Reflecting on Boston 2019

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I ran my 7th marathon yesterday. I went into the race confident, with a big goal, to run 3:16, which would be a 6-minute PB. There are always secondary goals, but I don’t think too much about those until the circumstances during a race necessitate it.

As we waited to board the bus, the rain poured, it thundered. We were ready for it with extra layers, ponchos and hand warmers. When the race began, the rain had stopped, and it was overcast. The temperature was a little warmer than ideal, which quickly became evident as I started running, and sweating sooner than usual. I chose to stick to my plan instead of adjusting for temperature. The plan was to work with the course, have the paces correspond to the elevation, and not take the early downhills too aggressively to avoid beating up the quads. 

I knew it was warm, so I made sure to front-load hydration. I was nailing my paces and feeling unstoppable, until around 27km. When suddenly the sun and heat came. My race plan deteriorated at the pace I intended to run…quickly. I felt weak and flat, my pace plummeted dramatically. I kept checking-in to assess whether I could pick it back up. I soon realized I could not. Given the option between arriving at the finish line slower than planned and being taken to the medical tent, the decision was easy. I went into survival mode, stopped looking at pace, focused on making it to the end healthy and tried to find the fun in it. 

There were many times I wanted to stop altogether, to walk up the hills, but even feeling as bad as I did, I did not allow myself to do either. The city of Boston showed up, and put on a world class show. The only thing to do was to reciprocate. At some point I came to terms with the fact that this would be a slow marathon, I calculated a 3:45-4:00 finish and was fine with it. I just wanted to get to that finish line happy and healthy. Later I realized I had lost my ability to do math, which ordinarily I can do quite well, even in a race. 

When both my A and B time goals were off the table, I decided to enjoy the journey to Boston as much as possible by trying to encourage others around me. The last few kilometres of the race were about connecting with other runners. I noticed noticed someone who was on their way to their six star, someone else who was running a marathon on their birthday, and someone I know. I encouraged them.

I saw a few people I know cheering during the last 2km, they yelled my name, it felt so good to wave and smile at them through the pain. At that point I was just focused on looking for Hereford. I knew my friends were waiting at the finish and I couldn’t wait to see them. The straightaway on Boylston felt never ending. I knew they were there waiting and that I was so close to completing my second Boston. Once I reached the stands, I looked into the crowd, spotting them quickly. They were standing as close to the road as the could, waiting for me. I blew them a kiss, raised my hands and crossed that damn line, never feeling happier to be done running and to have been surrounded by so much support. 

One of the keys to being a successful long-distance runner is creating a routine that controls as many variables as possible. I can confidently say, I controlled everything I could. The training was there, I have never been more fit in my life. I ran 6-days a week, I did 3 days of balance/strength work on top of that, and core work 4-5 times per week. My fuel game was calculated, practiced and effective. What I ate leading up to the race were things I know I respond well to. I took it easy in Boston before race day and didn’t expend energy exploring the city.

The weather is an example of a variable that cannot be controlled. Something you can control is how you handle yourself when things don’t go the way you want them to. It’s all about perspective, and I believe there is always good within a situation that isn’t ideal. Am I disappointed that I did not have the race I trained for? Of course. But if I consider the big picture, and that on a day where I have never felt worse, but still managed to pull off a 3:30, I can recognize that as the big achievement it is. 

I am proud of the race I ran yesterday. I am proud of the training cycle I had through a terrible winter. I am proud of the commitment I maintained in spite of the obstacles I experienced. I am proud of training alone, though supported and encouraged by many near and far. I am proud of everyone who ran yesterday, it was tough, but we are stronger for having done it. I am proud to call the people who made the trip to Boston to spectate, cheer and take care of me friends. 

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.

Training Recap June 4-10, 2018

This week I started running with a new training group! The workouts start EARLY, 6:30am and the WU needs to already be completed by then. I am always up early anyhow, and enjoy getting my workouts in at the beginning of the day instead of at night, part of why I joined this group.

Monday: 6km easy to start the week.

