Monday, 18 November 2013

Richmond HM race report

This story starts with a forgotten Garmin. We had just started our 1000 km trek to Richmond (literally just went around the block) when I realized I forgot it. Turned around, got it and shoved it in the front pocket of my suitcase. 

The forecast on race day called for the showers overnight to be clearing by the morning. During my stumble to the hotel lobby in search of coffee, it was still raining. 

My husband's 8K started at 7 am, so the plan was to leave at 6:15 and find some breakfast beforehand. As we tried to leave the hotel, we had a hell of a time getting out..WHAT? the race goes right by the hotel? So breakfast-acquiring time turned into try-to-navigate-the-road-closu
res time. Then OH SHIT I FORGOT MY GARMIN! There was no way we were going to try to make our way through the road closures again, so it was apparent that I would have to race Garmin-less. We got to the race start and miraculously found a parking spot a very short walk from the start line. At this point it was pouring rain. I was thankful for my space blanket, which kept my body mostly dry as I headed off to find Mitzi, who was at a hotel a few blocks away. Thankfully there was a Starbucks, and I bought coffee cake and finished it about 30 min before race start. Usually I finish breakfast at least an hour before a race and have lots of time to digest beforehand. The hotel was filled with runners and I couldn't help noticing that in general the women were dressed far nicer than at Canadian races, lots of colourful skirts and cute socks. 

Upon hearing that I forgot my Garmin, Mitzi was nice enough to let me wear hers and even change the settings to metric so I wouldn't have a nervous breakdown from seeing my empty wrist and having to pace in miles. I went to the side to drop off my space blanket and a last minute bush stop at the exact moment they called for our corral to move up. OMG! where was Mitzi? fortunately she is super tall so I was able to spot her in the crowd. 

The race plan was to run 5:40/k and then gun it on the downhill for a finish just under 2 hours. 

The first 10K of the race was uneventful. Light rain on and off. I was wearing my dollar store socks for arm sleeves and was a bit warm, but not warm enough to want to toss them. Ran past the hotel and I wished for the millionth time that I had the superpower to mentally summon the Garmin from my suitcase. 

10K split - 56:05. 

The course had occasional mild rolling hills that were not bad at all, but probably due to eating the breakfast cake later than usual, I was feeling mildly nauseous. Took a 10 second walk break and a couple kms later took another walk break, after which I told Mitzi that I didn't care about sub 2, I just wanted to run an easy pace, not feel like crap, and enjoy myself. 

Then something strange and miraculous happened. After I gave myself permission to slow down, the nausea subsided and sub 2 pace suddenly felt manageable. 

The grand finale: 

(stolen from Richmond Marathon FB page) 

Have you ever seen a finish quite like this? For the locals reading this, it would be the equivalent of running down Chedoke. 500 m of nearly uncontrolled ass over teakettle running and then trying to screech to a halt at the bottom. 
Flying down the final hill. Weeeeeeeeeee!!!!!! 

Mitzi and I at the finish. HM #15 complete. See I wasn't lying when I said she's really tall. Or maybe I'm a midget. 

Official chip time: 1:59:03 
Pace: 5:39/kilometer 
Field Placement: 2441/7740 (31.5%) 
Age group: 35 – 39 
Group Placement: 190/744 (25.5%) 
Gender Placement: 1116/5024 (22.2%) 

But the real purpose of this trip was to meet up with my fellow supermoms, an amazing group of women that I've known for 3+ years. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Road2Hope HM race report

So doing 3 half marathons in 6 weeks (4 total in fall 2013) seemed like a good idea at the time.. 

After all, I was only racing 2 of them! Except that those 2 were 2 weeks apart. 

Fresh off my Scotia non-PR, I got caught up with a lot of people returning to their gym routines, threw down 2 quality strength workouts and 1 week post Scotia, my legs were still not recovered. 

Ran the bare minimum in the week leading up to R2H, getting a bit tired of the old weather forecast stress, compound that with dropping race day temps that led to frantic group messages flying around FB: 

"skirt or crops?" "long sleeve or short?" "I need to find throwaways, AGGGH!" 

