Fitness Swellness: How to prep for back-to-back marathons

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Having just raced the Detroit Marathon on Sunday and with the Istanbul Marathon two weeks later, I’ll admit that I don’t know if that was the smartest decision.

But I’d decided on Detroit and that same week, I was invited as media to run the Istanbul Marathon. I so loved visiting Istanbul a few years ago and I simply couldn’t turn down such an incredible opportunity to visit this incredible city once again.

When I told the team at Nike about my two-marathons-two-weeks-apart goal, the reaction was supportive but I’m pretty sure  in their eyes I could pick up on a bit of “You’re crazy, Karen.”

But Nike coach Brittany Moran knows I’ve run many marathons (I’ve run thirteen now) so she knew I am aware of what I’m getting myself into, and she reaffirmed my decision to make the first race, Detroit, my goal race, while Istanbul will just be for fun. I’ve run races back to back before but not two marathons so close together. I’ve done marathons a month apart. A marathon and a half a week apart, and marathons and a 10k race one week later.

If you, too, have two marathons within two weeks of each other, here is what Brittany and Nike Master Trainer Jennifer Lau recommend for training:

  • Take week 1 mostly off; do a few short shakeout runs.
  • Stretch Thursday or Friday to help aid recovery.
  • On Sunday (one week after the first marathon), run 12 to 14k depending on how you feel in terms of your recovery.
  • During week 2, do two to three short easy runs. Incorporate strides if you can. Concentrate on form and remind your brain that you can go fast.
  • Get a massage one week post-marathon 1 to set yourself up for success.
  • In terms of strength training, look to resistance training workouts on the NTC app, such as 30-minute workouts using body weight. Working on the lower body and core, stability and glutes will help benefit your running.

As I write this blog post five days post-Detroit Marathon, I’ve sort of followed this training plan. I went to a Spin class at the CN Tower for SpinCo’s five-year anniversary (that’s where I snapped the photo above), and also to a Barry’s Bootcamp class (during which I did a very light jog during the treadmill intervals. I also went to a Nike Training workout with Jenn, during which we did squats, thrusts, burpees, planks, and pushups. So while I haven’t done shakeout runs, I have done some cardio and strength work.

And I’ll follow their recommendations for the next nine days! Which means some stretching is up next!

 

Leave a Comment October 25, 2019

Fitness Swellness: 2019 Detroit Marathon race recap

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“Fack.”

I think I actually said that out loud when I saw the route in the Detroit Marathon split into the half-marathon route and marathon route. Not because I was having a bad race already. It’s always just pretty daunting to see the route branch off and know that all of those runners are done running shortly, while you have to do that distance you’ve completed all over again, except in a way more fatigued state.

But let’s backtrack a bit here…

In the weeks leading up to this race, I had more anxiety than usual. For the Chicago Marathon last year, I knew trying to BQ was not in the cards whatsoever, so that took a lot of pressure off. But seeing the forecast for race day (cool and dry) along with knowing I’d stuck to training a minimum of four times a week consistently and ensuring I got in all of my long runs and speedwork, and the fact that I’d heard Detroit was a pretty flat route, I knew that the chances of running a good race would be high.

On Saturday, I did a 3k shakeout run with my friend Aylin, and I felt my right leg feel just a bit twinge-y. I chose to ignore it. What also didn’t go to plan? Having an early pasta dinner. We got to the restaurant for 6:45 (they don’t take reservations) and while we were told a 30 to 45 minute wait, it ended up being a frustrating 90-minute wait. This made me anxious and I knew I had things I wanted to prep back at the Element hotel (from my outfit and bib to adding to my playlist).

We finally got back to our room, I quickly added to my playlist, prepared my gear check bag and was in bed by 11:15 p.m., which is earlier than I’ve ever managed to get to bed for a race.

I woke up several times throughout the night. At 2:30 a.m., I got up to use the bathroom…and there was that slight pain in my right leg again. I limped my way to and from the bathroom, and told myself it was nothing. If I didn’t acknowledge it, I’d wake up and it’d feel fine, right?

RACE MORNING

I got up at 5 a.m., quickly showered and got dressed and went down to breakfast (the Element had breakfast open at 5 a.m. for all of us runners) to eat some toast with peanut butter. And, thankfully, my right leg felt fine. After breakfast, we walked the 10 minutes or so to gear check. I kept on a trash bag to keep warm while waiting for the race start, and I could already tell the weather was going to be ideal: it was 8 Celsius and warmed up to about 14 degrees by 11 a.m. A quick portapotty visit, and then I got into my corral as the national anthem was sung, and I ditched the trash bag I was wearing. I had decided to keep my eye on the 3:50 pacer but I was at the back of my corral and could only spot the 3:55 pacer, But I figured I’d find the pacer on the route.

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GO TIME!

