Posts Tagged ‘yearofthehalf’

12 Half Marathons

Early in 2015, I decided that this year would be the #yearofthehalf. I successfully completed 12 half marathons – and though I finished them all, they were not without their challenges! The result was a lot of great experiences, and a lot of learning. So here they are – 12 lessons from 12 half marathons.

Chilly Chase Half1) Respect the Half Marathon – Chilly Chase Half Marathon

In 2014, I was focused on my first (and, as it turned out, second) full marathon. I went into the New Year with the mindset of “I’ve already done a marathon, so a half marathon should be a piece of cake!” My first race of 2015 showed me that 21.1km is still a distance to be reckoned with, and shouldn’t be taken lightly!

 

First Half2) Listen to your bodyFirst Half Half Marathon

Rather than focus on accurate pacing, I ran this race by feel. My body told me I still had more to give, and I gave it. As a result, the First Half was a course PB. And a lot of fun to boot! The takeaway:  trust yourself and your body.

 

BMO Vancouver Half

3) Consistent training is key – BMO Vancouver Half Marathon

Between the First Half and BMO I had nearly 3 months of training. Yes, there were a few shorter races in between, but I set my sights on Vancouver. That, in combination with excellent weather and great support from spectators, resulted in my fastest half marathon to date! Consistency is the key.

 

Ottawa Half

4) Not every race can be a PBOttawa Half Marathon

Riding high on the success of BMO, I went into this race with equally high hopes. Though racing in the nation’s capital was a great experience, I overdid it on the sightseeing on foot the day before, and didn’t come close to my PB time. Another lesson learned:  rest before a race!

[Tweet “12 Lessons from 12 Half Marathons – learning from #yearofthehalf”]

Scotiabank Half

5) Everybody has bad daysScotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon

An encounter with a really unhappy runner jarred me out of my complacency, and unfortunately tainted my race experience. Then again, it was a hot day and people actually collapsed on the route, so this was a challenging race for everyone. Still, the fundraising component of Scotiabank made it all worthwhile.

 

Fort Langley Half

6) Local races rock!Fort Langley Half Marathon

With only 100 runners – the smallest race I’ve ever done – I wasn’t sure what to expect of this event. But the enthusiasm of the local community, and the awesome handmade medals, made this probably my favourite half marathon of 2015. Not the fastest, or the easiest, but one of the most enjoyable.

 

San Francisco Half

7) Sometimes it’s all about the destinationSan Francisco Half Marathon

Just having the opportunity to run the Golden Gate Bridge (twice!) made this race a real stand out. And who can resist the lure of running in one of North America’s most iconic cities? I think it’s good to run a race someone just because it’s so cool to run there!

 

Yellowknife Half

8) Proper fuelling and hydration are importantOverlander Sports Half Marathon

I did not follow my own advice and overindulged beforehand, so I was slightly ridiculously dehydrated and undernourished heading into this race. I know I could have done better, but my body was not properly taken care of. You are what you eat (and drink)!

 

Victoria Half

9) Smell the rosesGoodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon

Perhaps the most scenic race of the year, I spent most of my time enjoying the view. Perfect weather didn’t hurt, either. That and the fact that my Dad was visiting and was at the finish line to cheer me on (along with my faithful cheering partner) made for a wonderful event. Take time (even if you’re going fast) to smell the roses!

 

Rock 'n' Roll Vancouver Half10) Don’t overthink thingsRock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon

For some reason, I spent an inordinate amount of time planning my splits for the Rock ‘n’ Roll. When I found myself falling behind, I got flustered and demoralized. I was disappointed with myself. While strategizing a race is good, don’t let yourself overthink the run to the detriment of your own enjoyment. Ultimately, though, cheering my friend Susan to the finish in her first half marathon was the highlight!

Fall Classic Half

11) Keep an open mindFall Classic Half Marathon

Sometimes you don’t think a race will be all that great. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy the double loop of the Fall Classic – but it ended up being a totally zen-like experience. Be open to opportunities as they come!

 

Run Laughlin12) Not hitting your goal does not equal failureLaughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon

Held on my birthday, Run Laughlin was my flagship race of the 2015 Year of the Half. It turned out to be my slowest half marathon in over 2 years. But I have no regrets and don’t consider it a failure – since I put myself out there and capped things off by running 12 half marathons in 12 months.

 

In every way, #yearofthehalf was an absolute success! There were lots of ups and downs (hills included) and I don’t regret a single step. Thanks to everyone – both virtually and in real life – who supported me throughout 2015. I can’t wait to see what the New Year will have to offer!

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What lessons did you learn from your 2015 runs?

Run Laughlin

Way back in January 2015, I got a private message via my blog from a race director in the US wanting to tell me about an inaugural race he was putting together. Little did I know that the Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon would motivate me to tackle the #yearofthehalf – and Run Laughlin became my ‘flagship’ race of 2015!

It didn’t take me too long to decide to Run Laughlin. Mark Villalovos, the race director, was a true inspiration, putting his heart into creating a race from scratch. His enthusiasm was infectious. As the day of the race drew nearer, I got more excited about Laughlin because it ended up being a trifecta of coolness for me:

  • It fell on my birthday!
  • It was my 12th half marathon of 2015
  • It was my 21st half marathon ever (and – just as a reminder, especially if you think in miles – a half marathon is 21.1 kilometres!)

