Marathon Recovery Day

I finished my marathon two weeks ago and today was recovery day.  Hmmm, isn’t that a little late?  Yes, but it was nice.  When I came back from Hamilton I had to hit the ground running.  There was work, family life, all the normal stuff.  There were also appointments, thanks to the surgery I must have in January to fix my finger that didn’t heal after this trail running injury:


For whatever reason this finger never straightened despite splints and physio and now looks like this:


The weekend after the marathon we also hosted my son’s 2nd annual Windcrest Farm Orienteering Event for charity.  We hoped for 25 or 30 participants, instead we had about 70 people come to our property to learn how to orienteer.  There were kids and adults running and hiking everywhere, looking to find their way through one of 3 courses that Evan had mapped.  Everyone had fun on a wonderful November afternoon and I’m thrilled to announce that through the generosity of the participants just over $300 was raised for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

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The next day we were up early again for some orienteering over in Quebec:


Then back to work, plus parent teacher interviews, and my husband was out-of-town for the week.  In the two weeks I did manage to fit in 3 nice runs, none of them more the 5k, including a relaxing trail run in unseasonably warm weather:


And through it all I was still fighting to get rid of that unfortunate cold that hit the week before the Road2Hope Marathon.

Finally, today, there was NOTHING on the schedule.  Ok, there was lots I could have been doing, but I decided that this was recovery day.  I essentially slept all day.  The most strenuous part of my day was watching a movie.  I can tell you, it felt good!  And it felt deserved, so no guilt :)

But now my mind is definitely starting to think of the New Year.  I find it difficult not having a running goal and a set training schedule.  I felt a little lost after the marathon.  I even searched for another marathon somewhere relatively close but I guess there isn’t enough demand in Ontario for December marathons or even half marathons.  Tomorrow I am missing my usual November half marathon (and the final one in the area for the season) since we are heading as a family over to Quebec once again for the final orienteering meet of 2015.

The season is winding up.  I know I will do a December Mad Trapper race, appropriately named the Transition Race as it may be a trail run or it may be a snowshoe run as we transition from cool fall days to snowy paths.  The boys and I will again do a virtual run in order to get our third “A Christmas Story” medal.  This one will also look great on our tree:

As always, if you haven’t seen the movie, the images on the medal will mean nothing to you.  If you have seen the movie you are having a nostalgic giggle right now!

And so I am looking to April and May for my next two goals; a sub 3 hour 30k at Around the Bay and a sub 1:56 half marathon at Ottawa Race Weekend.  There, it is in writing now so it is official.  Rest time is over, I have goals to achieve.

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Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon Recap


It is the day after the marathon. That glorious day when you know you are due some rest and a serious supply of chocolate.  Your body aches but it is a good ache. Each little pain reminds you of what you have done, what you mentally pushed your body to do.  And today, despite two previous marathons, I finally feel comfortable calling myself a marathoner.

For some reason I have struggled with saying I’m a marathoner.  I’m not a fast runner at that distance. I don’t think I have even managed to reach the average female marathon time.  No matter how hard I train it is doubtful I will ever come near a Boston qualifying time.  I know many people who are fast marathoners. Sometimes it is hard not to compare myself to them. I think though that I have finally let go of that comparison.   If you are on a marathon course you are pushing yourself to the limits no matter your pace. You are having mental arguments with yourself no matter what time you plan to cross the finish line. Yesterday I fought the worst headwinds I have ever experienced. I dealt with GI issues that I have come to realize are just forever going to be a part of my running. I was sick the entire week before the race and still not 100% by race morning. (I am coughing still as I write this). I several times thought that 42.2 is just not the distance for me.  But I did finish, 4 minutes faster than my first marathon.  Without the bathroom breaks it would have been closer to 10 minutes faster.  I felt like I accomplished something big when I crossed that line.

