Tag: race recap

Fitness Swellness: GVRAT Back Across Tennessee race recap

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108 days into the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, I made it BACK ACROSS TENNESSEE!

That’s a total distance of 2,043.36 kilometres. If you recall, at the beginning of May I wasn’t sure how difficult it’d be to complete the Race Across Tennessee (RAT) distance in the four months for the race, so to have completed double the distance with just under two weeks to spare, I’m shocked, and proud.

It’s 107 days if you’re looking at “chip time” as I only registered for the race on May 2nd, but the race goes by gun time. This race most definitely tapped into my competitiveness. Once I finished RAT, I knew I could complete 1,000 miles. Especially since for the BAT race, I was including walking miles.

I completed 1,000 miles in 91 days, ahead of the “end of July” goal I’d set for myself. And on August 5th, I thought “It’d be a nice even date to complete the BAT distance by August 15th.” For no other reason than it being the halfway mark of August. Out came my calculator and it called for doing just over 30 kilometres a day for 10 days straight. And even I knew that was unrealistic; my schedule is a lot busier now and I was struggling on the days I managed to log 21k. It included often sacrificing sleep to get at least 6k done in the early morning, and then walking at least 3k late at night (sometimes as late as 1 a.m.).

But I’d become a bit nervous about those late night walks and runs. I realized I was going through some dark and pretty deserted areas, which wasn’t the safest idea, then to add to it, there have been a slew of harassment incidents in the area so as I closed in on the last 200 or so kilometres of the race, I didn’t think it was wise to do the late walks and so I lost some precious time chipping away at the distance.

I realized on Friday, August 14th, that I had that day and the entire weekend I could devote to logging distance for BAT. And with 120 kilometres left, if I did 40k each day, I’d be done by Sunday, August 16th (just one day more than the goal I’d chosen as an ideal end date). So, I went for it. I already knew I had to run 21.1k on the weekend for the Lululemon Virtual SeaWheeze Half Marathon, so it meant “only” walking another 21k that same day as well, so that covered off one day. For my final 35k on Sunday, I took a very long (and rather boring) 12k walk across the city with my dog, visited the beach, stopped for pizza and then made the 12k walk back across the city and finished off the BAT race with a 3k run at night.

I walked much more of the BAT than I expected to. I think the RAT’s very intense 1,021.68k, for which I decided to only count running miles, was really hard on my body. My pace is terrible and I now even walk slowly, just out of pure exhaustion.

My BAT by the numbers

  • 766.86 walking
  • 267.3 running
  • zero 0 days (meaning I logged distance every single day)
  • a negative split of 10 days (I completed RAT in 59 days and BAT in 49 days)

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Billie Jean and her GVRAT and BAT journey?

She completed 76 percent (or 1,554k) of the 2,043.36 RAT + BAT with me:

  • 1,071.3k running
  • 483.32 walking

And I’d have registered her as a dog completing the race but I knew the city’s heat and humidity would make it dangerous for her to complete every run with me, so I didn’t commit to making it race official for her, but to me she completed the race and I’m so proud of her.

And in the final standings, when I checked on Monday to confirm I’d officially completed the BAT, I finished 276th out of 11,063 women in this global virtual race, and in 622nd place (out of 19,612 participants).

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So many firsts for me with this race, including my very first buckle! Now just need a belt to sport this huge, gaudy piece of bling on, haha!

This race has helped so many of us around the world cope in this crazy time. It became a huge thing to fixate on, distracting me from the stresses of  living through quarantine, which would’ve otherwise swallowed me whole. And the Facebook group for the GVRAT was a joy to be a part of (other than people asking every single day what the actual distance of the race is… people, get your act together, it’s clearly stated in the race FAQ). From the gorgeous photos from around the world, to so many shots of snakes (I’m so glad that’s not something I encounter on my runs!), along with Lazarus Lake’s often hilarious posts, plus all of the personal stories; there have been pregnancy announcements, breakups, deaths, pets, so many injuries, and with it, just the whole gamut of human emotions; the camaraderie that developed as we all pushed through living under lockdown and making it through this continuing pandemic–I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being part of a Facebook group more. We are all in this together: the pandemic, this crazy race, interpreting “Laz miles”, all of it.

Thank you to Lazarus Lake and the entire GVRAT team for putting up with so many of the same questions and continually working on improving the virtual race experience for all of us and creating this crazy race that none of us will ever forget.

