Monthly Archives: October 2013

What to Do After a Marathon

I knew long before the marathon took place that its completion would bring mixed feelings. Certainly in the days leading up to the race I was happily imagining myself sitting on the couch watching t.v. But I also knew it would be very difficult to suddenly be going about my daily life without a big goal on which to focus. For better or worse, a marathon sort of takes over your life for several months; when it is finally done you can’t help but notice the gap it leaves. So what do you do when you have finished a marathon? Here’s what I have done so far:

1. Eat from the four major junk food groups (potato chips, chocolate, baked goods and McDonalds). I have successfully hit each of these groups, some more than once.

2. Tell everyone – and I mean everyone – about running a marathon.

3. Start looking up 50k ultra marathons…just out of curiosity…really…maybe…

4. Register for a half marathon being held exactly 3 weeks after the marathon – one last race to squeeze into 2013.

5. Start planning for the Around the Bay 30k – North America’s oldest road race – held in Hamilton at the end of March.

6. After a week off, get out for a 7k fun run on a beautiful, crisp October day and remember how amazing it feels to go for a run.

STWM Race Report – Part 2, My Race

So where do I start? A first time marathon is a major life event that can never be repeated. I’ve joked about this a few times but there are definitely some similarities between a marathon and having a child. You prepare for months, you read everything you can find on the subject, you’re given lots of advice from lots of people and at the end you just wait for the big day and try not to be a cranky, sleep deprived, crazy person. And of course the main similarity is the fact that after however many hours of putting your body through things some people would call torture, you turn around and go “Hey, that wasn’t so bad…I could do that again!”p_cards

I admit part of me anticipated hating the marathon. There was certainly a time during training when I hated the whole concept of a marathon. I can honestly say I did not hate it, in fact overall I can say I enjoyed the run. I did not have the same “Oh my gosh I LOVE this” feeling I had after my first half marathon. I’ll always remember that first half marathon race when I ran across the finish line thinking, “What race can I sign up for next?”. But crossing the marathon finish line was definitely a feeling of accomplishment and I know I had a smile on my face – I have photos to prove it!

My husband and I headed to Toronto Friday afternoon so we would have Saturday to visit the expo and then have time to relax. Throughout the drive I could feel that telltale scratchy throat signal of an oncoming cold. It had only been a few days since my previous cold had finally ended! I did my best to not panic and tried to convince myself it was all in my head. Unfortunately by Saturday morning I knew that was not the case and a cold was settling in. This is of course the disadvantage of planning a fall race. Everyone at this time of year is prone to colds but when you teach elementary kids you know that you are going to be surrounded by germs no matter what you do so you just hope for the best.

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Once we arrived at expo the buzz of energy made me forget about not feeling well. There were no line ups for bibs and we quickly went to wander the aisles. I’m not necessarily a souvenir type person but I figured you only do your first marathon once, and depending on how the race went there was the possibility that this would be a one shot deal. So I splurged and bought a nice jacket, though the thought was in my mind that if I didn’t finish I would have to find a way to sell the jacket to someone who did. And I have to admit I thought of that jacket a couple of times on the course, reminding myself that I wanted to wear it with pride, not have to post on the race’s facebook page that I had one to sell.

After that I was able to meet up with Karla from Run, Karla, Run Karla was the first running blogger I followed as I started getting into running more seriously. I always found her posts were ones I could relate to since we often seemed to have similar times, though her P.B’s are a little faster than mine. She was able to give me advice for my first run in her home city of NYC and it was great to compare notes as we trained for Toronto.

Once I worked my way through expo I realized that the cold was in full swing and I was exhausted. By the time I got back to the hotel I only had the energy to crash and ended up sound asleep for over an hour. My very supportive husband headed out to pick up a rice stir fry for me and it was dinner in the hotel room followed by a relaxing evening and early bed time.

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Sunday morning was an early one since Mike had to be up for a shuttle bus to the 5k start. He headed out shortly after 6:00, which gave me another three hours until the start time for my corral. At some point during this time most of my nerves disappeared. Suddenly what popped into my head was, “This is just a Sunday morning long run.” And for whatever reason that worked. The sun was coming up, it was going to be perfect weather for a run and I knew the adrenaline would at least help let me ignore my cold (though I packed some cold medication in a pocket just in case).