TravelRun

We flew into Las Vegas on Friday, December 4, rented a car, and headed off to Laughlin, Nevada. If you’ve never heard of Laughlin, like I hadn’t – it’s a little spot on the west side of the Colorado River, right at the very southern tip of Nevada. It’s grown into a successful casino town (third most visited, after Vegas and Reno). And it’s pronounced ‘loff-lin‘ (rhymes with ‘cough’).

Run Laughlin

We checked in at the race’s partner hotel, Colorado Belle. A lovely and thoughtful touch was that every runner received a welcome gift, put together by Mark’s wife, Denise.

Run Laughlin Colorado Belle

Then we went to the little expo to pick up my race package. Although it was small, there was such a friendly, vibrant energy at the event. I was offered my bib and I actually requested a different number…so I got #143 since, as I told the volunteer, I would be turning 43 the next day!

Run Laughlin

I was absolutely delighted to finally meet Mark in person, and thank him for organizing the event.

Run Laughlin

Wandered to a couple of the casinos, and had a great carbo-loading pasta dinner across the street at Tropicana. Bedded down fairly early to prepare for the next morning’s event!

Run Laughlin

The desert gets cold at night, and it was very brisk as we headed to the parking lot of Laughlin Outlet Center. I struggled with what to wear, and decided to stick with just my BibRave t-shirt, along with my BMO Vancouver Marathon gloves! During the pre-race announcements, was able to shout out that I was one of the (few?) folks down from Canada, though someone from Rhode Island had certainly travelled further to get there.

Run Laughlin

Saw a flash of orange and grabbed a selfie with fellow BibRave Pro, Laurel (@RheaCycleHer)!

BibRave

To give you the full race experience, I’m going to try a different approach to describing the race when it started just a few minutes after 7am!

Run Laughlin

Now, run Laughlin with me…

The Hill

You head out along the main ‘strip’ of Laughlin, past several of the casinos. But soon, after about a kilometre, the route turns to the left, and your gradual ascent begins. Remember yesterday, when you arrived in Laughlin? Remember the view from the highway, overlooking the town and the river, and the mountains beyond? That should have been your first clue.

Run Laughlin

For three kilometres, it’s an uphill trudge. Not only that, but there’s a dry desert wind blowing. If only the wind was coming from behind, pushing you forward – but it’s buffeting you from the side, causing bibs to flap vigourously. It’s tough. It’s endless. You’re breathing through your mouth, and your tongue is dry as a bone.

Run Laughlin

Thankfully, you finally reach the peak, and make a sharp turn on the road down towards Davis Dam. There is a water station, which you eagerly take advantage of. Though the elevation is decreasing, you’re now facing a headwind, blustery and persistent. But you’re not a quitter, you forge ahead.

Run Laughlin

The Desert

At the 7km mark, you can see the Davis Dam looming to your right, but the route takes you to the left onto a dirt track. You hadn’t been sure what to expect – maybe in your mind it was a wide open space with scrub brush and cactus lining a long straight road.

It’s not like that at all. The dirt is loose and rocky, and you are surrounded by hills and outcroppings of ancient desert stones. There’s no breeze now in this sheltered canyon. The sun is beating down and you’re glad you decided to forego the long sleeves and run in a t-shirt.

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

At one point, you are pursued by a desert bandit after you snap his picture! “You’re not gonna get no reward for me!” he drawls, but you outpace him.

Run Laughlin

At the turnaround, you realize that you’ve actually been going uphill again this whole time. Now you’re heading back, cheering on the other hearty souls who are fighting their way on unstable footing. You even get a cheery ‘Happy Birthday!’ from a fellow BibRave Pro (Laurel!) who knows it’s your special day!

Run Laughlin

And you can’t help but admire this woman from Vegas…

Run Laughlin

The Dam

Hey look! Another hill! But this one is short and steep, up to the top of the Davis Dam, holding back the Colorado River and forming Lake Mohave.

Run Laughlin

You’re slightly beyond halfway in the race when you cross the border into Arizona! Not only are you in a different state, you’re also in a new time zone!

Another hill – a kilometre up and another down – with the absolute best water/cheering station waiting for you! You’ve been taking a few photos along the way, but with the view over Lake Mohave you can’t help but snap a selfie before crossing the dam back into Nevada.

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

The River to the Finish

Now you’re cruising! You pick up speed on the downhill, and get a fantastic view of the dam you’ve just crossed – twice!

Run Laughlin

There are fewer people around now. You’re running the scenic Colorado River Heritage Greenway Trail – overlooking the mighty river, with Bullhead City, Arizona on the far side. It’s pretty warm now, you’re glad that you thought to wear sunscreen. But you’re not really sweating – it’s weird running with so little humidity. You finally spot a casino in the distance!

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

Unexpectedly, the path twists to the right and, oh no! you’re headed uphill again! Just a wee bit, though, enough to reach the beautiful pedestrian bridge that takes you across the highway. Then, you’re back on Casino Drive. Welcome to Laughlin, NV! One more kilometre to go!

The crowd cheers as you sprint to the finish, receive your medal, and celebrate the completion of the inaugural Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon! Congratulations!

Run Laughlin

Exhausted!

Afterward

In the parking lot of the Colorado Belle Hotel, everyone gathered for a celebratory awards ceremony. We got food – fruit and a bagel – and there was even a free beer included with race entry! A DJ followed by a live band. Festive and fun.

We stayed around for about an hour, but then decided it was time for my birthday brunch. Throughout the day, I ran into folks wearing their medals and/or I Run Laughlin t-shirts – lots of congratulations going around.

The remainder of the Saturday was spent on some local sightseeing and a bit of casino time. Even the slot machine knew what day it was!

