Tag: race recap

Fitness Swellness: 3 reasons I’m anxious about the 2018 Chicago Marathon

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I’m about nine weeks into training for the Chicago Marathon and why’s it taken so long to post about this? Well, in part because training takes up a lot of time (leaving little time to blog…) and because I’m pretty nervous about this race.

This time around marathon training snuck up on me. A few months ago I’d talked to Nike Canada (one of the race’s sponsors) to explore whether running this race again would be possible (I ran it last year and in 2014) . Before I knew it, the race was three months away and boom, I met with Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran, and I had a three-month training schedule and had to kick things into high gear immediately.

For my personalized training plan, Brittany chatted with me about how I’ve trained thus far for the 11 marathons I’ve done, and asked me about my goals for this race. My goals (A, B and C) are all to PB.

When Nike sent me a magnet detailing my three months of training, with my goals boldly printed on the top, I started hyperventilating. Seeing it in print, with an intense schedule of training, well, shit just got real. I texted a few friends “Goodbye, see after October 7!” since it appeared I’d be doing nothing but running for the next three months.

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When I had a chance to have a more careful read of the training plan, I realized it wasn’t that much more in terms of frequency than my training last year. Brittany’s training plan has me running mostly five days a week. She’s made some of the recovery runs longer than the ones I added in 2018. She also has my longest run, this week, at a distance of 34k (up from the usual 32k distance I’ve done in the past). In addition, she’s made some of them a little tougher (a few of the long runs, I’m to pick up the pace at the end, for example).

I’m very much a realist when it comes to most things. Perhaps that makes me approach things with less of a lofty, optimistic view, but that’s just how I think I’ve been wired. Is this a Capricorn thing?

In any case, my A-goal is to PB with a time that will guarantee I qualify and get into Boston. My B-goal is to meet the BQ standard. C-goal is to marathon PB (my marathon PB is from Chicago 2014).

And here’s the thing: right now, with three weeks to race day, I don’t feel like I can PB. There, I said it.

3 reasons why a PB feels out of reach to me:

  1. I’m basically going from couch to marathon. Typically, I maintain a certain level of running fitness year round, regardless if I have a goal race. But this winter and spring, I ran very sporadically. Then right when I was going to ramp it up and train consistently for the Lululemon 10k race in Toronto, I caught a cold and flu that knocked me out for three whole weeks. Then, finally well enough to run again having recovered from the flu, my eye doctor ordered me not to wear contact lenses for two whole weeks. I’m too nearsighted to run without lenses and running with my glasses would be very uncomfortable and awkward with my prescription so I took those two weeks off of running. Five weeks of no running meant I was a starting from zero. And I still haven’t gotten my strength and pace up again to what I used to run.
  2. My marathon training schedule is three months-long. I usually train using a four-month training plan. It wouldn’t normally be as much of an issue if I were in good shape to train over three months (…but see point #1 above regarding starting from scratch!).
  3. This summer’s brutal heat and humidity has drained me both physically and mentally. It’s been an incredibly hot and sticky summer. I know it affects everyone’s training, but if you’ve ever seen me exercise, I sweat a lot and am miserable when drenched in sweat. The conditions mean my runs are even slower and difficult than ever and I just spend a lot of the run thinking of how unhappy I am in that moment. What have summer weekends consisted of? First I spend a lot of time dreading the long run I have ahead of me and then the rest of the time I am feeling sorry for myself in a pool of my own sweat as I pound the pavement. I even cancelled plans to play tennis one weekend because I’m done with drowning in a pool of my own sweat all the time.

I know this isn’t the optimistic, I-can-do-it post that’s fun to read. But this is what the reality is for me right now. REAL TALK, that’s all the rage now, isn’t it? 

I swear this isn’t just pre-race jitters…I’ve thought this for weeks now, and runs that I think should feel effortless are still hard work.

On the bright side, I have learned a few things and can recognize the silver linings, too, with regards to training for Chicago 2018, and I’ll post about that in Part II of this blog post.

Are you running Chicago this year or another fall marathon? How’s your training going?

 

Leave a Comment September 18, 2018

Fitness Swellness: 2018 Ultra Night Run 10k race recap

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You guys, I’ve found the secret morale booster for when you’re having a really tough season of marathon training:

Run a fun run.

