Fitness Swellness: Hamilton Road 2 Hope Marathon 2017 race report

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“It’s in the trying.”

This good ol’ Coach Taylor nugget kept me going in the Hamilton Marathon on Sunday (“But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the trying.”), and it’s not the first time it’s come to mind during a race.

But first, the back story on how I came to race the Hamilton Marathon on Sunday one month after the Chicago Marathon:

I’d considered adding this race to my schedule before I went to run the Chicago Marathon. While I’m by no means disappointed with how Chicago went, I wasn’t thrilled with my time and would love a marathon PB.

But I only confirmed I’d be running Hamilton a week and a half before the race. So I didn’t train as much or as intensely as I would’ve had I planned on it all along. I took the entire week off after Chicago (which I’d likely have done anyhow); week two, I ran two short slow runs in anticipation of helping to pace at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, in which I paced 12k. Week 3 I was really busy with work so I did a 10k run and a 16k. And the week before the race, I ran a 5k tempo on the treadmill, and attended a Spin class on the Friday night. I knew the Spinning wasn’t ideal but I needed to burn off some stress and I took it easy in class.

I think the limited number of runs and then that Spin class is what made Hamilton Marathon pan out as it did for me. On the day before the race, I was doing errands and could tell my legs were sore from the Spin class.

And then you throw in the weather conditions on race day:

On Sunday, I was pretty nervous  about the forecast. It showed 90 percent light rain and through my race the temp was to feel like about 11C I think. I stepped outside and it felt warmer than I realized and it was basically very light drizzle and I felt very relieved about the rain. So I opted to wear shorts rather than capris and left my water-resistant rain jacket in the car.

The race starts at ArcelorMittal Dofasco Park and there’s an arena where you can stay warm and use the washrooms, so that’s always a nice bonus to a race. I arrived at 7 a.m. and sat inside, just trying to not get too anxious about the race, and then I quickly realized there was five minutes to go til the race started. I started looking at everyone’s bibs and saw it was mostly half-marathoners and it dawned on me that they didn’t start at the same time. Right then there was an announcement over the loudspeaker for all marathoners to head to the start and so I dashed outside.

It was pouring rain. I wanted to cry. I already felt miserable and the race hadn’t started yet. Then It was a bit of a scrum at the start since there wasn’t a fence for a very defined starting chute.

It rained pretty consistently for the first 12k or so, and so I kept on the garbage bag I’d put on but ditched it when it cleared briefly even though I knew it’d rain again. I just had to accept I’d be soaked.

Then there’s the race course:

So, here’s what I learned about the Hamilton Marathon: how the race is promoted (very flat and downhill) is not entirely true. I’d say there are four main sections of the race. The first section are country roads, where there are a number of rolling hills. Every time I approached one, I thought “what happened to FLAT?!?” The views here are pretty when you’re running along the escarpment, but otherwise not that stimulating when it’s just the country roads and the occasional house. This is the first 22k or so (I’d have to fact check this, I was pretty weary running to remember much!)

Then you reach the Red Hill Expressway. Which you hear all about being fantastic because it’s downhill. So I was expecting several kilometers of downhill. Nope. Just the ramp to get onto the Parkway is a noticeable downhill (although I know other runners who find the whole expressway downhill; to me it felt flat with the slightest decline in some areas).I did gain some speed here on the downhill ramp and my Google Play Music playlist seemed to know just the right song for the moment: move, get out the way, by Ludacris.

The third section is where you enter some hard packed trail that winds for a bit and cross over two bridges. It was windy and rain pelted me as I crossed the  pedestrian bridge over the QEW and all I could think was, “is this worth it??”

The last section is in Confederation Park. This is the best part of the route as the views of the lake and of some homes along Beach Blvd. are lovely heritage homes and there are some people here cheering.

Hamilton Marathon 2017 medal

How my mental game fell apart:

So, as I mentioned my legs already felt tired from Spin. And as I got going, I think by 6k my legs were already feeling sore and tight. So I knew it was going to be one long and ugly race.