The skirt brigade once again carpooled to the race, Sam scored a really sweet parking spot steps from the finish line and caught the bus up the start. One of my gloves fell out of my pocket during the bus ride and when I panicked, Emma had picked it up for me. I also left my sunglasses on a bench in Nathan Phillips Square after Scotia and Emma picked those up for me too. Clearly I have my shit together. 

I'm not sure if it was the change in start venue or if there were more participants since the last time I ran R2H in 2011, but the community centre was absolutely packed. I was trying to find my friend Brandon - he described himself as a tall skinny white guy, super easy to find at a race ;) - in the mob. Krista Duchene walked by us camped out in the hallway and I was too starstruck to ask for a picture. Went into the gymnasium, where the runners sitting, lounging, stretching on the floor instantly reminded me of the hospital scene in Gone With The Wind: 


After shedding our super sexy throwaway gear and clambouring up the muddy slope to the driveway, the race started. I loved how the pacer signs had balloons on them, they were so easy to spot! Emma, Amy and I started right behind the 1:50 pacer. Surprisingly, the crowd thinned out very quickly, aggressive weaving wasn't really necessary. 

5:13, 5:15, 5:09, 5:12, 5:16 

I had a custom pace band from tazrunning, a site recommended by my friend Jessica. The plan was to run the Red Hill VERY aggressively, and maintain around a 5:18/km pace the rest of the way. So we were a bit fast... 

4:56, 4:46, 4:58, 5:08, 5:20 

We turned on the firepower heading down the ramp onto the Red Hill. We were aiming for anything faster than 4:55/km. Hit an unofficial 10K PR (51:11). Then inexplicably, the really slow 2K. It felt fast still, but I think the combo of the headwind and the highway flattening out at the bottom caused the slowdown. At this point, we were still ahead of the 1:50 pacer, who was supposed to be running even splits. 

5:16, 5:19, 5:26, 5:05, 5:28, 5:30 

Coming off the Red Hill was the part I'd been dreading the most: the trail. I don't mind the weird bricks they have lining the road during long runs, but the angle of the hill plus the bricks makes it a real momentum killer during races. The only silver lining was that the bottleneck that I was worried about didn't materialize, despite the narrow path. Don't remember why those 2 splits were so of them I took an 8 second walk break and then probably the wind got annoying, we lost the 1:50 pacer. There was a girl who wanted to latch on to us and have a conversation, but I guess she thought we were bitches, since none of us were exactly running at a conversational pace. Saw a guy with a very large hole in the butt area of his tights, that was a bit of a distraction. 

5:19, 5:21, 5:20, 5:09, 4:59 

Home stretch, coming into super familiar beach path territory. Most of this section I was chasing Emma and Amy but Amy, having WAY fresher legs than Emma and I, made a break and was a few metres ahead. At one point, she looked back and Emma and I screamed, "GOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" At this point, I knew sub 1:50 was out of reach, but damned if I was going to let stupid mental games deprive me of a PR. With 1K to go, I was thankful that it wasn't an uphill like at Scotia and again I remembered my track workouts and dug in. I didn't even notice the collapsed runner being resuscitated just steps from the finish. 

Official chip time: 1:51:10 
Field Placement: 631 / 1750 (36.1%) 
Age group: 35 – 39 
Group Placement: 53 / 148 (35.8%) 
Gender Placement: 242 / 1005 (24.1%) 

So...I will rethink my race plans next year, as I am certain that I could have achieved sub 1:50 had I not raced Scotia 2 weeks prior. I am not too upset over not having punched my card to magical Corral C at ATB, as I know I'll have Amy and Emma to keep me company with the masses in the open corral. 

Burlington Skirt Brigade + Nicole, post race. 

One more race in 2013 - Richmond HM on November 16th! It will be a relief to run easy after these 2 races. 

