Tag: race recap

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

Fitness Swellness: Shoppers Love You Run for Women 2017 race recap

Run for Women 2017

A few months ago, Shoppers Drug Mart asked if I’d like to run the Shoppers Love You Run for Women 2017

, which took place on June 10th, and given that it’s in support of a cause I think is important — women’s mental health programs — I agreed right away. I had missed running the race last year as I was out of town, but I did run it the year prior and had a lot of fun.

I wasn’t planning on racing it, but to run it for fun. I’d taken a long break after running the Barbados Half-Marathon in December, and was only running about once or twice a week for several months, so my pace has gotten much, much slower. Although I have been training more consistently for the past month or so, it’ll take awhile til I get close to the running shape I have been in before.

So my approach to this Run for Women 10k was very relaxed. I didn’t stress leading up to it. I wasn’t even quite sure where the race start was when I looked it up at 9 p.m. the night before. I also didn’t get my nails done for it. I KNOW. I never race without my nails done!

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My friend and fellow iRun colleague Anna Lee agreed to do the race as well and we met up before the race started. Saturday turned out to be a sunny, hot day, I believe it was about 18 degrees when I stepped out to head to the race. We started the race together and my plan was to run it as a tempo, that is for it to feel comfortably hard. Anna Lee was faster and I knew I had to dial back my pace or I’d be miserable and hurting the entire race (and I had zero desire to feel that way) so she went ahead and I could see her about half a block ahead of me most of the race.

There is little support along the route. Much thanks to the cheerful volunteers smiling and encouraging runners, and thank you to the man standing at Queen’s Park with a neon bristle board sign that read “You are a life-changer.” Because it’s always nice to have a reminder that this is about furthering such an important cause.

As for the route, it was flat and interesting enough as it was through midtown Toronto so stores and buildings for scenery. Because I’d only glanced at the map, I didn’t realize until during the race that the 10k is the 5k route done twice. I spent much of my time behind one runner, who each time I’d catch up to her, she would speed up. In fact, after the race, she found me and thanked me for helping to pace her, haha! That’s another favourite aspect of this race, it’s a pretty friendly, feel-good kind of race. Oh, and the medal is a cute bracelet that reads Love You.

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Because I had zero plans to aim for a PB, I didn’t work my way to the front of the corral for the race start. But I wish I had, because when I looked up the results, the results are based on gun time, not chip time! Doh! Oh well. In any case, I finished in 54:01 gun time (which is about 30 seconds longer than the time I recorded on my Nikeplus, which is 52nd out of 291 runners, and 29th out of 229 women. Which I’m fine with, I actually expected to be slower, and there was the hot temperatures that day, too. How I’ve run the same distance about 7 minutes faster boggles my mind…but it’s helping to inspire me as I have to kickstart my Chicago Marathon training soon and it’s nice to remember that it is possible for me to run a much faster pace. I just have to put in the training.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention the very generous swag bag. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a swag bag like this before. I stuffed it into my backpack for the 4k walk home from the race, and it legit started to hurt by back, it was that heavy! If swag is a motivator, ladies, you need to get in on this race next year. We’re talking full-size hair products and chocolate and more. This photo doesn’t even feature every item from the bag.

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Congrats to everyone who ran the Toronto edition (and all of the other cities, too!) of the Run for Women, and good luck to you in St. John’s running it on June 25th!

Leave a Comment June 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

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