fantastic water stops, and crowds of locals who have come out to support the runners. Maritime Race Weekend really brings out the bells and whistles – even an actual bell to ring if you PB, Captain Kid wouldn’t even kid you not.

Sunset 5k

I can honestly say that it has been a while since I had as much fun as I did during the Sunset 5k. Dressed as a pirate, with a race bib that said “Maiden Melly”, I set out with a new running buddy, Teresa, to frolic aro14445929_1231564956907631_633905019924468505_nund the route, high five our friends, dance to the music and enjoy the scenery. We did all of that in the first 2.5k, and when I looked at my watch at the turn-around, I noticed we had actually made good time. Competitive Melly came out, and I rocketed to the finish. Some may say I just can’t have fun with it – I’m too serious. My response? Killing the last 2.5k WAS fun. Who am I? Who knows anymore.

Classic 10k

This was the race that I worked all summer for. All of the speed work, the long runs, reading runners blogs, getting out to other races, getting involved in the running community – it was all with the goal in mind to shave minutes off my 10k PB. Although my current overall goal is to do a sub 1 10k, I knew it wasn’t realistic this year. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t get closer. My previous 10k time was 1:12:28 so after the summer I thought I’d attempt to shave it down to 1:10:00.

I did a practice run on the route the week before in 1:12. Eep.

I knew that I had to keep my pace under 7 minutes/km in order to beat it, and if I didn’t I’d have to make up for it somewhere. I lined up right beside the 10k 1:10 continuous pace bunny thinking I’d stick with her and maybe pass her on the hill or in the last couple km’s just to be safe. I stuck with her for the first km – 6:47 mins/km. This is probably the first time that I ACTUALLY took the advice of not going out too fast from the start. That works. Do that.

Of course I felt great  and decided I’d pass her, to see if I could find my running buddy Jacqueline who I knew was somewhere between the 1:10 and 1:05 bunnies. Found her on the way up the hill. Km #2: 6:29. It then hit me that I still had 8k to go, and as fun as this was if I wanted to run 6:29kms I wasn’t ever going to make it. Negative splits guys. Also important they tell me.14581292_10155413261522575_4914060373136288486_n

I pound out the next couple kms pretty consistently around 6:45, feeling awesome. Turns out I got the route on my practice run slightly off, sending me up another hill before turning around. So, when I hit the turn around spot and realized there was not another hill whatsoever, I tried my best to channel that rocketship feeling from the night before to the finish. Not quite as fast, but still consistently hovering around 7.

There is nothing like the feeling checking out your watch and realizing that if you can just run the next two kms at a similar pace, you’re going to PB – and it’s going to be awesome. Math & Running at the same time, I really have achieved something here! I was crying when I came into fisherman’s cove at 1:07 and seconds, passing my cheering Mom and a few friends. Strong finish, bawling, checking my wrist and seeing 1:08:02. Not only did I do it, I shaved over 4 mins of my previous PB.

My friend Andy saw me go by and met me in the finish. There’s a hilarious picture of me crying ugly tears in her arms. Thanks Andy, I may have collapsed if you weren’t there!

Ok – so now’s where I need your help! I am in the running (get it?) to win LIFETIME REGISTRATIONS to Maritime Race Weekend! Please follow this link and simply “like” this silly picture. I promise 90 year old Melissa will still dress up like a pirate and head out to Maritime Race Weekend. Please share!