Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Very Late Race Report

I did not exactly stay idle during my year-long blogging hiatus. 

My Garmin tells me I've run exactly 1,396.3 km in the last 12 months.  Remove a couple bicycle rides that were entered as runs, and add some winter treadmill runs and the odd time I ran sans GPS, I'm guessing the number is closer to 1,600km or 1,000 miles.

November was pretty quiet, but as December rolled in, I started getting the itch... Santa must have guessed what was on my mind because I found these in my stocking:

It did not take me long to sign up for another marathon!

I had once decided that I would not run the same marathon twice, the reason being I was not going to run that many marathons in my lifetime, so, why not take the opportunity to see new places?  Hmmm... interesting concept, but one which could get expensive when running more than one per year.  So I decided to sign up for the Fredericton Marathon, for the second time in two years.  And here is my late marathon report, from May 7, 2016.

Race Report - Fredericton Marathon

What's not to love about the Fredericton Marathon? It's a great course that mostly takes place on a flat crushed gravel trail, along the Nashwaak River.  It is mostly an out-and-back course which you do twice.

The race starts at Queen Square Park, a short walk from downtown.  It is worth mentioning that  there are lots of portable toilets at the start line!  We all know how important that is!

The first half starts with a short loop around the downtown core, then you head over the Saint John River on the old railroad bridge.  Getting on and off that bridge is pretty much the only "hill" you will encounter.  I use quotation marks here, because for all intents and purposes, the route is pancake flat.  Then, the course is an out-and-back on a beautiful trail.  There are a few roads to cross, but all of them have volunteers directing traffic.  Things get tough when you come back from the first half, side by side with the half marathoners.  While they enter the finishing chute (same place as the start line) you just run right past it and do a small loop around the park where other runners are congratulating themselves on a job well done.  Psychologically, that is pretty hard.  And because the small loop around the park is shorter than the one you did at the beginning of the first half, this means the second time you hit the trail, you actually have to go further than the first time around.  Some people find it very difficult, others like the fact of knowing where you are going, having done it once. but either way you slice it, 42.2km is 42.2km...

The field is small enough that it is not too crowded and yet, you are never completely alone.  The race is well organized, water is plentiful, and all the volunteers are enthusiastic.
My initial goal when I signed up had been to improve on my BQ to increase my chances of getting into Boston.  This said, I had not trained as well throughout the winter as I had for the PEI marathon.  I completed all of my long runs, but cut corners on some of the shorter runs and neglected the speed training, so I knew the PR was not going to happen.  When I showed up on race morning, I was hoping for another BQ (3:55 in my case), or, at the very least, under 4:00.

The weather was perfect, and the legs felt good as I started.  I had to make a couple pit stops, but for the most part, I was having a great race and finished the first half in 1:56:01.  I held on to that pace for the next 10k or so, but then, it happened.  I did not exactly hit the wall - my energy level was actually quite good - but I felt like a couple bricks had decided to attach themselves to my lower legs.  Feet were throbbing, ankles weren't working, and I knew the last quarter of the race was going to be painful.  That's when a former colleague, a first time marathoner who had listened to people's advice to start slow passed me, barely breaking a sweat. (She ended up finishing 8 minutes ahead of me).

Somehow, I managed to move my heavy feet and make it to the finish line, with a couple extra walking breaks towards the end.  I got a bit of a boost just before the end when I saw my middle son waiting to run next to me to run 100m of the last 200m with me, before I went through the finish chute.  I did not meet my initial goal - nor my revised one - but I finished in a respectable 4:03:45.

Blurry picture courtesy of the fog on the camera lens
Despite the bricks-attached-to-legs syndrome, I was actually able to walk and had enough energy to walk back to my room - about a kilometer up a hill (!). 

It was a tough one, and not my best, but nevertheless a great race. Back home, my husband had my favourite post-marathon meal ready for me: ribs and mashed potatoes.  They always go down well after 42.2k.

And that is my Fredericton marathon report, 5 months late.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I Got Quoted by Hal Higdon !

I am a big Hal Higdon fan. 

Many years ago when my colleague (whom I will refer to as "Jelly") walked into my office and convinced me to run a marathon, the training program she found was Hal Higdon's Novice 1 Marathon training plan.  That was my first introduction to Hal.

