Chicago Marathon 2018: Race Recap

 

IMG_1700I was unsure of how early to arrive at the start-line, the recommendation was 5:30am, 2-hours before the start. I knew that was too early since I was not doing bag check, plus standing for that long before a marathon didn’t sound ideal. I woke up before my alarm, sometime before 5am and made a small cup of coffee. I got dressed and applied a lot of Glide. I ate most of a sesame bagel, with nothing on it.

I decided to follow the same fuel plan I used for the Erie marathon, a month earlier since I found it worked well. I had pre-mixed 2 bottles of Maurten: one for in the hotel while getting ready, the second for in the corral. That is a lot of carbohydrates to take in (100g per bottle), and I don’t recommend fuelling this way unless you have trained for it. I used Maurten all summer, spent time figuring out how many grams of carbs would be ideal during a marathon, and fuelled my long runs accordingly. Aside from that I had 5 gels, Endurance Tap, to take every 7km.

It was raining when I woke up, a further reason I wasn’t eager to stand outside for extra time. I was very prepared for rain though, with a poncho, and lots of shower caps, 1 for my head, and 2 for each foot. As shown below, I was runway ready.

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My walk to the start was a mere 800m, so I left around 6:20am and headed over to the race. Once there, it was an overwhelming sea of people moving in every direction. There was a lot of signage though making it easy to figure out where to go. They had security before entering the corral, but since I had no bag, it was very fast. I was able to quickly find the E-corral, which was pretty empty at this time. Immediately, I ran into two teammates, so we hung out until the start.

When I put my qualifying time in for this race, about a year ago, the time I used was 3:31 from the Eugene Marathon in May 2017. The pacers in my corral started at 3:35, which was over 10-minutes slower than my goal. I knew this was not the appropriate corral to be in, so I made sure I was right at the front. We began walking to the start, and saw the corral ahead of us start the race, there was only about a 15 second gap before we started. It was crowded, and the GPS was going wild, like I knew it would. I focused on trying not to weave too much and not worrying about the GPS and feeling the pace.

My plan for the first 5km called for a 4:55 pace, that was my only focus for this first section. I also knew my friend Jess would be cheering by the hotel which was around mile 2. I really didn’t know what my pace was, and I didn’t see a km marker until about 2km, where I tried to lap my watch to fix the GPS. Turns out that first 5km took 24:50, 4:58 average, a bit slower than planned. I saw Jess, easy to spot in a basset hound raincoat, waved, and smiled and carried on.

After the 5km mark, the pace plan was to increase to 4:50 for the next 16km, until 21km. This section of the course took us north until 8 miles / 13 km mark before heading back south. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the course or what was happening for this stretch. I felt like I was just “in the zone” waiting for the next pick-up. I can tell you that the spectators and support were absolutely amazing, but other than that, I don’t have too much memory, it’s oddly a blur. So many runners, so many faces in the crowd, so many cups and gel wrappers on the ground.

I took my first gel at 7km, another at 14km, and another at 21km. I didn’t drink much water, just small amounts, and not at every station. The weather was my ideal, overcast, but not too cold, very comfortable. It rained, I barely noticed. I felt strong  and prepared. My pace for km 6-10 was 4:55/km, again behind what I was supposed to be doing. The watch thing was tricky and in spite of lapping at km markers to try and fix it, my watch still wasn’t lining up. I accepted this early on, and did my best to feel it out. Km’s 11-15 were on track, 4:50 pace, km’s 16-20 were back down to 4:54. I arrived at the half-way point in 1:43:17, a 4:54/km average. This was 58 seconds behind where I was supposed to be at the half-way point. I was aware that I was behind, but I didn’t lose confidence.

I focused on the fact that I was already half way there, and even better, I felt GREAT. I felt like I was just waiting to turn up the pace. After the half-way point, we headed west to where we had been the previous day for the Nike store. After 21km, my pace plan was to increase to 4:45/km, and hold this until 35km. Km’s 22-25 were 4:41/ km average. Yes, a bit faster, I was trying not to go beyond my pace, but it was hard. I really felt high-energy and couldn’t wait to pick it up. I also knew I needed to wait and avoid picking it up too early. I took my 4th gel at 28km. At this point, we began moving south towards Little Italy. Km’s 26-30 came in at a 4:43/km average. Still feeling super strong.

When I hit 30 I knew the race was about to begin, everything I had done up to this point felt like meditative junk miles. I was waiting to see that 30k marker. Km’s 31-35 were an average of 4:46/km. We were now heading south east. This helped even out being a tiny bit faster than planned for the previous 10km. I came through 35km in 2:49:25, a 4:50/km average. Still, I was behind, now by 1:05. I took my last gel at 35km and then it was time to get to work. We were heading south for a few more km’s before heading north towards the park and the finish. My pace plan was now to increase to 4:40/km for the next 5km. Km’s 36-40 were an average of 4:39/km,  I was feeling good and excited. I was also waiting for this rumoured hill, unsure of exactly when I would encounter it. There was a mild incline on a bridge which I figured was the hill,  it really wasn’t bad, barely a hill I thought to myself.

After the 40km mark, I was to go all out until crossing the finish. This was the most anticipated part of the race, because I was curious to see what I still had left. I ran the last 2.2 km in an average of 4:33/km. The rumoured hill was in there, with less than 1km to the finish. I could see the finish around the corner, I could see people being taken by the hill. I embraced it, embraced the temporary discomfort, peaked the hill, and sprinted to the finish.