Tuesday: Back on the track! 2km warm-up, 800m @4:20-25, 600m @4:20-25, 400m @mile pace, 200m @mile pace, 400m @mile pace, 600m @4:20-25, 800m @4:20-25, 2km cool-down. I also strength/ core.

Wednesday: 5km easy for Global Running Day!

Thursday: Mona Fartlek WO, 2km warm-up, 2×90” @4:20-25, 4×60” @4:20-25, 4×30”@4:20-25, 4×15” @4:20-25, 2x1km@MP, 2km cool-down. I also did a HIIT WO- been a very long time since I’ve done one of these.

Friday: 6km easy, went out to Ashbridges Bay. I also did core.

Saturday: “Long-Run”, 14km out towards the Leslie Street Spit. I also did core.

Sunday: OFF. According to my watch, I walked almost to 18km.

Total Weekly Mileage: 50.1 km

Training Recap May 28-June 3, 2018

This week was pretty relaxed, no workouts, no long-runs, I just did what I felt like. I cannot tell you the last time I did that because it was YEARS ago. I went on 5 runs, at all times of day. It was good, but weird. I don’t plan to continue this way though because when it comes to training I love plans and structure!

Here is how the week went:

Monday: OFF. 

Tuesday: 8km easy, and core. It felt good to get out and stretch the legs after my partial Buffalo Marathon. You can read about that here if you are interested: Training Recap May 21-27 and Surprise Race Recap

Wednesday: 10km easy, a typical out-and-back route along the beach/lakeshore. I also did core.

Thursday: 6km easy, a little rip around the beach to Ashbridges Bay Park. I also did core and strength training.

Friday: OFF. 

Saturday: 10km easy, headed out around 5pm which is late for a Saturday. I was otherwise engaged during the day, but it ended up being a nice time to run. I chose a different route which took me along Dundas. I also did core.

Sunday: 12km easy, it was grey and breezy and kind of west-coast ish. I enjoy that weather.

Total Weekly Mileage: 46km

This week is going to be a big week of NEW. I have been in Toronto for a month now, but what have I been doing? What are my plans for work and training here? I’ll touch on al of that later this week so stay tuned.

What does “I can’t” really mean?

The other day, one of my brothers’ colleagues said to me, “I heard you run marathons”. To which I said, “Yes, that’s true”. He then said something like, “How do you do that? I can’t even run 8km without barfing!”

I am confident that any endurance athlete will have a story or 10, about someone asking them, “How do you run a marathon?” or “How do you do a triathlon?” etc. I find this question difficult to answer because it’s pretty simple. You put in time, effort and train for your endurance sport of choice, and then you do it. There is no magic. Regardless of the response, it is typically followed by something like, “I could never do that!”

But how can you know for certain that you CAN’T do something if you never try? You see, the choice of language, “I can’t” cannot be interpreted literally.

It can mean:

“I don’t want to”.

“I have never tried”.

“That seems daunting, I’m scared just thinking about it”.

Etc.

It can also mean:

“I am not trained to..”

“I can’t…TODAY”.

These two statements are true of endurance athletes too, the ability to complete a marathon or triathlon requires training, it’s not just something you up and do on a random afternoon (typically). Even people who are seasoned endurance athletes go through periods of un-fitness, and times where they aren’t prepared to complete long events. Training is hard, there’s no question, it involves prioritizing, organization, and dedication. Just because something doesn’t come easy, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It means it’s going to take time and effort.

Saying you “can’t” is limiting yourself, putting a box around a goal and saying no without ever fighting for it. I believe this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy because if you have it in your head that you are unable to do something, you probably won’t try to do it. Even though it’s more than likely that this goal would be attainable if the necessary effort was put forth. There are very few things someone actually “can’t” do so long as a goal is set, and we give ourselves the time and tools to complete it.

You may have heard of a tool called S.M.A.R.T goals. It can be used for any type of goal, personal, professional, athletic or other.

S: is for specific.

M: is for measurable.

A: is for achievable.

