I Did Not DNF

I ran my sixth full marathon yesterday (MEC race series #7)… And it was brutal. I’m not going to sugar coat it, it really sucked. Like, so bad that I’m not going to even bother checking my official time. I cried approximately twice and wanted nothing more than for someone to pick me up on the route because the distance between me and the finish line just felt so overwhelmingly huge.

I’m not exactly sure what happened. I trained, albeit not super hard but I got the necessary mileage for my program in. I tapered, rested, and carbo loaded. I was in a good mood at the start, no big goals, just focused on having a solid run on a beautiful day, however the universe decided that I needed to work a little harder for that to happen.

The day started out innocently enough. I slept well, saw a beautiful sunrise on the way to the start line at the Telus Science Centre. I met up with my Oiselle teammates Leana and Ange, who were both running the half marathon. The full went off first at 9am, and with Leana and Ange cheering for me, I left the start all smiles.

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Being my first home city marathon, my mom promised to meet me at the 5k aid station, and my dad said he would cheer me on along the way, and ended up station at the 16/27ish aid station. Seeing them on the course was the best experience. Seriously. It was the first marathon that my Dad has seen me run, and he stuck it out for a good long time to see me both ways. I had a huge smile on my face each time, even though the second time I was feeling significantly less optimistic.

I felt pretty solid up until km 20. I was right on track for running a cool 4-hour run. The course was generally very flat but around that point we entered Bowmont park and started heading up. And up and up. And I think it was somewhere around here the wheels fell off.

I had to really pee, and had been holding it for a while, then my Achilles (a little on and off niggle) started getting angry, and the hill up to the 22.5km turn around point/aid station kicked my ass. I decided I would plod out until then, hit the bathroom and regroup. I did just than, and head back down the hill. I noticed a weird ache in my tailbone. TAILBONE. Seriously, wtf. It made running downhill very uncomfortable, but then over time (a long time) it did go away. But my legs were done. Everything just generally cramped up and hurt.

When I was at about 25km, my mind took a one-way express train to negative town. I started feeling incredibly overwhelmed. My energy felt good, but my legs ached SO BAD. It felt like I should have been 35km in, not 25. And I was on the opposite side of Calgary from the finish line. This was the first time I texted Dan.

I somewhat employed a 10/1 run/walk routine, until I saw my dad again at the aid station. He gave me a hug and ensured me I was looking good and that everyone was looking rather tired coming back. We walked for about 5 min together towards his car (which was the direction I was headed in anyway) and chatted. I was able to gather myself for a while after that for the next 3ish km, then the reality of how far I still had to go sunk in. I texted Dan for the second time, whilst bawling. I sincerely hoped he would offer to pick me up so I could throw in the towel. But all I got was encouragement to keep going. Damnit.

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The next aid station informed me that I was just about 10k from the finish (oh ya, I forgot to mention there were no km markers, and I didn’t properly sync my watch to satellites so I was essentially running blind to distance), and that seemed still far, but slightly more doable. I kept running at 10/1 as best as I could, but sometimes my legs hurt too bad, or there would be small hills near bridges that I would have to walk.

I kept plodding along, picking points in the distance to run to then typically kept running past them. A lady on a bike (who was cheering her friend along) was particularly encouraging and chatted with me for a while, following me on her bike. Then about 5km from the finish, everything went numb. Although it didn’t last, it was a nice break from the sore everything I was experiencing.

Those last 5k would just not quit. When I got to the section that went along the zoo, the undulating hills were impossible for me to run. I walked a good section, and ran when I could (aka when it was flat). Then, a switch went off in my brain and I just stopped caring, and started feeling almost happy and enjoying myself, despite the pain. I sang along to George Micheal, complete with hand motions, while bike lady rode past me again, giving me a thumbs up (I was slightly embarrassed).

I turned out of the zoo area and aimed north towards the start/finish a the Science Centre. Plodding up, I saw two figures on a bridge, one waving at me. It was my Mom and Dan.

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Check out that form.

I “sprinted” (lolz) as hard as I could to them, got hugs and cheers to carry me to the end. I kept as strong as possible, knowing my next spectator, my friend Meghan, would be there.

Right around the very last bend I felt something “go” in my toe (blister related), hobbled a bit, but pushed through the last bit of pain. Meghan spotted me, ran towards me and we both crossed the finish line holding hands. It was a truly magical friendship moment!

Meg took good care of me until Dan and Mom arrived back from their post on the bridge. She helped me get my bag and presented me with a selection of beer to choose from (FUN FACT: Oiselle arm sleeves make effective beer cozies in a pinch when drinking in public post-race). I had a quick free massage, relaxed on the grass as Dan and our friend Andrew played on a nearby swing set. Later we feasted on BBQ and beer, followed by an ice bath and early bedtime.

Would I liked this run to go better? Of course. Am I upset? Not at all. I wanted to quit, I want to so very very bad, but I didn’t. And not only am I grateful (although surprised) by my own perseverance, I am grateful for those who who stuck it out with me that day. My dad for being the best mid way pick-me-up/photographer. (Dad, you’ll have to come out to another one soon so you can catch me on a “good” day 🙂. My boyfriend Dan for always making sure I follow through on what I set out to do, and always with a smile on his face. My Mom for always being a great cheerleader, and Meghan for being a great new cheerleader (you can bring me beer at the end of any race!). And of course my Oiselle ladies, Ange and Leana, for sending me off with a great start and knowing you were rooting for me. I can’t wait for our Spirit of the Marathon/wine night/cry fest. (And for the pictures I stole from you for this post).