I started debating at about 10k if I should quit and just DNF and call my friend to pick me up. I had this debate until about 30. At the 30k point, being closer to the finish, a DNF didn’t seem like a smart choice and with my legs begging to not be running my thoughts instead focused on whether walking the remainder of the race was a good idea. I figured I wouldn’t finish last even if I walked the last 10-12k. I took walk breaks and the main reason I would start running again is because I couldn’t bear the thought of how much longer I’d be in the rain and wind if I walked the rest of the race.

Because that wind and rain was no joke. On the country roads there was a strong headwind; I’ve read the wind was 48km/hr. Gah! Running in wet gear and soaked shoes is not pleasant.

I did a whole lot of rationalizing during this race, especially toward the end. “There’s 12k left, so that’s basically like two 5k runs, oh and a little extra! 5k is nothing!” “Six k to go. 3k you can do in your sleep, so just two of those, easy peasy for you!” When I saw an exit with my friend’s street name on it, I thought, “I’ll just follow it and that’ll take me ‘home’!” But then I realized that was probably just as far or further than actually finishing the race. And so, I kept going. I was on pace to BQ about half of the race. But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that pace, my legs were heavy. So I switched to aiming to PB since that was within reach, but it wasn’t in reach for long. My legs just couldn’t go any faster and I watched my time grow longer and longer, and. soon doing better than my Chicago time from four weeks ago wasn’t even within reach anymore as I basically threw in the towel and took walk breaks to relieve some of the misery I felt.

There is little cheer support along the route, although a few small groups of friendly faces with encouragement in Confederation Park. It gave me a boost to have some of my sister’s running group recognize me and cheer. And then to hear my name on the speaker when I ran by the Mizuno tent. And although I was too weary to form a proper thought or even properly recognize people, it was great to see a few other runners I know cheering. Thank you for braving this awful weather to cheer, everyone!

There’s little entertainment along the route, too. I recall two drum bands, which were great, but that was it. Another interesting thing about this race? There are several intersections where there is no police officer directing traffic and the drivers regulate themselves to make their turn or drive through. People in Hamilton seem much more patient and tolerant of this than Toronto folks; in races in Toronto, I know I’ve run by many irate drivers enraged about the delay on their drive to their destination.

Hamilton Marathon 2017

Drained and feeling defeated, I finally crossed the finish line with a chip time of 4:10:20. Which makes it my second slowest marathon of the eleven I’ve run. I believe my slowest was my second marathon, the Scotiabank Waterfront Toronto Marathon in 2012 when the weather was very warm.

It was a very tough go. But it’s in trying, right, and I am proud to have run eleven marathons. It truly still boggles my mind that I’ve become a runner at all so despite feeling disappointed, I am ultimately proud of this achievement. The last time I ran two marathons a month apart, I managed to PB in the latter one, but I’d trained consistently in the four week span. I won’t do two marathons a month apart again if I haven’t maintained training. Please stop me if I forget this fact!

Oh, and I have very few photos from the race to include in this post  because I just felt so consumed by misery to take photos, and also because of the rain. Raindrops on the iPhone screen make it hard to use the touchscreen; plus I was afraid to fiddle with my phone in case i accidentally paused or messed up my NRC app that was tracking my run.

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Thank you to Ben at iRun for his race bib, all of the volunteers at the race, the spectators (your signs and cheers and cowbells lifted my mood on a cruddy day), and to my friend Yuki, who was my race support team (she picked up my bib, let me stay at her house, cooked me this yummy dinner of carbs, and sherpa-ed me to and from the race!).

As for what’s next? That’s it for marathons for 2017 for me. I won’t rule out a half or a shorter distance race. I’m thinking another full in the spring is likely, but for now I’m going to enjoy some downtime and put the hours and energy that marathon training called for and pour it into other interests, like dance class and cooking.

 

 

Leave a Comment November 10, 2017

Foodie Swellness: From Italy with Amore at Loblaws

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Can’t we all use #moreamore in our lives? More specifically, more Italian cuisine made with authentic Italian ingredients?