I had a 15 minute walk to my friends’ hotel where hundreds of runners were hanging out in the lobby. Finally it was time for all of us to head to our corrals. Again, at this stage I felt pretty calm and ready to see what the race would bring.

Parts of the race are clear in my head and parts are just a blur. I didn’t have the amazing, surreal feeling I experienced last month at the Army Race Half Marathon but I definitely felt comfortable for the first half of the race. One of my worries was that when I passed the point when the half marathoners turned to finish their race I might panic and regret not having signed up for the 21. But I actually remember thinking I was glad I wasn’t turning to the finish line yet. I felt like I had a rhythm and energy left to keep going. A great boost was seeing Mike just before the halfway mark and finding out he had run a very fast 5k – just over 25 minutes!

I am very proud of my first 30k. I felt like I was steady and each time it became a little hard I just had to run through it and it would become a little easier again. Here are my first three splits:
10k 1:03:03
21.1 2:13:21
30k 3:11:05
I am very pleased with these times, particularly since I felt relatively good.

Once I got closer to 36k though I knew my 4:30 time was probably out of reach. Actually, I was exactly on pace for that time but I knew I was no longer recovering lost time from walk breaks. And I knew at that stage running the last 7km straight was not even an option. I could have made a decision to push as hard as I could and see what would happen but I realized that more than anything I just wanted to make sure I could run the last 2 km and smile as I crossed the finish line. So between 35 and 40.2k I walked whenever I needed to and ran at a pace that felt comfortable.

As a middle of the pack half marathoner, I am not used to seeing people stopping to stretch and even sit down during a race. Given the fact I was in the last third of the pack for this race there is definitely a different atmosphere. I think there were lots of people like me who were no longer fighting for a specific time but instead enjoying the ride of a marathon. Well, maybe enjoying would be the wrong word for some, and maybe some of those people were fighting just to stay on their feet. I was lucky though in that I knew I was going to finish – no doubts at that stage. I also felt remarkably good when I walked. I was sure at that point in a marathon even walking would be a chore but I was happily proven wrong.

Of course running the last few hundred metres was a high point. I do remember avoiding looking at the countdown of metres to the end, I much prefer to just wait and see the finish line. I was pretty much in my own zone so was somewhat startled when I heard Mike call out my name as he took pictures.

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I also remember being slightly disappointed that I was actually catching up to the small group of runners ahead because I really wanted to make sure I got a good finish line picture! I can say that that is the first time ever I thought about my final picture. And it was definitely the first time I considered, just for a moment, slowing down to make sure I was in my own space. No worries though, the photographers did their job and I have a finish line photo!

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A great day was made even better by the fact that the five of us who had traveled from Ottawa to run a race (2 marathons, 2 half marathons and a 5k) had a successful day, three of us doing distances we had never done before.

That night I had the chance to meet another blogging friend, Rod from Run Rod Run and his partner Doug. It was great to sit back with new friends and talk all things running, a perfect way to end a fantastic weekend.

So will I become a marathon addict? Definitely not. I really am looking forward to trying to knock just over 3 minutes from my half marathon time to give me a sub 2 hour P.B. But will I do another one? Most likely yes. And I have already made up my mind that I want to do the famous “older than Boston” Around the Bay 30k race this coming March. And as a final sign that the marathon did not destroy me, I am pretty sure I am going to run a half marathon in Kanata in just over 2 weeks. I have promised myself though that I will treat it as a fun run, no crazy attempts to beat that 2:03 yet!

Toronto Waterfront Marathon Race Report – Part 1

More than a few Canadians have been known to take part in the popular sport of Toronto bashing. I know here in Ottawa all you have to do is mention “Toronto” and “snow” in the same sentence and at least one person in the room will ask if the army had to be called to the rescue. Then there is the Toronto Mayor. I am sort of at a loss as to what to say about him so I will just quote a sign I saw at the race that made me laugh out loud:

YOU’RE RUNNING A MARATHON? OUR MAYOR WANTS YOUR CRACK!