And a footnote - I usually am not hungry after long races (weird, I know) but I was staaaaaaaaaaarving yesterday. 

This burger is called the Slum Cat Millionaire - Grilled eggplant, tomato, red onion & curry mayo. And a side of POUTINE. And a Caesar. It disappeared in less than 15 minutes.

Monday, 21 October 2013

2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront HM race report

I feel like I've come full circle, STWM was my first half, waaaay back in 2008. This was the first half I've actually trained for since that one, all of my other HMs have been part of full marathon training. 

I noticed that the weather pattern was identical to Oakville a month ago - horrible downpour on expo Saturday, and miraculously clearing on race morning. 

Met up with the DM crew pre-race, everyone else went off to bag check and that left Emma and I with Dan, her brother and Barb to enjoy the swanky secret bathrooms. 

The plan was to run 5:20/k for a small PR. 

The start (5:45, 5:24, 5:16, 5:12, 5:13, 5:02) 

Got in the corral, but woke up seriously dehydrated so I had chugged a large amount of Gatorade + water along with coffee and that along with nerves made me have to take a last minute potty break while O Canada was playing. First couple kms were slow due to the crowd, but we hit a significant downhill stretch at 4K and made up the time. 

Lakeshore (5:21, 5:18, 5:24, 5:22, 5:18, 5:23, 5:15, 5:19, 5:27) 

I honestly don't remember much of this. The pace didn't feel bad, but I was focusing inwardly, stay relaxed, good form. I was so focused that I didn't even notice if anyone was wearing a particularly hideous outfit. Cheered for the elite Canadian women as they went by and looked for Sam/Kenny/Nicole but I think they passed right at a point where the road split off into a wider V. The final split was the hill at Jameson, which has killed me at previous races (40K of Goodlife FM 2012) so I just took it at even effort. Didn't even remember running over the 10K timing mat, but Emma tells me we hit it just as I yelled out a split. 

The final stretch (5:22, 5:28, 5:24, 5:35, 5:12, 6:38, 4:00) 

The most memorable and horrible thing that happened was my water bottle falling out of my belt, not once, but TWICE at 19K. Both times I stopped and went back to get it, and I could have let Emma go, but I was determined to finish with her. I sprinted right on the Lakeshore overpass hill (ow ow ow), mustered every last bit of energy I had left and screamed, "EMMA! I'M RIGHT BEHIND YOU!" and managed to pull even. Saw Paul around 19K and barely managed a wave. 

The final kilometer is a very mild uphill. It is brutal on spent legs. The first part is the tunnel that screwed up my satellites big time, hence the 6:38 split. I remember briefly glancing down and seeing 5:0x, even though it felt like running through molasses. Of course my legs wanted to give up and my brain wanted to give up like I had on so many fast training runs this cycle. But somehow I remembered my track workouts and pushed through even when I wanted to die. 

Garmin go cuckoo! Stupid tunnel and downtown buildings. I couldn't go that fast even with a rocket strapped to my butt. 

So this is the fastest half marathon I've run in 2 years and although not a PR, it somehow felt like a PR as this was a good test of my fitness on a "normal" difficulty (not downhill) course. 

My next HM is in 2 weeks, it is the downhill course and I will see if I can finally better my time. 

Official chip time: 1:53:56 
Field Placement: 2939 / 10103 (29.1%) 
Age group: 35 – 39 
Group Placement: 135 / 777 (17.4%) 
Gender Placement: 890 / 5363 (16.6%)

Monday, 6 May 2013

2013 Mississauga Marathon race report

This PR was a LONG time coming. 

Almost 2 years and 4 marathons ago, I set the goal to break 4:15. A short history: 

Chicago Marathon (fall 2011) - extremely hot conditions on race day forced me to abandon my PR attempt. 
Goodlife Toronto Marathon (spring 2012) - PR'd, 4:15:11. 
Niagara Falls International Marathon (fall 2012) - fatigue and other factors caused me to have a horrible race. 

