Tag: race recap

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: Sporting Life 10k Calgary in support of Starlight Children’s Foundation race recap

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This Saturday was the Sporting Life 10k Calgary race (aka #calgarysfastestroad race). It was my first time running it and I was honoured to run it on behalf of Starlight Children’s Foundation.

I haven’t been training consistently nor done much of any speed or hill training, and with my focus on taking in this race for such a great cause, I intended to run it as a tempo, that is, comfortably hard. Which is just fine by me because for a 10k race you can push yourself to go a lot harder than the distances I usually race (I tend to gravitate to halfs and marathons), and I don’t especially love that feeling that comes with running at a fast pace (as though my heart’s about to explode!).

The weather Saturday morning was just about perfect for a race: about 12 Celsius, which made it a tiny bit brisk to be waiting for the race to start, but thankfully the race started at a transit station so runners were able to wait for the 8 am start in the station or wait in the bus shelters to keep out of the slight breeze.

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The race is smaller in size than ones I have run recently, so the start was quite relaxed; normally you’re shoulder to shoulder in the start chute, but this morning I found myself with plenty of personal space, and instead of being herded toward the start line by being in the  thick of a crowd, I was able to pause and get my music and NRC app started just in time as I crossed the start line.

As with most races, I found myself swept up in the excitement of the race and ran the first two kilometres at a very fast pace for me, but for the remainder my pace fluctuated a lot, partly due to the change in elevation (the race is net downhill, which I prefer, although I know many runners find downhill to be hard on the body). Being a small race, I found it motivating that I felt I could always more or less see the front of the pack.

In terms of race organization, there were two water stations, and kilometre markers at every kilometre (although I admit I did not notice the markers until I got to the 6k marker; I think the flags for all the previous markers must’ve been blowing in a such as a way that I didn’t realize they were the distance markers). There is virtually no entertainment along the route, and very little in terms of spectator support (which made the smiling cop directing traffic and the few cheerers especially appreciated!), so I was happy I had decided to listen to music (however, I always just use one earbud for races so that I can be aware of traffic and runners around me).

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Crossing the finish line as always is a great feeling, and an adorable little girl handed me my medal. In the post-race area, there was a nice variety of fuel (Kind bars, watermelon, Old Dutch chips, Clif Bars) and it’s the first time I’ve seen a PG gong, so fun!

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I ran a 51:32, which is far from a PB for me so I didn’t get to hit that gong but love the concept and wish there were one in some of  races in Toronto! I finished in 232nd place out of 717, 91st out of 431 women, and 19 out of 68 in my category.

I don’t have the final numbers yet, but I believe upward of $15,000 has been raised thus far for Starlight Children’s Foundation. And that’s what’s really important here: raising funds so they can help bring some lightness and joy to the many sick kids they work with.

I was reminded of this at dinner that night after the race, when I checked my Instagram inbox, and saw a message from Heather, the mom of the ambassador family for this race (you can find her with all of her truly inspiring positivity on Instagram @happilyheath). I unfortunately saw Heather’s message well after the race (or else I’d have made plans to meet IRL that morning), but I got to reading about her daughter Evelyn on her Instagram, and Evelyn’s recently just had a shift in her cancer treatment plan. Looking at her smiling photo, well, it certainly puts life into perspective and I’m inspired by how courageous she is. She’s been through much too much for her age, and I’m grateful that Starlight Children’s Foundation exists to provide experiences that allow her to be a kid, in the middle of so many tests at the hospital and the endless series of treatments.

If that sounds like a cause you’d like to support, consider sponsoring a runner (you can still do so now even though the race is over; this is my fundraising page but there are also several hundred runners you can support!).

Thank you Starlight for asking me to take part in this race and for the work that you do!

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Leave a Comment June 21, 2019

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?

 

1 Comment September 18, 2018

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