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Fitness Swellness: Chicago Marathon 2017 race report

 

Chicago Marathon 2017 post race party

“Do you really want to run another marathon in a month? NO. So keep up this damn pace, Karen.”

 On Sunday, I ran the Chicago Marathon. It was my tenth marathon and this was what I asked myself a few times around the middle of the race. I’d been toying with idea running another marathon in early November if Chicago didn’t go well.

The last time I ran a marathon was two years ago in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2015. It is the longest break I’ve taken between marathons. Prior to that, since starting racing that distance, I’d done two a year (and one year I ran three).

Because of this longer than usual break between fulls, I wasn’t quite sure how my race would go. This time I changed my training a bit. I ran more frequently: typically five times a week versus my usual three times a week (mostly it was the addition of two runs either at a recovery pace or easy pace). I also did a few random workouts other than running, such as hip hop dance class, yoga and Spinning.

I was pretty diligent with my five runs a week, and got all my hill training done but faltered a bit once it came time to focus on speed training. Speed training is my least favourite, plus I had a few road trips that distracted me. And then about three weeks before race day, I caught a cold, which put me out of commission for more than a week. So I missed my 23k long run, and all of the other training that would’ve happened in that 10 days. All of which made me fret about not being prepared for the race.

 Chicago Marathon 2017 starting chute

I’ve run Chicago once before and it remains my marathon PB. And even though I’d run it before, I recall very little of the race, other than there being so many great spectators, and that the route is flat.

I ate more carbs than usual for the week prior to the race. And worried about the weather forecast, checking it once a day starting two weeks prior and working up to checking it multiple times a day.

Having registered so many months before, I don’t recall entering an estimated finish time or a past marathon time, but somehow I ended up in corral D (aka a 3:40 marathon), so either I was ambitious or they based it on my 2014 Chicago Marathon time.

And so Sunday race day finally arrives:

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Race day morning, we didn’t budget enough time to get into the race area, check a bag, and use the portapotty so ended up having to race to our corral, which we got into right before they closed it off at 7:20 a.m. There was time for a quick photo, though, and that beautiful glow to the buildings behind us is due to the beautiful sunrise glow.

I had printed a pace band for 3:45 in kilometres, and also put on the Nike pace band in miles for the same time. I would have many technical difficulties that day, though. My Apple Watch did not have the NRC app because I’d had to reset it a couple of weeks prior and I had issues redownloading the app, so I had prepared to use the app on my phone; however,  I did use the stopwatch on it so that I could check my time at each mile marker and compare to my pace tattoo. Also, I usually listen to Google Play Music when I run, and I had issues getting a phone signal for the first few k.

My music app did work when I tried it again a few kilometres into the race but it just stopped playing music around the halfway point. The NRC app on my phone also stopped alerting me of my distance and pace. Also, I must accidentally hit something on my stopwatch on my Apple Watch as it started timing laps and I didn’t know how to get out of that mode. So from about the halfway point to the finish, I had no clue what pace I was doing. So many technical difficulties! On top of that, I could feel a blister starting on my left big and second toe (and I rarely get blisters) and on my right foot, I felt like I could feel the plate inside the sole (that makes the shoe similar to a track spike — I blogged about the shoes on iRun). It made me wonder if I hadn’t tried out the Zoom Fly shoes enough before doing this race. I’d only had them a few weeks and missed some runs due to that cold…

 Chicago Marathon 2017 selfie

The first 27k or so went really well, though! My pace was quick and I was anywhere from two to three minutes ahead of the 3:45 goal time. I wasn’t sure if I could maintain that pace but I figured I had to try.

“This is your race to lose, so just don’t, you got this,” I told myself, when I could tell my strength (both physically and mentally) started to falter.

After about 27k, as it got later into the morning, it got very hot and sunny. My legs were feeling tired and I grabbed Gatorade at each station (I had been relying on the Gatorade I had with me — I used a fuel belt), while also splashing myself with water to cool down. I watched those few minutes I’d banked slip away from me. And then I could tell I wasn’t even going to PB, but I had no idea by how much time I was losing given my technical difficulties with my phone and my watch.

On the bright side, I never experienced that feeling of not wanting to go on (in past races, I’ve often felt like it was just crawling by). I focused on just trucking on through and watched as each mile marker announced I was closer and closer to the finish. In that way, the race went by nice and quickly for me.

The race attracts runners from more than 100 countries. And the sidelines are packed full pretty much the entire race. I watched runners stop to hug members of their family. And was boosted by the exuberant spectators with the cheers: the group of women cheering, “You got it, you got it, you got it, let’s go!” The signs with creative messages like “Run like millennials do from commitment!” and “Run like you forgot to turn off the frijoles!” and more than a few making fun of Trump.