This training cycle went extremely well. Paces that used to be puke-inducing suddenly became easy, and I ran over 50 miles during peak week, also a record. 

Remembering what a few hours of shopping did to my legs, I was a bit worried because my SIL's wedding was on Friday night, 2 days prior to the race. I tried to stay off my feet as much as I could, but I did dance for several hours (not nonstop) in 5" stripper heels. 

Saturday I took it REALLY easy. I had originally planned a carb loading pasta dinner but for various reasons no one could make it and I decided to have the exact same dinner that I had before ATB: a green salad with italian dressing, lobster mac & cheese, and a Caesar. Hey, it worked last time, right? 

Race day I got up early enough to have breakfast and finish my coffee, but not enough time to let the coffee work its magic, if you know what I mean. 
Daily Mile friends pre-race. 

I was shivering at the start but not 1 km in, I knew we were going to be in for a hot race. It felt hot in the sun even though the temperature was only 10C. I stuck firm to my small goal of sub 4:15, despite easy/long runs getting a LOT faster the last couple months of the training cycle. Sam and I were supposed to run with our friend Phil, but couldn't find him at the start. 

I don't think this is going to be one of those race reports with excruciating detail. We made every effort to not go out too fast, the first half is more steeply downhill, so we took the downhills a bit faster but not too much. Fell to the old race pastime of making fun of other people's outfits. (black and white striped capris? jacket and tights on a super warm spring day? flappy yoga pants? REALLY?!) Hit the half in 2:02:54, lots of wiggle room for sub 4:15. 

We had run the last 33K of the course on a training run, and again, knowing what was coming on the course was so helpful. Saw Phil on an out and back portion, he looked to be a few minutes ahead of us. Rolling hills from about 26K to the finish. Saw a guy cutting corners and it made me so mad. Here's the TMI part: suddenly the coffee did a number on my gut and I yelled "SHART!" to Sam and dove into a bush, fortunately we were in a park and not a residential neighbourhood. Turned my Garmin off out of habit and lost about 200 m but it actually ended up making my splits line up with the km markers again so it didn't bother me too much. 

The last 6-7 kms has always been my biggest problem mentally, and it was so helpful to have Sam pull me along. We both pulled each other along. She'd walk, I'll yell at her, and we'd keep going. The uphills were slow but there were just enough downhills to stretch things out and keep it from being agony. There were a lot of death marchers and passing those people energized me. We were still on pace for maybe a sub-4:10 but I tried not to think about it. Just being under 4:15 was enough. 

This was past 35K and we were dying..somehow we didn't look like it though. I had this calf cramp where my calf would knot up and I'd sort of trip and miss a step but not bad enough to make me stop, plus it would die back down pretty quickly. 
Hit Lakefront Promenade, finally and came up to a familiar figure, Phil around 41K. I don't remember exactly what he was saying, but I think it was somthing about not feeling great. "Phil?" I said, "just SHUT UP AND RUN!" At this point I was a couple steps back from Sam and Phil and the calf cramps were coming more frequently. My hands and head were buzzing in the way they do when I am red-zoning it and I didn't have any more in me.
Thanks for obscuring my face, Phil. 

Now that it is over and done, I am annoyed that my bush stop was probably what cost me sub 4:10. The thing that I am ecstatic about is that there was only ONE crappy km (35K - 6:23) during the entire race. Considering my planned pace was 5:55/km, a few kms in the 6:0x range were perfectly acceptable. I do feel like I have conquered a HUGE mental hurdle when it comes to marathons, and I'm almost tempted to run a fall marathon, but I have already set the goal to race a fast half in the fall, because I really hate doing the epic long runs in the summer heat. 

Marathon #8 for me, #1 for Sam. 


Official chip time: 4:10:28.30 
Pace: 5:57 / kilometer 
Field Placement: 456 / 851 (53.6%) 
Age group: 30 – 39 
Group Placement: 47 / 98 (48%) 
Gender Placement: 153 / 352 (43.5%) 

Monday, 25 March 2013

Around the Bay 30K 2013 race report

Where did we leave off last year?