As for the race itself, I highly recommend you try Road2Hope.  To me this race was “just right” – not too big, not too small.  The organization was excellent.  Race kit pick up was a breeze on the Friday afternoon and a helpful volunteer took the time to talk to me at length about the marathon course.  Probably the only thing I would suggest the organizers change is how they distribute race shirts.  When you register you do not give your shirt size – it is instead done on a first come, first serve basis.  This wasn’t a problem for us as we arrived early, but I know I would have been frustrated if my size was gone even though I had registered months ago.  One bonus about the shirts though was the fact that you got to choose your colour.  Women had a choice of black, red or pink.  I also appreciate the long sleeves; I have more than enough short sleeve race shirts.


We stayed at a hotel only 5 minutes from the finish line, which offered a very reasonable price of $99 for runners and late check out.  They even opened their Sunday breakfast extra early so that runners would have a chance to fuel up.  It was quite nice for me to be able to walk from the hotel to the event site in Confederation Park to watch 2 of my friends do the 10k race on Saturday.  The 1k, 5k and 10k races were all held along the recreational path tracing the shoreline of Lake Ontario.  With free parking and heated tents for racers to get their food, you really couldn’t ask for a better location.

The half marathoners and marathoners had to start their races high up on the escarpment, or what everyone calls the mountain.  Parking was again free at Confederation Park, where a huge number of volunteers ushered the cars in quickly and efficiently.  And if you happened to be staying at our hotel, there was also a shuttle to the park.  Once parked we were on one of the many, many school buses within minutes.  As we boarded the bus driver handed out sweat check baggage tags and a black marker was passed around.  Once you got the marker, you simply wrote your bib number on the tag and you were ready to drop it off at the start line, where it would then take a much easier route than you to the finish!

The shuttle ride was about 15 minutes and then we were dropped off at a warm recreation centre with lots of room for nervous runners.  We didn’t bother to head outside until 15 minutes before the race.  I always appreciate a race where I do not have to spend almost as much time huddled at the start as I spend running.  There were no official corrals but there were pace bunnies, so it wasn’t difficult to figure out where you should be prior to the start gun.


The course is awesome.  We just had the unfortunate luck of running on one of the windiest days possible.  Running on rural roads on top of the escarpment is fantastic, but look out when those winds start gusting across the open farm fields.  All was good until a turn somewhere around the 8k mark and then you found yourself fighting the wind until the half way point.  Once in a while you would get a little break and think how nice it felt, only to be blasted by more wind gusts.  Some of the km signs had been blown over or off their stands.  Apparently there were people who had their bibs blown off their shirts and they had to hold on to them for the chip.  I tried to take a salt pill only to have the capsule literally fly out of my hand.  Some cow may find a little treat in its field this week.


We did get a break on the long downhill.  I admit, this part was fun.  I even did the Little House on the Prairie move – you know the scene when the little girl goes running down the hill with her arms spread out?  Instead of a meadow I had a concrete path leading me down the mountain to Lake Ontario.

Unfortunately, by km 30 I knew my intestines were going to protest all the work I had been doing.   Why can every other part of my body adjust and adapt to running, but my intestines insist on steadfastly fighting the whole process.  And guess what?  They win, every time.  Despite all my hopes to not have to waste time in porta potties, stops were made.  My last 10k was just about walking when I needed to, running when I could.  I did finish strong though, even making it up this hill without walking in the last km of the race.


I will note though (and someone else has commented on this too on the race Facebook page)… Runners – if you are finished the race DO NOT use the path as a place to stand and chat.  A group of runners parked themselves in the middle of the pathway somewhere around the 41k mark.  From what I can tell they were just hanging out.  That’s great for you if you are done your race, but others are trying to finish too.  GET OFF THE PATH!  Sorry for the shouting but I couldn’t believe they were there.  I even called out “runner coming through” and they didn’t move!  I had to step around them.  Maybe this is just me but at that point in a marathon, having to take a couple of extra steps to go around something feels like being asked to climb a mountain.  As I say to all the kids I teach – come on guys, common sense!