I say sì! And I recently had the chance to learn to learn how to make some dishes from Chef Massimo Bruno at Loblaws. Bruno is from Puglia, and has lived in Toronto for about 16 years, and he said that when he first moved to Canada, it was hard for him to find the Italian ingredients he needed to make his dishes. This is not the case anymore because Loblaws carries more than 350 authentically Italian — they’re certified by the Italian Trade Commission — including many of Bruno’s favourites such as Lupa cheese.

Chef Massimo Bruno at More Amore

It was such a treat to get to learn from Bruno; I’ve been keen to go to one of his monthly supper clubs for ages but now I was getting to learn to cook alongside him. We made a few dishes: fettuccini with tuna and lemon, and a fresh pasta with tomatoes and garlic.

I learned a lot from Bruno over the course of the evening about Italian cooking:

  • When cooking with pecorino romano, be careful with how much salt you add to your dish as the cheese itself is quite salty, so add salt sparingly (if at all).
  • Don’t cheap out; spend the extra $5 on authentic pecorino romano (he likes the romano lupa) as it’ll really make your dish sing. When you buy a bottle of olive oil, go for a quality one, such as the President’s Choice Extra Virgin Olive Oil From Tuscany.
  • When making a sauce using ingredients like fresh tomatoes and garlic like the one we made, prepare it and let it sit so that the flavours come together.
  • There are two types of gorgonzola, dolce and piccante. Dolce is sweeter. Bruno recommends using Dolce if you’re cooking since many people find gorgonzola to be quite strong, so Dolce is a safer choice given it is more subtle.
  • There is no such thing as too much parmigiano reggiano.
  • There is also no such thing as too much fresh basil. Pile it on, says Bruno. He says you’ll never get a complaint, “Oh there’s too much basil in this.”
  • When using tomato purée to make your pasta sauce, add a little bit of water. If you don’t, your passata will cook off and become too thick and paste-like.
  • A quality dried pasta will have a slightly rough texture to it before you throw it into the pot of salted boiling water. (And don’t be shy when salting the water, Bruno threw handfuls into the water; he says it’s essential to cooking the noodles that the water be well salted).
  • You can trust in the imported Italian food products with the DOP label. This label is the product’s certification, which means you can be confident the product has been locally grown and packaged in Italy using traditional methods. DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which translates to Protected Designation of Origin.

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Besides all of these foodie lessons, we ate so well (above is a beef dish Massimo prepared for us) and that fettucine we all helped prepare? It’s so simple to make and you can be eating in about 10 minutes, which is exactly the kind of recipe we all need when we get home and it’s late and we’re too tired to cook, right? Here’s the recipe:

Fettucine with tuna, lemon and basil

Fettuccini with tuna, lemon and basil

In a large bowl, add one can of Rio Mare tuna, drizzle with olive oil. Add the zest and then the juice of one lemon. Add some fresh basil (you can just tear the leaves with your fingers) and season with pepper. In the meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water as per the package. Take about a half cup of the starchy water the pasta has been cooked in and add to your tuna mixture (this will make the sauce easier to mix with your noodles). Drain the pasta and add the noodles to the tuna sauce and mix to combine.

And you’re done! Dinner is on the table. So simple yet so good.

Here’s to more amoré in your life! Buon appetito!

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Leave a Comment November 3, 2017

Healthy Swellness: Q&A with Olympian Michelle Wingshan Kwan about P&G’s “Love Over Bias”

Watch this “Love Over Bias” film and tell me you don’t get a lump in your throat.

 It was just released yesterday by Procter & Gamble, and is the latest installment of their “Thank You, Mom” campaign. Focusing on what the world could be if we saw one another through a mother’s eyes, the film comes now with less than 100 days to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony.

 The theme this year of the campaign is about the prejudices and challenges athletes face as seen through their mom’s perspective, and is meant to encourage looking at what brings us together as people rather than what divides us. It pays tribute to the important role a mom plays as her child’s biggest support system and celebrates how a mom can see and believe in her child’s potential.