Happy Birthday

Sunday took us into Arizona and some amazing desert driving.

Route 66

Plus one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.

Arizona Sunset

Home again on Monday after one of my favourite TravelRuns to date! Thanks to Mark and the entire Run Laughlin team for making the weekend such a success!

Final Results

Chip Time: 1:54:21
Average Pace: 8:44 min/mile (5:25 min/km)
Place Overall: 50/295
Age Category Place: 7/19

Run Laughlin

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RACE REPORT

Overall
From the moment Mark reached out to me about participating in the inaugural Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon, I was hooked. In the months leading up to the race, communication (in the form of emails) was excellent, giving lots of info about what to expect both on course and in town. Social media activity – primarily Twitter and Facebook – was consistent and engaging.

In terms of the race itself, the event was well organized, the course was absolutely stunning, the volunteers were enthusiastic and engaged. One of the best runs I’ve done!

Packet Pickup
Held just off the lobby of the Colorado Belle Hotel & Casino, packet pickup was a low-key affair held on Friday evening. Although we didn’t arrive too late, it was reassuring that we could pick up our bibs until 10pm. Given how far we were coming from, I appreciated this fact. The process was smooth and quick, and it was fun to chat with some of the local folks and volunteers on site.

T-Shirt/Swag
Orange t-shirt! Orange gear bag! Orange medal! Welcome gift upon check in! Very happy!

Course
Extremely scenic views of the desert, running across a dam into another state and time zone, the Colorado river. Such a unique environment for me to race in. Also one of the toughest races I’ve experienced in terms of the hills we encountered, the dry desert air and the challenging winds. This certainly impacted my overall performance, resulting in one of my slowest half marathons in nearly 3 years. Nevertheless, it was a great experience.

Post-Race
The post-race party was fun, with free beer (one per runner!) and live music. I generally don’t stick around for awards ceremonies, since I never place. I stayed around long enough for the 5k awards, but was so eager to get on with my day (and brunch) that I missed awards for the half. My only ‘complaint’ is that the awards didn’t move along a bit quicker, but I understand wanting to ensure that most people have finished before doing awards.

Would I Run It Again?
On the merits of the race itself, yes! Although Mark told me post-race that there were a few ‘kinks’ to work out, I thought everything went really well. The factors that would prevent me from attending are primarily my own issues: the time it takes to get to Laughlin, and the abysmal value of the Canadian dollar. But from the perspective of a runner recommending a race – I recommend that you Run Laughlin!

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A HUGE welcome to new readers who are arriving at my blog on my ‘spotlight day’ via the awesome blog hop hosted by Kristy at Runaway Bridal Planner! I am extremely appreciative of Kristy, and her commitment to running the blog hop, which clearly takes a lot of time and energy. Due to my participation in Kristy’s blog hop back in February of this year, my blog and social media presence have grown more than I had ever imagined, and I’m really grateful!

To those of you who are regular readers – thank you for visiting again, and for your ongoing support!

Over the past few months, many most of my blog posts have been race recaps – it’s been quite a running season! Today, I’m just going to share a bit about Bradley on the Run!

Why is your Twitter handle @bjcjapan?

A legacy from the 6 years I spent in Japan, this was my original email address. It’s funny how a moment in time can be captured in 8 letters and stick around for so long! Japan holds a special place in my heart, and I was so excited to visit again last December and run in Kyoto for the very first time. I plan to hang onto that Twitter handle – you’ll always know where to find me!

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Running along the Kamo River in Kyoto

So, do you speak Japanese?

I do, in fact, know enough Japanese to hold my own in a conversation.

How/When/Why did you start running?

This is probably one of the most common questions I hear from folks when I mention running. I’ve written in some detail about my inspiration to start running, but here’s the short and sweet version:

In the early days of 2009, after some wine and a viewing of ‘Run Fatboy Run‘, I signed up for the BMO Vancouver 8K. I had never run a step in my life, considering myself ‘the antithesis of an athlete’. I always hated sports, and was extremely self-conscious about my lack of athletic skills.

But something about it clicked, and my passion for running has continued to grow! And living in beautiful Vancouver, BC – where year-round running is 100% doable – certainly doesn’t hurt!

What’s up with the #WestVanRun?

I participated in the 2014 West Van Run 10K and loved it. I achieved a PB – my first ever 10K run in under 50 minutes. This race was my inspiration to start blogging as Bradley on the Run – and the topic of my very first race report! When I ran the 2015 West Van Run, I achieved another PB which still stands at time of writing!

Earlier this year, I was invited by the West Van Run’s Race Director, Kirill, to become a #WestVanRun 2016 ambassador! It has been a heck of a lot of fun, and an honour, to represent the West Van Run – I’ve made some awesome new friends and enjoy the experience immensely. The West Van Run will be held on March 5 and 6, 2016 (5km on Saturday, 10km on Sunday) – use ‘bradley’ as your 15% discount code!

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Why is 2015 the #yearofthehalf?

Last year, I ran my first full marathon – the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Originally, the Honolulu Marathon was my target first marathon, but I somehow persuaded myself to do a ‘trial run’ earlier in the year. My theme for 2014 was #42for42 – running 42 kilometres (well, 42.2km, to be exact) in the year I turned 42. Achieved!

Pick up those feet! IMG_5420

Back in January of this year, I started working out my race calendar for 2015 and shared some of my race plans on Twitter. #yearofthehalf was actually coined by @THESFMARATHON in response, and I adopted it as my 2015 theme.