My official time was 3:22:37. This was 41 seconds off (slower than) what my plan had me coming in at. I took 2:56 off my previous PB at the Erie Marathon in September. I finished feeling SO good. While I am happy with my effort in Chicago, I also know I have more in me. I cannot wait to run another marathon and see what I can do. Is it April yet?

Chicago Marathon 2018: Pre-Race

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I arrived in Chicago on Friday just before 5pm local time, and wasted to time. I quickly dropped my stuff at the hotel before heading to the expo. American race expos have a lot more going on at them compared to Canadian ones, especially the World Majors. Normally I enjoy walking through the expo, but this time I just felt bored. I grabbed my marathon and 5k bibs, did a walk through, took 1 photo and then left. It was time to eat dinner and relax.

The next morning, I woke up early as always and had coffee and a small breakfast at the hotel with my friend Jess, before heading over to the 5km. It was raining with thunder and lightning when we woke up, and my other running buddies weren’t sure they wanted to run in that. Fortunately it cleared up, the start was delayed a little, and since we did not want to stand in the corrals for extra time to seed ourselves properly, there were quite a few waves ahead of us. By the time we were running, the weather was pretty good, overcast, but a little humid. I am pretty sure we laughed for most of those 5km and it was a great way to shake-out our legs before the big day.

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Post-run, I walked by to the hotel, which was under 1 km (pretty pleased with how that turned out), the finish of the 5km was also in the same park as the start/finish of the marathon. I had a quick shower and we headed out to find a proper breakfast. We ended up at a place called Yolk which featured a massive menu. Anywhere that considers 2 full-size pancakes as a “side” knows nothing about portion control, but worked out just fine pre-race. I ended up with an “Ironman scramble” which was egg whites and veggies with pancakes on the side and grits.

The next item on the list was the Nike store, they were releasing the finishers gear the day before the race, so I wanted to make sure I got a jacket it my size. We arrived at Nike only 1-hour after opening and already they said they were out of small jackets, and suggested coming back “tomorrow at 8am”, which would have been 30-minutes into the marathon. After a quick phone call, I decided to make the trip to Nike Bucktown, 4 miles away from the flagship on Michigan ave. They had all the sizes and it wasn’t a gong show like the downtown store. I may have ended up with a few more items than just the jacket.

We grabbed coffees at a cute shop called Red Beard, and then jumped in an Uber back downtown. We had tickets for the Architectural boat tour, but our driver was super confused about where to drop us off, and we ended up doing circles while the boat pulled away. When we arrived, we were told we could do the tour the following day, so we went to Pret a Manger for lunch and then headed back to the hotel. I organized my clothes and fuel, re-read my race plan, made sure I knew my paces and then hung out until it was time to head out for dinner.

I had made a dinner reservation at Mama’s Boy, which considers itself italian peasant food. We were meeting my friend Lisa from BC, who was also running the marathon and her mom. The place was absolutely packed when we arrived, which I’m sure was the case with all italian resto’s that night. There was a large crowd of people waiting for seats which flowed right into the dinning area. The servers knocked and elbowed them out of the way, saying “move” as they passed. The atmosphere was interesting, and the food was pretty good. We were done by 7pm and then headed back to the hotel for final pre-race prep.

Race Recap: Erie Marathon

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Last Sunday I ran my fifth marathon, The Erie Marathon, which is in Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania. The race is known for the high percentage of runners who BQ there year after year. They even have t-shirts for purchase at package pick-up reading, “I BQ’d at The Erie Marathon”. Previous to moving back to Toronto in May, I had never heard of the Erie Marathon, nor had I anticipated adding a third marathon into my race roster for 2018. After joining a new running team, I heard about the race and it piqued my interest. My intention had been to train for the Chicago Marathon, giving up my dream of returning to Boston in 2019. I figured the BQ with a 3-minute buffer I earned in Boston this year would likely not be enough, and had briefly resigned myself to considering alternate spring marathons, like Paris, and London. Needless to say, that didn’t last long and I modified my plans to run an early fall marathon in addition to Chicago, with the plan to BQ in Erie. This would secure my spot on the very last day before the Boston application submission window opened, which coincided with my birthday.

I focused and worked hard in the 3 months leading up to Erie, and had a really great training cycle. I went into the race feeling prepared, and confident that I would achieve my goal, not just to BQ, but to PB, and finish in under 3:26. Although I had a strong training cycle, an unforeseen challenge arose just 10 days before race day.  One of my teammates called me at 6:30AM because a message had been posted on Facebook announcing that anyone who accepted hydration or nutrition from someone on the sidelines would be disqualified. By this standard, accepting an orange from a child on the side of the road, could result in disqualification. Several of our teammates and other members of the Toronto running community had built their fuelling plans with the expectation that fuel would be provided by team-mates from the sidelines of this small-town race.

The post generated concern from several participants, but nothing changed, the response was still if you accept anything from the sidelines you will be disqualified. This put a negative tone on the event, and so started the jokes of how else runners might earn a DQ. Would we be permitted to run in bras or were shirts mandatory? Were we allowed to smile? It seemed unnecessarily strict and after all, the goal was to do well by our own standards, we were not contenders to win the race. I modified my fuelling plan and luckily no other obstacles arose.