Chicago Marathon 2017 medal

 

As for the route, I’m not super familiar with Chicago and I know the race goes through more than two dozen neighbourhoods, but I don’t feel the route is that scenic. To me, it all melds together as non-descript streets, other than one leafy residential area (I believe it was Lincoln Park) and of course, the skyscrapers of the downtown portions. It’s the spectators and that made certain parts of the route stand out. The huge Mexican contingent cheering and running was amazing, and there were people handing out paletas to runners. There were also at least two spots where people handed out beer, and one station with Jello shots. The cheerers, they make this one great race. And the post-race party afterwards was just fun, with live music and there was a free beer you picked up in the finish chute area, plus another free Goose Island beer (there was a ticket attached to the bib) at the post-race party. Everyone hung around in the sunshine and celebrated their accomplishment. I loved watching runners and family find each other and there were big hugs and joy all around.

Chicago Marathon Goose Island beer

So how’d I do???

I finished at 3:55:07, and given the hot conditions, I’m happy enough with that. I know a few runners who had bad races, and a few with great races. It’s my second fastest marathon, and I placed 9,407 out of 44,472 runners, and 2,637 out of 21.476 women, and 414 out of 3,543 in my category.

Chicago Marathon 2017 at Cloud Gate

After the race, and on Monday, there were loads of runners wearing their medals and/or race t-shirt, and we would congratulate each other, there was a beautiful friendly vibe that I somehow forgot about from the race in 2014.

And now what? Well, I have to decide if I will run another marathon this fall… (gulp).

 

Leave a Comment October 13, 2017

Travel Swellness: 10 things to do in Norfolk County

Long Point Eco Adv Wilderness Pod

Road tripping was the theme for my summer 17 and I thought I’d challenge myself in trying something new-ish to me: glamping! I have glamped before once, in Chile, but it was so luxe I actually wasn’t quite sure if it is considered glamping… but I suppose it was!

Little did I know that before I made it to my glamping trip in Norfolk County that I’d go camping twice, which is way more challenging.

I’d never been to Norfolk County before. Coined Ontario’s Garden, the area boasts fields where all sorts of produce is grown, everything from ginseng to cabbage. It is a quiet and cozy getaway that I feel hasn’t quite hit the super trendy status of Prince Edward County, which makes it more low key and relaxing. I drove there from Toronto  in a Chevy Equinox and it took about three hours because we hit traffic.

With three whole days to explore, and some good weather, we got to explore much of the area. Planning a getaway to Norfolk? I think you should! Here’s how you should fill your time.

Long Point Wilderness Suite

Stay at Long Point Eco Adventures. I love being in nature and Long Point Eco Adventures makes it an easy go for urbanites who want to try camping. I did one night in an adorable Wilderness Pod (that’s the cute wooden pod at the top of this post) and two nights in a Wilderness Suite tent. Both feature a bed with linens and electricity and a washroom (for the pod, you shower in an outdoors shower nearby). The Suite had a king-size bed and a very nice outdoor shower attached to the tent; don’t you love showering in fresh air? It’s the best. The breakfast, which is included with your stay, is a buffet and it includes some kick-ass breakfast potatoes and bacon. I looked forward to those every morning!

Long Point Eco Adv breakfast

There’s a food truck on site, so you don’t have to fuss with a camping stove or anything like that. The lunch we had from the food truck is tied for my favourite meal of the trip. We had this awesome, very flavourful salad and steak frites.

Long Point Eco Adv lunch from food truck

Drink and eat at Burning Kiln Winery. Right across the street from Long Point Eco Adventures is Burning Kiln Winery and you’ll see the tobacco kiln out front. The winery has repurposed the tobacco kiln to dry grapes, which enhances the flavours and brings out different nuances to the grapes. I really enjoyed the tasting here, and the food is superb, too. The food truck at LPEA is actually from Burning Kiln, so it’s no surprise that the dinner here is my other meal tied for fave meal of the trip. Portions are substantial so go with an appetite (or ask for a doggy bag — your pod or suite has a mini fridge!). My favourite was the Pinot Noir (and I’ve got a bottle of it at home now to break into, can’t wait!).

Billie Jean hiking at Long Point

Take a hike. My dog, Billie Jean, and I both love to hike and we took advantage of the trails on the Long Point property. A few of the trails the start near the Wilderness Suites can get steep so proper footwear is a must. We also hiked in Waterford by the Black Bridge, but the trail we found there was mostly a paved path, so it felt more of a walk in a park than a hike in the woods, so there are options if you’re more keen on an easier stroll.

Long Point Eco Adv ziplining

Zip line at Long Point Eco Adventures. There’s a really free and joyful feeling that comes with zip lining. I’ve done it several times now in both North America and the Caribbean and while it doesn’t give me an adrenaline rush in the places I have done zip lining, that familiar whirring sound and the lush forest below is great as an unexpected way to enjoy the beauty of Norfolk County.

Blueberry Hill

 

Enjoy a cider tasting at Blueberry Hill Estates. Stop into Blueberry Hill Estates for a cider tasting to whet your appetite. Better yet, pair your cider tasting with a cheese tasting. It’s a great way to test your tastebuds and learn more about cider. There are also some incredible baked goods for sale (hello, butter tarts!); take some to go to enjoy back at your pod.