I crossed the starting line at 7:06 (I didn’t notice the seconds) and I felt good. For a good portion of the race, I was ahead of the splits outlined on the pace band I had printed out for myself. As ahead as 4 or 5 minutes (but it went down to one minute at the bridge.

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At about the 5k mark, you cross the Ambassador Bridge, and although I expected it to be cool, it was even more stellar than I imagined. It was cloudy and the sun was starting to rise, so there was a beautiful pink streak in the sky, and the bridge itself is striking. It’s such a cool experience it (almost) makes up for the incline up the bridge. Almost. But it’s early in the race and so the hill is still manageable on fresh legs.

I’ve had the Detroit Marathon on my destination race list for awhile for the sole reason that you run across the border into Canada and back into the U.S. And it was as cool as I expected. I felt quite emotional and even clapped as I approached the border lined with Canadian flags. I loved that the border staff was cheering and even high-fiving runners. There were police on either side diligently keeping an eye on bibs and runners. And yes, you are to run with your passport (or another WHTI-approved ID), which you must show at the race expo. I ran with mine in my fuel belt; I didn’t see anyone get pulled aside but Aylin did (she said it was runners who didn’t have their bibs on in front).

At 11k you enter the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel. It is approximately 2k and while I have heard it can get stinky with sweat, I didn’t notice it (maybe I manage to enter the tunnel early on in the race day before it got stinky!). What I did notice, though, is that without the fresh air and breeze, I was starting to get uncomfortably hot, but thankfully, just about when i was feeling too warm is when I emerged from the tunnel. Whew! On the downside, though, is the steep hill out of the tunnel. That one is not fun.

As you can see I took a few photos of these key moments in the race; I didn’t stop so they are a little blurry. I have photos of the tunnel and border, but I’ll add them once I edit them properly!

As for the rest of the race, the route has some fairly nondescript streets; I recall Rosa Parks Street (or is it Avenue? I must check the map) having an incline that hurt; the route goes through a posh neighbourhood with large homes and families serving up beer and Bloody Mary’s to runners. I’ve actually seen a race with so much booze on offerl I saw at east one other beer table, and another one that had shots! One thing I didn’t like about the race is that running with many relay runners is quite draining mentally; runners would zip by me and I’d be envious of the energy they had…and then would realize they were relay runners. Sigh.

Something else that was a small problem during the race: my music frequently paused. I was using Apple Music for my playlist (and I’m fairly new to using  it); thankfully the music would return, but it was a technical issue that did irk me during the race; at one point, without my music, I became very aware of my breathing and the clunky steps and heavy panting of the runners around me.

The race isn’t thick along most of the race with people cheering in the same way as Chicago or Philly, but the supporters out there are enthusiastic, thank you! Kids in inflatable dinosaur costumes, a smattering of entertainment (usually DJs, and I recall one band, two singers, and a cheerleading squad). Some fun signs, too, although the best one is the one Aylin spotted. Written in the same font as the well-known clothing brand, the sign read: Detroit vs Nipple Chafing. I wish I had seen that sign!

Going into Belle Isle, the bridge has a bit of a hill that was grueling. I tried to enjoy the pretty scenery there but the exhaustion was starting to set in.

I’d say I felt pretty great up until about 30k. At that point though, I was having a hard time maintaining my pace. I saw the 3:50 pacer pass me and then soon move off further and further ahead of me. I knew he had started before me though, so I wasn’t positive where I stood in terms of my time in relation to that pace group.

My race plan was to not stop at any of the fluid stations (I had a bottle of Gatorade in my fuel belt). But at about 35k I was having a harder and harder time. So I decided to stop for water and regroup mentally.

I think this is what cost me meeting my BQ standard.

Because my Apple Watch paused as I stopped to regroup, I wasn’t sure what my overall race time was panning out to be. I kept repeating to myself that I could BQ today and to keep going. I repeated what my runner friend told me earlier in the week: it’s going to be uncomfortable whether you go fast or slow. So JUST GO, I told myself.

But even though I was trying to get back to the pace I needed, I simply couldn’t maintain the pace. The mental breather did help, though. I felt like I’d cleared my head and was able to give extra effort of the final kilometres.

I knew it was very close when I approached the finish line and the minutes ended in 6. I didn’t know the seconds, though, of when I’d passed the start.

I crossed the finish line, got my medal, and pretty much immediately, my phone beeped with a text. My running friend Shawna had texted me congrats, along with my time. 3:50:27.

POST-MARATHON 

I finished in 3:50:27.

My BQ standard is 3:50.

Uggggggggggh.

Even though I knew meeting the standard wouldn’t get me into Boston without a decent buffer, of about two minutes (based on this year’s cutoff), I’d have been happy to officially meet the standard.