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Leave a Comment August 18, 2020

Fitness Swellness: Lululemon SeaWheeze Virtual Half Marathon 2020 recap

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And for my 19th half-marathon race, I did my first virtual half, the SeaWheeze Virtual Half Marathon!

I was invited by Lululemon to take part and I figured I need to log distance for my Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (which I completed the race distance of 1021.68k in late June, but I added on doing Back Across Tennessee, that is, running back to where I started the race on May 2nd) so I registered to run this virtual 21.1k, which had to be completed anytime from August 15 to 23rd.

I didn’t plan to race it. My legs are very, very tired from the GVRAT, and my pace is slow thanks to the 2,043 kilometres I’m almost done with for that race. Normally you should rest your legs before a race. I’ve had no rest days since about mid-April (I’ve had days of solely walking miles but no zero days as we have been calling them in the Tennessee race). So my plan was to approach SeaWheeze (SW20) as a long, slow run. Since I’ve been focusing on short runs for GVRAT (sometimes multiple times a day, although my BAT portion of the race I’ve replaced much of the distance with walking to give my body a break) I knew I had to incorporate some longer runs leading up to SW20. So I completed approximately one longer run a week in the month leading up to SeaWheeze. The longest distance I ran was 18k and last week, I was simply exhausted (my schedule has been very busy) and I couldn’t muster the energy to run another long run the only time I could find in my schedule, usually at 10 pm so I skipped it. I also skipped that one longer run as I am reluctant to run anything longer than 10k at night out of safety concerns.

As SeaWheeze start date approached, and with no long run completed last week (I did muster the energy to complete a 14k run, though), I decided I wouldn’t run the SeaWheeze distance until the latter end of the 8 days allotted for the virtual race, closer to August 23rd than August 15th.

And then I realized I’d be finishing the GVRAT well  before August 23rd, and there would be no way I’d be motivated to run 21.1k after finishing this monster of a virtual race (Lazarus Lake doesn’t create easy races, does he!). And I promise you that I am planning on some full R&R after I finish my Back Across Tennessee distance!

So coincidentally with this weekend off of work (from Friday to Sunday), I decided to run the 21.1k for SeaWheeze on the first day of the race period, last night, Saturday, August 15th. The weather was hot and humid, 30 Celsius when I started the race at 7:30, which was another factor making me even slower.

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I ran a usual route I do on the west side of the city for 16 kilometres, then picked up Billie Jean for the last 5k. She could complete the whole half marathon distance but with the heat, I didn’t think it was safe for her. Instead, I listened to the Reply All podcast as I took my time logging the distance. The weather cooled as it got later in the evening; my route included stop lights, and at the tail end of the race, I ran along the closed-to-traffic Lake Shore Blvd (closed as part of #activeTO, the program the city has run all summer that closes off traffic on certain streets so as to allow people to enjoy the outdoors biking, running or walking while social distancing) so it sort of felt like a real race since I was running on a barricaded street.

While this portion was closed to traffic like a race, there were no spectators or water stations of course. So I ran with bottle of Gatorade and refilled it with Nuun when I picked up Billie Jean, since any of the water fountains in the city aren’t running due to the pandemic. Although there were no spectators (my friend Aylin said she’d come cheer, I didn’t take her up on the offer), a girl did stop me on Lake Shore Blvd. to talk to me when I was at about the 19k mark; she wanted to talk how cute Billie Jean is (and I’ll gladly talk about my amazing pup anytime!).

For me, a virtual race of this type is much more difficult to get motivated for but it was very freeing to not be stressing myself out about running the distance as quickly as I could. (As an aside, for me, the GVRAT is in a different type of virtual race category as I’ve found it very motivating to try to log distance each day and watch my position improve daily; it has become an obsession). My NRC app (on which I reached Volt Level in June) on my Apple Watch and Strava differed by about half a kilometre (and I don’t think Strava pauses when I’m not moving so my times differ on the two apps—I’m fairly new to using Strava and haven’t fully learned the ins and outs of using it) but my Strava logs my SW time as 2:17:37.

In the end, the race helped me log more than 43 kilometres in my GVRAT race for the day, and I am proud of the fact that I can complete the 21.1k distance without training for a half per se, and on very weary legs.

I’d love to run the actual SeaWheeze in Vancouver IRL some day, I’ve heard it’s a fun one and Vancouver is so pretty. If you’re keen to run this year’s virtual half or 10k this week, you can still register btw! Thank you to Lululemon for the invitation to take part and for the running gear (this cap is so comfortable for running and I like the subtle camo print, and the cut of both the sports bra and Muscle Love Crop Tank Top is very flattering).