A drug-addled 2:50:49..fell short of my ultimate goal of sub 2:50, although I did manage a 4 minute PR. 

Fast forward a year.. 

I have a bunch of new running partners, 2 more marathons under my belt, and a few bad races that left me wondering about my ability to bring mental toughness on race day. 

Anyways, every March, ATB seems to be a huge confidence booster for me. This was the first trip around Hamilton Harbour for Sam, she might be faster than me, but I have the experience. 

Race morning, Sarah, Emma, Sam and I got a drive from Marina. Got to Copps nice and early and said hi to a bunch of Daily Mile peeps, including Paul, Robin, Nicole, Richard, Spatula Ali. 

Decided to take one more bathroom break before heading outside only to find a HUGE traffic jam in the concourse. Sam and I had just gotten in the corral, I was about to adjust my shoe and we were both about to take off our sexy throwaway gear when the horn went off. I threw off my sweatshirt and took off, covered with gray lint balls on my black top. I also had a throwaway water bottle to wash down my pre-race pretzels, but decided to hang onto it for the first little while. 

Last year, my average pace was 5:41/km, so the pre-race plan was to run 5:35/km. The race elevation calls for a slight positive split, so after we started, Sam suggested we run 5:30/km for the first 10K and and see what happened. 

splits kms 1-10 - 5:30, 5:33, 5:34, 5:32, 5:36, 5:34, 5:29, 5:32, 5:22, 5:32 

After awhile, my left shoulder (which I messed up in that ST accident almost 2 years ago) started feeling funky again. The old injury was exacerbated during my recent HM pacing gig, holding a sign for 21.1K isn't good for your upper body! I saw Beth cheering and threw my bottle at her. It was so much easier to run with both arms! 

Just before the 10K point, there is a rail crossing. There is a local marathon that used to go down the same street (course has since been changed) and a couple years ago, a train went by through the race and caused major havok. The unthinkable happened yesterday, the red lights started going off and the train arms started to lower just as Sam and I approached the crossing. "RUN LIKE HELL!!!!!" screamed Sam and we took off. We were almost the last ones to make it across the tracks (the arms were already fully lowered) before the train came. 

splits kms 11-20 - 5:40, 5:34, 5:35, 5:36, 5:32, 5:36, 5:37, 5:38, 5:38 

Heading into the hilly portion, my race strategy has always been the same: run the hills with even effort, ride the downhills. Last year, this was the point where I developed a calf cramp and had to stop and stretch. Sam was struggling at this point due to stomach problems, and we only walked for a few seconds through every other water station. The water stations did not line up with my planned gel breaks, so I was running a lot of the time with a gooped up, dry mouth. 

splits kms 21-30 - 5:35, 5:48,5:43, 5:51, 5:40, 5:21, 5:49, 5:41, 5:35, 5:27 

Hmmm, I didn't think we slowed down that much, but the splits tell another story. This can definitely be improved next year! This section of the course is pretty much flat/downhill except for the infamous Valley Inn hill at km 25.5-26. It was not my best trip up the hill, but at least my calves were not screaming and I always find it motivating to pass people who have slowed to a trudge. I was DETERMINED not to walk at the top of the hill - that walk plus the calf stretch was what cost me the sub 2:50 last year. Sam stopped to walk and I kept running, not a very fast run, mind you..but better than walking! 

Sam somehow caught up with me and a mental check showed that we were still on pace. As per the plan, we didn't push the pace until 28K, when Copps was in view. 

This race was the confidence booster I needed, and although I am extremely happy with the result, in a way I am still bummed because it leaves me wondering even more why I can run 30K so well and yet unable to break 4:15 in the marathon.. 

Official chip time: 2:48:56 
Pace: 5:38 / kilometer 
Field Placement: 2651 / 6848 (38.7%) 
Age group: 30 – 34 
Group Placement: 137 / 369 (37.1%) 
Gender Placement: 835 / 2737 (30.5%)