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Sometimes even with the best laid plans shit goes south and you end up getting what you need out of a race instead of what you want. I guess I needed a kick in the butt to get training a bit harder (and smarter) if I want to get back to where I was a year ago. I had my time building back after last years “shinjury” (like that, mom?), so now it’s time to get serious. And I also needed the experience of having so many positives happen in a day that it outweighs one seemingly catastrophic negative. I got to run on a beautiful fall day, along the river, in a race I only paid $25 for, with some incredible friends and family, and I finished one of the hardest races of my life. What could I possibly feel sad about?

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2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon Recap

Well, what to say about this race? It was… hard. Physically, emotionally, mentally. I’m glad I ran it, Vancouver is still my favorite race so far, but this one kind of kicked my ass.

Dan and I drove from Calgary to Vancouver on Friday. Aside from trying to navigate around semi trucks in the pouring rain for the first five hours (in which I got to drive the whole time), it was a relatively uneventful 11 hour drive (unlike last year). That night we stayed with my friend Sarah, ate some tacos and I proceeded to consume a fair number of liquid carbs while catching up with friends at an 88 Mile Trip show (our friend Dave is the lead singer).

Saturday I picked up my race stuff, wandered the expo, and felt a little sad that my mom wasn’t there with me and instead had to get an MRI of her ankle that night. Her name was still up on the Saucony ‘Find Your Strong’ board and she made me promise I would run extra hard for her.

hi mom

I checked into the vrbo we were staying at for the remainder of our trip then visited an awesome little running store nearby called Distance Running. This is the only place in Canada that sells Oiselle, so obviously I bought a few things.

A couple friends and Dan’s sister came over for dinner, pie, and a hot tub. I had borrowed a Polar RC3 GPS (since mine needs repairs) and I fiddled around with it for a while. I tried to set up training pages to mimic how I set up my Garmin for races with distance, average lap (mile) page, and average overall pace. I couldn’t seem to figure it out, and reluctantly decided to just scroll through it’s default training pages to see my current and overall average pace. I did the usual pre-race prep aka pietime (aside from taking a picture of my pie… maybe that’s where I went wrong?) and hit the sack. I had a crappy sleep and woke up a million times.

Sunday morning I woke up on the later side (6am for a 7am start) since I planned to eat a ProBar and hit the road. We stayed ~1 mile from the start, so I thought I would run there for a warm up. Since I knew it was raining outside, I donned one of Dan’s old hats and cut some holes in a garbage bag to wear to the start. When I stepped outside, I realized that it was raining a bit harder than I expected, so I woke up Dan so he could drive me to the start. As if I’m “warming up”. Staying dry as long as possible became the new priority.

At the start I quickly checked my bag, went pee, and found my corral right in time. I tossed the garbage back and embraced the rain. Before I knew it we were off.

I was generally relaxed and optimistic at this point. For the first few km I was exactly where I wanted to be, just a bit slower than goal pace. I realized quickly that although I had set up the watch to lap at every mile, it wouldn’t show the time it took me to run that mile, unlike my Garmins. But I could deal with it.

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Running down Cambie (start to km 3.5) I basically zoned out and ran through the rain and wind, all a nice gradual downhill. When we crossed the Cambie Bridge and ran into Chinatown. I began to feel a bit of tightness in my abdomen. Of course, stomach cramps. There you are, old friend. I slowed down heading into the out-and-back, watching my average pace dip from 8:13/m to 8:42/m. Thankfully the dull pain subsided and I picked it back up again.

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that’s me on the left with the minty arm warmers

There was a small hill around Quebec St (~6km), so I didn’t see my pace change much. I switched from average pace view to current pace, and it seemed to fluctuate between 8:00/m and 10:00/m. Keeping track of that was annoying so I switched back to average pace and it stayed at 8:42/m. For the REST OF THE RACE.

I was determined to make the pace on the watch move so I kept pushing. It would not budge up nor down. I gave up and kept intermittently calculating my finish time based on the stopwatch and km markers.

The rain let up a bit for the run through Stanley Park. I kept pushing as hard as I could and forgot about the watch.

The last 3k I tried to focus on intermittently picking up the pace, attempting to utilize some fast twitch muscles as my tired, slow twitch-ers were pretty exhausted.

With 1km left I dug deep and focused on seeing Dan and getting warm again. Soon enough, the finish line was in sight and I gave it all I got. I kept looking side to side to see if I could see my man.

shiftyeye mcgee

shiftyeye mcgee

Then I inevitably crossed the finish line with a chip time of 1:55:42. Gender place: 1094/6113, category place: 270/1105.

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Past the finish I sobbed a bit. I was relieved yet disappointed yet proud yet unhappy. Such a mix of emotions. I had really hoped for even just a little baby PR to make me feel like despite the injury, I managed to improve. I ran hard, and gave it my all, but that wasn’t enough.

I needed a hug. So I kept looking for any sign of Dan. I made my way to the gear drop tables and checked my phone. Dan had gotten stuck in traffic, and was just able to park, so he missed my finish. My heart broke. I was wet and sad and alone. I felt so defeated. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. It was supposed to be the day I ran my best full marathon and qualified for Boston, with Dan and our Vancouver friends and my mom cheering for me at the finish, after my mom had run her best half marathon. Not a wet, injured half marathon non-PR, walking towards no one in the finishing chute.

Don’t get me wrong, things could have gone way worse. I’m glad I was still able to run and not run a personal worst. I still had an ok time. But not great. Everyone kept telling me I should still be happy but I couldn’t be. I confessed this to Dan later, and he agreed that I should be allowed to feel sad about it. I had my pity party and I’m now moving on.

I finished the day with food, beer, and hot tubbing with some friends.