I have since read a few of his books, and used his training plans, often adapting them based on his advice.  Like thousands of runner, I follow his Facebook page, and occasionally, I comment.  Last year, in preparing a revised edition of his revised third edition of his book Run Fast, Hal asked his followers to tell him about their experience with a breakthrough or performance jump.  I replied without thinking much about it.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, doing some "cleaning up" on my messenger account.  What do I find there, unopened?  A message from Hal Higdon himself, from last year, letting me know he wanted to quote me in his book!  Darn!  I thought I'd missed my chance.  I wrote him to apologize for my lack of response and told him I would have been honoured.  Turns out he quoted me anyway!

So I ordered the Run Fast, and just received my copy today.  Sure enough, there's my name, at the bottom of page 59.  What`s my quote?  You'll have to read the book ;)

I got quoted by Hal Higdon.  Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Back Blogging and Boston Bound

Well, that was quite the blogging hiatus.  Kids, work, life in general and actual running got in the way, as it will again.  And when it does, I will make the same choice again to set aside this little blog and put my time on the more important stuff.

I also got bogged down, not quite knowing in which direction to take this blog.  Training log?  Inspiration?  Random thoughts?  All that time, the conclusion was obvious... I will write whatever I want and not worry about who`s reading.

So anyway, I`ve got some news.

some BIG news.

Some SUPER BIG news.

It came in the form of an email from these guys...

2017 Boston Marathon

and it read "This is to notify you that your entry into the 121st Boston Marathon on Monday, April 17, 2017 has been accepted, ..."

The wait for this email was almost unbearable.  The qualifying time for my age group was 3:55, and I had a little bit of a cushion with my 3:51:04 (3 minutes 56 seconds, to be exact), but one never knows.  I was on the right side of the cut-off time - I can't even imagine what it feels to miss the cut-off by a few seconds.  I was coming back from a run when the notifications were sent (I forced myself not to take the phone with me) and when I got back, well, there may have been some screaming and jumping up and down in my office.  Someone thought I had won the lottery.  I am pretty sure I would not have been any happier if I had!

The official training does not start until late November, but I know what I am doing until then.  I am getting back into shape, solidifying my base training, getting my long runs in, and doing some hill training.  What a ride this is going to be!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Post-Marathon Blues

I'm really feeling it this week.  I'm talking about the post marathon blues.

After the build up to the marathon, the elation of finishing and earning my BQ, I spent the first week riding the post marathon wave.

First, a 5k lunch hour run with my running partners to share my stories, then another 5k while on a business trip out of town, and finally a successful 5k trail race on Sunday.

Since then, nothing.

I know it's only Thursday and it's not unusual for me to have a two or three day break.  What is unusual is that I have no desire to put on my running shoes and go for a run.

There are no more race on my 2015 calendar, and the weather is turning cold, which makes it hard to get motivated or, more to the point, easy to say "I'll just run tomorrow" and have a bowl of potato chips instead.

Thankfully, my running partner and I are meeting tomorrow for a lunchtime run.  I am really dreading it, but I am hoping I'll feel good about it after I start, or at the very least, once it's over.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Last Race Of The Season

I spent last week in marathon recovery mode.  I got a massage, did yoga, and ran two gentle 5km runs.

Friends of mine were getting ready to run a half marathon yesterday at our last local MEC race of the season (the MEC races are a series of no-frills race that generally take place on trails and offers several distances from 5k to 15 or 21.1k).  It was tempting!  I was in no shape to do a half, or even a 10k but I could run a 5km no problem.  I would "take it easy", I thought.

I did not register ahead of time - giving me the option to go back to bed if I woke up to crappy conditions, but the weather turned out to be a perfect, crisp, fall day so I got up, had a quick breakfast and drove to beautiful Shubie Park (Dartmouth Nova Scotia) where I signed up for the 5km.

The first km went like a charm - feeling good.  Here I am - bib 79076 - with fresh legs...

Pictures used with permission (as long as I leave the watermark)

I started feeling my calves and quads not too long after that.  I vaguely thought "this is not a good idea" but I kept running anyway, without pushing it too much, but still... What's the point of racing if you are not going to push it a bit?  I could have run a slow training run from home if I did not want to race.