But I am here to tell you that Toronto runs an amazing race! While “Flat. Fast. Festive” may be the tag line, you could easily add in “Well Organized. Welcoming. Worth It”. Maybe that doesn’t sound as catchy but it is accurate. This was a race where you really got the sense that everyone involved – from organizers to volunteers – were honestly thrilled that you took the time to come out to their race. Everyone I spoke to was cheerful and helpful. A few times volunteers helped me before I even had the chance to ask. A case in point; when I paused to try to figure out where my corral was located, a volunteer was quickly at my side and having already looked at my bib kindly directed me to the green corral. I should also note that changing corrals at Expo was beyond easy. Once you had your bib you just had to go to the help desk where a volunteer was standing with a stack of coloured stickers, ready to make a quick adjustment on your bib. Oh, and did I mention it was easy to get in your corral and you did not have to stand in it for an hour before the race. In fact, you could spend much of your waiting time in the hotel lobby that was located right near the start line. From my point of view the start line process ran smoothly and easily.

I will note that my husband found the start of the 5k race to be less than ideal. Runners were encouraged to get on an early shuttle to avoid line ups. By starting out early he certainly avoided line ups but also ended up at his race start line at 6:30 am on a cold morning, giving him and many others an hour and a half wait outside until gun time. I admit I am glad I wasn’t waiting for that race. Mind you, Mike was back at the hotel in a hot shower when I was only a couple of km into a 42.2k run…

The marathon and half marathon started at the same time which I thought might make things really crowded but for the most part I was able to find a comfortable “personal space bubble” to run within. Watching out for streetcar tracks was a new experience for me but if nothing else watching where your feet were stepping gave a bit of distraction and before I knew it we were heading west out of the downtown core.

The course was very well laid out and there was definitely no way you could miss where the half marathoners turned left and the marathoners continued on for the rest of their race. Cones divided the path, several marshals were calling out directions and there were large blow up arches labeled with the correct race distance.

One of my favourite little touches came later in the race when we had to cross a short grate type bridge. Carpet had been laid out and taped to the grating, eliminating risk of slipping. A marshal was on site to ensure the carpet stayed flat and no tape curled up. I have no idea of other races do this too, but I loved that attention to detail.

By far the most fun area of the run was in the Beaches neighbourhood where locals clearly treat the day as a party. There were lots of spectators and in particular a thanks goes out to the kids handing out oranges. What a nice treat after running 28km! Throughout the race there were some great spectators and of course fantastic signs. That said, and I am admitting I could be biased here, I still think Ottawa spectators for both Ottawa Race Weekend and the Army Run are a hard bunch to beat.

As for the worst section, hands down it was the never ending maze somewhere between 35 and 40k. Just when you could see the downtown core within reach you were dragged through a bizarre little route that wasn’t getting you any closer to the finish. Apparently this was added this year to make up for distance lost earlier during the course due to construction. As much as I am whining about it, it actually was a very good mental challenge because it took a lot to convince yourself that at some point you would get out. They couldn’t just leave you there, right?

As soon as you crossed the finish line there were lots of volunteers talking to finishers to make sure everyone was ok. I was still smiling and I am pretty sure I was walking a straight line with no obvious staggering, so I guess no red flags were raised as I went through. I had no trouble finding Mike as well as my friends who had run the half marathon. Nathan Phillips Square made a great place to hang out while we waited for another friend to finish the marathon. We were also there to see many of the last runners come in and once again I was impressed with the volunteers. Even as the course was being dismantled around them, those volunteers were there to hug, cheer and high five every last participant. It was a pleasure to watch such support after what had to be a long day for them all.

I think it is pretty obvious that I would recommend this race to anyone. In fact, I am even considering doing it again next year. So much for the theory I would do this once and once only.

Part 2 of my report will be what I like to call a “me, me, me” report. That’s right, all about my run – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Without giving away too much I will say I had a great first marathon experience. I even had the chance to finally meet in person my blogging friends Karla and Rod. So lots more to tell next time as well as a few pictures…

I May Not Be Fast…

BUT I CAN RUN A MARATHON!!!

