Tag: destination race

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

Fitness Swellness: Barbados Half-marathon 2016 race recap

 

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Last Sunday, I ran the Barbados Half-marathon for the first time and I still haven’t looked up my official time. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did check that same day and they weren’t posted yet. I guess when I’m not aiming to PB the time isn’t so important for me to know, and I had a general sense of my finish time.

That lackadaisical approach, though, was very much troubling me in the hours before the race kicked off at 5 a.m. on Sunday, December 4th. I slept very little that night, awake til 1 a.m. and afraid to oversleep, I lay awake for much of those wee hours of the “morning” (really, it was nighttime). I’d always planned to do this race as a easy run. It’s in fact the least I’ve “trained” for a race, if you can even call the handful of runs I did training. I added this race to my schedule about a month ago, knowing my body is capable of running 21.1k but not racing it.

But as I lay there sleepless the morning of the race, I found myself feeling a little annoyed with myself. 21.1k is not a short distance, and to run it without a serious desire or passion or goal, it was dawning on me that I was going to have a rough time getting through 21.1k in 29 degree heat and humidity.

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My vague plan: run it comfortably, walking as much as I wished,  but trying to have fewer walk breaks than I did in the Cayman Half last December, and in the Bahamas Half in January, and given that, my rough goal time I set for myself given my lack of training and the weather conditions was 2:15.

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I got to the start a good 45 minutes ahead of time, and had to switch my bib (I’d accidentally been given a 10k bib), sat around and then used the last 20 minutes to wait in line for the portapotties. The race kicked off at about 5 a.m. (I think it was a few minutes late) without much fanfare, in fact, for about a minute I wasn’t clear if it had officially started. I don’t recall crossing a  mat at the start — so I’m unclear if it’s based on gun time, in which case I would’ve made more of an effort to not have started towards the back of the crowd.

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The route features some moderate hills (which I was not expecting), and it ventures alongside some residences, some port land, which is not the most scenic but you are rewarded with plenty of ocean views, and it’s kind of fun to start the race in the dark and have the sky brighten after about an hour (even though you don’ t have a direct view of the sun rise), all of which is what I’m looking for in a Caribbean race. Given the early start time, there is little support along the route other than the volunteers, but the few people that did cheer, I made sure to thank (along with of course the volunteers marshalling the route and handing out hydration). Entertainment-wise, one truck blasting music was in front of the elites, along with a few steel-pan drummers. The road is not entirely closed, so for awhile I found myself trailing a city bus and desperately wishing I could run faster to get ahead of it so as to not be exposed to its exhaust; there was also the occasional car or two passing us runners. The route is an out and back, and the marathoners repeat it to get their full 42.2k distance, which I think must be draining mentally.

Thankfully and surprisingly, I felt good during my run. Despite the heat and humidity, I never felt miserable and needing extra walk breaks. I roughly took a drink of water every 10 minutes or so and would walk for about a minute to do so and regroup. And I could tell early on that it was going to be a pretty decent race for me that day, which is surprising given how rough the Scotiabank Half-marathon felt recently.

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I just checked the results and I finished in 2:03:21. This is indeed gun time (which is disappointing, I’m all about chip time) because my NRC app shows 2:02 (and that’s not accurate given it took me awhile to get my sweaty screen to unlock to stop my app), but it is what it is. Faster than my Scotia half  this year, despite being in even less racing form and the harsher weather. So I’m pretty pleased with my time, considering I’d been thinking I’d be done in 2:15. I’m calling this my Caribbean half-marathon PB. With this gun time of 2:03:21, I was 109th out of 344 runners in the half (the results don’t show break down by sex and age group, unfortunately) and I’m very happy with that.

After the race, I skipped going for a dip into the bay because I didn’t want to sit in cold, wet gear for the drive back to my resort, but some runners did, and it’s a beautiful bay to do so (and this was my fave aspect of the Bahamas Half-marathon, having the race finish by the water so you could refresh right away in the ocean).

Barbados is a lovely, low-key island, which I’ll be writing about shortly for VITA Daily, so stay tuned for that, and the Run Barbados race weekend should definitely be one to consider if you’re looking for a destination race where you can enjoy some great beach time and food.

And with that, my 2016 race season comes to an end! I find out in a few days whether I’ve been drawn in the Chicago Marathon lottery for next year. It’s where I have my marathon PB from two years ago, and it’s such a fantastic city, I’m hoping to run it again!

Leave a Comment December 11, 2016

Fitness Swellness: Philadephia Marathon report in Canadian Running magazine

Canadian Running July August 2014

One of my favourite marathons I’ve run? The Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon. If you’re trying to choose a fall marathon to run, I highly recommend it. You can read more about the race, where to stay and where to carb up, check out my piece in the July/August 2014 issue of Canadian Running.

2 Comments June 25, 2014

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