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By February, I had committed to running the San Francisco First Half – and by the end of this year will have completed 12 half marathons in 2015! The final one – the Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon in December – will be my birthday present!!

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Hey, I heard you did a podcast?

Yes! Back in March, I had the honour of being asked to record an episode of Miles Not Included. It was a great experience, and gave me a chance to talk a bit more about my running experiences. Should you be so inclined, you can hear the episode here. Regretfully, Miles Not Included is no longer producing their podcast, which is a shame – but life got in the way, as it sometimes does.

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You seem to wear a lot of orange – what’s that all about?

There was a bit of a ‘running joke’ (pun absolutely intended) about my orange cap, and that fact that people could easily spot me in the crowd during a race. That’s how @debrakato found me at this year’s First Half Half Marathon!

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Then, back in April, I applied to become an ambassador for BibRave – a website where you can review races online. As it happens, BibRave’s theme colour is orange – and I’m now a proud #BibRavePro! This has provided the opportunity to get some free running swag, to connect with other BibRavePros, and to get a free entry to the Platte River Half Marathon (10% discount code: ‘bibrave10’) next April in Denver, Colorado. I’ve just been accepted to represent BibRave for another year, and I’m really excited!

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Orange is my favourite colour!

What’s next for Bradley on the Run?

I’m going to continue working on my blog, doing my best to keep it fresh and authentic. I love sharing my running experiences, and reflecting back on what has happened over the past 2 years. I’ve got a few plans for 2016 – but I’ll save those for another day!

Hope you enjoyed learning a bit about me!
Anything I’ve missed? Or have I told you more than you want to know?

This post is Part II of a two-part series outlining my experiences at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Remix weekend! In Part I, you can read about the Cunningham Seawall 10K. I won’t touch on package pickup in this post, since I also covered it in Part I!

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Sunday – Half Marathon

I was still aching from the day before when I woke up considerably earlier for the half. I knew two folks starting in the early wave at 7:45am, and wanted to be there to send them off before my 8:15am start. So I headed down in order to arrive by 7am.

Since the race started directly in front of my office building, I wisely brought along my passcard, and took advantage of my own VIP washroom. What could be better?

I connected with Susan, who was really keyed up for her first half!

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Then, I had the opportunity to meet an out-of-town BibRave Pro for the first time!! Elizabeth (@trainwithbain) and I had been corresponding, so getting a real-life hug was awesome. I envy a lot of our US BibRave folks, who travel quite freely throughout the States to various races (much cheaper than domestic travel here in Canada).

And then they were off!

Ran into Corinna (@gusgreeper) and hubby Adam in my corral before our wave was launched.

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Now – I had set some goals for myself, after a bunch of split calculating the night before. I wanted to take it easy for the first couple of kilometres – avoid going out too fast – and then pick things up for a nice steady pace to cruise to a personal best.

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That’s not how it went.

Maybe I went out too slow. By 5k, I realized I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be, but thought I could make up the time. As I approached 10k, it was clear that a PB was not in the cards. Somewhere around this point, I caught up with Susan and – as requested and with her explicit permission – I gave her an encouraging slap on the bottom. I like to think that gave us both an extra burst of energy!

By this point, too, we had passed several bands/musical performers. A couple provided some great energy, others were a bit down-tempo. All of them were pretty good. But none of them had signs to tell us who they were, so I have no idea who I really liked.

My honey was waiting (at the spot closest to home) to cheer and take photos as I went by.

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As we headed into Stanley Park, along the road by Lost Lagoon, and up the hill by the Rose Garden, my pace continued to flag. I was tired. We passed a singer performing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah‘, and a guy to my right said what I was thinking: “Enough with the ballads, already!” Talented musician, to be sure, but really not the rock ‘n’ roll one needs to be inspired!

Somehow I managed to pull myself out of my slump for the final 3 kilometres – which pretty closely mirrored the previous day’s route. It took everything I had to get across that finish line…and I was absolutely beat.

However! I had finished both races and was able to claim my Remix medal! I felt like a rapper!

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I waited to see Susan finish her race, all smiles and celebration!

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Then cheered for Debra when she arrived.

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I was so knackered that I didn’t even stay around for my free beer – gave my ticket to a friend. But not before a few more photos!

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All in all, I’m glad I took on the challenge of the Remix weekend. Although I have done a double-headers once before (the 5 Peaks Seymour and Spirit Run on consecutive days), this one took a lot more out of me (31km vs. 14km, so natural I suppose). But I was pretty chuffed and ended up taking all of my heavy medals to work the next day to show off to everyone! Why not share the bling, right?

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Final Results

Chip Time: 1:50:50
Average Pace: 5:15 min/km
Place Overall: 816/4977
Age Category Place: 108/324

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RACE REPORT

T-Shirt/Swag

I heard a few complaints about the gunmetal grey of the Brooks tech shirt, but I kind of like it. It contrasts nicely with the sunset-esque logo depicting the statue of Harry Jerome, an accomplished Canadian track star, an icon of the Stanley Park Seawall. The medal is fantastic – a First Nations-inspired orca design, leaping out of the water.

For running both the 10K and the half, I also got the Remix Medal – square, with a spinny guitar pick in the middle. As good as it gets!

Course

From what I can tell, identical to last year. A tour of Gastown and some of East Van, Chinatown, and then hooking up with the Seawall east of Yaletown, eventually moving up to the street to Stanley Park. The toughest bit is the hill at 16km past the Stanley Park Rose Garden – before the final cruise around Brockton Point. The biggest difference compared to the 10K is that we were on the road, rather than the Seawall, for the Stanley Park portion of the course – right up until the last kilometre or so. I think this race is great because you see so much of the city – although it’s not quite as ‘scenic’ as the 10K. And with a few more bits of elevation, particularly near the end, it’s definitely more challenging.