Mountain biking at Turkey Point

Go mountain biking. Remember how I said zip lining doesn’t really give me an adrenaline rush? Well, mountain biking does. In that I’m-so-terrified-of-crashing-and-my-heart’s-going-a-million-miles-a-minute way. I’ve never tried it before and I think our ride in Turkey Point Provincial Park was the perfect first attempt. Paul Meiklejohn from Elevation Mountain Bike Camps & Coaching is a former pro mountain biker and he was very patient and gave me clear instructions and was very encouraging — even when I had to try three times before I made it over a very little bump. The trails are so narrow (to me, at least) and I was terrified of my handlebar catching on them, which they eventually did. So I wiped out a few times, but nothing serious, and while I can’t say I truly found it fun (OK, well, it was fun but tied to a whole lot of fear!) I was very proud of myself for trying something new and out of my comfort zone. I can definitely see why people love mountain biking, I’m still too much of a chicken to embrace it.

Inasphere Wines

Go for a wine tasting and the views at Inasphere Wines. This jaw-dropping view is what greets you as you drive up to Inasphere Wines. I recommend going in to get your wine tasting and then stepping outside to grab a Muskoka chair to sit in as you take in this spectacular sight (those are cabbage crops, btw).

Port Dover Beach

Visit the beach at Port Dover. You guys, there’s palm trees in Port Dover! Real palm trees! They’re definitely not native, but it’s a fun addition to the beach here. It was very windy the day we ventured here, but this sandy beach was lovely and there are a charming retro diner in this beach town that I definitely want to check out the next time I’m in the area. 

Pigs at Ralphys Retreat

Say hello to the animals at Ralphy’s Retreat. Call head to arrange a visit to the animal sanctuary, Ralphy’s Retreat, where you’ll find mostly pigs. Those mini potbellied pigs? Lots of people get them as pets, only to learn that they grow up into large pigs. Some of those abandoned pigs end up here at the Retreat (there were also some horses, too) where they are well cared for while they await finding a good home.

Billie Jean at Long Point Beach

Spend a day on the sand at Long Point Beach. There’s a dog-friendly section of the beach, and the lake is warmer than Lake Ontario, so on a nice day, even I (not a fan of cold water) would consider venturing in for a dip.

This is just a taste of what Norfolk County has to offer. What else is there? Well, I didn’t have time to try axe throwing at Long Point Eco Adventures, and there are a few restaurants I didn’t have time to check out (there’s only so many meals one can cram into each day!). The weather meant we had to cancel stand-up paddleboarding and the other watersports, and it also meant we couldn’t check out the observatory (too cloudy!). What’s this mean for me? Well, I’m pretty sure this means another visit is a must!

Billie Jean in Long Point Wilderness Suite

And yes, fellow folks with dogs, Long Point Eco Adventures is dog-friendly. Billie Jean was a very happy camper exploring the woods and searching the grass for scraps near the food truck and taking advantage of the king-size bed in the Wilderness Suite. I highly recommend this for you and your pup, and for anyone who wants the nature and outdoors fun of camping but with zero of the task of packing up loads of gear and supplies nor the work of making a fire or pitching a tent.

Have you been to Norfolk County? Would love to hear about your recommendations!

 

 

1 Comment October 11, 2017

Travel Swellness: Glamping road trip with the Chevrolet Equinox

Equinox at winery lookout point

Last month, I went glamping for the first time to Norfolk County and thanks to General Motors Canada, I had another chance to drive the Chevrolet Equinox.

As a small personal challenge, I decided I’d do all of the driving for the trip (I usually prefer to share the driving duties). Having just driven the Cadillac Escalade, the Equinox felt positively petite! As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of the Equinox as I feel it’s quite luxe but fits right into my lifestyle, which incorporates pseudo-rugged fun, such as glamping! Although the gorgeous interior I suppose makes it much more swish rather than rugged.

 Equinox interior

We packed way too much for this glamping trip: sleeping bags, a cooler, marshmallow roasting sticks and so many snacks. All things we didn’t need as Long Point Eco Adventures had bed linens on the beds, a mini fridge and roasting sticks by the campfire. And all of the snacks weren’t necessary as we ate so well in the area that we were never very hungry for snacks. But no biggie, thanks to the spacious Equinox, we had plenty of room to pack all of this gear into the car though.

Being the sole driver, the safety features like the blind spot assist made me feel at ease in the driver’s seat. And there’s nothing that stresses me out more than getting lost, so the GPS was very much appreciated (I find GPS systems can vary in terms of user-friendliness and this one has never done me wrong). And features like the button to close the trunk is something I appreciate (so much easier and less strenuous than pulling down the trunk door manually).

I thought the car was fuel efficient as we did a fair amount of driving (we drove to and from Toronto and did a decent amount of driving in Norfolk County for our meals) and didn’t have to stop at a gas station. I think I must’ve driven much more than I realized my last experience with this SUV in Prince Edward County.

Equinox in Port Dover

From the drop-dead views of some crops from atop a hill to the prettiest beach sunset, it was almost as though the stars had aligned so that I had just the right vehicle for these beautiful summery memories. Finding new roads in the Equinox makes for some sweet summer seventeen memories.

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Leave a Comment October 3, 2017

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