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I think watching movies where the unlikely underdog takes the win can give you a false expectation when it comes to your own personal athletic pursuits. I knew I was under-trained going into this. The two weeks prior to the race, I didn’t even really try to taper. I essentially gave up. I didn’t even feel much like swimming or biking, and to be honest, I didn’t have much time to do either. Frustration got the better of me. But, at the same time, I wished and hoped that I could somehow pull off a PR and feel magically better about running again. Clearly that did not happen, and I don’t feel better about running. In fact, we’re on a break right now. Not permanently, no, HELL NO. But I need some time away to regroup and let my body heal.

I only have three other races that I’ve registered for this year: two 10ks and one half (which I am not racing). I am not sure if I will register for any more. Maybe I’ll feel better in a few days/weeks/months, but we’ll see. I’m over being injured and I need this time to regain my strength, however long it is.

Till then, you can find me swimming, lifting weights, eating peanut butter pretzels and watching cat videos, plotting my epic return. I’ll leave you with one to lift the mood of this overly pouty recap (lolz).

 

 

2014 Austin Half Marathon Recap

Hey y’all! I’m back.

Austin was fantastic. We had some great experiences (that I will share in good time). We arrived on a Saturday late afternoon however our bags didn’t make it past Chicago. In a fleeting moment of intelligence the evening prior I packed my running shoes and race outfit in my carry on bag THANK GOD because our bags ended up not arriving until Sunday afternoon/evening and I would’ve been SOL for one of the first items on our itinerary: Sunday morning’s Austin Half Marathon.

Since I wanted to take this as more of a long run than a race, I decided to leave the Garmin at home and my phone on airplane mode (no Nike app) and just run by feel.

The race started at 7am and I wanted to be at the start line for 6:30 AT THE LATEST. I woke up at 5:30, got dressed and ate some oatmeal. I taped my shins and worked my way into some brand new compression socks, trying not to mess up my tape job, which I counted as my race warm up. I think we ended up leaving the house at 6:30 (cue panic attack) and we rushed to the start.

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Rachelle before her 5K and me before my “casual half marathon”

 

As we reached the start the Star Spangled Banner was being sung, and I had no time to search out a just-in-case pre-race porta-potty visit. I couldn’t decide if I was just thinking I needed to go, or if I actually did. But either way, it was time to run. I tried to make my way up to the 3:50 pace bunny (there were only bunnies for the full marathon), but no luck. The crowd was too huge and it was time to go.

so you can follow along!

so you can follow along!

Disclaimer: Brace yourself for some classic race-face photos.

The race started winding through downtown. It was downhill to start, flattened out, and around the 3 mile mark we head up the giant hill that is South Congress Ave.

right…

During the 3 mile climb up S Congress I continued to doge people. It seemed like whenever I’d aim for a gap between runners, it would close and I’d have to hop to the side to get around. Great for the shins, but I survived.

I'm taking a guess, but this might be starting up Congress

I’m taking a guess, but this might be heading up Congress

Around the 4 mile mark I could no longer ignore the pain in my bladder, so at the next water/porta-potty station I hopped in line. In hindsight I should’ve ducked behind a building because the line took somewhere around 10 minutes to get through, and the porta-potty I went into was the second worst one I have ever experienced. Then I had to retie my shoes so that ate up a couple minutes. Whatever, no big deal. I wasn’t “racing”.

The course turned West then North, back towards downtown along 1st Street (running parallel to S Congress), and it was a nice gradual downhill to the 9 mile mark.

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I look like I’m actually dying

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… but then suddenly better?

Back on the North side of Town Lake, the course went West along Cesar Chavez to just past the Mopac (freeway?), splitting off from the marathon course just before mile 11 and was a rolling uphill till about mile 11.5.

With downtown (aka the finish) in sight, the last 1.5 miles was a tease of “is this the last hill?” thoughts. Typically the answer was no.

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face and body posture says everything

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Finally signs started popping up saying “600m left!” (or something like that) and I knew the end was near! For the first time in the race, there were very few people on the course with me. I cruised down the last hill, around a corner and to the finish, clock reading 2:13:something, chip time 2:06:56. Rachelle was on the side, ready to snap my picture.

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Fun fact: The first men’s marathoner finished just after me.

the view from the finish

the view from the finish

I got handed my metal and a water. I walked right by the food table, grabbing a cookie, taking a bite, decided I didn’t want it and threw it out. Then I spotted what I did have an appetite for.

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Yes. Beer at the finish. Amazing. I was indeed a thirsty goat.

I also paid $3 when I registered for a post-race taco. I ate that and it was also amazing.

Conclusion

Yes, the hills were challenging! But I really didn’t feel like they kicked my ass that much. I generally enjoyed the race. It was spectator mania, and since Austin is known for its weirdness, there were many appropriately quirky folk cheering you on.

Despite finishing over 2 hours, I think I would’ve definitely come in under had it not been for the lengthy bathroom break and I feel good about that fact since I was running pretty casually. I didn’t want to push it, and had I brought my garmin/turned my app on/found the pace bunny I may have pushed it a bit too hard and potentially set myself back a bit, or beat myself up mentally for not keeping on pace.

Would I recommend this race? Most definitely, and not just for the finish line beer and tacos. It’s not an easy course, so if you want a race that will push your limits than this is for you. The volunteers were happy and friendly, and spectators lined the course the whole way. It was a huge field, so points if you like running with lots of people with enthusiastic energy.

Not to mention that Austin is a fantastic city to visit, and you will definitely not lack in options for a post race meal or beverage of your fancy. I will definitely run this again!