Post-Race

The organizers/volunteers really kept people moving at the end – whereas the day before we had hung around in the finishing chute to greet people as they arrived. And due to the geography around the finish line, it was impossible to get back to the actual finish line, so I lingered outside the fence where medals were being handed out. As with the day before, there was a beer tent – and more live music. Although I didn’t stick around for beer, I’m sure it was another good part!

Would I Run It Again?

I’ve done it twice now. Again, it’s a solid race, and I think it would appeal greatly to folks from out of town. Not a ‘no’ for me, but not a definitive ‘yes’. Yet. We’ll see. Enough people I know running…I might do it again!

Victoria Half Marathon

I thought about trying to make this post more literary than my usual posts…that was spawned by listening to a podcast on my walk to work last week. But then I decided to stick with what I know, and just share about my experience over the (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon!

One of the highlights of the past couple of weeks – and my excuse for taking my sweet time in writing my race recap – was my Dad visiting from Ontario. He’s been present for a couple of my runs – the Scotiabank Half in 2013 and the Ambleside Mile in 2014. But in the past year I feel like I’ve grown as a runner, so it was great to have him here to see me finish another race!

Vancouver Island

Rather than driving, we decided to take the Pacific Coach (bus) to Vancouver Island. The highway bus takes us straight to the ferry, so no need to arrive early by car and wait in line, or risk missing your ferry. It was a very rainy day, so unfortunately the view from the ferry was rather blasé. We were dropped off in downtown Victoria – just steps from the Convention Centre, where the expo was taking place – and adjacent to the famed Fairmont Empress Hotel!

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As expos go, this one was pretty tame. For whatever reason, they didn’t email us our bib numbers ahead of time. I found my name and bib number on the list on the wall – but I was not the only one squinting at the tiny print!

Heading upstairs, I bypassed the Goodlife Fitness table (since I already have a gym membership), then grabbed my bib. Headed through to get my long-sleeved technical shirt, and found my name on the giant display board!

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Our local friends picked us up, and took us to our accommodation – her parents were out of town, so the three of us (me, my better half, and Dad) had the place to ourselves. Plus, they lent us a car for the weekend! We joined our friends for a lovely home-cooked spaghetti (read: carbo-loading) dinner. No wine for me!

Race Day

I had planned for multiple weather eventualities, since the forecast had been consistently wet. But morning dawned clear and dry, and surprising warm. After a light breakfast of oatmeal and banana, I took the car and headed downtown.

Parking in Victoria is free on Sundays, so I got a spot just a few blocks from the start line. Views across Victoria’s Inner Harbour of the Legislature, and the pre-dawn Empress Hotel:

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Was pleased to run into fellow West Van Run member, Ben – he was properly attired in his West Van Run singlet – but since I’m not a singlet guy, I stuck with my First Half shirt.

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Then I went in search of a porta-potty. The line-ups were horrendous. I asked an ‘ASK ME’ volunteer if there was a men’s urinal station – she said that I was the fourth person to ask her, but that she didn’t think there was. I laughed and said that I have started to judge races on whether or not they have this feature – not entirely true, but I’ve come to think that they just make sense. I ventured down a side street, came across a hotel, and took advantage of their lovely clean washroom! No line-ups, no fuss! Lucky me!

Hung out at the start line with Kristen from Forerunners (we actually met on the ferry as well!) – she ended up ahead of me for the whole race, back at her first half in quite a few years. Maybe the snore guard helped!

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After the national anthem, we headed out around the backside of the Legislature, and then north through downtown. It was pretty crowded for the first kilometre, and with several tight corners it was tough to get through the hordes. I didn’t want to push things too hard at the beginning, so I just tried to keep a steady pace. And we were just in time to catch the sunrise.

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A loop through Beacon Hill Park, with cheering locals on the sidelines. The route criss-crossed itself a bit, so we kept encountering other runners – both ahead of us and behind us. This was kind of neat, being able to cheer in both directions! We then exited onto Dallas Road, a long stretch with an amazing view of the ocean. Around the 10k mark, here came the lead runners on their way back!

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Uphill for a kilometre, followed by twists and turns through one of the neighbourhoods – and the amazing Ben on his speedy return! Then a loop, and we were headed back. More charming Victoria homes! More views of the ocean! More cheering spectators!

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In the last kilometre, there were signs counting down each 200 metres…and I don’t know if that was helpful or not! Because the route twisted and turned, we couldn’t actually see the finish line until the very end! Also, the start line of the 8k came before the half marathon finish line, which gave the illusion that we would finish sooner. But with my honey on one side snapping photos, and my Dad on the other getting a video – it was a strong finish!

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Here’s the video of my race finish (almost to the Finish Line!):

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Finally, here’s a Strava map of the route:

Post-Race

Then we went to enjoy an amazing brunch at a local diner, followed by some local sightseeing, including Craigdarroch Castle:

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And Hatley Castle (at Royal Roads University) – plus the beach near our friends’ place.

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That evening, we gathered with our friends for a cozy Thanksgiving dinner.

So concludes my 9th half marathon of 2015, with a respectable time and a fantastic race experience! Not to mention a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends. I feel truly blessed!