Still, I was pretty thrilled with feeling great for pretty much the whole race. I’ve had races where it feels like endless misery, sometimes as early as the 25k mark. While this is not my fastest marathon, I think I felt the strongest in this race and it is the closest I’ve come to qualifying for Boston. And it’s the closest I’ve come to by marathon PB time in ages, which is like a lifetime ago (at the Chicago Marathon 2014).

I finished 630th out of 3,204 marathoners, 151st out of 1,298 women, and 22nd out of 184 in my category.

I stumbled around collecting the post-race fuel (which was plentiful—nice job, Detroit Marathon—including bananas, pineapple juice, fruit cups, Gatorade, water, and bags with other snacks). I eventually met up with Aylin (eventually as I was quite slow moving with my legs very, very tight). We hung out a bit at the post-race party area and then headed back to the Element to shower and then headed out to grab a decadent BBQ lunch at Slow’s. We kept our legs moving by fitting in a visit to the Detroit Institute of the Arts afterwards.

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UP NEXT

I was invited to run the Istanbul Marathon, which is two weeks after the Detroit Marathon. My plan all along has been to run it for fun. I will admit that after I crossed the Detroit finish line and came so close to my BQ, I immediately thought, “I need to try to qualify in Istanbul.” I actually don’t even know if it’s a Boston Qualifier, but also, I quickly came to my senses that I’m not an elite athlete who can put her body through such a rigorous challenge again in two weeks. Besides, the weather is looking like it’ll be about 20 Celsius, which is very warm for a marathon.

I’m a bit stressed about the Istanbul Marathon. Because even just doing 42.2k for fun will still be exhausting no matter how slow a pace I do. This sort of only dawned on me after agreeing to run it…But I didn’t think I could pass up the opportunity to run the 42.2k in this incredible city. And so here we are!

Thank you to Detroit, the Detroit Marathon and the Element for hosting me for race weekend! The race is up there as one of my favourites, and it was amazing to explore the city, too. I’ll post about that shortly!

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Leave a Comment October 22, 2019

Fitness Swellness: 2019 Global Energy Race recap

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This Sunday, I ran the Dempster’s Global Energy Race (GER) for the third year in a row and as always, I had so much fun, and managed to run a GER 10k PB!

My race plan

I went into it planning to run it as comfortably hard a pace that I thought I could maintain for 10k. I don’t enjoy that feeling of my heart feeling like it’s going to explode, and my focus is training for the Detroit Marathon and Istanbul Marathon so my plan was to run it fast but not so fast that I felt too awful. I knew going into the race that I’d have run 29k on Friday as per my marathon training schedule, and my legs would be tired (and they were). So the plan was always to run it with some effort, but not full out. This race is so family-friendly and chilled out, I was really more keen on just having a fun morning with my friends there and running a decent time.

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Hello, race day!

The route, from memory, was slightly different this year; they shortened the part of the route in the “peanut” (I used to run in the Beaches and this is what the curvy path in Ashbridges Bay was nicknamed thanks to the shape of the route if looking at it from above) and instead they extended the route going out east and back along the path and boardwalk to the start/finish line. As for the weather, would you believe I didn’t check the temp? That’s how relaxed I was about this race. It was overcast and probably in the high 20s if you factored in the humidity (I didn’t check the weather in the morning but in the late afternoon, it was 32C with the humidity) and we had some drizzle for maybe 10 minutes of the race, which was a nice cool relief from the heat.

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What was my finish time?

I did not run a 10k PB, but I wasn’t aiming for one as I mentioned above. I’m realistic. I know I’m not as fit as I was in 2015 (which remains my 10k PB). My focus is my two fall marathons. While I didn’t reach the goal I had in mind (which was a sub-50 min) but I did finish 9 seconds faster than last year, even with the warmer conditions. (As an aside, I don’t think I can even really ever factor in my 2017 GER race as that day was ridiculously hot and humid on top of the fact, I was extremely under the weather with a cold.)

Even with what I consider a modest time of 50:10, that time ranks me 14th women to finish out of 263, and 61st out of 528 runners in the 10k race. And I’m happy enough with that.

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The Global Energy Race is perhaps one of the best stocked in terms of food: hot dogs, burgers, apples, oranges, coffee, ice cream, chips, granola bars. I devoured a Klondike ice cream cone and drank some coffee as we watched the race winners hit the stage (congrats Brittany Moran!) and the 3k race start. If you’ve got kids, the 3k race is a great race in which you can run or walk together, plus there are loads of lawn games to entertain the kiddos pre- and post-race.

After the race, my friends and I went straight to brunch to celebrate our morning well spent: we’d run 10k and in the process, helped in a great cause: for every kilometre completed, Dempster’s will be donating two slices of bread to the North York Harvest Food Bank.

Thank you Dempster’s for the opportunity to help promote this race and cause (I did partner with Dempster’s on this sponsored blog post promoting the race ICYMI). The race has become an annual tradition I look forward to!

Now, back to marathon training, it’s peak training week!

Leave a Comment September 24, 2019

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