Monday, 10 October 2011

Chicago Marathon race report

The weather report called for highs that got progressively warmer each day I checked. I already had it in the back of my head that going for time goals was probably going to be out of the question. 

Even though it wasn't too warm at the start, the moment the race started, I knew going for a PR wasn't going to happen. In fact, I did not WANT to run for time, which is completely unheard of for me. Words cannot describe how unbelievably amazing it was to be part of something so big. Cheering crowds pretty much every step of the way. I was warned that the 2nd half was kind of lonely - well, the "lonely" 2nd half still had more spectators than at the finish line of most Ontario races. There was maybe 500m in the entire race that didn't have someone standing on the sidelines. Many times during the race I got teary eyed seeing so many people out there cheering and supporting the runners. Seriously, if Toronto wants to run a world class marathon, the organizers have a LONG way to go to match Chicago. 

My original plan was to stick with Beth for maybe 10K or so and then pick it up if I felt good. In the early stages, I had to duck off to retie my shoe (heel was rattling around), I almost lost Beth in the crowd and panicked. I really wanted to share this race with my running partner, see the sights and hear the sounds together, it wasn't enough to rehash it later on. So we ran together, at our usual conversational long run pace. The point being, I couldn't even have run my original planned marathon pace even if I wanted to, the course was so packed that sometimes in the really tight spots, there were near collisions. 

I did something new on race day - I didn't wear my fuel belt and relied on water stations for hydration. I can drink on the run pretty well, but the stations were really crowded, and the best way to not lose Beth in the crowd was to walk through. The temps got hotter and hotter - I saw a sign on the course that read 29C - so we walked a lot in the 2nd half because we stopped at almost every water station - but this was totally different from previous marathons in that we were choosing to walk rather than forced to from fatigue. Looked at my Garmin and it had frozen for some reason at 27K - perhaps a sign from the running gods that caring about time/pace was not to be? 

Lots of people with hoses, open fire hydrants, and people passing out ice cubes - a real life saver. 

Saw my friend Melissa at mile 14 - she jumped in and ran with us for a bit - such a nice pick me up, thank you so much for doing that! 

In every previous marathon I'd run, my mind would get the better of me to some extent in the final stages. I was determined to be much stronger this time. After 20 miles, at each mile marker, I would say, "4 miles? You've run 4 miles thousands of times! This is EASY!" and charge past more people death-marching to the finish. But with around 3 miles to go, Beth didn't feel well and started slowing, right when I was feeling like I wanted to run harder to the finish. So I left her finally, I had every intention of running every step with her, something I hadn't done for several years. 

I usually post time/place stats, but it seems silly to do so, considering this race was SO not about that. 4:43:33 - 3rd worst marathon performance (only slower ones was my preggo and debut marathons) but I felt SO STRONG mentally. I am glad that I enjoyed myself. My base goal was to do that and I achieved it 100%. 

This really was the race of a lifetime. I will be back to Chicago again someday. 

full stats: results.public.chicagoma

race day pics:

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Mississauga Marathon race report

The morning of marathon #4 dawned gray and rainy, with the prospect of winds of 35 km/h coming from the northeast. And kilometres 25-42.2 of the course we would be running in, you guessed it, a NE direction. 

I couldn't decide between arm warmers or a jacket the night before, but I went outside this morning wearing the arm warmers, I immediately went back in for the jacket. 

Pre-race planning was a bit tight. Race started at 7:30 and got to the start around 7:10, with a long walk from the parking lot, finding the bag check and then combined with the last bathroom break, Beth and I got into the corral around 7:27. 

One thing that I've been doing lately that's worked REALLY well for me is to take a gel right before the start, but with the rushed start, I completely forgot to take my gel, which was in my checked bag. My breakfast was already more than 2 hours in the past at that point, and I felt "empty." Not a good feeling with 42.2 kms to go, and I needed to save my gummy bears for the actual race. 

The first 10K went by fairly well, there were some long downhills . I used the same strategy as at Around the Bay and Sporting Life 2 weeks ago; I let myself fly downhill as fast as my legs wanted to go. But I couldn't shake that empty feeling and I was really worried that there would be a meeting with The Wall later on. Even though I was eating gummy bears right on schedule, every 7 kms. It was hot and I would have taken off my jacket if I hadn't pinned my bib over the zipper. 

Around 14K, I saw a lovely familiar symbol on a sign. A Spark logo! it was GOEGIRL and she recognized me and we high fived so hard that my hand hurt for quite awhile (sorry! it was still appreciated though) 

Favourite things I saw/heard on the course: 

- a guy (running the race) wearing a shirt that said, RUNNING SUCKS. 

- a guy wearing a shirt that said, 80 year old running Grandpa. 

- there were some people with big speakers on the street playing music. Just as I ran by, the music switched to the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony (Ode To Joy to those of you who are not music nerds). I thought this was hilarious, as I wrote a paper analyzing this symphony in my university days, and remembered that the poem that the choral parts are based on has its roots as a glorified drinking song. 

Made the turn at 25K and into that wind. The rain throughout the race was not bad at all, never more than a light shower, but a headwind in the later stages of a marathon was just murder. I tried to make it to 32K without a walk break, but couldn't do it. I took short walk breaks almost every kilometre but I know from previous experience that walking doesn't make anything feel better, it just makes you finish slower. Also, the wind made it really, really cold and I was finally glad to have chosen the jacket over armwarmers. 