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Typically I like talking about what I ate before/after/during my races, but I’m saving those details for an extra special Austin round up post later on! Except for the Honey Stingers I ate halfway. There, you have it. Have a good weekend!

 

 

2013 Okanagan Marathon Recap

Heyyyy everyone! This post has been a long time coming (only a month and a half), but I’ve been enjoying some time off from running/talking about running (jk I still talk about running and annoy everyone with it).

So here it goes!

Thursday night Dan and I loaded up the car and made the trek out to Vernon BC (~7hr drive) fueled by cookies and Lil Jon sing-alongs.

Friday Jamie and Jeff were due to arrive, and on their way in I met them at the Log Barn to hang with some goats. This place was AMAZING. Not only are there goats pretty much everywhere (including walking above the parking lot on a little goat bridge), there are DINOSAURS. My mind was blown and I think I hyperventilated for the first 10 minutes I was there.

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On top of the goat bridge there are some pullies and wheels where you can put some corn in a can below and the goats (on the bridge) will use their goat smarts to pull the food up and eat it. Very amusing. I highly believe in pre-race goat-related activities.

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Afterwards back in Vernon, I went for a quick 2 mile run (avg 7:35/mile) which felt great until the end when I got gut cramps and almost had to find a bush to seek digestive refuge in. Luckily I made it to the house in time and crossed my fingers that this wouldn’t happen on Sunday during the race.

Saturday we drove down to Kelowna to pick up our race packets. The start/finish was located in City Park right along Lake Okanagan and it was a beautiful day. The race expo was small, with a Running Room booth and a couple other vendors. One particular vendor, Torq, was selling some of the typical race fuel (gel, brews, bars) so I decided to sample them. And OH MY FREAKIN GOD they were tasty! The texture was great and left no aftertaste. I bought a few flavors and I can’t wait to try them out on a run.

We strolled around Kelowna for a bit then went back to Vernon for a carby stirfry dinner and followed by the obvious: pie. Actually, this was pie-time on steroids. Three different flavors plus chocolate cake. Oof.

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Sunday morning came quickly. I had a restless sleep (probably due to the pie x 3 and cake x 1 induced sugar rush) and when my 4am alarm rang I sprang out of bed and got my gear on (spoiler alert: I was wearing ALL the colors. You’re welcome, spectators). I went for a little 10 min jog, did some yoga and hip stretches, ate my Pro Bar and a packet of instant oatmeal, filled up my bottle with Kona Cola Nuun and set out for Kelowna.

I was able to park about a block away from City Park, and I stayed in my car (frantically texting Jamie) until I saw some other runners making their way to the start. I hopped out and did the same. It was a pretty chilly morning, but thankfully there was a warm tent next to the start to hang out in.

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Best idea ever.

I went pee about 3 times, and said hi to my friend Morgan in the line up. You may have remembered her from a previous post. She’s fast.

They ushered us towards the start at 7am (15 minutes before the start). I lined up right in front of the 4 hour pace bunny. The crowd was excited and friendly, and the girl next to me wished me luck. The back of her tank top and it said “I am running my first marathon for my mother, my best friend” which melted my heart. I said hi and cheered her on when I passed her later on.

Anyways, everyone sang the national anthem and the announcer said some encouraging words before the gun went off about how this is the accumulation of months of training, and no matter how we do we have achieved so much already (or something of that sort). I got a little choked up (big surprise), then we were off.

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Mile 1: 8:49/mi – The 4 hour pace bunny passed me, but I focused on relaxing knowing they were doing 10s and 1s (aka run 10 minutes, walk one) so I would soon pass them.

Mile 2: 8:49/mi – Passed the bunny, and remained in front. Big sigh of relief.

Mile 3:  8:29/mi – We were well into an industrial area by this point, and ran up one of the only “hills” on the course. I was into it and feeling strong. Despite the industrial surroundings, the scenery just outside Kelowna was hilly and pretty.

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I actually have no idea where this photo was taken so I’ll stick it here. But check out my leg! I don’t think it has ever looked like that before.

Mile 4: 8:36/mi – As I was heading into an out-and-back, I saw Morgan running towards me. We got excited and waved.

Mile 5: 8:42/mi

Mile 6:  8:32/mi – As I was coming back towards the start/finish area, I knew Jamie would be there and starting soon. This got me all excited. I hoped I would see her on my second loop.

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Mile 7: 8:28/mi

Mile 8:  8:41/mi

Mile 9:  8:48/mi

Still a random photo sometime prior to the ditching of the arm sleeves. And again with the leg!

Still a random photo sometime prior to the ditching of the arm sleeves. And again with the leg!

Mile 10: 8:40/mi

Mile 11:  8:33/mi

Mile 12:  8:39/mi

Mile 13:  8:18/mi – I think I was excited to be halfway done.

Mile 14:  8:30/mi – As I was heading into lap 2 of the course, I noticed the 10k runners were on their way back to the finish. Eventually I saw Jamie and we yelled and waved at each other. That was cool.

Mile 15: 9:05/mi – I think the pain started to set in around here. My quads were burning and I was burping up salted caramel Gu. Not fun. I knew the ‘hill’ was coming up but not looking forward to it.

Mile 16: 8:28/mi – As I started up the hill, Britney Spears came on and this gave me a cheerful little push to get myself back in gear and my head in the game.

Mile 17: 8:50/mi

Mile 18: 9:03/mi

Mile 19: 9:07/mi – Heading towards the start/finish area, I saw Dan, Jamie and Jeff. Dan was holding out honey stingers and waffles in case I needed them. I ran towards them, gave everyone a quick semi-hug, threw my arm warmers at them and ran away.