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Two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Wingshan Kwan is one of the athletes whose story helped inspire the campaign, and right before my phone call this week with Michelle to discuss “Love Over Bias” and the “Thank You, Mom” campaign, I watched the film and we immediately started talking about it.

 What was it like when you first saw “Love Over Bias”?

Michelle Kwan: “I was crying, I had the same reaction [as you], had a lump in throat. It really hit home for me, seeing this incredible ad and this incredible campaign, “Love Over Bias.” shared Michelle, “Being able to partner with pg and being able to share my story, and for the athletes to share their story of obstacles and challenges depicted in that film…”

“My mom was there through thick and thin for my skating career and I saw how much sacrifice and how much my mom gave up to make my dreams come true, I’m talking financial means, too, Juggling multiple jobs, putting a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and then to dream of Olympic ice skater? There’s no task too large for my mom. Mama Kwan was like, ‘If you want to be an Olympic ice skater, let’s do it.” That’s what my mom instilled in me, if you want something, you go after it, so this campaign is that chance to thank all moms out there for believing in our dreams and being our number one fan.”

What were some of the challenges you faced?

“Looking back to the early years, not being able to afford fancy costumes, and my mom sewing my costumes, making them because we couldn’t afford them. I felt extra special, actually, not that I couldn’t buy this amazing custom costume but because my mom made it. I was very fortunate to have a costume at all.  Even making it to national level with a used pair of skates because that was the only thing my parents could afford; competing in a borrowed dress. I could go on and on about the financial shortcomings of my family’s situation but my mom, both parents, were like, “If this is what you want, we’re going to be a little scrappy along the way but just keep dreaming, keep doing it, keep working hard.”

As a teen, you understood all of that, rather than feeling like, “why do I have to use secondhand skates?”

“I understood it, I saw the lack of sleep, my parents driving to and from ice rink at 5 in the morning, us skating for three hours, for them to be watching us for three hours and then us going to school and picking us up, and meanwhile they’re juggling finances. I remember my grandparents asking my parents, like almost criticizing them, “Why are you wasting time and money on figure skating, it’s silly,’ and, you know, my parents never wavered, they let me have the opportunity to participate. I remember many times I thought it would the end of any skating dreams, and it would’ve been devastating–that’s the thing that I look back on and my mom was always “Ny baby girl wants to do this. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen.’”

Can  you share any particular struggles that come to mind from when you were competing and how your mom was your biggest support?

“Different times of wanting to give up, and having won a world title and saying how am I going to win again, moments that you think you can’t improve. That was when my mother was always there. Even when I fell three or four times at a national championship, she said, “I’m so proud of you,” and I was like “What?!” “Yeah, you couldn’t have tried harder, you couldn’t have done anything different.’ That is something that is so special, when you have the mom touch, telling you to hold you head up high, that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

How would you say this has contributed to making you into the person you are now?

“There are so many life lessons you learn through sports. Over 90 percent of women i CEO positions, over 90 percent have participated in sport so these it’s transferable–to be a good athlete, working with a team, having that grit, focus and determination, those are things that you need to excel at sport but also a way to succeed outside of sport,”

In case you’re wondering, when I spoke to Michelle on Tuesday, her mom had not yet seen “Love Over Bias.” “I can’t wait to watch it with her. She’s going to love it,” said Michelle.

Kudos to P&G for helping to shed light on the biases and struggles that many of us face and how that can hold us back from reaching our potential. Bringing these issues to light and inspiring discussion can only help to move the world to a better place. Want to learn more about the campaign and the athletes involved (including Gus Kenworthy, Aja Evans, Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones, all pictured below with Michelle)? Visit www.loveoverbias.com.

I know for me, after watching the film and chatting with Michelle, my mom coming to my childhood dance recitals and gymnastics classes  came rushing back to me, and, like Michelle’s mom, my mom sewed me outfits, not skating costumes, but the most stylish coordinated outfits (there were a lot of fun pink prints—my mom always let me choose the fabric)…

…and there’s that lump in my throat again…

So, who else is calling their mom right now after watching “Love Over Bias”?

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Leave a Comment November 2, 2017

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