In those last 10k I started to accept the fact that I am not a fast marathoner.  It was weird, but I wasn’t frustrated.  I did not look at my watch.  I knew my pace had slowed significantly.  I have chosen not to look at my watch since for fear that I will forget the things I should be proud of and instead be disappointed in just how slow I was in the last quarter of the race.  In the end, it was a PB and a PB in tough conditions.  I am going to hold on to that.

And finally, the best part of this weekend?  The great people who joined me for the race.  When I decided to do this race I spread the word amongst my running friends and 4 wonderful women joined me on the trip.  We are all at different stages of our running and have our own goals, but what a supportive group of people!  First I have to thank Karen, who is a faster runner than I can ever dream to be, but she stuck with me for the whole race.  I was a pretty quiet running partner in the last part of the race but just having her beside me kept me going.  To Rebecca, another Boston runner who ran an amazing time on Sunday – your words of encouragement are priceless.  You may be a fast runner, but you totally know what all runners need to hear.  To Noreen (who PB’d her 10k!) and Cathy – oh my gosh…Best Race Crew Ever!  They took care of me like an elite runner after the race, including letting me sit in the car while they went inside to get me the Dairy Queen treat I had been looking forward too.

Two other great friends also made the day special for me.  To Rod and Doug who drove out early on a Sunday morning to give me good luck hugs and words of encouragement – what a kind and generous thing to do.  And Rod, joining me for a bit of a run at the 16k mark gave me a mental boost as I fought the winds.  I can’t thank all of you enough!

Of course I have to thank my family too.  Behind every marathoner (see, I am calling myself that!) is a very patient family who supports you in the idea of running 42.2km for no other reason than to prove you can.  Thank you to my husband and kids for putting up with it all!  And thanks to everyone else who has managed to look and act interested as I babbled on about marathon training.

Will I do a marathon again?  Honestly I think I might.  I have found a training schedule I love thanks to Jason Fitzgerald at Strength Running.  Without a doubt I became a better runner thanks to that schedule.  I have found a course I love and would definitely try again thanks to Road@Hope Marathon.  I have other goals in running besides marathons, so next spring I can focus on those.  All five of us have already agreed that we want to do Road2Hope again next year.  When the time comes I will decide if it will be the marathon or the half. (It think the half course would be very conducive to a PB!)  In the meantime, I think I am about to sign up for another trip to Hamilton… Around the Bay, here I come!

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Marathon # 3 is Done!

i still have a sub 4:30 to chase down but…

4 minute PB

The WORST winds I have ever run in.

Two bathroom stops. Damn my intestines.

Seriously, the hardest I have ever worked on a run. The wind was relentless. I tried to take a salt pill and the wind blew it right out of my hand. Apparently volunteers had to hold the finish line arch down to keep it from blowing down. I think the winds were between 35k and 50k. And we ran well over half of it straight into the gusts. It was nuts but I finished it. I talked to a woman who has done 159 marathons (what?!?) and she said she had never run in wind like today.

I feel like I earned this medal.

Marathon Day Tomorrow

The race kit is picked up. The weather is being checked repeatedly. Carbs are being eaten.  It must be the day before the marathon.

It hasn’t been the easiest of weeks. I was hit with a cold on Monday and have been exhausted ever since. My last run was Tuesday and while my legs felt pretty good my lungs most definitely did not.  And now the forecast for tomorrow is both warmer and windier than I would have liked. I am reminded once again that in your preparation for a marathon there is only so much you can control.

I have found myself remembering back to the only other time I have run in Hamilton – the 2014 Around the Bay. My best memory of that day was the feeling of joy I felt as my body got moving.  You can’t make that feeling happen, it is a gift. I’m hoping to have even just a small taste of that again tomorrow after taking so many days off.

As for time goals, when I started this training session I decided that I would be happy with anything under 4:30.  I have played with specific numbers in my head, but right now I am letting those numbers go. I feel like they are weighing me down, without them I can travel lighter over tomorrow’s course.  I think I am ready to take what comes.

