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Recently I stared hearing reports from other 777 Challenge team members that they were dropping out because of fundraising constraints (we each needed to raise $26 200 US in addition to the cost of the trip) largely brought on by the economic recession. This, in turn, got me questioning my commitment to 777, my fundraising, and whether my impact would be effective enough to merit taking a whole year off of school and the pursuit of other goals. During this questioning I received more news from Hope Runs and the 777 team. The 777 Challenge is cancelled all together!

Obviously, this is very disappointing news.  Though with a deeper analysis I realized that my participation with Hope Runs and the 777 Challenge allowed me to learn about the intricacies of large scale fundraising, expand my reflection and knowledge about international development in general, and expand my marathon training.  Also I was able to raise thousands of dollars for Hope Runs, a great organisation that makes a concrete difference empowering children, that will still go towards that cause despite the cancelling of the 777 Challenge.  All of this was accomplished and I will still be able to run, continue my degree, and work on other pursuits in the upcoming year!

Thank you so much to all of those who donated and supported me in any way for the 777 Challenge.  I appreciate it so much – you are amazing!

A special thanks goes to my fundraising team and fundraising coordinator, Leah Stuart-Sheppard, who have stood with me all the way.  Their hard work will make a huge difference in the lives of children in Kenya!

All financial donations will still be going to Hope Runs, but if you have a concern about this now that the 777 Challenge is not going ahead, please contact me at tashas777@gmail.com.

If you are interested in hearing about my adventures in the future please visit: http://tashasdaringadventure.blogspot.com/.

A big thanks to all!

There are quite  a few words that can describe the race today, and record smashing was definitely not one of them.

I had set my alarm for 5:10 so I could get up and eat a blueberry bagel and banana and still have a little bit of time to digest before the big race.  At my what seemed like hourly wake-up I checked the time and it was 5:04, so I closed my eyes for a couple more minutes of sleep – bad idea.  A while later I rolled over, thinking to myself that it had been an awfully long 6 minutes, and what did I know, it was 6:05!  After muttering quite a few profanities under my breath I jumped up, got my things together and ventured in the kitchen to get some food into my belly however last minute it was.  When I arrived in the kitchen at 6:12 I found, along with my blueberry bagel and banana, an inspirational poster with quotes from my roommate Melissa!  In the bathroom, where I was chomping down my bagel and washing my face simultaniously, I found another note on the mirror.  After I found three more, on the kettle, apartment door, and building door.  Oh Melissa, you are amazing!  Finally I was out the door.  I walked the 1.5 km to near the start line where another amazing friend, Julia (who had run a PB 10k the night previous and still woke up at the crack of dawn for me) , met me and walked me to the start line.  While in the corral, and shaking in my pants slightly, I began meeting all the other runners squished around me.

And then the gun went off.  I stuck to the 3:50 pace bunny pretty well for the first 15 km.  For the first 14 of that I was feeling great, just as one should in the first 14 km of a marathon, like I am getting somewhere but still have tonnes left in the tank.  I even saw my friends Julie, Aislinn, and Dave at the 10km mark cheering their hearts out!  Then the sun came out.  Along with the sun, came heat.  Somehow at about 14 km the heat, my arch-nemesis that I make an extra point not to train in, accumulated with the discomfort of the food that was only half digested in my stomach, and the great feeling of before came to a crashing halt.  After 2 k of agony through the beautiful neighbourhood of Rockcliffe, it all came up.  It was all downhill from there (and not in a good way).  My arch-nemesis broke me.  I felt crappy, but kept dragging myself along.  After a while I noticed that I was just getting passed and passed, and at that point all mental fortitude was gone.  Yes, I did feel sick to my stomach and faint since I had no food in me whatsoever at this point, but ultimately I think it may have been all mental.  I need to train my brain to deal with throwing up (something that happens very very seldom for me), a beating sun, and some extra mercury.  I should have read Melissa’s poster better that morning and examined the quote that said, “real difficulties can be overcome, it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable”.  So after dragging myself along, quite slowly, I ran into one of my best friends, Jodi, who was running as well, around the 30 km mark.  Jodi was amazing.  Jodi was amazing!  We stuck together and she kept me moving despite the ever-lingering presence of my arch-nemesis and after a grueling 12km, we crossed the finish line together, hand in hand!  As I said, record breaking was not the word to describe today’s race; a much better descriptor would be the finish line picture: Jodi and I holding hands with 4:22 on the clock behind us.