So anyway, I was not shooting for a PR, but I was still running fairly intensely.  As I approached the turn-around point, I saw the first woman on her way back, then the second (actually a girl who could not have been more than 10 or 11 years old), and then... no one.  I was the third woman at the turn around point!  Yay me!

So I kicked it up a notch, and tried to maintain my third place (that little girl was quite ahead of me).

Pictures used with permission (as long as I leave the watermark)

The legs are definitely tired here, but this is the last turn before the finish line, so I am very determined!

I said before that this is a no-frills event.  That means no t-shirts, no participation medals... the only way to get a medal is to place in the first three.  Well, I got my bling today:

I was initially tempted to downplay this accomplishment.  There's a little voice that says things like:
  • 25:32 is far from my PR
  • there were only 54 runners in the race
  • most faster runners were doing other distances
  • in other races, this time would have put me in the middle of the pack
  • etc. etc.

But the truth is, speed is always relative.  Had I run one, two, five minutes faster, there still would have been someone somewhere who could outrun me.  And that day, at that race, I was the third female in (14th overall), and I enjoyed every moment of that beautiful race.

What a great way to round up the racing season.  Now, I am going to rest a bit and figure out my options for next season.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Race Report - PEI Marathon

After a week of obsessing about the weather, I got up yesterday morning to even worse conditions than what the forecasts had been calling for.  Something like 2 or 3C (just above freezing), rainy and windy.  Yikes!

I boarded a bus to the start line, still undecided about what to wear for the run (long pants? short pants?  how many layers?) so I had a couple options in my bag.  The only thing I was really sure about was my lucky nuu-muu dress.  As far as clothing choices, the participants were all over the place, from a couple guys in shorts and singlets, to people in long winter pants with multiple layers topped with a garbage bag.

This is what I looked like a couple minutes before I dropped my bag at the baggage check.  I did keep that warm second-hand sweater for the first few km of the race (and was sad to let it go - it was cozy!).

Brackley Beach, PEI, race morning

Soon enough, it was time to line up.  Out in the elements - side winds and rain.  I decided to start with the 3:45 pace bunny group, knowing it was a bit ambitious, but wanting to get a fast start (which I know is not a recommended strategy).  I felt good and was able to keep up with them.  By "felt good", I mean, as good as you can feel when you are running by the see against the wind and rain in near freezing temperature.  This weather sucks, I though, and can't get much worse.  And then, it started hailing!  Quick change of attitude: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger... 

I kept up with the 3:45 group for about 8 km, after which I took a short walking break to take in a gel, and next thing you know, they were gone.  I slowed down a bit, not wanting to overspend myself in the first half but with the exception of my two gel/water walking breaks, my first 21 km splits were still quite fast, all below 5:20.  I crossed the half-way mark at 1:52:34 (the timing mat was actually at 21.3k).

At that point, though nothing really hurt, I saw myself slowing down a bit.  I did not push it, so I would not crash, and I knew that if I managed to stay in the 5:40 range, I would meet my goal.  Thought there were other runners around, I kept to myself - not wanting to spend energy chitchatting. That portion of the route was on a nice trail and I was trying to take in the beautiful fall colours as I moved one foot in front of the others.  I mostly kept within the 5:25 - 5:40, except for a couple more walking breaks: one to take a gel and another one in a moment of weakness after which I had a good talk with myself: the more you walk, the longer this is going to take.  It hurts already, no need to drag this on.

The 28th to 34th km were the toughest mentally, but at least the weather was looking a little nicer.  There were still a couple windy patches, but the sun manage to break in the clouds and... no more hail!   I felt a little bad that even saying "thank you" to the volunteer seemed to require too much energy.  I'd just do a quick hand wave or, more precisely, lifted a couple fingers as in to say "hey, I am trying to wave, to thank you, but this is too hard".  As tough as it was, I never doubted for a moment that I would reach my Boston Qualifying goal. Throughout the run, I was doing mental math about the pace I needed to maintain from that point until the end in order to come in under 3:55.  My strategy of starting fast and "banking" precious minutes may not be the best, but it allowed me to relax when things got tougher.  Of course, I understand that, had I started slower, I may have been less fatigued and faster in the second half.