Mile 20: 8:56/mi – You can never underestimate the power of seeing loved ones on a course, and I managed to just squeak under 9 minutes for the next two miles. I went into the last lap with my burning quads and a blister forming on my left 4th toe (due to some sock slippage), but knew this was the last 10k and I could do it.

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Mile 21:  8:58/mi – I started around here to chase people, but one little older lady kept passing me. She must have been under 5′ tall. I mentally cheered her on. I saw Morgan again coming back towards the finish. Damn girl!

Mile 22: 8:22/mi

Mile 23: 8:59/mi

Mile 24: 9:10/mi

I'll throw this one in here because it looks like I'm tired and form has obviously gone out the window

I’ll throw this one in here because it looks like I’m tired and form has obviously gone out the window

Mile 25: 8:57/mi

Mile 26: 9:09/mi – Right before we dipped down under the bridge towards the park I heard my name being called and saw a work friend cheering for me! I forgot she also came to Kelowna that weekend. Nice surprise.

Mile 26.2: 8:06/mi – Bjork’s “Army of Me came on as I entered the park. I rounded the corner to the finishing chute and saw Dan, Jamie, Jeff, and now Dan’s mom and sister at the corner. They cheered and Jamie ran along my side to the finish as I sprinted. The clock read just over 3:51, so I knew I was under that.

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I slowed to a walk crossing the finish line and I guess they had forgotten how to walk because I was wobbling all over like a baby giraffe. The volunteers handed me water and threw a medal over my head, and some guy asked if I needed help. But I had my target in sight.

Dan was standing at the exit of the chute and picked me up as I sobbed with happiness and relief. Jamie and Jeff joined us and we picked up my checked bag and found a spot on the grass to stretch and talk about the race.

Dan’s family and Morgan found us. She came in at 3:20, and first in our age category! Jamie also crushed her 10k PR.

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Jamie and I looking surprisingly fresh after our runs and her bearded beau lurking behind.

I had one blister, on my 4th toe. ONE. My feet are usually a mess after so this is a serious achievement (however pictures are available upon request). THANKS PRO COMPRESSION!

Afterwards we shoved our faces full of mini burgers, salad and poutine, then Jamie and I went to taste wine at Mt Boucherie winery (the Okanagan has no shortage of vineyards) and ended up splitting a case of the Reserve Gamay (saying that makes me feel fancy).

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Later that evening, since it was Canadian Thanksgiving, we had a turkey dinner where I hurt myself for a second time that day. I ate so much I couldn’t even contemplate dessert. I felt like a snake that overestimated how much it could process then gets stuck with an entire cow/child/whatever inside.

Thoughts on the Race

I enjoyed the race. The temperature was perfect and I enjoyed the course. I carried my handheld water bottle, but in hindsight I don’t think I needed to. There seemed to be enough water stations and were frequent enough. Often I found when I got thirsty, a water station was around the corner. Also it was my first time doing a two-loop course and I liked it. The second time around you know what’s coming up and where you are. It’s also nice seeing the same spectators out when you pass them a second time. These people have serious dedication to supporting their loved ones and/or perfect strangers which is nothing to scoff at.

I’m happy I PR’d. Very happy. And although it wasn’t huge, I feel as though it was my redemption for the shitty summer of getting flooded out, injured, and all the resulting stress.  I felt comfortable running, there wasn’t really any point where I started doubting myself or got sick of running (aside from wanting to finish so I could go drink with my pals). I could’ve probably pushed a bit harder and shaved off a bit of time, but I knew I was doing alright for pace and was enjoying myself.

The night before the race my mom texted me saying that she “summoned the Stan angels for me”. The next day I kept this in mind, and every time I would start to get tired I would think of how proud my grandparents (living and passed on) would be to see me right then. I thought about the long lineage of strong, intelligent women on both sides of my family, and that I’m a product of their lives and their struggles. I am who I am due to my genetics and upbringing, and that makes me proud.

I’m breaking up with Gu. I carried exclusively the Salted Caramel flavor for the race, which was delicious, but I can’t handle the Gu burps it produces. And it’s not just that flavor, it’s all flavors of Gu give me the burps and the burps taste artificial and metallic and awful. I’ve tried the Gu Chomps and those gave me stomach cramps. I know they work for some people, but I’ve come to terms with them not working for me. Sorry Gu, it’s not you, it’s me and I need to find a gel that’s right for me. I know the Powerbar Gels work, but they make me feel kind of crappy for a day afterwards. I’m hopeful for the Torq gels I mentioned above but I also want to give the Honey Stinger gels a try, and maybe even plain honey.

I think due to carrying the handheld bottle my upper body was all over the place (from what I can determine from the race photos). Now I’m super conscious of this and I don’t think I’ll race with a handheld in the future. Seriously, I look so wonky.

That hand. WTF.

That hand. WTF.

So that’s that. My last marathon of 2013. I’ll talk more about what’s next in a later post, and promise I’ll try to be better about blogging. I had a good blog-cation but I don’t want to abandon it completely. I have some big goals in the works.

My race in stats:

Gun Time: 3:51:14

Chip Time: 3:50:44

Overall Place: 150/539 (28%)

Gender Place: 48/261 (18%)

Category Place: 13/48 (27%)

Avg Pace: 5:29/km (8:48/mi)

Halfway: 1:53:49

And finally, for your viewing pleasure I will leave you with this….

(Clips were taken at 9km, 15km, 30km and the finish. If you watch closely you can see Jamie running along the side <3)

2013 Invermere “Loop The Lake” Half Marathon Recap

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I’ll start this off by saying that this was the most challenging half marathon I have done yet. That should give you an idea of where this is going.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Friday – Pre Race Evening

Friday afternoon Jamie, Dan and I packed everything into my car and did the three hour drive into the mountains to Invermere, BC.

