Tag: destination race

Travel Swellness: How to make a destination race less stressful

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Running a marathon is a stressful endeavour. As a first timer, you’re stressed about evening being able to complete the distance. As a regular marathoner, you may be focused on trying to run a personal best and there are so many factors you can fret about (getting enough sleep, fueling properly, whether you put in the training that’ll get you that PB, etc.).

And when it’s a destination race you’re running, a whole slew of other factors come into play. You’re not sleeping in your own bed, the travel may have tired you out, you’re eating foods in a different city—there are simply a lot more unknowns to contend with.

My most recent destination race, the Detroit Marathon (where I ran a great race and tried to BQ—check out my race recap) I incorporated a lot of factors to help make the trip less stressful (and learned a few new things that’ll be sure to keep in mind for future destination races):

1. Drive a comfortable, safe car for your road trip. Bonus if it’s sleek and luxurious, too. General Motors Canada let me test drive the Buick Enclave Avenir to Detroit for the race. I’ve driven the Enclave before but not the Encave Avenir. It had so many features that made the drive so much more comfortable and stress-free (more on that later) but the car was so spacious and luxurious (the leather interior is sleek and the seats were so comfortable for our five-hour drive to Motor City). The temp dipped in the evenings, so the heated steering wheel was much appreciated, too. I’ve been on a few road trips where we’ve run into car trouble and you do not need the stress of that when you’re heading to another city to run 42.2k!

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2. Have a GPS you can count on. I have zero sense of direction (anyone who’s traveled with me can attest to how horrible my sense of direction is!), and I know I’d be so much more stressed driving without a GPS. And they’re not created equal. When I drove from Calgary to Jasper, the GPS in the car rental often couldn’t find the destination I was looking for (and if I had a signal, I had to resort to using my Google Maps on my phone). The one in the Buick Enclave Avenir is reliable and gives plenty of advance notice of when you need to make your next turn (I’ve had ones that would only notify you when you are right at the intersection, which meant we always drove right by our turn). The Enclave was also equipped with OnStar, which we didn’t end up having to use, but I always feel safer in a vehicle that is equipped with it.

3. Feel confident about your safety as you drive. When I got my driver’s license when I was 18, cars were very different. Test driving this Buick Enclave Avenir, I appreciated the modern features that allow you to feel really safe. I’d say in general, I find driving to be a bit stressful, but with features like blind-spot assist and the safety-alert seat, the vehicle is helping you to drive more safely, and more safely translates to less stress. Also, not only was the Buick Enclave Avenir equipped with WiFi, it also features wireless charging, and as I count on my phone way too much (that’s another story for another time), nothing stresses me out more than my phone being low on battery and wireless charging is so convenient!

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4. Have great playlists for your road trip. Music plays such a big role in setting the mood. For the first time ever, I created a playlist for my race (mostly a mix of Backstreet Boys, NKOTB, a few 80s hits, 90s hip hop and R n B) and in the Enclave, we had Sirius XM, which for most of the time in the car we had on hip hop but the day before the race, I just needed to chill so switched to a station with low key indie music. I don’t need thumping beats to go with my pre-race jitters! I need to do whatever little rituals I have to do to quiet those nerves about the race, and the SirusXM in the Enclave helped to do that.

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5. Stay in a cozy hotel room filled with natural light. I know some people thrive on being surrounded by runners and the excitement for the marathon, but I prefer an environment that’s relaxed and serene. We were hosted at the Element and it was an ideal place to call home for race weekend. Other runners were also staying here, but not huge groups of runners (or not that we saw anyhow) so I didn’t have the nervous energy of other marathoners to make me feel more anxious about the race. Our corner suite was so spacious, and had so many windows it was filled with natural light and we were able to wake up to the sunrise (well, except for race morning when we got up at 5 a.m.!). With a full kitchen, it would’ve been an ideal spot to prepare a simple pasta dish for dinner before the race rather than wait way too long at the Italian restaurant we went to (which doesn’t take reservations, hence the crazy long wait). I also loved that there’s a Drought juice spot just a few steps from the hotel, and you can stash those cold-pressed juices in the kitchen’s fridge (we indulged in this beet juice post-race, delish!). The Element is a Westin hotel, so it features that Heavenly bed that is so comfortable (we had no problems falling asleep!). The hotel is also nice and quiet; it’s peaceful and serene, but if you’re in need of some white noise, the room also is equipped with a white-noise machine. Oh, and parking the Enclave? It’s simple as a guest at the Element with the valet parking. Parking is not my strength (I will park blocks away rather than parallel park) so I was more than happy to pull up to the Element and hand over the keys!

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I could just as well have gone in a regular car, stayed at an budget-friendly Airbnb and probably could’ve run just as good a race, but having this sophisticated car and a great place to call home while in town for the race made this marathon weekend so much simpler and stress-free.

Thank you to both General Motors Canada and the Element for helping make this Detroit Marathon weekend (and my first visit to Motor City!) an incredible one.

 

Leave a Comment October 29, 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: I’m running the Sporting Life 10k Calgary in support of Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada

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Sometimes when I’m feeling sorry for myself (because we all get in those moods every once in awhile, don’t we? Pity party of one…), I actually often remind myself of the incredibly brave kids whose stories I’ve heard through Starlight Children’s Foundation.

So many surgeries and treatments and medications they endure, at such a young age, and with such positivity and brave outlooks, it’s truly humbling and inspiring. I’ve read their stories, and have attended the Starlight gala dinner in the past (and helped volunteer with set up for this year’s gala) and I know I am always moved by how they’ve gone through so much and yet are filled with hope, smiles and gratitude. We could all learn so much from these kids, and I love the work that Starlight Children’s Foundation does to bring some fun and escape to their lives.

And this is why I’m proud to work with Starlight in support of their first ever partnership with the Sporting Life 10k Calgary and help bring awareness and raise funds for the cause. How can you help? There are so many ways:

  1. Register for the Sporting Life 10k Calgary. It’s a net downhill race, so you could potentially PB! And it’s dubbed Calgary’s Fastest Road Race! It’d be great to see you out there on the course!
  2. Support someone who is running the race. Come out to cheer and donate to their fundraising! I’m fundraising for the cause (if you’d like to sponsor me, you can do it right here with this link) and there are an estimated few thousand runners slated to run this race that you could also support, too!

Stay tuned as I train over the next month in preparation for this race, and I’d love to hear from you if you’re running it, too!

#partner

Photo: Jess Baumung

 

 

 

Leave a Comment May 23, 2019

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