R: is for relevant.

T: is for time bound.

Using SMART goals is helpful because it keeps you accountable. Sometimes the difference between meeting a goal or not is realizing it by saying it or writing it out etc. Sometimes the difference can be the language we use, for example, “I can’t” vs. “I can’t right now” or “I’m working towards…”

Anyone who can was previously someone who couldn’t. The only difference between those who can and those who can’t, is that those who can are willing to try, willing to potentially fail in pursuit of being able to accomplish their goal. We aren’t born with the inherent ability to do many things, let alone run a marathon. Some of us choose to spend our time training in order to run them. So before you say “I can’t” do something, ask yourself, “Have I ever put forth the effort required to meet this goal? Seriously, have I?” If the answer is no, don’t say “I can’t”.

Training Recap May 14-20, 2018

I went into this week feeling anxious since I had 3-days off in a row due to being sick. In the grand scheme of things missing 2 runs is not the end of the world, but any runner will agree, missing 2 runs in a row does not feel good. It was the right call though to rest and get healthy! This week I completed all my runs and nailed a big workout, further evidence the rest was the right decision.

Monday: I ran 10km with my dad, it felt difficult after 3 days off, but that’s to be expected. I also did core and upper body.

Tuesday: My dad and I ran another 10km, different route though. It felt better than the previous day! I also did core.

Wednesday: WO day, first one in a week. It was: 20′ easy, 2×16′ as: 4’@HM, 3′ easy, 1’@10km, 4′ easy, 4’@HM, 20′ easy. It was freaking windy, so that made it a bit harder, and probably coming back from a cold made it hard too, this felt tougher than normal, but I got through it. I hit this in the morning because I had the Saucony Run Your World event in the evening, a 5km downtown during rush-hour. I tested out the new Saucony Ride ISO’s during the run and they felt great!

Thursday: 45′ easy, this was a slog after my double-run day, but I anticipated that and embraced the relaxed pace. I also did core.

Friday: 30′ easy, this was a little shakeout since I had a big WO on deck the next day.

Saturday: This was the largest WO I have done since Boston training, I was a little nervous about it, but am happy to report I executed without any issues. The WO was: 20′ easy, 5km@5:05, 4km@4:56, 3km@4:50, 2km@4:39, 12′ easy. When I woke up it was pouring rain, and I haven’t run in rain or poor weather since Boston. I was not feeling getting soaked, so I checked AccuWeather, saw when the rain was predicted to stop and waited until then to run. I have never done that before, and it’s funny to me that I did since I lived in the PNW for the last 4-years, but hey. I also did upper body and core.

Sunday: 90′ easy, I ran an OG “long-run” route out to Sugar Beach and back. It used to feel like a big accomplishment when I ran this 16km route back in the day. Today it felt like it ended quickly, I must be a marathoner…

Total Weekly Mileage: 87.1km

Training Recap May 7-13, 2018

Last week started with an early wake-up call, 5am, in order to catch my flight from Vancouver to Toronto. Luckily, I checked my email when I awoke to find out the flight had been delayed by 4 hours. I made it to Toronto later that day, and have been there ever since. I had a moderate week of training on deck post-BMO half and was looking forward to it. However, it seemed a combination of not being at home (staying at a friends and then an Airbnb) and not sleeping well wore me down. Shortly after arriving to Toronto I developed a nasty cold preventing me from running at all over the weekend, missing out on a WO and long-run. Not what I wanted, but I have done my best to embrace resting, and plan to get back out there today!

Here is what I did last week…

Monday: OFF. Nothing. Travel day.

Tuesday: 45′ easy, ran around the beach for an out and back, sun was out, beautiful day. I also did core.

Wednesday: Workout day, 20′ easy, 20’@5:30 (actual 5:21), 10’@ 5:20 (actual 5:04), 10’@5:10 (actual 5:00), 10′ easy. Something is off with my Garmin, the pace shows as way slower than it is, and once it laps for the km, the true (faster) pace flashes on the screen. I also did core.