My race day morning began around 4:45AM. I got up, made a cup of hotel coffee, and an un-toasted bagel with PB, but only managed to consume half. I wasn’t worried though, I had eaten pancakes, soba noodles, a half-sandwich, a piece of baguette, and pasta the day before. Plus, my fuelling plan had me consuming 198g of carbohydrates, which equalled 800 calories before I ran a single step. I got ready and headed to the shuttle buses to meet-up with some of the other team-members for the 1-mile ride to the start. It was pitch black (flashlights were included in the race kit) and a bit cold, the weather had been calling for rain and flooding, but fortunately the forecast changed.

Once we arrived at the start, the typical pre-race chaos ensued, long washroom lines, people yelling each other’s names trying to find each other, etc. We ended up finding a few other familiar runners and wished them well before lining up at the start. My focus at this point was finishing my second 500ml bottle of Maurten before the race began, which I did seconds before the gun went off. As we set out, my focus shifted to keeping my pace controlled, the plan for the first 5km was to stay at 5:00/km.

I finished the first 5km in 24:45, only hitting 5:00/km for one of the kilometres. I told myself to stay on pace for the next section which had me targeting 4:55/km over the next 15km. Km’s 6-20 took 1:13:32, average pace 4:54/km. During that stretch I saw my dad, team-mates Matt and Kim who had come from Toronto just to cheer us on, as well as coach and Mel who were screaming and holding a Happy Birthday banner. It was amazing to see so many familiar faces. I also saw a water bottle of electrolyte attached to a tree and laughed to myself. During the first half of the race, I took 3 gels, which I carried on my person.

For km’s 21-35 my pace was meant to increase to 4:50/km, I am not exactly sure how long that stretch took because my watch lost GPS after around 33km. Anyway, I can say for 21-33km, my average pace was 4:49/km. I took 2 gels in that time, my final one at 35km for a final boost before the plan had me pick it up. I got to see Matt and Kim again, as well as my dad which made me happy. I had not been thinking about much up to this point except the task at hand, executing the race plan, fuelling and the occasional thought of I really need to pee, can I wait? 

After 35km, the plan was to increase my pace to 4:45/km for the next 7km. By this point my GPS was not working at all, my watch was showing paces in the double-digits. I knew my energy level was still high, and my legs still had more to give, so I stopped looking at pace altogether and ran on feel. I began passing people, and just did the best I could to maintain the pace I thought I was meant to be holding. There were only mile markers, but I decided not to bother with auto-lapping and just run. With 2 miles left, I knew I would finish around the 3:25:xx mark. I think I was smiling for the whole way after that, I knew I had hit my goal, and nothing was going to change that, so I remained calm and kept moving forward.

With less than 1km to go I saw coach, Mel, Matt, Kim and Rachel, just as I reached the straight-away to the finish. I could see the finish, but it felt far. I like to do a big finish and sprint as much as my legs will allow, so I did just that, gaining places as I passed others. I crossed the finish and threw my hands up. I had done it, a BQ with a substantial buffer, a sub 3:26 marathon, and a 5 minute and 34 second PB. Looks like I’ll be Boston bound in 2019 after all.

Training Recap May 21-27 and Surprise Race Recap

This week was a bit lighter because I was tapering to race. This race was not previously mentioned here or on IG. I did not mention the race leading up to it for a few reasons. One is that I didn’t want any pressure, which can sometimes happen. Another is that I thought my plan was a little out there. It wasn’t just a any race, it was a marathon.

Here is what I did leading up to Sunday’s race:

Monday: OFF. 

Tuesday: WO, 10’ easy, 3km@4:54, 1km@4:30, 3×90”@4:15, 15’ easy. I also did core.

Wednesday: 30’ easy, I also did core.

Thursday: WO, 10’ easy, 5’@4;43, 2×2’@4:14, 3’@4:35, 15’ easy.

Friday: OFF.

Saturday: 20’ easy, this is the earliest run I can ever remember doing, I started before 6am.

Sunday: 5’ easy, Buffalo “Marathon”.

Total Weekly Mileage: 49.1 km

Buffalo Marathon Race Recap

Obviously, 4 runs and a marathon cannot add up to only 49.1km. So how did my mileage end up like that? I did not complete the marathon. But before I get to that, I will start from the beginning. Why did I feel the need to run another marathon just 6-weeks after Boston anyway? Simple answer, because I’m never satisfied, always looking for another goal. Boston was an amazing experience, it was everything I thought it would be an more. However, while I was happy with my result, it was not necessarily what I trained for. I know that it’s not all about the result, but I felt like I had more in me than the time on the clock reflected. I thought I could do another marathon piggy-backing off the great training cycle I had for Boston, and decided to try and do that in Buffalo.

This is a big marathon weekend in Canada, there was also Ottawa and Calgary. I chose Buffalo because it’s closer to Toronto than Ottawa, and also because based on historical weather, it seemed like Buffalo would have cooler weather than Ottawa (spoiler alert: it didn’t). The courses are both know to be pretty flat so either one was fine for that. Anyway, I registered and decided to run another marathon in close proximity to Boston. My time goal was just to do 1-2 minutes faster than Boston, so 3:30ish. The reason I wanted this time was to secure a BQ with a bigger cushion. I didn’t think it would be realistic to ask too much and look for a massive PB, I just wanted a couple extra minutes.

