Tag: running

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

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

Fitness Swellness: 2019 Global Energy Race recap

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This Sunday, I ran the Dempster’s Global Energy Race (GER) for the third year in a row and as always, I had so much fun, and managed to run a GER 10k PB!

My race plan

I went into it planning to run it as comfortably hard a pace that I thought I could maintain for 10k. I don’t enjoy that feeling of my heart feeling like it’s going to explode, and my focus is training for the Detroit Marathon and Istanbul Marathon so my plan was to run it fast but not so fast that I felt too awful. I knew going into the race that I’d have run 29k on Friday as per my marathon training schedule, and my legs would be tired (and they were). So the plan was always to run it with some effort, but not full out. This race is so family-friendly and chilled out, I was really more keen on just having a fun morning with my friends there and running a decent time.

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Hello, race day!

The route, from memory, was slightly different this year; they shortened the part of the route in the “peanut” (I used to run in the Beaches and this is what the curvy path in Ashbridges Bay was nicknamed thanks to the shape of the route if looking at it from above) and instead they extended the route going out east and back along the path and boardwalk to the start/finish line. As for the weather, would you believe I didn’t check the temp? That’s how relaxed I was about this race. It was overcast and probably in the high 20s if you factored in the humidity (I didn’t check the weather in the morning but in the late afternoon, it was 32C with the humidity) and we had some drizzle for maybe 10 minutes of the race, which was a nice cool relief from the heat.

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What was my finish time?

I did not run a 10k PB, but I wasn’t aiming for one as I mentioned above. I’m realistic. I know I’m not as fit as I was in 2015 (which remains my 10k PB). My focus is my two fall marathons. While I didn’t reach the goal I had in mind (which was a sub-50 min) but I did finish 9 seconds faster than last year, even with the warmer conditions. (As an aside, I don’t think I can even really ever factor in my 2017 GER race as that day was ridiculously hot and humid on top of the fact, I was extremely under the weather with a cold.)

Even with what I consider a modest time of 50:10, that time ranks me 14th women to finish out of 263, and 61st out of 528 runners in the 10k race. And I’m happy enough with that.

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The Global Energy Race is perhaps one of the best stocked in terms of food: hot dogs, burgers, apples, oranges, coffee, ice cream, chips, granola bars. I devoured a Klondike ice cream cone and drank some coffee as we watched the race winners hit the stage (congrats Brittany Moran!) and the 3k race start. If you’ve got kids, the 3k race is a great race in which you can run or walk together, plus there are loads of lawn games to entertain the kiddos pre- and post-race.

After the race, my friends and I went straight to brunch to celebrate our morning well spent: we’d run 10k and in the process, helped in a great cause: for every kilometre completed, Dempster’s will be donating two slices of bread to the North York Harvest Food Bank.

Thank you Dempster’s for the opportunity to help promote this race and cause (I did partner with Dempster’s on this sponsored blog post promoting the race ICYMI). The race has become an annual tradition I look forward to!

Now, back to marathon training, it’s peak training week!

Leave a Comment September 24, 2019

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