Thursday: 50′ easy, a loop up to Broadview and Dundas and back along the water.

Friday: OFF.

Saturday: Supposed to be a WO, but sick.

Sunday: Supposed to be 100′ easy, but sick.

Total Weekly Mileage: 31km

Training Recap April 23-29

It has been a couple weeks! Last week I did not run, since after a marathon, I get 1-full week off of everything, so no recap about that. This week I did start running again, so I CAN tell you about that.

Monday: I did weights and core.

Tuesday: I ran for 20′ easy, whoohoo! I also did core.

Wednesday: OFF, I spectated at our group WO.

Thursday: I ran for 30′ easy, I also did strength.

Friday: I ran for 35′ easy, and did core.

Saturday: OFF.

Sunday: I ran 45′ easy, did strength and core.

Total Weekly Mileage: 23.6 km

Next week I get to run even more AND do a WO, I feel like it’s been a while! This is my last week running in Victoria, before I head to Vancouver for the weekend and then fly back /move to Toronto.

Boston 2018: Day 3 and 4

In my last post, My First Marathon Monday: Boston 2018 Race Recap I left off at the finish line of the 122nd Boston Marathon. I found my family at the side of the finish, they had been watching from the grandstands, getting soaked by the rain. We hugged, and then I slowly shuffled into the John Hancock tent. There I received my medal and a heat shield. A volunteer handed me by gear check bag and I set up at a table near the back of the tent. I grabbed some hot water to help get warm and began peeling off my soaking wet gear. They had heaters and a volunteer had made a make-shift change tent so we could get into dry clothing.

It was still pouring rain as I left to go find my cheer-squad. There were people walking in every direction trying to find each other and get out of the rain, it was total chaos. Eventually, I found everyone and we began trying to navigate our way back to the Airbnb. The best option was the train, the streets were still a mess and an Uber would have taken way too long to find us. It was only a few stops to go, and then I had a long hot shower while my mom went to pick up pizzas from Regina Pizza. We had spotted this place a few days prior and it always had a long line so we figured it was probably pretty good! After a few slices I moved I went to lay down under a pile of blankets, how good it felt to be warm.

After a while we decided to go down the street to the Ginger Room, a neighbourhood pub with a massive beer-list and food. I had a pineapple and coconut beer with lactose, sounds odd, but it had a nutty flavour and was surprisingly very delicious. There were a few other marathoners there in medals and jackets, and I ended up running into a few people I knew.

On Tuesday, I woke up feeling pretty good, and of course quite sore, those Newton hills! We had to pack up the Airbnb and then I wanted to check out how busy the medal engraving, and jacket embroidery were before heading over to Tracksmith for my commemorative poster. Unsurprisingly, the medal engraving line snaked around the block, and I decided not to wait in it, my priority was the jacket embroidery which had a much smaller line, so we joined it. I was able to go get my poster from Tracksmith while my mom stayed in line.

By then we were all getting pretty hungry and decided to go to Shake Shack. I only tried Shake Shack for the first time in November, when Sky and I ran the Rock’n’Roll Vegas and we really enjoyed it. I went for a cheeseburger and a Shackmeister beer (brewed by Brooklyn Brewing). We didn’t have a whole lot of time left in Boston and wanted to make the most of it, so we stopped for one last coffee at George Howell and then walked back to the Airbnb. My family had an earlier flight so they went to the airport, Sky and I walked to the famous Mike’s Pastry and shared a cannoli. Very good, but I could NOT have eaten a whole one.

We grabbed a Lift to the airport, and parted ways. Once I arrived at my gate, it was a sea of red jackets waiting to board the plane. One of which sat beside me and wanted to  talk about the marathon. From then on out, several other marathoners and other people wanted to chat about the previous day and what we had endured. It was like being a member of a club without ever trying to. I supposed I underestimated the jacket effect. I don’t think you can wear it and go unseen, and I’m not just talking about the colour. It signifies hard-work, dedication and resilience in the wearer, definitely things to be proud of!