I arrived in Buffalo around noon on Saturday, stopped by the expo for my race kit (most underwhelming expo I have ever seen). My race kit was a shirt and a bib with pins. Following that, I walked down the street to a cafe for lunch and then to my airbnb, which was in a loft over the cafe. I spent the rest of the day relaxing like you do before a marathon, and I was feeling good. I watched my carb intake for 3 days leading up to the event to make sure I was actually “carb-loading”. My pre-race dinner was pasta and bread which I had delivered, so no extra walking! I ate at 5pm and then continued relaxing and Netflix bingeing. I drank a ton of water.

The first problem began when I wanted to go to sleep. There was a large vent over the bed that would activate every 10 or so minutes and it was VERY, VERY loud. Loud enough that it kept waking me up. In addition to that, I felt like I heard 100 sirens, as well as loud people coming and going between midnight and after. My alarm went off at 4:45am, and I began making coffee and oatmeal. I ate almost all the oatmeal, which was better than usual because it’s often hard for me to eat much in the morning before a marathon. I got all my gear on, slathered myself in Glide and sunscreen, and headed out at 5:50am.

My 5-minute easy warm-up took me almost to the start. I waited for a bit and then joined the corral to ensure I would be in the right position. It was good I got in there early because it was absolute chaos. We were shoulder to shoulder, it was all self-managed so there were people in the completely wrong places. There were a lot of people who weren’t even in the corral when the race started. There was a count-down from 5-minutes and then the American national anthem, and then surprise, fireworks! Well the announcer did not warn us about this and it scared me so much I almost cried. Oh the emotional rollercoaster that is the moments leading up to the start of a marathon!

The start was pretty congested, but it didn’t last long luckily. There was water within 300m of the start which I found strange, especially because the next water station was pretty far away. My first 5km were: 4:51, 4:54, 4:54, 4:50, 4:50. It was pretty hot, and I was sweating even before the race started! Still, I felt pretty good aside from a bit of stomach discomfort but I tried to work through it. We were going around residential streets and there were more people out spectating that I thought there would be. It kind of reminded me of the Eugene marathon, the small town vibe and quaint residential streets. Km’s 6-10 were: 4:58, 4:54, 5:02, 5:33, 4:54. Km 9 included a time penalty because I ended up having to stop at a port-o-let. Since I was able to hit pace for km 10 I remained optimistic. I was following my fuel plan perfectly, a gel every 30 minutes.

Km’s 11-15 were: 4:56, 5:01, 5:10 (hill), 5:05, 5:01. This was OKAY, but not great. Things were already beginning to fall apart, as in, my legs were starting to feel tired. This is way, way too early in a marathon to start “feeling” your legs. I tested it out for another km and then I knew it was not my day to run a marathon. I had gone in with the intention of dropping out if things weren’t going according to plan. This was not a big, special goal race, it was a last minute thing and the decision going into it was that there would be no point in forcing it if I was unable to execute. I also didn’t want to complete it just for the sake of it and have to take all the recovery time, this race was purely for time. Since I was not going to hit the appropriate time, there was no reason to complete it. The weather of course was a concern, along with the fact that I had run a challenging marathon 6-weeks earlier.

When I knew for sure that it was not my day, I began to think about when I should drop out. I still wanted to get in a decent Sunday long-run, plus I needed to pull out somewhere convenient, where I wouldn’t be too far from my Airbnb. I decided to run at least half of it and then see how close I could get to my Airbnb on the course. At 22km we were 1 block from my Airbnb, so I pulled over, unpinned my bib, walked the block and went inside. I was shocked at how salty my legs were, it was insane! I have never been so salty before! My legs were also pretty sore and tired, I grabbed a giant bottle of water and put my legs up the wall.

I showered and scrubbed all the salt off, and then relaxed for a while. Eventually, I walked downtown to Public Coffee and Espresso and had a Turmeric Kombucha, Americano, and breakfast bowl with eggs, sweet potato and avocado. This was planned so that when I was done, the brewery would be open. I arrived there for 12-noon when they opened, sat at the bar and wrote this recap over a beer or two.

The short version of how I feel about this is: no harm, no foul. Of course, it would have been amazing to feel great and nail that 3:30 marathon, but today was not the day for that, and it’s okay. If I didn’t try this, I would have been left playing the “what if…” game. I am happy I went out today and tried to run another marathon, even though I only ran 52% of it. As I sat in Public Coffee, I looked up what other marathons were coming up, like I always do after a race. What I learned today is to appreciate what I have already done. There will not be another marathon from these legs until October in Chicago, and I couldn’t be more excited about that.

My First Marathon Monday: Boston 2018 Race Recap

My marathon Monday started at 5am. I was lucky enough to get an uninterrupted sleep which I was surprised about. I had coffee and oatmeal with banana, got dressed for what would end up being the worst weather in 30 years for this event, and took an Uber downtown. It was already raining hard and windy, so much so that when I began to open the door of the car, it blew wide open. By 6am, I was in the tent drinking hot water to make sure I stayed warm. As part of the John Hancock Boston Marathon Invitational Program, we were treated to a tent and refreshments before and after the race, coach buses to the start, where we moved into a school to hang out until the race began. An hour later we were directed to the buses and got another taste of what the weather had in store. After 20 minutes inside the bus, once the police and bomb dogs had done their check we were cleared to go, and headed towards Hopkinton with police escorts on motorcycles.