I did not "hit the wall".  On the contrary, around the 34-35 km mark, I started getting a bit of a mental boost because I could start counting down:  Only 8 km to go: that's easy.  Only 6.5 km, heck, I do more than that on my regular lunchtime run.

There were a couple hills at the end of this mostly flat course.  The first of them was unexpected and steep - I had to walk a bit, but I had been warned about the last one, with about 2-3km to go, so I did not think it was too bad.  Finally, the finish was in sight.

Seconds before the finish line

At that point, I wasn't exactly sure what my time was.  I was in a bit of a mental fog and my math skills were pretty much gone.  One foot in front of the other is pretty much all I could think about.  I knew I was going to get my BQ, but I thought I would finish in 3:53 to 3:54.  I don't even remember looking at the clock when I crossed the finish line.  I crossed the line, stopped my GPS without looking at it, and headed for the food table with the vague impression that maybe I had run 3:52.  It is only when I got back to my hotel that I saw my official time: 3:51:04.  A BQ with almost 4 minutes to spare!

Upright and smiling

I can hardly believe it... still processing.

This time would have been enough to get me in Boston 2016, had I run that race a little over a month ago.  I don't know if it will be enough to get me to Boston in 2017, but I ran the best race of my life, against the elements - I could not have asked for anything better.

Thank you PEI marathon!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Marathon Preparation - Packing for an out of town Marathon

Race day is getting closer and closer.  The weather is getting further and further from ideal race conditions.

Sunday morning, rain or shine, I will be at the start line for 8:00. Tomorrow, I'll be hitting the road mid-morning for the 3 1/2 hour drive and hopefully enjoy a relaxed afternoon after picking up my bib.

Right now, though, I am anything but relaxed.  I have been obsessively checking the weather forecasts (as if I have any control over it) and agonizing over my running apparel strategy.  As of now, near freezing temperature with a chance of rain... not what I was hoping for, folks!  Does not look like I`ll be running sleeveless! I guess I made those fancy arm warmers for nothing :(.

Everybody has (or should have) their own packing list.  Here is mine:

For the run
This list should cover different race day weather scenarios.

  • shoes
  • my favourite nuu-muu running dress
  • three different pants for three different weather scenarios (short, medium, long)
  • long sleeve top to wear over the dress - two different weight
  • favourite bra (Juno, by Moving Comfort, if you must know)
  • while we are on the topic, carefully selected undies - the ones that do not chafe!
  • favourite socks
  • compression socks (have not decided whether I will wear them)
  • brimmed hat
  • jacket - in case it's really cold or pouring rain
  • gloves
  • hair elastics
  • GPS watch
  • contact lenses or glasses ? 

Fuel and other race necessities
  • water belt
  • 4 water bottles
  • powdered Gatorade in one of my bottles
  • 4 gels
  • lip balm
  • tissue / wet wipe

Race morning

We are bussed to the start line which is some 30 minutes out-of-town, so it will be a long morning.  I need extra clothes, and a little snack for before the race.
  • throw away pants, sweater, warm hat
  • garbage bag in case of rain
  • bag for bag check
  • small camera (to leave in the bag check - I will not run with a phone)
  • snack - see below


I plan to go out to the pasta dinner, but come race day, I want to eat my usual breakfast rather than typical hotel food, so I am taking everything I need, as well as healthy snacks for Saturday.
  • cooler (my hotel room has no fridge)
  • everything I need to prepare my trusty overnight oatmeal: yogurt, milk, maple syrup, oatmeal, chia seeds and berries.
  • peanut butter, honey and bread to make a sandwich to carry with me to the start line (we are b)
  • snacks for Saturday: banana, apple, granola bar, carrots
  • regular water bottle to carry around Saturday

  • sunscreen (not that I will need it)
  • body glide (which I will most definitely need it)
  • pins (I know the races give them out, but I am very particular about my pins!)
  • swimsuit to chill out in the hotel pool Saturday night
  • colouring book and crayons or hand sewing project to calm myself after the swim
  • Garmin charger along with other electronics

Phew!  That`s a lot, and that is on top of what I would normally pack for a non-running overnight trip that does not require a list: change of clothes, pajamas and toiletries... 

Have I forgotten anything?