Tapering and Letting Go

If you haven’t heard the Piano Guys amazing mashup of “Let it Go” and Vivaldi’s “Winter” do yourself a favour and hit the play button above. (Note: it seems to be a little hit or miss if the video works).  It is the only instrumental on my running playlist.  Upon listening to it you might think there are parts of the piece that are too slow for running.  But as it builds so does the drama and so does the energy.  This piece makes me want to fist-pump and take in everything around me at the same time.

Yesterday I did not have my music with me, but this piece of music was in my head.  The words “Let it Go” kept popping into my mind.  I felt a bit lethargic before heading out for a 6k taper run.  I am edgy, a bit agitated.  I am tapering.  But as I ran I suddenly realized that my training is done.  Whatever I do on these last runs will not have any mayor effect on race day.  The hay is in the barn so to speak.  As I ran I could actually feel the stress fall away.  I was slow, but somehow lighter.  The 6k taper run turned into a 9.5 km fun run.  I ran on roads and trails and threw in some strides.  I love training for a goal, but running simply for the sake of running on an unusually warm and sunny October day… I don’t mind that at all.

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9 Run Run Half Marathon and Tapering

9 Run Run finish line, Oct. 2012

Finishing my first half marathon, the 9 Run Run in 2:04:50. Thanks to Kerry for the pictures and the inspirational quote.

Yesterday I returned to the site of my very first half marathon.  Three years ago I did my first ever 21.1 km at the 9 Run Run race in Stittsville.  I still clearly remember the nerves, the excitement, the questioning of just how fast I could cover the distance.  I remember starting faster than I had planned and deciding to go with it.  I remember thinking I would probably finish around 2:12 but was secretly hoping for less than 2:10.  I shocked myself by finishing in 2:04:50.  I honestly had no idea I was capable of achieving that time.  I entered that race thinking it might be my one and only half marathon.  I crossed the finish line with such a runner’s high that I knew without a doubt there would be more.  Indeed, there have been many more.  Yesterday’s half marathon was my 16th time toeing the line of a half marathon.  There has also been one 30k race and two marathons.  Throw in some 5, 8 and 10k’s as well as a couple of 10 milers and it has clearly been a busy three years.

Last month I used the Army Run Half Marathon – one of my favourite races – as part of a long training run in preparation for the upcoming Road2Hope Marathon in Hamilton.  I find incorporating an organized race into a long slow run so much fun.  The biggest challenge of course is monitoring your pace and reminding yourself that you are not racing.  Even with those reminders I do run faster than if I was out on my own, but I don’t leave it all out there on the course.  Instead, I take the time to truly enjoy the race, which is exactly what happened at the Army Run a few weeks back.  When I came home from the race I immediately looked at the local race schedule to see if there was another event I would like to use and 9 Run Run jumped out.  I did briefly debate it, after all running by yourself is a lot cheaper than paying for a race that you are not racing.  But I am so happy I went ahead and registered.  This weekend was my last long run, and it was just so much fun to celebrate the work I have put into marathon training at an actual event.  To be honest, if I had run on my own yesterday I am not sure if my heart really would have been in it.  Maybe I even would have bailed, which is exactly what I did last Thursday when after 3k I decided that all I really wanted to do was go for a long walk.  There were no thoughts of quitting though yesterday, just a chance to enjoy a good run.

Taking part in 9 Run Run gave me the energy to go into the run positively and even look forward to the run, despite my tired legs.  I opted not to add mileage and instead let myself go faster than marathon pace but not full-out.  In the end I finished in a comfortable 2:00:54 – four minutes faster than that very first attempt three years ago when I pushed myself to the limit.  I’m not sure what my time would have been yesterday had I pushed hard.  I am assuming I could have taken at least 2 minutes off, maybe more.  But the nice feeling was finishing 21.1 km at a steady pace with no stiffness the next day.  I still might not be super fast, but I am stronger and fitter than 3 years ago.