I spent the ride into Hopkinton staring out the window, getting into the headspace to run. My enthusiastic seat partner from Pennsylvania kept trying to engage in small-talk, which I kept polite but minimal. Sometimes running is selfish, and I am okay with that, especially so in the final days and hours before an event. I have no problem doing exactly what I need to do to set myself up for success and not be concerned with anything else. Upon arriving, we were shown into a school gym equipped with bleachers and mats to sit on. There was also coffee, water, Gatorade, Cliff bars, Cliff bloks, and Finagel Bagels. Most importantly there was heat, shelter from the rain and actual washrooms. We all felt very lucky to be inside for these final hours before the start.

We arrived to the school just around 8:30am, and the blue bib start time wasn’t until 10:50am. Fortunately, I had Women’s Running magazine to read, and a second breakfast to eat: a plain bagel at 8:50 am and a banana at 9:50am. I also drank a small coffee and 1.5 bottles of water. I read the magazine cover to cover except for the parts about coming back to running after child-birth which there was a focus on, but not of interest to me!

Aside from that, I mostly watched the antics of other runners in the gym, some highlights were watching a man eat a loaf of bread directly from the bag, several people duct-taping their shoes, everyone wearing garbage bags, myself included, and someone putting rubber gloves on-top of his gloves. I have to hand it to the running community, people get pretty creative with their outfits when the weather is poor. In this case, I am sure it contributed to them having a safer race than those who did not adapt their gear. Nearly 1,300 runners received medical treatment on the course, and nearly 1,000 more did at the finish. When even the elites are wearing jackets, you know it’s a poor weather day!

Before long, they were calling for the blue bibs to move into the corrals. I made one final washroom stop and moved towards the door, staying inside as long as I could. My outfit was: Saucony Kinvara 9’s, Stance socks, Adidas Supernova Storm Jacket, Lululemon: Fast & Free crops, Run on bra, Meant to Move Tee, and Ciele Gocap Century Hopkinton hat. I also wore a disposable jacket from the Van 1st Half, a garbage bag and gloves from the BMO half.

We began our rainy walk to the start, the area surrounding the school and athlete’s village looked like a runner’s war-zone, clothing, shoes, garbage bags, and water bottles everywhere. This continued all down the sides of the road up and into the corrals. Once I reached corral 2, there was 8 minutes to start. I took my first gel and a drink of water and waited. After a few words from Bill Rogers, the gun went off, and the rain began to pour. What a sick joke I thought as I hit start on my Garmin, and smiled my way over the first timing mat.

My priority starting this race was to stay in control and not start too fast in order to save my legs for later. My other priority was to stay warm, I was in no rush to shed my garbage bag, disposable jacket and gloves. I imagine the beginning of any major race to be exciting, but I am not sure any of them can compete with this. People are cheering for you on the sides of the street in Hopkinton before you even start, this of course continues as your start, there are people on both sides of the road and they are genuinely excited for you. It makes you feel super special!

Another thing of note is that, you start on narrow country roads, so you are confined to stay with the “peloton”. This was okay for me since I wanted to start conservatively.  I knew that with the wind and hills, I could not let my mental state be dictated by splits and I was prepared for this. I figured that things would mostly even out with the downhills and flats, and that if I stayed on pace for those parts I would be in good shape. My first 5km were: 5:03, 5:04, 4:56, 4:59, 4:41 (downhill). My 5km split time was 24:49, average pace 4:58/km. The back of my legs felt stiff and cramped from the cold, something I had not previously experienced, I was concerned it would turn into full on legs cramps, again something I have never experienced. I decided to focus on getting to Boston, and everything went away. I did not feel cold, I did not lose focus, I had to get to Boston one way or another.

The next 5km were: 4:47, 5:03, 4:50, 4:50, 4:48. My 10km split was 49:14. My average pace for the first 10km was 4:55/km. For reference, the pace I was meant to hold was 4:50. Around km 8 there was a very cute golden retriever sitting on the right side of the road watching the race and holding  2 flags in his mouth. You can see more footage of Spencer the dog here.

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10km took us to Framingham and boasted people on both sides on the street cheering. The whole atmosphere was party, and I swear I could smell beer and food for most of the first 10km ranging from pizza to Indian food. I was timing my gels for every 30 minutes, which worked perfectly with the water stations.

Km’s 11-15 were: 4:55, 4:58, 5:00, 4:57, 4:59, this brought us to Natick. My 15km split was 1:14:07, an overall average pace of 4:56. Another thing I noticed was that my Garmin wasn’t matching up with the km markers anymore, very annoying! For me, the thing about Boston was that I always felt like I was looking forward to something, or more so running toward something. Every section of the race has a focus. The first 10km I was cautious because I didn’t want to destroy my legs on the downhill, and I had heard several times that this is a strategy course where you need to save your strength for the end. The following 10km brings you to Wellesley College, also the half-way point. I knew it was coming soon and how amazing it was supposed to be, so once the initial 10km passed that was my next checkpoint.

Km’s 16-20 were: 4:59, 4:57, 5:03, 4:54, 4:50. My 20km split was 1:39, 4:57 overall average pace/km. Since the Wellesley scream tunnel is something most any runner knows about Boston, I was curious to see how loud it really would be, especially given the weather. It definitely lived up to its’ expectations, so many girls, so many signs, such loud screaming. I decided to put out my hand and high-five as many of them as I could. One overzealous cheerer even fell over the barrier and another girl was trying to pull her back over by her legs! The scream tunnel gave me a massive energy boost, thank you Wellesley girls! My 21km split was 1:44:22, an overall average pace of 4:58.