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Final Results

Chip Time: 1:48:21
Average Pace: 5:08 min/km
Place Overall: 576/3260
Age Category Place: 46/122

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RACE REPORT

Packet Pickup
Except for the fact that we didn’t get bib numbers ahead of time and had to squint at a list of names in tiny font on a wall to get it…the rest was smooth. The expo was small, and a bit crowded – it didn’t flow really well. At one spot, there were two sponsors right across from each other giving out samples (and not a lot of booths were doing so), resulting in a traffic jam. Because I was with non-running family, we didn’t stay too long.

T-Shirt/Swag
A long-sleeved New Balance technical shirt in two-tone blue – love it! The medal is big and chunky – also love it! Reminds me a bit of the Scotiabank series of medals, perhaps from the same manufacturer?

Course
The course starts at the Legislature, loops through downtown, meanders around Beacon Hill Park, and then does an out and back along the ocean and among residential neighbourhoods. I have to say that this is probably one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever done. Honestly, it was scenic pretty much the whole way. There were plenty of aid stations, enthusiastic volunteers, and positive energy from start to finish. There is a fairly challenging hill at the 12km mark – not especially steep, but fairly long – however, you can make up for it on the way back!

Post-Race
We didn’t stay for too long, since family was waiting – came through the finishing chute, got my medal and a photo, and grabbed a bit of food. Not sure what all they had, it was a bit of a blur, but definitely had cookies and fruit!

Would I Run It Again?
Absolutely! As noted, it is one of the more beautiful courses I’ve been on. Well-organized and worth the trip to the Island! Maybe I’ll give the full marathon a go someday?

Your turn! What’s the most scenic race you’ve ever done?

**I want to dedicate this post to my Aunt Shirley, who passed away two weeks ago. We met for the last time during my visit to Ontario in April, when attending the wedding of my cousin – her granddaughter. She will be missed.**

 

The weekend has been busy. We had an extra SummerChor rehearsal on Saturday – 10am to 2pm. As mentioned in a previous post, we’re singing the Durufle Requiem – and our concert is just 3 weeks away! In addition, because the Durufle is kind of short, we’re also singing the Faure Requiem. A lot of folks in the choir have sung it before, but it’s my first time. The Faure also happens to be my Dad’s favourite, so I’m sorry he won’t be here for the concert.

We attended the Powell Street Japanese festival, and I got dressed up in my Japanese duds – a bit different from my usual running gear!

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Saturday night was the Celebration of Light – third night of fireworks, with Canada putting on an amazing show set to music – glorious!

On Sunday morning, I went for a quick run – about 8.5km – along English Bay and around Lost Lagoon.

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That was followed by the Vancouver Pride Parade – colour, glitter, music, festivities – lots to see and do! And Monday is BC Day – so we’re enjoying a beautiful long weekend!

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Keeping up with tradition, here is another installment of my Monthly Update. I will continue to give credit Brie (Like the Cheese) for giving me this idea – and bow to here commitment in participating diligently in the November Project. I had planned to join, but they were forced to relocate from downtown to Queen Elizabeth Park – which is just too far from home and work to be feasible on a Wednesday morning. Nevertheless, a few things have happened this past month…

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In July, I…

1. Did 3 rounds of speed work. I know, that’s really not a lot. But given how little speed work I’ve been doing, I decided it was time to commit to some regular workouts. So I joined Coach Carey’s Thursday night clinic (care of Forerunners). Over the course of three weeks, we did:

  • Hill repeats – 9x up Jericho Hill (a steep, short run)
  • Track workout – 9x 400m, gradually increasing our speed
  • Sprints – 5x 800m in Little Australia (near UBC)

I plan to continue with the speed training through August as well.

2. Met a celebrity. I got my geek on when we ran into Stephen Amell from the TV show Arrow. I had just finished the Summerfast 10K at Stanley Park, and I saw him walk by – he had run the race as well. I approached him and asked for a photo. This isn’t exactly an ‘achievement’ for the month, but I found it kind of exciting!

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3. Ran the Golden Gate Bridge…twice! After months of anticipation, we finally made the trip to San Francisco. I ran the SF First Half Marathon, and the route took us out across the Golden Gate Bridge and back again! It was a foggy day, so not a lot to see – but the thrill of the event made it totally worthwhile. I also went fully ‘branded’ as a BibRavePro for this race – I even heard someone read it out as I ran by: “Bi..bra..ve – oh, BibRave!!”

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I’m now considering running the Half it All Challenge by participating in the Second Half in 2016! Stay tuned!

In August, I will…

1. #PlankADay. We’ve all heard about the benefits of planking – what it does for our core, and how it strengthens runners. I get regular alerts from the @PlankPolice, reminding me to stay on track. I was a bit half-hearted about it last month, but I’m going to make a concerted effort this month!

2. Find a balance. I’m trying to fit a lot of things in each week. I want to run, I want to get to the gym – but I also have to work, I’ve got choir rehearsal, and I want to spend time with family and friends. Even in the summer, when the days are long, I’m not good at being an early riser. I find it tough exercising after work. So I’m not sure how this balance will be achieved…yet. I’m working on it.

3. Run a race in the Arctic! Yes, you read that right! I am heading to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories for a business trip in the second week of August. I’ve run there before – but just a TravelRun, on my own, in the cold.

On a whim, I Googled ‘yellowknife marathon‘ and came up with a result. The Overlander Marathon and Half Marathon…well, it just happens to fall on that very weekend! I turned to Twitter:

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And so, with that, I have decided to stay a couple of extra nights in town, and run a half marathon in Northern Canada!

Can you believe it’s already August? How’s your summer going?