The course is a net downhill but I didn't realize there was at least 10K of rolling hills in that final section. EEEK. Recently I read some advice about hills: "attack a hill like you would a sleeping dragon, not by hacking at its tail, but by attacking its head." This advice turned out to be very helpful. 

For the first time EVER, I considered dropping out..but that would have been cowardly, since there was nothing specifically wrong, I wasn't injured, just feeling "off". The thought that kept me going was the fact that I was still on pace to be sub 4:30, a time I have been chasing since my first marathon back in 2009.

So, running at 40 secs/km off my goal pace, I made my way to the finish. Greg and Bryden were there, I wasn't sure they would come, given the poor weather. My hands were so cold that volunteers had to open and close the zipper of the changing tents at the finish line. I stayed to cheer Beth in, it was her first marathon and I am so proud of her! More than my own performance! While waiting for her, I saw a guy and girl finish. The guy looked really familiar, I saw him in the chute and sure was someone in my program at university. I knew the girl as well, both of them lived on my floor in 1st year. It was their first marathon too. 

I don't think there were any flaws in my training. I know in my heart that given better conditions, I could have run sub 4:15 and that will come in time. 

Official chip time: 4:24:02.5 
Field Placement: 749 / 1093 (68.5%) 
Age group: 30 – 34 
Group Placement: 43 / 71 (60.6%) 
Gender Placement: 256 / 463 (55.3%) 

Monday, 28 March 2011

The race of my life - ATB 2011 race report

The last 2 years, race morning has been gray and rainy. So I was very happy to see sun in the forecast, but cool temps. Normally cool temperatures would not bother me in the least, except this year, I was determined to wear my BADASS MOTHER RUNNER shirt, because it will probably be too warm for long sleeves at my next race. 

I wore a short sleeve and armwarmers under my L/S, with a sweatshirt to sacrifice at the start, skirt + tights on the bottom and I was toasty. I knew I'd be fine once I started running. 

The race starts outside an arena, and everyone uses the seating area to meet up beforehand. I had my Garmin on to see the time. When I walked to the start, I forgot to restart the Garmin...race started and it wasn't until I looked at the Garmin for the first time that I realized I had no satellites!

^^ So that's why my splits are bit wacko at the beginning. 

My race plan, as stated in my last blog, was to run positive splits, assuming slowdown during the hilly sections of the race (approximately kms 17-26). I started out at 5:40/km, half marathon race pace. All I had to do to run sub 3 hours was to keep the pace below 6:00/km. 


At 10K, I was feeling great and even pushed the pace a little. But I always kept those hills in mind. 

15K, still feeling great. I was "supposed" to slow down, but then I thought, "I should just keep this pace for as long as I feel good, I have some time banked and if I slow a bit on the hills, I'll still be on track." 

Hill time. I cannot stress how helpful it was for me to train on the race course at least once a week for the past 2 months. I ran the race course for my long runs, and I ran the hilly section during the week for hill training. Because of this, I knew exactly how hard I wanted to run the hills during the race. I have a tendency to slam up hills, leaving my gasping for breath at the top. 

There are a series of rolling hills, then a bit of flat/downhill, then the Big Hill at 25-26K. I ran this hill before dawn - it is closed to traffic so no street lights - and in January/February when it was snowy and ice covered as well. This is a video of that hill.

After the hill, it is 4K to the finish, mild downhill. But it is important not to get too excited, because after all, it's still 4K, not 400 metres. I felt myself speeding up anyways, but according to my plan, no HARD running until the arena came into view at 28K. 

Amazingly, very few of the runners around me looked to be struggling. We were all running hard, but when I saw that 28K sign, I put the pedal to the metal. 

last 2 km splits: 

Finished just hard enough for it to be challenging and not with that desperate sprint that characterized my first failed attempt at breaking 2 hours in the half last fall. I RAN EVERY STEP OF THE WAY - no walking at water stations or to refuel! 

I will remember this race as an example of having a plan, having everything go right on race day (except for the Garmin screwup) and being able to reach my goals better than I ever imagined. 

A PR by 22 minutes. 

Official chip time: 2:54:12.7 
Field Placement: 2795 / 5878 (47.6%) 
Age group: 30 – 34 
Group Placement: 158 / 405 (39%) 
Gender Placement: 987 / 2915 (33.9%) 

Monday, 14 March 2011

One terrifying run

I basically had the crap scared out of me numerous times this morning. The Cemetery 12 route I ran goes out into semi-rural areas, very few streetlights/houses and of course passes by 5 cemeteries. Well, I didn't have my phone or my little LED light that clips onto my glove. Things that scared me: 

- I guess people burn candles in front of the stones in the cemetery, I'd be passing by and there would be a creepy dull red glow from the glass holder emanating from the stones. 

- thought I saw 2 unleashed dogs with no human nearby (with all my unleashed dog probs lately, you'll understand why I was scared) Turns out they were deer. Obviously, I also need my vision checked. 

- thought I missed a turn on the route and I'd be out in the middle of nowhere with no phone and miles from my car. 

- dropped trou and of course a car went by before I could get my pants back up. 

- stepped off the road when a car passed, and right after it passed, there was an old man standing on the opposite side of the road, I suppose he was out for a walk but I never saw him approaching, so to me he appeared out of nowhere. He said good morning to me and I was all "YOU SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME!" Then I ran off as fast as I could and I freaked myself out further by imagining that he was a talking ghost. If I hadn't had the pit stop 5 min earlier I seriously would have crapped my pants from fear. 

It is now bright and sunny out and it seems very silly typing this out, but trust me, I was absolutely terrified!