Now, excuse me as I get back to completing this Back Across Tennessee race. I reached 1,000 miles before the end of July, and the finish line for BAT is in sight!

1 Comment August 16, 2020

Fitness Swellness: Dead Sea Half-Marathon race recap

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When given five weeks notice and you’ve got zero base fitness, do you snap up the opportunity to run the Dead Sea Marathon?

The answer is YES.

When the idea of me running the Dead Sea Marathon came  up with iRun, it was December and I immediately told my editor I would run the marathon. The race was in February, and that would give me two months to train. It would by no means be pretty, but my only goal would be to finish the 42.2 kilometres.

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Then I actually looked at the calendar and realized we were already the third week of December and that the Dead Sea Marathon takes place at the beginning of February, which only gave me six weeks to prepare, and by the time the trip was confirmed, I had five weeks to prepare, and so I decided to run the half-marathon instead. Even 21.1k was not going to be easy given I had taken a long break from running (I took three weeks off after the Istanbul Marathon, and then I did one or two short runs and then with little notice I went to Thailand unexpectedly for two weeks).

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So, at that point, five weeks to build a base to run the Dead Sea Half-Marathon didn’t sound like too awful an idea…

And then I caught a cold.

The cold took me out for two weeks. Which meant I then had three weeks of building base fitness to run the half-marathon. I jumped into it and completed about three to four runs each week and I immediately started my long runs at the 16k distance.

By the time it came time to fly to Tel Aviv, I didn’t feel ready for the run but my plan was to just run it for fun, to take photos, and enjoy the experience.

Jet lagged and unprepared

I landed in Tel Aviv after about 24 hours of flying around midday on February 5th (two days before the race). I just rested when I got to the hotel, then stepped out to watch the sunset on the beach. Then next day, we did some sightseeing in Jaffa until lunch, and then we made the two-hour drive to the Dead Sea, during which I took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

When I was already on my flight to Israel, the race director had emailed saying the weather was colder than than anticipated and he recommended some layers for the 15k run planned for 6 a.m. the day after the race (this run was news to me…and I wasn’t clear as to why a run was planned before sunrise the day after racing, but that’s another story). I realized I didn’t have many layers, nor had I packed a running cap for the race. I’d purposely not brought trail shoes (which the race director had recommended a week or so before the race), since I figured it was wiser for me to run in shoes that I’m used to running in.

That evening, we went to pick up race kits and there was a bit of confusion in the process but we ended up being sent off to go eat an early dinner at the hotel (even though I’d understood we were to eat at the race’s pasta dinner, but again this again some miscommunication with regards to our itinerary). The buffet had a lot of options but I tried to stick to more of the plain items (even though I don’t typically have stomach issues before a race, I figure it was smarter to play it safe).

In bed earlier than I ever am before I race, I did end up staying awake til midnight, before I finally forced myself to turn off the TV to get some zzz’s since my alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. (remember, too, that I was also managing a seven-hour time difference with my hometown of Toronto).

Race day morning

I got up, got dressed, and went down to eat. In the lobby there was a pretty meager set up for breakfast for runners. There was bread, but literally nothing to put on the bread nor a toaster to toast it. I drank some juice and ate a slice of whole wheat bread and then went back upstairs to finish prepping. The weather forecast called for overcast skies and 18 Celsius. Warmer than I’d like, and I’d normally have run in just a sports bra and shorts for that type of weather, but one of the fellow runners thought she had read that this wasn’t permitted. My plan was to run with a tank top on top, which I’d take it off if I got too hot. As for a running cap, I didn’t end up buying one as there was one in the race kit.

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It was about a 15-minute walk from our hotel to the race start, so we headed on over, visited the portapotty for a pre-race bathroom break and then got into the starting chute.

And it’s go-time!

The race started a couple of minutes late, just after 7 a.m. I set out and was uncomfortably warm quite quickly. I also, for some reason, couldn’t get my Google Play Music to work. I couldn’t seem to find the free playlists so after several tries, I gave up and resigned myself to running without music. Which for a big race like Chicago or Philly isn’t a big deal, but in a race like the Dead Sea where there would be no spectators based on the route into the Dead Sea (a factor I hadn’t considered until fellow runner Ashley pointed out to me the day before the race), not having music is a big deal, but what could I do? My music app wasn’t cooperating, and what actually started playing on my earbud is the audio recordings of interviews I’d conducted for articles. I turned down the volume and tried to focus instead on the scenery and people around me.