July posts you may have missed:

Happy to join Jessica at The Silvah Lining for her #TuesdayTales race recap link up! Share your race recaps!

The Silvah Lining

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I feel like a lot has happened in the past few days – and all of it good! Thinking about how to sum up an amazing weekend in Northern California combined with a world-class half marathon, I’m almost at a loss for words. Almost. Because I’ve still got lots to say!

Signing Up

I’m not exactly sure what put the San Francisco Half Marathon on my radar. But at some point I decided it was going to be on of my 2015 #yearofthehalf races. I checked in with my dear friend, Wendy, who I’ve known since we met in Japan some years back. She and her family live in Marin County, just over the Golden Gate Bridge. Can we visit in July?  I asked way back in February. Confirmed!

So we arrived at SFO late on Friday night. Wendy was there to pick us up, and given that we hadn’t seen each other in 5 years, there was lots of catching up to do!

Expo Day

Despite our late arrival, I had decided to do some Marin County training. We were staying in Mill Valley, hidden amongst the redwoods. I ventured out into town and back, and managed a 5.5km shakeout run while the rest of the gang went to a local cafe. It was beautiful.

Then we were off to the Expo! Wendy said she was expecting a table with bibs – not the huge event that it actually was! Not surprisingly, the place was heaving. With a full marathon, TWO half marathons, a 5k AND an ultra (double) marathon to be run, some 25,000 people had to pick up their race packets.

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In what was arguably some strategic planning, the packet pickup was at the very back of the venue, requiring all participants to walk amongst the vendors and sponsors.

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It took more time to fight through the crowd than it did to get my bib and T-shirt. I grabbed a couple of quick samples – my beloved nuun and some Simply 7 Hummus Chips – but limited my browsing since we had Wendy’s daughter in tow.

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We napped in the afternoon, and then had dinner by the water in Tiburon – with views of Angel Island and San Fran in the distance.

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After dinner, prepped my gear for an early morning…

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Race Day

In order to ensure we were downtown in time for the 5:30am start, the household was up at 3:30am. I had coffee, oatmeal and toast with peanut butter – nothing fancy or unfamiliar, and certainly no smoothie! But despite taking my time before we left, I knew a potty break would be required.

Traffic was light and I was dropped off a block from the start line before 5am. I made a beeline for the toilet lines, which were thankfully short.

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Then I made my way to the starting corral. It was dark, with the lights of the Bay Bridge as a backdrop.

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The San Francisco Marathon is unique. Those running the First Half Marathon (like me) start out with the Full Marathon runners. We follow the same route until the final mile in Golden Gate Park – the half marathoners veer left to the finish, and the full marathoners continue. And at mile 13, the Second Half Marathon runners start their race (around 8am) and follow the remainder of the marathon route.

Long story short, there were both half and full marathon runners with me in the corral. (I wore my Tiux Compression Socks, too!)

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At 5:30, the gun went off and the elites headed out. Our wave started two minutes later.

The Waterfront – The ‘Flat’ Part

The route took us along the Embarcadero, the historic waterfront with all the Piers. Pier 33 – the ferry to Alcatraz. Pier 39 – the Aquarium. Fisherman’s Wharf. I tried to take photos as I was running, but this is all I got:

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I realized within the first mile or so that I shouldn’t have gone to my corral so soon. I should have lined up again for the toilets. I really had to pee.

At the first water stop, I made a decision – it was now or never, stop for a potty break or be miserable for the next 90 minutes. I erred on the side of comfort, and added about 45 seconds to my overall time. But it was my best decision that morning.

Then we met our first hill.

Up and up, up to the top of Fort Mason. A blip on the elevation profile, a chore in real life. Thankfully, with an empty bladder, I was feeling quite spritely and made it to the top without incident. Here we had some pretty remarkable views of the city, but none of my blurry photos do it justice. We wended our way back down to the waterfront.

Past the Palace of Fine Arts, through Crissy Field. And thanks to the generosity of Hoka One One – free race photo number one!

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Through the fog and the brightening sky, the Golden Gate Bridge came into view.

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At Mile 5, the game changed. The hills that San Francisco is renowned for – this was one of them. Not like the Fort Mason hill – a legit hill. We somehow had to get to the bridge, and up was the only option! I was determined not to walk, no matter how slow I was going. The road twisted and curved, and suddenly it was there in front of me (the blurriness evokes some of the ‘feel’ of the run…)

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The Bridge

That’s right folks! My purpose for being here. The reason I chose the First Half. The icon of San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge!

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The upper reaches were still shrouded in fog. It was surprisingly quiet. There was a bit of traffic – only the 3 lanes on the east side were for runners. It was windy. It was amazing to be there.

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The bridge deck is about a mile and a half long (over 2,500 metres) – and midway across we encountered the lead runners on their return journey. I was paying more attention to them than to my laboured breathing. It was inspiring. And at some point, we hit the halfway mark.

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At the far side of the bridge, we did a loop around the lookout point – I didn’t stop to take in the view, and I’m pretty sure it was still too foggy to see much. Then we were the ones heading back, and an increasing volume of runners were approaching.

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The toll gates were all flashing SLOW but a sign above clearly stated DON’T STOP – I took this as encouragement, and forged ahead.

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To the Finish

Although running the Golden Gate was the obvious highlight of this race, my truly favourite section followed. We were running Lincoln Boulevard, along the western edge of The Presidio. Nothing but the wild Pacific Ocean spreading out to our right. The crowds had thinned, and even the runners started to spread out a bit – we were heading up again…

At the peak, the sweeping vistas were breathtaking. The photos do not do justice.