By that I mean a short distance race where the focus is more social; there’s usually a theme (in this case, it’s the #liveultra life) or there may be some costumes involved, for example, or rainbow colours (as in the Color Run). I’m not talking about the often larger in scale races (in Toronto, that’d be the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon or the Sporting Life 10k, as two examples). See, those more conventional races draw the elite runners and serious running folk. Fun runs? You’ll get a small group of dedicated runners, but you’ll mostly get a lot of weekend warriors. Not to diminish less frequent runners who are more drawn to a race by the social aspects; I fully support that, too!

In fact, that’s why being an ambassador for this race was the perfect fit for me, if I may say so myself. I am typically quite committed to my training, but I also don’t have my entire life centred around running. My friends and enjoying good times with them is just as important to me as running marathons. I have a fairly relaxed approach when compared to other marathon runners.

Disclosure: while I am a Michelob Ultra Ambassador for this summer’s race, this post isn’t part of my partnership. I’m posting because, well, I like recapping my races. It helps me to track my training and learn from my races…however…

Let’s get real. The main reason for this recap: so I can not-so-humble brag: I finished 1st in my division, and 8th woman out of 332!

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How did I finish so well in this race? The elite runner types don’t do these fun-run type races, so more moderate runners (like me!) can place high in the race standings. There’s no chance I’d ever finish FIRST in my division in a more serious race.

The race vibe:

As for how Saturday night played out, kudos to Michelob for putting on a great and fun-filled event! There were glow  in the dark bracelets, Brooks had lights to attach to your shoes, and mandatory high-quality headlamps (which I’ll now use for camping!) Along the route, there were a few DJs and a live band or two, along with a few fun displays, like a section lit up in red in the shape of the Michelob ribbon.

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And last but not least, there was the Michelob beer garden at the finish, where my friends and I had a cold beer and hot dogs and bananas (a strange post-race fuel combo!) and a  live band playing (the first song I heard them play? Backstreet Boys “Everybody”! That was the best and funniest thing to happen after the race — I LOVE BSB, in case you’re unaware).

How my 10k race played out:

The temperature had dropped overnight so it was, in my opinion, the perfect running temperature, maybe about 14 degrees (I heat up a lot, and quickly, so I opted to run in a sports bra and shorts, however most people were dressed more warmly). The route through Sunnybrook Park was quite dark,  making it seem a bit dangerous (the path was narrow and there were some fairly sharp turns). This was new running experience to me, I’ve only run one other night race before.

I started in the corral practically right at the start line (the closest I’ve ever been to it ever; my gun time and chip time only differ by four seconds) and I planned to run it as a tempo. My legs were tired going into the race; I’m currently training for the Chicago Marathon, so I’d run all week, including 32k on Thursday night, and 6k on Friday morning. These were not rested legs, whatsoever. I wasn’t expecting or trying to PB, but just ran it comfortably hard. I suppose I could’ve run it “easy” and actually as a “fun run,” but as I explained to my friends Aylin and Anna Lee as we waited for the race to start, I don’t function like that. I put pressure on myself in most scenarios… (I’m type A, what can I say.)

Ultra Night Run with Aylin

I could tell from the start that I was one of the few women in the front of the pack, so that was a bit of motivation to keep my pace going strong.  With everyone’s headlights on, it made for a bit of a blinding glare when you had runners coming towards you so I tried to keep my head down but I inevitably found my eyes drawn to the lights.

I hustled at about an intensity of 7 or 8 out of 10 and completed my race in 49:30, which is a far cry from my 10k PB, but a decent time given my marathon training-weary legs and mind. I finished in 52nd place out of 605 runners, 8th out of 332 women, and 1st out of 93 in my division. As for what I’d have done differently? I’d have brought my earphones for some entertainment as I ran (there were some stretches of the route without entertainment and I like as much of a distraction from the sweaty task at hand as I can have!).

Would I run this race again? Most definitely yes. It’s renewed my optimism for my upcoming races and my enjoyment for running in general. Post-race beer garden hangs with friends and goofy things like flashing lights on your shoes are a refreshing departure from my usual stressed out status when it comes to doing a race, and, well, it’s kinda great to finish in the top 10.

Cheers! See you at the next race! And I’ll post soon about my marathon training!)

pre Ultra Night Run

 

 

 

Leave a Comment September 11, 2018

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

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