When we got there, we picked up our race packages at the community hall (gotta love small town races), then drove up to Panorama to our hotel. Jamie, the hotel booking master, found us a two bedroom (one with a queen, one with two twins) two bathroom place on the mountain with a full kitchen. This was great. We planned out all our meals and snacks, and spent $30 each for a full weekend of food.

Chelsea arrived at about 8pm, right when dinner was ready. We got our carbo-load on via veggie sushi (yams, rice, and avocado) and butternut squash on the side topped with maple syrup and butter.

Obviously there was pre-race pie time. Of the apple variety.

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While getting our poop in a group for the next morning, we read on the race info sheets that listening headphones were not permitted on the course. Something about safety and running across and along the highway. Bummer. But it was something I could manage.

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Saturday – The Race

Jamie, Chelsea and I got up bright and early at 5:30am. We all made our respective pre-race breakfasts (instant oatmeal and a ProBar for me), I did some last minute rolling on the travel roller, wrote my pacing plan on the back of my hand and we piled in the car at 6:30am and made our way down the mountain.

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The girls dropped me off at the half marathon start, we hugged good luck and they took off to the 10k race start (my start was at 7:30 and theirs at 8:00).

I did my usual 2-3 trips to the porta potty, did about 5 min of warm up jogging and head to the start. The first section of the race was up a country road along some small acreages. It was a pretty area and a quiet, cool morning.

I got my Garmin (a new one that I’m borrowing-to-trade-for-a-different-watch-from-my-mom, not my ancient one) to sync to satellites, and hit “start” as I started the race. However the watch didn’t start. It restarted, then synced again to satellites, then restarted, synced to satellites, and again and again. It eventually got to the home screen, and I hit start again and the same stupid routine started. Eventually the “low battery” alert showed up and it shut itself off. Great.

With no way of tracking my pace, no music, and the 4km long uphill to start off the race, I was in a shitty mood. I talked myself down and repeatedly told myself that I’m going to bomb every race ever from here on in. Dramatic, I know. I had to remind myself that I was running up a very gradual but significant hill and that’s what the issue was, not my ability as a runner, which helped. Obviously I felt a lot better once I hit the turn-around point and was able to spend the next 4km cruising downhill.

goodbye confidence

goodbye confidence

hello confidence!

oh hey! you’re back!

We then continued downhill towards the lake, winding through the residential communities where many people have their lakeside cabins. The downhill was refreshing, and then went into rolling hills. We ran past the 10k start, then eventually went into a nice downhill slope again that was in a wooded area. At this point, I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me or hear anyone close behind me. I enjoyed that moment. It was really pretty and calming.

Then we got back into rolling hills. I started feeling pretty exhausted around 14-15km, like I just wanted to sleep on the side of the road and my left hip/IT band/knee was killing me. Then a woman came up to pass me, but instead of passing, she told me that I had been her pace bunny the whole race. I told her I had no idea what my pace was, and I was losing steam pretty quickly. She told me that we were going ~6min/km and offered some encouragement, and we tackled a hill together. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going any faster, but I was too far into the race and didn’t have enough juice to really make up much time.

On the next downhill I sped ahead of her. At one point there was a weird dirt hill about 50m long and STRAIGHT up. I walked up that. There was no way I could run up it. There was a nice long downhill and I was passing quite a few 10k walkers. This was about 3 or 4km from the finish and I was feeling good and tried to push the pace.

WTF is this?

WTF is this?

Then. THEN. Guess what happened. The uphill from hell. HELL. It was at least 1-2km long and it was brutal. I know I got to the top with around 1km left to the finish, and I really wanted it to be over.

last hill

The last 1km was downhill and a bit curvy but I didn’t really push it. As I rounded one of the last corners, I saw Dan on his skateboard. He yelled, “LET’S RACE!” and I used my last ounce of energy chasing him to the finish. At one point I said “I think I’m going to throw up!” and someone near me laughed. I rounded the last corner, saw Chelsea and Jamie and they yelled some Alexi Pappas style encouragement to me. I crossed the finish line at 2:01. Not what I had hoped for, but not entirely terrible.

run

It’s not a race without a race face photo

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There were people after the finish collecting the timing anklets. Bending down and standing back up to retrieve my own anklet messed with the blood levels in my head and I rode the line between barfing and fainting for a while. I kept walking to get myself back to normal, and eventually all my pals found me. Jamie finished in 1:17 and Chelsea in 1:13! Way to go girls and congrats to Chelsea for her first race!

We stretched in the grass and took some pictures together. The line up for the free breakfast was too long so we made our way through the start area again, pet some dogs, and had a quick chat with the lady that I had pace bunny-ed. Invermere is full of nice folks.

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yay for friends!

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I’m the only one that got the ‘funny face’ memo

After the Race

We went back to the condo to shower, make pancakes and bacon and put our bathing suits on. We packed up beer and snacks and went back to Invermere and spent the afternoon at the lake. It was great.

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That evening we drank more beer, made dinner and wandered around Panorama (while Dan watched a movie and avoided us drunk girls).

In Conclusion

I’m not 100% sure how I would have done had my watch worked. I didn’t want to push myself too hard especially at the beginning, but I think I was too conservative. I also think I should have consumed more gels as I was pretty drained during the race.

Even though I took two rest days before the race, I think I should have toned down my workouts that week as well. For instance, maybe don’t do hill repeats during race week? Even IF it’s “JUST” a half marathon? My legs didn’t feel “fresh” right from the start. This is the only thing I could attribute it to.