Today was a great day despite this obviously disappointing result.  I learned MANY lessons and got to finish the race with my friend (not to mention the lovely afternoon I had afterwards with my friends Kelsey and Erica)!  Here are the key lessons that I will retain:

  1. Train for heat!  Get my butt out in the middle of the day and learn that I can kick butt even if the sun is trying to kick mine!
  2. Like I alluded to in my previous post, get REALLY comfortable with the distance so I don’t find the big 42.2 daunting.  Get over the mental barriers and know I can run it no problem.
  3. SET EXTRA ALARMS!!! (enough said)
  4. Learn to deal with the unexpected.  Set up race conditions (or race) and through weird things in their from time to time and show myself that I can overcome anything I want to.
  5. Ultimately, my friends are amazing and they will do anything for me (and I would do anything for them), and that is what is most important!

So one great thing about today’s whole debacle, other than a ridiculously large blister on my baby toe that refuses to pop, my legs feel great (well obviously a little tired and stiff, but considering, they feel great)!  So it is to the swimming pool tomorrow morning and a short recovery run tomorrow night, likely some arms, abs, and bike on Tuesday, and then I’m going to ease into some hardcore summer training!  See you on the roads!

PS: A great article was written about me and the 777 Challenge on DigiActive.  Also, be sure to get a tax receipt when donating, visit my “donate” page and follow the links.

There is a definite difference between running to finish, even if that means finishing with a decent time, and RACING.  I feel completely prepared to race a half-marathon and actually think I could do it in about 1:40.  I’m guessing this because today I ran 14 km in 1:10 after strength this morning, having biked 20km and ran 5km yesterday, and doing my last long run of 35km on Sunday.  Despite this, RACING the marathon seems much more intimidating; somehow once I get past the 25km point I have some sort of mental block that moves from potential racing mode to “just keep on chuggin” mode, which is significantly slower.  I know that this mental block can be combatted, I used to have this same block for the 1/2 marathon distance, but I am realizing how much work its going to take!  I have come a long way, but still have a LOT of work in front of me to train for the 777.  In the meantime, let the Ottawa Marathon taper begin!

Yesterday I did my last big long run before the Ottawa marathon and it actually went really well despite the chilly weather.  I ran to the Slater street Running Room for their 8:30 run club and ran 23km with their marathon group along the Ottawa marathon route.  The Ottawa marathon vetrans gave me lots of great tips about the course.  Afterwards I braved the cold and wind for another 10km along the majestic Ottawa river.  35km – done!  Now it is just an easy slide down until the big race!

Also, this week GiveMeaning helped us out and I can now issue tax receipts for Canadian donations!  To donate to Hope Runs and their amazing programs in conjunction with my 777 Challenge and get a tax-receipt for your donation please donate here.  You can also help by using the spread the word link on the top lefthand side of the GiveMeaning page and telling your contacts about my project.  Thanks!

Happiness is Real

The past week, running wise, have been characterized by five straight days of lovely weather and 8-16km runs across the bridge and in la belle province, followed by three days of a nagging cold, during which my only running attempt resulted in almost coughing up a lung.  By yesterday, the cold had mostly contained itself to my nose and I decided to join the many bureaucrats and tourists enjoying the beautiful shores of the Ottawa river.