The scream tunnel was such a rush that I didn’t fully register this meant we were already half-way done! I started to feel my legs around this point, but tried my best to push those thoughts aside. Km’s 22-25 were: 4:55, 5:00, 5:02, 5:04, my 25km split time was: 2:03:58, average pace: 4:58. After Wellesley, I knew the next major landmark would be the notorious Newton Hills, what I had been bracing myself for the entire race.

Km’s 26-30 were: 4:42, 5:23, 5:02, 5:20, 5:03, you can clearly see this was the Newton Hill portion of the race, by the large fluctuation in pace! My approach was to focus my view on the top of the hill rather than my watch and just get there as best I could while keeping the effort continuous and not increasing it. As with almost all of the course, both sides of the street were lined with spectators, there were tents, people were drinking, having BBQ’s. I even spotted a bouncy castle on the right-hand side of one of the Newton hills. Even though the hydration and fuel stations were plentiful, people were handing out water, oranges, bananas you name it. So much hospitality from the spectators on one of the gnarliest Boston Marathon’s in history.

Km’s 31-35 were: 4:49, 5:12, 5:11, 5:40, 4:46, this included the famous Heartbreak hill, and no it’s not THAT bad, but it is long and it is deep into the race so any incline would feel tough. The feeling of completing Heartbreak Hill is wonderful however. You know that the worst is over and there are only 7 more km to go! I had been told this final portion was flat and fast so I was looking forward to that. There were a few more short inclines though, and by that point any incline felt like a mountain.

Km’s 36-40 were: 5:15, 5:07, 5:09, 4:52, 5:08. Finally, it was the moment I had been waiting for. Only 2km to go. I was still wearing my disposable jacket, and wanted to at least get a good finish line picture, so I discarded it on a barrier, and took off into the downpour. At this point you know where you need to go and are just holding your breath for that right on Hereford, left on Boylston. The streets were lined with people, the roads coated in slippery garbage bags, making footing uncertain, I was determined not to fall going up Hereford! Turning onto Boylston might be one of the best feelings I have ever experienced, there are so many people! The finish line is massive and spectacular, and I knew my family was waiting on the stands on the right-hand side. Km 41 and 42 were: 5:19 and 5:11. I kept my eyes locked on that finish line while my ears were filled with a roar from the crowd, I heard my name and waved. And just like that, I became a Boston Marathoner in 3:32:09.

Race Recap: Comox Half-Marathon

I arrive at the Florence Filberg Centre just over half an hour before the start time. The room is buzzing with runners. I grab my bib, listen patiently to the instructions I am given about not folding it and ruining the chip, and attach it to my shirt. I begin looking for a place to leave my bag of clothes for after the race, people are putting theirs on chairs, reserving places for the awards. I find a spot in the corner, I am not expecting any awards today. I stow my gels away in pockets, and overhear a conversation about applying more vaseline before the race, old-school.

I head outside to do my warm-up, only 10 minutes today, lots of other runners are doing the same near the beginning of the course. The course is totally new to me, I have heard rumours of rolling hills, and downhill, but overall a “fast” course, great for Boston training. We line up and someone says, “5 minutes to the start”. I take a gel while we wait. There is no gun or horn, and after 5-minutes we here a quiet “GO!” I love the start of a race, everyone is excited, very high-energy and take off like it’s a 100-m event regardless of the actual distance.

I settle into my pace and observe who is around me, I can stay with them to keep me on pace and from going faster than I should. At the 2km marker a volunteer says, “great job, see you on the way back!” A guy turns to me and says, “that’s not very encouraging, when we’re just starting!” I say “she just means see you soon”. 21km is hardly daunting when your goal race is double the distance. Shortly thereafter, I notice a figure standing on the side in cycling gear, waving and cheering, a teammate who lives in the area. He congratulates everyone, snaps a few photos and hops back on his bike. I move in behind two girls in matching outfits, I-Pods strapped to their arms. This is 3km in and I feel like I’m walking, the pace is so comfortable. Every so often one will say to the other something like “we could be drinking wine right now” or “mimosas at brunch!” Unfortunately, our paces don’t match and I can’t hang out to hear the rest of this.

I begin to wonder where these rumoured hills are because, from what we’ve seen so far it’s pretty flat, making the finish the same. I am holding marathon pace easily and pleased with it. Then I notice the upcoming hills, nothing too steep, but enough to feel the lactic acid. I focus on effort each time rather than pace, knowing I will naturally increase speed on the downhill. This is around the point where I notice everyone I started with is gone, oh well, time to find a new group. This works for a while, but before long they are gone too, hills are hard. At the top of one of the hills, lays a pig and cow farm, the smell is so bad it makes my stomach turn. I can tell everyone around me agrees by their faces and sounds they make. I feel like speeding up just to get to fresh air faster.