Also, writing your pacing strategy on your hand is great in theory, but not when you have a handheld water bottle. Shit rubs off by 10k. Duh.

I’m not all that bummed out about my time. I placed 33/80-something in overall women, and 10/25 in my age group, which is ok. It was a hard course and I had no idea what I was up against.

I did have a big achievement this race though, no gut cramping!! I really watched what I put into my face the week leading up, and I think that paid off.

What’s Next?

I have the Drumheller Half Marathon coming up in four weeks, which is DEFINITELY flatter than this one 😀 And now I think I have a good idea of how to improve:

– Make sure watch works and is charged

– Eat health leading up to the race (avoid wheat and processed foods)

– Ease up on workouts the week of the race. Maybe some short tempo at race pace, but no more intense hill workouts.

– Go to physio to deal with my hip tightness. I religiously stretch and roll that sucker but it would still rather be tense and bring me pain. I already have an appointment for Wednesday.

I had really hoped that this race was going to ensure me that I was out of the rut I was in, but I think I have some more work to do. All in all though, it was just a great weekend doing what I do with my favorite pals.

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Goats do Saskatoon and Trail Races

So it’s been a month post-flood and I’m happy to report that life is generally back to normal. I am still without a parking garage or camping supplies, and the lobby of my apartment is a mess and I won’t have a parkade until maaaaybe September but I am home now and running is getting back to normal so I’m happy.

It’s amazing what stress can do to the body and how it can affect my running performance. For the past month, pretty much EVERYTHING hurt when I ran, and I had no mental capacity to handle that. Luckily however, I have been gradually getting back on pace and into a marathon training routine again. I am able to push myself again instead of struggling.

I could bore you with the specifics of my marathon training the last couple weeks, but since I’m in catch-up mode in everything with my life, I’ll keep it to a couple major things and get all run-nerdy on you next week.

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Two weeks ago my Dad, his lady and I went to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to visit my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My aunt is a part of Epilepsy Saskatoon, an organization to raise awareness and funds for Epilepsy. The weekend I was in town they held their second annual E-Race Fun Run so I decided to participate in the 10k, and Mimi (dad’s gf) ran the 5k. I came in second! I was close to coming in to first, but I started getting lower abdominal cramps about 3k which slowed me down and allowed the girl behind me to close the gap. She passed me around 6-6.5km and while I chased her for a while, I lost steam (had a hard tempo run the day before, didn’t have a ton to steam to begin with) and wasn’t at any risk for anyone to steal my second, so I just finished the race and was happy about that. My time was around 56 minutes, but I’m pretty sure the race was over 10k (according to mine and several other people’s garmins). Oh well. It was fun and for a good cause.

epilepsy1

Race Face. I’m glad I don’t normally look like that.

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My 100000 year old Garmin. Don’t judge.

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Standing in the rain and explaining something to some other girls.

The rest of my weekend was spent having quality time with family, and of course, eating.

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sask and trail 002Another nice run I went on. Saskatoon is pretty.

This past weekend I ran my first ever trail race! It was one of the 5 Peaks Race Series in Sundre, Alberta. I have been telling myself that I’d like to try trail racing for a while, so when I received a complimentary race entry for any of the 5 Peaks races through work, I jumped at the chance. And it kicked my ass.

The previous night I packed up a picnic for Dan and I to enjoy after the race, and at 6:30am Saturday morning I poured him into the car where he slept the entire drive and through the race (poor guy worked until 4am but still came out with me).

This guy haaaaaated me ;)

This guy haaaaaated me 😉

I arrived in Sundre at 8am and registered for the Sport course (6.6km/~4 miles) race. I got my race number and swag, which was literally some Kick-Ass coffee (which is also kick ass by description) and a handheld water bottle sleeve.

sask and trail 009I had a snack and a little nap in the car (the race didn’t start until 10am), and jogged up and down the dirt road a bit to get used to the Saucony Exodus that I had borrowed from my mom (a no-no to some, but we have very similar feet and I don’t own anything heftier than Adios). I felt they were pretty heavy for me, definitely compared to the racing flats that I normally wear, but I was thankful for the grippies and protection they had.

sask and trail 007The first bit (~500m?) of the course was a grassy path leading behind a hill that we would then run up. The hill was gradual and easily runable. After the hill leveled out, we had a quick downhill on a single track path (I think where the dotted line is on the map) which was a bit scary. Lots of people took this opportunity to pass, and there was a steep downhill on the right side and I wasn’t able to make room for those passing me, or even to pass those I was stuck behind. So I waited it out, and once we got back onto a wider path I picked it up and was able to pass some people.sundre map

My garmin beeped at 1 mile, and it was around 9:30-9:40ish. I was happy with this, considering most of that first mile was a hill and I wasn’t pushing hard. The second mile was quite hilly, and lots of people started walking on the hills. It was a hot and sunny morning, and being in the trees made it quite humid. I felt the heat and the hills catching up to me and my stomach and lower abdomen started to ache. Then the dreaded cramping began. I tried my same method as the Saskatoon 10k of slowing my pace and hoping they’d just go away, but no. No such luck. I didn’t double over in pain like previously, but I had to walk for at least 10 minutes. Either mile 2 or 3 was completed in 13:xx/miles (can’t remember which one, don’t have my garmin with me and it doesn’t really matter anyway).

On the plus side of my big walk, once the cramps subsided and I was able to run again, I had enough energy to run up the remainder of the hills, and seriously power down the downhills. Flying through the woods and mud puddles felt great. It was freeing. I had no music, I was connected to my surroundings, and before I knew it, I was at the final bend before the small descent towards the path to the finish.