Another mishap that morning? Tracking the run on Nike’s NRC app. I went into autopilot when the race was starting and tapped my NRC app on my Apple watch to track the race. I only realized a few kilometres in that for the past few months I’ve been using the NRC app on my phone to track runs since I am unable to upload my watch data to the app (long story). So at that point I started my phone app to track the run, but that meant that all the my run insights were off.

But as I said, I chose to focus on the experience and everything around me. And what scenery it was! The start of the race is a road that leads into a demilitarization zone with Jordan. The Dead Sea was on either side of the road, and up ahead was Jordan. The Dead Sea is quite blue and I had to remind myself the white formations in the water and underneath my feet was in fact salt and not snow. The salt proved hard to run on. I spent much of this portion and later on in the race trying to find the most hard-packed ground (so I wove around the course a bit) so that I would have to work less on stabilization.

The route eventually become more of a gravel road, and then packed dirt. We turned to the right and went out and back, and the terrain was much more difficult than I’d anticipated since I’m a road runner. Perhaps I should’ve worn trail runners after all.

There were water stations but as I was carrying water I didn’t stop. it was disappointing to see that plastic water bottles were what were used (something that I noted in the Istanbul Marathon as well). From what I saw, there was no electrolyte drinks offered on the course.

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The route eventually (around the 15k mark) turned to go back towards land, and this is when I spotted the significant ramp we had to run up before turning left to go back towards where we had started…

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What the–?! I’d been told the route was flat. Since I wasn’t running for time, I walked a portion of the hill, and pretty much whenever I felt like I wanted a break. I took photos, and just soaked up the scenery around me, because it was so much more surreal than I’d expected it to be. It felt like I was running on another planet between the fantastical blue sea and salt and the dry, golden sand surrounding me.

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I was tired and hot and so grateful that I was running 21.1k instead of the marathon. “Running a half with three weeks of running is not a good idea. Don’t let me do this again,” I remember telling myself. The sun was hot and making me sweat a lot the first 16 kilometres or so, but then a cool breeze picked up and I welcomed the chill in the air.

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After  turning off of the ramp, there was a significantly rocky half a kilometre of trail where I found myself wishing for trail shoes, which lead us to the paved promenade along the sea for the rest of the race. I felt like there were fewer runners around me for this section, so really had to push myself mentally to keep going. In the last couple of kilometres, there were  a few spectators cheering and I was grateful for their smiling faces.

Finally (finally!) before I realized it, the finish line was in front of me. I forced myself to spring the last few metres and finished just behind the man who ran balancing a pineapple on his head (yes, he ran a half balancing a pineapple and was faster than me!). See my fist pumping to the right!

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I took me ages to get my race time (I was having trouble navigating the results on the site), but the race director emailed me that my time was 2:08:10 (not sure if that’s chip or gun time) and I finished 71st in my category and 136th out of all the women (I don’t know how many total ran the race, though since I can’t navigate the results). I’m perfectly happy with my time given I was running it with three weeks of getting back into running and I took it easy for the experience.

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I grabbed some snacks (pita, hummus, some incredible oranges, and halva) and grabbed a seat on a chaise longue on the beach. It was breezy but I had no idea where bag check was nor if my bag was there (one of the contacts hosting us had taken my bag…and it turns out she brought it back to the hotel, which was of no help given I was chilly after the race). I took a few photos, ran into another one of the women from our media group and we walked back to the hotel together to have breakfast at the buffet.

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That afternoon, I went to explore the beach (the salty shores are magical) and took a dip in the water. A quick dip since it wasn’t hot out, but I wanted to experience this healing water that makes you so incredibly buoyant. Did it help with recovery, I’m not sure, and I’m not sure if running at 430 metres below sea level helped improve my performance, but I definitely noticed the salty air as I had a nice thin layer of salt all over me after the race.

I wrote about the race for iRun, you can check out my piece here. I knew the Dead Sea Half-Marathon would be a special race, but I didn’t realize how surreal and how incredible it would be until I completed it. It’s definitely one I would add to your bucket list if destination races are your thing, with the huge plus that you can also visit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem after the race; Tel Aviv has secured a spot as one of the best cities I’ve ever visited (some of the best food I’ve had, plus beaches and culture and markets!).

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Leave a Comment March 27, 2020

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