Around km 8 I start to feel tired, which worries me. I have not been going faster than my pace, but suddenly feel tired. Some of my km show as being slower than I planned. It is hilly and also I notice my Garmin’s km are not matching the courses km. I try not to think about it and instead look ahead. Fortunately this doesn’t last long, and before I know it we are at the half-way turnaround point. As we turn around I begin to feel more energized, we are already half-way done! Since we just have to retrace our steps I know the course, and that the uphills are mostly over. I embrace the downhill and when I see 4:29, and 4:35 km’s flash across my screen, I know I have made up for those slower uphills. I focus in on 2 women in the distance and wonder if I’ll end up running with them. The downhill allows for this and I am excited when I catch up with them. However, once we get to the flat one of them falls behind. With 2-3 km to go, so does the other. I am feeling strong at this point. The finish is fast and flat and my final km is 4:29, sprint to the finish at a sub 4:00 pace. I’ve said it before, I can’t not sprint to the finish, it’s too much fun.

I finish in 1:41:44, right on track. I grab a cup of water, remove my bib and head back out on the course for my cool-down, 45 minutes easy. I see a woman I ran with at the beginning walking towards the finish, when suddenly, a friend runs up to her, puts her arm around her and helps her run to the finish. As I pass the 2km, a volunteer smiles at me, and says, “aren’t you already done!?”I respond with something like, “just a bit extra”, and carry on. Further down the road, another volunteer says, “you’re back!”, “round two”, I say. Around the 3km mark, I see the final runner and support cyclist, I am trying to encourage her, but somehow trip, maybe over a pylon. That feeling when you know you are going to fall, and hurt yourself flashes through my head and how awkward this would be in front of other people. Somehow, I stumble instead, double over, and recover without ever actually falling. This is still awkward, but far less so than actually falling to the ground. I give them a thumbs up and carry on.

After 4km out, it’s time to turn back. The course is being torn down, I get asked if I missed the race. Everyone is friendly and encouraging though. I finish up my cool-down for a total of 31.5 km for the day. I head inside to grab my stuff, and quickly check the results, realizing I have come in 3rd in my AG. That means I get a medal, not bad for a training run.

Training Recap March 12-18, 2018

This week was pretty BIG. In spite of it finishing with a half-marathon, I had no taper leading up to it. This is marathon training after all! The final push of this training cycle in fact, I feel like it flew by!

This is what I did last week:

Monday: OFF. I did strength training and core.

Tuesday: Double run, AM: 30′ easy, PM: 50′ easy, this covered my commute to AND from work.

Wednesday: WO for 1, headed down to this park by the ocean where there is a 1 mile loop. My WO was: 20′ easy, 3km@4:34, 2x1km@4:21/4:19, 2km@4:29, 40′ easy. I also did core.

Thursday: 50′ easy, met up with my running buddy before work to get ‘er done early. I did strength training and core in the afternoon.

Friday: Double run, AM: 40′ easy, PM: 40′ easy, I ran to and from work again.

Saturday: 40′ easy + strides, headed out on Lochside, where I normally run on Saturdays, no WO though, but a beautiful day. I also did core.

Sunday: My WU was 10′ easy, I did a few strides and then ran the Comox Half-Marathon as a marathon pace training run, it was a great course for Boston training and it went well, I finished it off with 45′ easy for a total of 31.5km.

Total Weekly Mileage: 94.1

I’ll be posting a race recap early this week!

1st Half (marathon) Race Recap

This was my second time running the 1st Half in Vancouver. It would have been my third, but last year the race got cancelled due to inclement weather! Vancouver got a shocking amount of snow last year, normally not an issue. I kept my eye on the weather all week because this race is notorious for having crazy weather. The first time I did it, in 2016, it was a full-on monsoon. I remember a guy saying to me, “theres water in my shoes” around the 18km mark last time and thinking yeah man everyone’s in the same position.

In spite of all of this, we were very lucky with the weather this year. It was a crisp day for sure, but the sun was out, and the views were spectacular as ever. When it’s good it’s good. The race started at 8:30am, and our hotel was under 1km from the start, so we planned to run over at 8am. Breakfast was coffee, water and oats from Starbucks. The oats were very dry, so Jo and I poured an Endurance Tap on them, this made them so good!

Our warm-up was only 10 minutes, so we ran around Yaletown, ending up by the start to do our strides and then line-up in the corrals and take our pre-race gel. My focus was to stay on pace and in control to avoid burn-out later on in the race. The start of a race always feels amazing, especially when you have a full taper. The sun was shining, I was running alongside 1500 others in Vancouver and I never felt better. This was definitely reflected on my first 2 km, my pace was showing me running slow, I knew I wasn’t, but, I didn’t feel like I was going too fast.

The first 2km were 4:25 and 4:22, 10-13 seconds faster than my target pace. Km 3 and 4 were 4:50 and 4:30, there was an incline on km 3. Km 5 and 6 were both 4:38. My 5km split was 23:13 according to the race timing, a 4:38 average (this is 32 seconds faster than the sum of the 5km according to my watch). At some point early on the mileage on my watch stopped matching the km markers, and my current pace was never accurate for the duration of the race. I was essentially running on feel. Not what I wanted to do, but the only option. I knew there was a signal issue when I looked at my pace on the first km and it never got better.

Km 7 and 8 were both 4:45. I took my second gel at km 7. Km 9 and 10 were 4:43 and 4:29. My 10km split was 46:29, still a 4:38 pace. I was feeling great at this point. 11 and 12 were 4:40 and 4:32. 13 and 14 were 4:37 and 4:40 as per my Garmin. I knew the last few km of the race were hilly so I was mentally preparing for that.