As I was cruising down the last hill, I felt something hit my foot from above. I felt the pocket on my leg where my phone was hanging out (as it has for many runs without incident), and felt nothing. FUCK. I turned around and jogged a bit up the hill to see if I could find it, and when I had no luck, another runner told me that it would be retrieved after the course was swept. Whatever. After that happened, I wanted off that course and just wanted to cry (which made for a pretty awesome finish line sprint, to the point that the announcer even pointed it out). I had hoped Dan had woken up from his car nap, but no luck.

Feeling extremely defeated, I approached the announcer and told him about my phone, and was informed that it was already picked up. So that was good. Dan was back at the car, waking up, and comforted me. We hung out after the race and had some coffee and snacks, and I started feeling better about the whole situation. My final time was 40:43 (5/6 in my age group), which really isn’t bad for going into a run with zero expectations and walking for a good portion of it. I generally enjoyed the run, it was a nice change to road running.

sask and trail 006After the race Dan and I found a spot by the river for a picnic. Dan went swimming in his underwear and I took pictures. It was a beautiful sunny day, I tried something new and caught the bug for trail racing. Sunday morning, I woke up and signed up for the 5Peaks race in September in Canmore.

River Dan

River Dan

This week my Mom and I are leaving for our yearly weekend of hiking. We’re doing one big day of hiking the Burgess Shale (which I’m very excited about) and maybe an easy hike the other day. I’m thinking I’ll try out a trail run around Emerald Lake on the easy day, so this week I’m going to get a pair of my very own trail shoes. I’m leaning towards the Saucony Kinvara TR, but I’m going to try a couple others tonight as well.

Do you run in trail shoes? Which ones? Done any good hikes lately?

Sports Bras and PRs – 2013 Calgary Underwear Affair Recap!

So apparently it’s monsoon season in Calgary, but luckily the rain held out on Saturday for the duration of the Underwear Affair! This is race #2 for me this year, and the first race EVER for a few of my friends/run club gals (Dan didn’t race because he didn’t reach the $300 fundraising limit nor get the day off work). And overall I must say that I am SO proud of them for running their first race, and I think they’re all sufficiently hooked to this crazy wonderful sport.

The whole premise of the race is to raise money for research for cancers ‘below the belt’. We created a team, raised money, dressed in crazy and revealing outfits, and ran the race.

The race started at 6pm, so that meant that we had the day to eat carbs and get our outfits together. We didn’t have much of a theme. Amber wore leopard print underwear over her running shorts, and a tutu. Jamie did about the same minus the tutu. I wore leopard print tights, shiny green bikini bottoms, and a sports bra (my new Oiselle sports bra! :D), and Carly went in a totally different but good direction of a neon yellow sports bra, green and black striped tights and a bright multi colored tutu. Carly and I decided we wanted to be bold and run in just a bra, no shirt. If there was a time/race to do it, this was it. We tied our varying outfits together with some warrior/racing stripes face paint and hot pink lips.

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Leaving the apartment

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Carly applying body glide for the first time. Welcome to the club!

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Awards for best outfit

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Le team

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riiiiiight….

The race itself went ok for me. I wanted to push myself and see what I was capable with, so I broke off from the others early on. My garmin didn’t link up to satellites for the first while, so I don’t know how fast I was going, but I was passing quite a few people on a narrow path, bounding down the hill at the start and feeling strong.

At what I am assuming was 1.5-2km into the race (didn’t see any km markers, garmin was being dumb), I remembered that I was sick and lost all my energy and started coughing. My lungs would start burning, and the only way to relieve them was to let out a big, honking cough that would turn heads. I realized at this point that I couldn’t push hard in this race. My goal of sub-50 turned into just finishing and not passing out.

I eventually saw a marker at 4km, argued with myself for a while and debated running over to my mom’s house (which was in the neighborhood), and walked through the 5km water station. I could feel my guts in pre-spasm mode which concerned me, and when I walked the sensation got stronger but went away around the 6km marker. I started feeling a bit stronger, or at least like I could finish if I kept a steady pace. I saw the 8km marker and felt capable of going on for another 2km and felt much more positive.

About 1km out we had to cross a pedestrian bridge over the freeway, which is a pretty large hill. I felt like I was going to puke. But after was fine. I saw Carly’s parents just before I rounded the stadium for the finish and did my wacky-waving-arm-flailing-inflatable-tube-man impression again. A girl in purple booty shorts who I had been passing occasionally (and getting passed by) through the second half took off in a sprint, but I wasn’t feeling it. I crossed the finish line, chugged a bunch of water and ate half a banana, then ran outside to meet up with Carly’s parents and Jamie’s boyfriend to watch/run the others come in.

finishing

DOING IT! Thanks Carly’s dad for the pictures 🙂

I ran with Amber and Jamie to the finish. When Jamie came in, I had my shoe off to fix my sock, but saw her coming up the last hill so I put my shoe on, pulled out my phone for a picture of her, held my phone, sock and garmin and ran with her to the finish. I also grabbed two iced teas that some guys were passing out for us.

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Carly, me, Amber and Jamie. Post race.

Words can’t express how proud I am of these girls for finishing their first race. It’s not easy but it’s sure rewarding. I’m looking forward to the other races we plan to do together this summer and watching all our times improve.

Speaking of times:

Me – 52:39 (a new PR! Pretty good for having to slow myself down. I’m happy)

Carly – 1:01

Amber – 1:14

Jamie – 1:16

Afterwards we ate some complimentary burgers, drank some complimentary beers, and ate some cake pops. We generally had just a great day.

beers2beersSept 2011-Sept 2012 021I love you girls! Good work 🙂