Tag: marathon

Fitness Swellness: Istanbul Marathon 2019 race recap

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Fresh from running my 13th marathon in Detroit, in which you cross the US-Canada border (which is one of 10 reasons you should run the Detroit Marathon), I couldn’t pass up the invite to run the Istanbul Marathon, even though it was just two weeks later.

With tips from Nike trainers on how to prepare for two marathons two weeks apart, I set off for Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, who blessed me with a seat in Business Class. Which is reason to rejoice on its own, but with Istanbul being my first marathon overseas, I was nervous about the jet lag. But thanks to being in Business Class for the flight there and back helped to ensure I got the comfortable rest I needed. The lie-flat seats, noise-cancelling headphones, gourmet meals, Versace toiletry kit, and cozy slippers, all add up to creating the most luxurious way to travel for nine hours to Istanbul. Did we mention the flight attendants make up your lie-flat seat so you can snooze? Any nerves I had about traveling to my first European marathon were soothed as I sunk into this Business Class life.

The days leading up to the Istanbul Marathon

On Friday before the race (the race was on November 3, 2019), we spent the day sightseeing, so we were on our feet more than we should’ve been, but it was what it was. We picked up our race kits that evening, and it was a nice expo, with great vendor booths and fun photo opps like this oversized medal.

On Saturday, the only thing on our itinerary was a hammam appointment at the spa hotel. I slept in, and spent a quiet morning just going to grab coffee and a bite. The hammam appointment was very relaxing and I forced myself to not go out and explore (even though I wanted to!) and just stayed close to the hotel exploring the shopping. I don’t know why, perhaps I was too distracted by being in Istanbul, but I completely forgot to do a shakeout run. I’d normally have done a 3k run Saturday morning, but I only remembered late in the day and I didn’t think doing it at that point was going to make or break my race.

My marathon plan

With my strong Detroit Marathon, I planned to run Istanbul for fun. As the race approached, though, I figured I’d run based on feel. Maybe I could run a strong race. Or maybe not. I was leaning towards it being a slow race given the forecast for race day being quite warm.

Marathon morning

There was some confusion as to how we were getting transported to the race start (which is on the Asian side of Istanbul), but we ended up hopping out of our car to walk a block to Taksim to catch the race shuttle buses, which turned out to be a smart decision. It took us about half an hour to get the race start area. The sun was rising and we looked for our bag check buses, visited the portapotty (which were the most dirty portapotties I’ve ever experienced at a race).

The weather forecast was for a high of 20 or so, but as we waited for the race to start, it was only 9 degrees. As I’d forgotten to pack a garbage bag or a top to throw away, I’d taken the laundry bag from the hotel room and tucked my arms into it as I waited for the 9 a.m. marathon start. As for my marathon outfit, leading up to the race, with the high of about 20C, I had wondered if it’d be acceptable to run in Istanbul with just my sportsbra on top. With having to don a scarf visiting mosques (and I saw at one mosque people in leggings and shorts being given an item so their legs would be covered), I wasn’t sure if running in a sportsbra would be offensive or shocking. I decided to play it by ear and the race morning, I only saw one woman in a sports bra and tights. Since the temp wasn’t as warm as I had expected, I decided to run with a tank top on over top (which I was prepared to take off if the temp felt very warm).

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The race start is busy. The 15k starts after the marathon and has many more participants, and we’re basically all milling around the same area. There are a lot more men running the marathon, based on just who I found myself surrounded by at the start area and along on the route.

Marathon go time

As I said, my plan was to run by feel. And I started off feeling pretty good. Although very early on (even before I’d reached 10k) I could tell my legs felt tired, which I knew didn’t bode well for the race. I decided to run as comfortably as I could make the race and didn’t allow myself to stop and take a walk break until I’d reached the halfway point.

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I loved that this race starts in Asia and you run across the Bosphorus Bridge to Europe. The only thing that’d have made it better would be for it to start at sunrise. But regardless, it’s kind of epic making that trek across the bridge!

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My legs were feeling very exhausted and I watched my pace slow more and more. After about the 25k mark, I swear I felt like I was moving so incredibly slowly that to me, it felt like I was running a pace twice as slow as my easy pace. It wasn’t even close to being that slow, but with every kilometre marker taking FOREVER to appear, it felt like I was moving at a glacial pace. It was misery. And as I ran I remembered the last time I did two marathons (that time within a month of each other) the second race was also miserable. How had I forgotten this!

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I saw at least six of the street dogs running along the route. I was sort of hoping I could convince one to run alongside me for the race, but they all have their own agendas for the day. The dogs were nice to see since there is little crowd support along the route and little entertainment (so most of the last half of the race was a bit monotonous, given the lack of good scenery, and only some frustrating hills to look forward to). I think it was local runners, but the men running the race are a bit aggressive. I was elbowed a few times as they would pass me and they did not even glance (never mind apologize). I get that sometimes you might accidentally brush by someone when you pass them, but I always apologize.

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In the last kilometre or so, there was a steep incline to enter a park and I was straight up angry about it. The park itself was pretty, with trees and grass. Then we emerged from the park and there was an old archway to run through and I thought, “finally, the finish line is just through the arch!” BUT NO. I emerged on the other side of the arch and there a steep and long hill to the finish. This section was on a street lined with shops on either side and there were lots of locals and tourists just going about their day on either side of the course…not sure if any of them noticed me cursing whoever designed this marathon route. 

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Finally (finally!) I reached the finish line! I felt much relief and was immediately interviewed by a sweet older man from the race organizers (I think he liked that I was from Canada here to run the marathon). It took awhile for the volunteer to remove the timing chip from my shoelaces (yes, it’s an old-school chip you attach to your laces versus being on the back of your bib); i was ever so grateful that they knelt to take it off of my shoe rather than me having to kneel down with my very tired legs.

There was little in terms of celebration in the post-marathon area, so I grabbed the snacks (a banana, a protein bar, an electrolyte drink) and parked myself in the park in the sunshine as I waited for my friend. The 15k finished in another area where there were food trucks and a band playing, so there is definitely more of a focus on the 15k race.

My time? My slowest marathon ever, 4:29:30. (I don’t know my place amongst the 3,000 or so women who ran the marathon as the results are in a confusing chart without breakdowns by category.) I’m not thrilled with running my slowest marathon ever, but I’m not beating up myself about it. Two marathons two weeks apart is a lot. And I ran a great race in Detroit. By the way if you’re looking for more about the Istanbul Marathon, I’ve written up 11 Reasons To Run the Istanbul Marathon for iRun.

I’ve now taken three weeks off. I’ve worked out a fair but no running. But went for my first run since Istanbul today and it felt good to get out in the crisp air. 

What’s up next? I’m thinking for 2020, I’ll run a spring and a fall marathon, and a few shorter races. Maybe some trail running (it terrifies me but it might be nice to try something new).

Oh, and I’ll be doing a few travel articles on Istanbul so stay tuned for those. It’s one of my favourite cities! If you don’t follow me on Instagram, you can check my photos from this trip with the hashtag #istanbulswellness!

1 Comment November 24, 2019

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: 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

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