At the 15km mark I was planning to take my final gel. That was around the time a wave of fatigue hit. I decided not to focus on it and power through. Having a wave of fatigue in a half with only 6km left is preferable to having it happen in a marathon because there is often double the distance left when the pain starts. Km 15 was 5:00! My 15km split was 1:09:56, average pace 4:39.

Km 16 and 17 were 4:41. 18 and 19 were apparently 5:20 and 5:17. This is the hilly portion. Just before the last climb between 19-20km, and as we began to climb a guy yelled, “I’m so excited!” As he picked up the pace, another guy beside me said, “wow, he’s got some pep”. I responded with, “yeah, let’s catch him”. He said, “you go for it”, so I began chasing him. Km 20 was the last bit of hill and 5:23? The last km is flat and then turns into downhill. I zeroed I’m on the peppy guy and caught him just before the finish. Due to the watch error km 21 shows up as only 560m and 2:48. My average pace for the last 6.1km was 4:32, so not quite the splits my watch said!

My finish time was 1:37:45, average pace 4:37.8/km. I was the 85th woman out of 777, and 21/80 for my category. I was happy with how this went, but I know I have more to give, sub 1:35 I’m coming for you!

Training Recap Feb 5-11

This week was pretty relaxed since I was preparing to race. That meant cutting down from running 6 days to 5, and my Saturday run was only 20 minutes long. I also cut down my strength training from 2 days to 1. I take the week before a race pretty seriously, so if I’m cutting mileage, I cut strength as well to really let my body recover in order to race well.

Here is how the week went:

Monday: OFF. I did strength training and core.

Tuesday: 45′ easy, I ran home from work.

Wednesday: Group WO, 15′ easy, 2km@HMP, 4×90”@10km pace, 15′ easy. I hit the HMP about 12 seconds faster than my goal pace, but I knew in the race, I would have to make sure to stick to the true pace or risk burnout. I also did core.

Thursday: 40′ easy, snuck this run in before work with my buddy. It was nice to see the sun rising earlier for a change, spring is coming! I also did an arm and core workout.

Friday: OFF. Really, I didn’t do anything.

Saturday: 20′ easy, and strides. Did this pretty early as we had planned to catch the 9am ferry to Van.

Sunday: 10′ easy, Van 1st Half, 20′ easy, for a total of 26km, haven’t seen that number in a while.

Total Weekly Mileage: 54.2 km

Stayed tuned for a race recap later this week!

Cobble Hill 10km 2018 Recap

This was my second year racing the Cobble Hill 10km. The plan was to run at a hard effort, no expectations to run a fast time or anything. The course is known to be hilly. The week leading up to the race wasn’t very high in mileage, and the Wednesday workout leading up to it was short and fast. I wasn’t feeling very fast during that workout though, which furthered the idea that Sunday’s race would just be a hard effort.

There was a wind warning the night before the race, due to 100km/hr winds, and it was insanely loud. We weren’t sure if the race would be impacted, but it was not. That being said, it did not look like a great day for a race, still windy, grey and cold. We headed out to Cobble Hill around 9:30am, it’s a bit out of town, and we had to get organized and do our warm-up before the 11am start-time.

When we arrived in Cobble Hill it was raining, and we were wishing the race was cancelled. We got organized, and once we came back out for the warm-up the sun had come out. It had turned into a beautiful afternoon. We ran our required 20′ easy and strides, and hung out by the start waiting. One of my running buddies suggested I should try and beat another competitor in my category who is typically a bit faster than me, I said I wasn’t sure it was in the cards today. As the countdown happened, she said, “you know what you have to do”. I laughed and off we went.

The couple km’s felt easy, I wasn’t looking at my Garmin, though when I saw the pace was hovering around 4:10/km, I realized this was significantly faster than my 10km pace. As we rounded the bend of an out and back, I noticed how close I was behind one of our faster team-mates. Shortly thereafter, we began ascending a hill and that brought my pace under control. Still, as I hit the 3rd km, someone yelled out the time and it was under 13 minutes, which surprised me as I rounded the corner. Another hill. I settled in and began climbing, again focusing on looking up and not at my Garmin. The 4th and 5th km’s clocked in at 4:33. It was hard work, but I was happy to be half-way done. Since this was my second time on this course, I remembered the second half of the race was “faster” than the first.

Km 6 was 4:30, at this point the runners were pretty spread out, I was close to a girl from another local team, and made sure to keep her in my sight. Her coach kept showing up on his bike and offering tips and encouragement, I decided to listen to what he had to say too, and we ended up running together for the second half of the race. This was also around the time, I realized I was likely going to PB if I kept running strong. Km 7 was 4:15, at which point her coach said something like, “now it’s time to go, this is when the race starts”. We began climbing the final incline during km 8 which was 4:26. I missed the marker for that km, so when I saw the sign for km 9, I was very happy. Km 9 was 4:21, and then I knew it was a flat, fast finish. I buckled down, and passed her. We exchanged a quick “good job”, and I continued on. With the finish line in sight she said, “lets get ‘er done, girl” and we sprinted to the finish. This is why I love the running community.

The sun was shining as I crossed that line, I stopped my watch, a PB. Grabbed some water and watched the other runners come in. I could hardly believe I took a whole minute of my previous best, with my 43:25 finish. This was my first PB since May at The Eugene Marathon and I will work to continue improving my times throughout this season.