As I left my new, real, non-swipe carded home and ran past the Peacekeeping monument, the National Art Gallery, the Tulip Festival, and eventually ended up on the river path, the sun shone bright and gave energy to everything underneath and warmed it all to a perfect 20 degrees.  While I explored the river path my legs propelled one in front of the other in a smooth and unceasing motion that was somehow effortless despite the odd gag and bleeding nose I had to deal with; I felt at home.  This smooth propultion had me racing through the wind, much like thethe flow of the river next to me.  The wind against my skin reminded me I was not alone, I am part of a larger ecosystem of energy and life that is all integrally connected.  That knowledge brought a secret smile to my face that I save only for these times of true happiness.  I was not alone.  I could feel the wind.  I could hear the chirping birds.  I could see the old ladies dancing around in front of the Museum of Civilisation.  I could smell the slightly fishy smell of the algae blooms.  I could taste the salt from the sweat the beating sun brings.  I could feel the wind.  I could feel the wind.  I could feel the wind.

Yes, Ottawa may be a town of bureaucrats, but the sun shines, and the wind blows, and it is a part of a intricate and beautiful ecosystem.  It has a pulse and the unceasing propulsion of my legs is a part of it.  As Norman Maclean so keenly observed,”eventually all things mere into one, and a river runs through it”.  The wind brings out my secret smile because a riverruns through it.

Update, update, update

My internet connection really dislikes productivity and has no problem functioning when I am surfing aimlessly, but as soon as I am about to do something semi-useful it decides to cut out. Hence, you have not heard from me in a long time and not just an update is needed, but instead, an update, update, update.

In the interests of time (and finishing this before the internet decides to cut out again) I will limit this to an update, update (this weekend and last – the week was relatively boring).

Last weekend

Location: HOME (Calgary and THE MOUNTAINS)

Highlight: Feeling the dirt under my feet, stepping on roots, observing every inch of the mountain ecosystem including the worms aerating the humus and microorganisms gnawing on the pine bark while ascending to the Tunnel mountain peak and re-connecting with my mom

Running / workouts: Skiing!, 6 km run exploring the forest!, 6 km run with Dad!, Hike!, Gym and Swim with Dad!

This weekend

Location: Montreal, la Belle Province

Highlight: My oldest friend Yasin who I haven’t seen in months telling me, “I’ve run with you so many times that I know the smell of your sweat” and then proceeding to smell my un-showered armpit and say “mmm… that’s it!”

Running / workouts: 1) Montreal 1/2 Marathon! – 1:55 clock (I started about 3-4 minutes after the gun – I would check for you if the internet was being more cooperative) – it was sunny and warm (but not too warm) and beautiful out, the lines were so long I couldn’t hit the washroom before and thus needed to stop for a pee break, I ran with a really cool German tourist named Jan for about 5km before realizing he was going quite a bit slower than I should have been going – all together – GREAT RACE! 2) A 5km in Montreal with my inspiring friend Andra who doesn’t let anything stop her and always has such an amazing positive outlook about everything! We discovered a quaint canal and industrial buildings that reminded me of Berlin, and real Montrealers outside of the McGill bubble – definitely the best way to see a city!

I leave you with a verse from an inspiring and utterly brilliant songwriter I once knew:

If you want something,

Go get it,

Find your mountain,

And climb

This quote epitomises marathon training.  It is not about the destination itself, as beautiful as it is, but the preparation along the way.  This journey to the top of the mountain is where you learn about yourself, your training partners, and the land.  It is this learning that brings a smile to your face and makes you really realize what you can do – scale a steep slope, cross a raging river, and push further and further each time.

Both mountain climbing and running also have in common that they are the most raw of experiences, they show you exactly what you are made of.  True strength is loving and cherishing the parts of you that your proud of and being willing to identify and cherish the rest while still working to push yourself and rework these parts as well.  My journey back into the athlete world after last week’s hiatus has made me love the world around me, even with the cold and windy days that sometimes brings, and love how I can become one with it as I run.  My feet pushing against the ground becomes in sync with the bristling trees and my breathing becomes in tune with the chirping birds.  That is the journey, that is true growth and happiness.

The last two days, following my running hiatus of last week, have brought a lovely 10km and over 150 flights of stairs run, which I am going to feel tomorrow!  And in the morning I’m off to do what brings me the utmost growth and happiness – scale Albertan mountains with my family!