I finished in 4:38, 8 minutes slower than what I really wanted but I am actually quite ok with that. I ran a solid 30k. By around 36k I knew I wasn’t quite going to make the 4:30 so I opted to relax and enjoy the ride. I discovered that I don’t hate marathons. Don’t love them either but I don’t hate them. And I think I would be willing to do this race again to see if I could take a few minutes off my time. Best part, I did not feel like I was dying as I ran the last 2k and I felt good walking through the finishers chute. More race details to follow 🙂

Time For the Numbers

I admit I have been avoiding posting goal times. Somehow putting them in writing just makes this whole marathon thing real. But now, following the Ontario Curriculum’s four levels of achievement, here are my goals.

Level One: the descriptor used with this category is “with limited effectiveness”. I don’t think that applies to running a marathon unless of course you don’t finish it…or don’t even bother to show up. But for the sake of this list, my level one goal will be to simply finish the race without ending up in a medical tent.

Level Two: “some effectiveness”. For me, this will mean finishing between 4:31 and 4:44. Why 4:44? When I started this crazy journey I thought it would be nice if at 44 years old I could finish a marathon in under 4:44.

Level Three: “considerable effectiveness”. This would be a 4:20 to 4:30 finish for me. If everything falls into place I should be able to do this. It would also be dependant on how many porta potty stops I have to make. And I can tell you the bathroom thing stresses me out more than anything else.

Level Four: “high degree of effectiveness”. This would have to be a 4:15. That would put me at last year’s course average time. To be honest I don’t see it happening but it is fun to think about.

Only two sleeps left, in reality only one though since I’m not sure how much sleep I will get tomorrow night! Tomorrow – Race Expo 🙂

Last Week and Losing My Mind

I have decided that the world really needs to just stop until I get to the start line on Sunday. How exactly do you just live your daily life when you are a couple of days away from your first marathon? I have no concentration, zero patience and my stomach has a permanent case of the butterflies. I am drinking so much water I can’t stray too far from a bathroom. I am working hard at eating well but I broke down today and ate chocolate because, well I NEEDED it. I spent the whole day with six year olds. Newsflash – grade one kids couldn’t care less about the fact you are only days away from your biggest life challenge (maybe I should actually rank it second after childbirth, but at the moment it feels bigger). So despite my edginess and nerves, those little ones just kept asking their questions, usually over top another person who was telling me a story and who was talking over another kid who was asking to go to the bathroom, who was drowning out the kid who was tattle telling. Shouldn’t there be some rule that says just stay away from a person running her first marathon??? And then there are my own kids…I think they might actually be relieved when I disappear for the weekend. I’ll be tired when I get back, but here’s hoping I won’t be quite as crazy.

This marathon needs to hurry up and come!

Memory # 3 – The Support of Others

Ok, I already knew this before I started marathon training, but isn’t the running community amazing? I am constantly amazed by the support of other runners. Every runner I have met genuinely cares for other people involved in this sport. People want you to do well and are more than willing to help in any way. It doesn’t matter if you are running a 5k or a marathon, nor does it matter if you are aiming for a PB or “just” a finish; other runners want you to succeed.

Throughout this training I have had the honour of having so many people from the running community support me. I took a running clinic and I am very thankful for the information shared by more experienced runners than myself. Friends and colleagues – some casual runners, some serious competitors – have regularly checked in on my progress and offered encouragement. And there are other runners I have yet to meet in person but who have regularly shared with me emails, blog comments and posts, all of which helped me in more ways than they can imagine. Thank you so much to those who passed on words of wisdom and took the time to remind me I could do this. Every time someone gave me words of encouragement, I felt myself get a little stronger.

I have been so lucky to go to work with people who also run. Thankfully they “get it” and as a result we have had more water cooler discussions (ok, there is no water cooler at work) about running than any other subject. K and C, I am so glad we are in this together this weekend!!!

And finally, there is no way you can train for a marathon without the support of your family. This is particularly true if you have kids who are still not at an age where you can say, “Heading out for a run, you are on your own for a few hours.” We were talking at work today about how marathon training is really one of the most selfish things you can do. I’m not saying it is a bad thing, it just very much is a “me, me, me” thing. So someone has to be there to fill in the gaps when you are out running. And let’s face it, those closest to you are going to have to endure endless talk of pacing, long runs, refuelling and perhaps the odd whine. So thank you to my parents who many times watched the kids so I could fit in yet another run. And more thanks to my husband’s endless patience for my addiction. Finally, thanks to my kids who seem to have complete faith that mummy is going to complete a marathon this weekend.