While I started my taper last week, it is only today that I truly feel like the taper has officially started.  I took the taper rules very seriously today… perhaps too seriously.  I did nothing.  At all.  All day.  And I loved it.  But there are still a few runs to do.  There are two more double-digit runs – a 10 and a 13 – and then several single digit runs leading up to marathon day.  Everything now is a mental game, I can’t change anything physically.  I will not get faster at this stage.  I admit perhaps my one area of disappointment is the fact that I am not faster.  But I am trying not to dwell on that.  This marathon will be better than my last and I hope faster than my first.  Stayed tuned for my marathon goals.

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When Bad “Runs” Happen

Warning: this post quite possibly contains Too Much Information…

In my last post I talked about how life can get in the way of marathon training.  I was thrown a few curve balls as I headed into my biggest week of training and while I did my best to keep up, if you total my mileage from last Monday to Sunday I came up about 10km short of the 76km goal.  Not only did I come up short, four of the five runs were awful.

I don’t know if the stress/loss of sleep/missed meals/odd eating times that I experienced while my son was in hospital was the main factor, but my GI system went into full protest.  For 4 runs I could barely make it through 5 or 6k (sometimes much less) without desperately heading to a bathroom.  It was bad enough on the 11 and 13k mid-week runs, but was downright miserable on my long slow run on Friday.  I did get 31k done… eventually, but to be honest it was just a series of short runs to bathrooms.  Thank goodness for grocery stores, fast food restaurants and recreation centres.  I’m not sure; at what point is a long run no longer a long run if you have to keep stopping?  To make it worse it was a cold and damp day.  Every time I started again I was chilled to the bone and it would take time to find the rhythm again.  I would just warm up, think I was feeling good and the cramps would hit again.  At 22k after yet another bathroom stop I made my way to a drug store and bought Immodium.  I actually made it through the last 9k without a stop.  But by that time it was dark and part of my route back to my car was on trails.  Other people were out walking, so I wasn’t feeling isolated, but there were sections where you couldn’t see the ground.  Needless to say my pace dwindled to almost walking and even when I detoured to find some light I struggled and my pace stayed disappointingly slow.  I have never been so happy to make it back to my car, but I was also so discouraged.  I tried to remind myself that I didn’t give up, that I finished 31 of what was supposed to be a 32k run.  But it was still hard to ignore the feeling of failure on my final 20 miler.  The run left me completely drained… literally. (Sorry, that was my poor attempt at humour about “runs”.  And again, sorry).

I had done the long run on Friday because I wanted to participate in our family Thanksgiving tradition – the Fall Colours Race put on by Somersault.  I figured if I could get the long run over with, I could take Saturday off and then enjoy the 5k race on Sunday.  I even planned to then go for an evening run to make up some of the missed mileage of the week.  You would think that after a full day off my system would get back to normal, but no.  I did finish the 5k but by 3k I was seriously considering DNF’ing and just getting to the porta potties.  Everything about the run felt awful and my time was a disappointing 26:22, a full minute slower than my 5k a month ago.  With it being a small race it was enough to win my age group but it wasn’t a win I felt proud of.  I struggled through most of the run, though it is worth noting that this is not a fast 5k course; lots of bends, elevation changes and gravel.  I felt like I worked way too hard and was way too uncomfortable to have that final time.  Later in the day I opted for a nap rather than another run.

And so began the head games. “I peaked already.”  “I will never make it through 42.2km.”  “I thought I was stronger.”  “Why does everyone I know run faster than me despite all of the work I put into running?”  There are three weeks until my marathon.  It is clear to me that the real challenge of these weeks will be mental.  I need to get my confidence back and I need to think positively.

Thankfully today I made it through a comfortable 11k with no bathroom stops (yay!).  I also realized that while dwelling on the negatives I hadn’t noticed what I had accomplished last week.  Because I ran my long run two days early, I actually ran 91 km between Sunday and Friday.  Six days, 91 km!  Most of those runs may have sucked, and of course involved far too many stops, but it was still 91k that I fought through during a really difficult week.  I am going to try to hold onto that fact in the hopes it reminds me that I can be strong, it just doesn’t always look the way I want it to.

Porta Potty Clip Art

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