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Downhill again.

The final stretch took us through the streets of the city, with some of that awesome San Fran architecture. I did not take photos on the run, but here are a few from the day before…

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Left turn. We’re in Golden Gate Park. A curve. Another left, while the marathoners turn right. Where is the finish line? Another curve and there it is – I speed up for (what I hoped would be) a strong finish.

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They call my name – Wendy, just steps from the announcer, corrects his pronunciation – and he repeats it. This makes me grin like an idiot.

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A medal. A space blanket. Some food AND some Irish coffee! My 7th half marathon of 2015 is complete!

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The Holiday Continues

It’s only 7:30am! The day stretches out ahead of us! We drive back over the Golden Gate Bridge, as runners continue their journey. I’m glad to be done. The day involves:

Brunch!

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A nap!

Late lunch and some errands with the family.

An amazing massage (I got treated!)

Then a relaxing dinner at home.

Monday was a bit more on the sightseeing front:

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An amazing race weekend – and more importantly a fantastic time with good friends. We will be back for another race!!

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Final Results

Chip Time: 1:50:10
Average pace: 8:25 min/mile (5:13 min/km)
Overall: 620/7727
Age Ranking: 99/845

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RACE REPORT

Overall
What a great race! The scenery, the city, the energy, the people, the Bridge! What more can I say?

Packet Pickup/Expo
Crazy busy expo, extremely crowded parking lot. To be fair, they warned us repeatedly to take transit to get there – but we were with a family coming from outside of the city, so it made more sense to drive. I found the flow of people inside a bit challenging. Because the bib/shirt pickup was at the very back of the hall, you had to fight your way through some serious crowds. I prefer it when you can enter, get your stuff, and then wander through the expo.

T-Shirt/Swag
Long-sleeved t-shirt in orange. I didn’t wear it for the race, but I will look forward to wearing it when the weather cools off. Pleased with the design and the colour. The medal is quite lovely, if a bit small. It has a classic feel to it. The unexpected perk was the free race photos sponsored by Hoka One One!

Course
The First Half starts out flat, has a fairly short, steep hill, and then is flat again until you head upwards to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bridge itself has a gradual, gentle slope. The rest of the course is fairly consistent up and down to the finish. A challenging course with some amazing views. The fog on race day made it a wee bit less scenic, but cooler to run!

Aid Stations
There were several, and I think they all had nuun and water. I grabbed nuun at a couple of them. On the far side of Golden Gate, they were handing out Gu Chew packets. Everything seemed quite efficient.

Post-Race
I believe there were more festivities at the very end – where the Full Marathon and Second Half finished. At the First Half finish line we had bananas, Muscle Milk and a few other items – but most importantly, Irish Coffee! Yum! Also, got nifty space blankets!

Race Management
No flaws in management that I could identify. Good race communication via email and social media, on-time start, and a smooth flow of things. I was pleased. I’ll definitely keep this race in mind for future!!

Have you ever been to San Francisco? What’s your favourite sight?
Have you run any of the San Francisco Marathon races? Would you consider it?

Keeping with the theme that I picked up from Brie (Like the Cheese) , I’m going to once again do my Monthly Update. Today – July 1 – is Canada Day…midway point in the year, and a great time for reflection back on what has been, and what is yet to come!

Canada Day

In June, I…

1. Ran with Brie! Fellow #BibRavePro Brie and I met up a couple of times to run along the Seawall at lunch. It’s been great to connect with another local blogger, run and share thoughts about the social media and running/blogging scene. Plus, she’s inspiring me with all the stuff she’s doing, and keeping me accountable!

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2. Hit 1000 Twitter followers! During yesterday’s #BibChat, I sneaked out of the 900’s and into the 1000’s! I’ve been trying to grow my social media presence through organic growth, and writing openly and honestly about my running and other life experiences. Thanks for your support! If you don’t already follow me on Twitter, please visit me: @bjcjapan.

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3. Met Surpassed my fundraising goal! My regular readers know that I committed to raising money for the BC Cancer Foundation as part of the Scotiabank Half Marathon Charity Challenge. I had originally set my goal at $2015, but once donations surpassed this number, I bumped it up to $3000. In the end, a total of $3140 was raised! Read my Scotiabank Half Race Report!

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In July, I will…

1. Run 2 Half Marathons! I’m keeping with my #yearofthehalf theme for 2015. On Monday, I registered for the Fort Langley Half Marathon on July 12. I’ll be running with Bob (see his guest post on last year’s NYC Marathon), and I’m looking forward to this small, local race.

At the end of July, we’re visiting California so I can run the San Francisco Half Marathon! I’m running the ‘first half’, so I can run the Golden Gate Bridge! Aiming for fun! Plus, we get to see some friends for the first time in over 5 years – can’t wait!!

2. Do a Streaking Challenge! No, I’ve not spent enough time at the gym to run naked (despite what I did here), but I’m picking up the gauntlet thrown down by Gary (@maniac5702) to Brie (@briehemingway) and Christina (@cristinaschultz) to run a minimum 3km per day. The rules include being able to make up if you miss a day, but the goal is to run back-to-back every day.

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3. Work on my blogging schedule. Sometimes I feel like I’m pulling things together at the last minute. I feel like planning ahead would help with my blogging consistency. I would welcome advice from any of my blogging buddies out there!

It’s the middle of 2015! Have you met some of the goals you set for yourself this year?
What does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?
To the bloggers out there: how do you prepare? Do you have a blogging calendar?

June posts you might have missed: