Race report: Marine Corps Marathon

Race date: October 30, 2016

Before I get into my personal race, I have to start by saying that this was the best race experience that I’ve had of any race I have ever done. The organization is top notch. Every detail was thought of. Everything was done to ensure that every single participant was taken care of and had a fantastic time. I would recommend this event. Highly recommend it.

When I decided to do this race I knew it would be a challenge for me. It has a fairly hilly profile and I’ve never been much good on hills. I mean, who likes to run hills? Add to that the 2 time cut-offs the course has, and the fact that I’m a back of the packer, and I knew I had my work cut out for me.

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My training over the 18 week training plan was focused on two things. First, hills. Of my four weekly runs each week, at least two of them included minimum of one giant hill and a few smaller ones, and at least every other week, my Sunday long run was hills, hills and more hills. The second thing my training focused on was consistency. I run 10 and 1s, and have always struggled on long solo runs with talking myself into taking extra walk breaks. With the time cut offs for this race, I needed to keep my pace consistent without the extra breaks if I wanted to ensure that I would make the cut-offs.

Training went amazingly well. By the end I had learned to run the hills at the same effort as the rest of the run as opposed to trying to keep up the regular pace, and all those hills and long solo runs had taught me discipline. I could run 10 and 1s all day. At least up to 35 km which was my longest training run in the cycle. I was so ready for this race!

The weather forecast for race day was unusually warm for the end of October but I had come prepared for any weather that Mother Nature could throw at us. Mike and I arrived in plenty of time to get through security, relax a bit, check our bag and head to the start. The temperature was 16c as I lined up in shorts and tank.

The start was amazing. As two Marine Osprey MV-22B aircraft flew overhead and the howitzer went off to start the race, you could feel the excitement in the air. It took about 15 minutes to cross the line and then Mike was gone and I was on my own.

The first 10 km were my first challenge. Besides the final climb at the end of 559182_241204297_xlargethe race, this was the hilliest part of the course. The part I’d been training for. It starts on the highway beside Arlington National Cemetery and winds through Arlington, Virginia uphill for the first 4 km. I had been afraid that in the excitement of the race start I would go out too fast on those hills and burn out, but I ran them really well. In fact I remember thinking “that’s it? That’s the big hill?” Confidence boosted. The next 4 km was a fairly steep downhill which required some control so as not to speed down and kill my legs. The course was heading into a beautiful wooded valley with a stream trickling alongside the road. It was nice and cool through this area and despite all the runners around me, it felt really peaceful. Two more hills at 8 km and 9 km and we were over a bridge across the Potomac River into Washington, D.C. and through Georgetown.

The seco559182_241048446_xlargend 10 km took us on an out and back along the Rock Creek Trail where I was able to catch a glimpse and a wave to Mike around 13 km, a huge spectator gallery complete with a Marine Corps band and then into East Potomac Park and along the course’s Blue Mile which is dedicated to fallen service men and women and is the most moving tribute I have ever experienced in a marathon. We continued around Hains Point and back through the park. I was still running my 10 and 1s comfortably and a check of my pace band at the mile markers told me I was on pace to challenge my marathon PB of 5:23:27.

The third 10 km held my next challenge. The first time cut-off, The Gauntlet, was at 25 km. Looking at my time, I knew I would make it without a problem. We ran out of the park, past the Jefferson Memorial and into West Potomac Park for another out and back with the Gauntlet at the end of the back part. Still running 10 and 1s easily. Pa559182_240720392_xlargece still on track. I reached the Gauntlet with an hour and 23 minutes to spare. No problem. Coming out of the park area, turning towards the Washington Monument and onto the National Mall, we were reaching midday and it was starting to warm up with no shade anywhere. Through this area I had started to feel some cramping in my stomach and tried to ignore it but by the time I hit 28 km I decided that I needed to make a stop. I’ve never had gastro issues in a race before and I’ve never had to stop mid-race, but I thought that would be the best option. I lost about 6 minutes at that stop but got back on the road and actually felt better in the crowd I had ended up with. It was a little less dense. Almost immediately I was approaching the second cut-off of the day, Beat the Bridge, at about 29 km with plenty of time to spare.

The Beat the Bridge cut-off was on the Washington side of the bridge. The course ran over to Arlington again. The bridge was about 1.5 km long and at noon when I was going over it, I felt like I was baking. From this point until the end of the race it was open road, no shade, full sun with the temperature getting up to somewhere around 27c.

The next 10km was my least favourite of the course. Besides the full sun/heat, it wasn’t nearly as scenic. Maybe the heat and the waves of stomach cramping I was feeling is affecting my opinion and on a different day I may have a different opinion. It went through the Pentagon parking lot and into Crystal City. To be fair, this section of the course is not part of the usual course. Due to a major public transit overhaul and opening times, in order to allow people to get to the start of the race and still have a chance at beating the Gauntlet and Beat the Bridge, the race organizers decided to move about 2 miles of the course from Washington over to Arlington, into the Pentagon parking lot. This will probably be changed back in future years.

559182_240691865_xlargeMy race was quickly falling apart. Due to the gastro issues I was having, gels and blocks were not going down well after about 25 km and I stopped taking them, so I was not getting any nutrition. I tried some of the other things spectators were offering on the course. I thought that a bagel or something bready might do the trick, so I tried pretzels, a donut hole and animal crackers. Nothing seemed to help. I was still drinking water and electrolytes as much as I could but the heat was playing havoc with my tummy. By this time I was finding it difficult to run more than a couple minutes at a time as I continued to fight the cramps in my stomach. During an out and back in Crystal city, I had to run by my hotel twice at km 36 and 38. On the way out, I spotted a cooler with ice in it and grabbed a bunch to put under my hat. As I continued running, I saw a giant fan on a pole about 15-20 feet above the ground that was spraying water. It was like a wonderful rain fall. I took my time going through it and found it cooled me down and I was able to run a little longer. At one of the water stations along this area, the marines who were working it were actually just holding the jugs of water and pouring it into people’s mouths and letting it fall all over their faces. It was extremely hot for the end of October. Another ice station to grab some ice to melt on my face and neck cooled me down and I was ready to go into the final stretch.

The final 2 km went along the highway that the race started on. I could feel the sun burning my shoulders and back this entire way. The crowds, as great as they had been throughout most of the race, were getting thicker, and as I turned left up the final climb there were tons of people cheering and encouraging everyone to get up that hill. This was the final challenge I had trained for and as hard as it was, I pulled together everything I had and ran up that hill, around a turn and down the final stretch to the finish line.

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At the end of most races I’ve run, I have a sense of accomplishment, of pride, and this race was no different. But there was one thing I felt that I never had before. A feeling of frustration. A feeling that I had all these strengths that I had built up over months of training that I hadn’t used. I thought about running another marathon in the next few weeks and Mike and I started looking for options but there were none. So, off season begins, and I start planning for my next big race as I chase my goal of running a marathon in which I can cross the finish line and be satisfied that the race I ran, start to finish, was the best that I could run.

Official Time: 5:54:20

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2015 in review

2015 was a rollercoaster year for me.

In January I was still riding the high of running my first marathon in Chicago a couple months before. I felt strong, maybe even invincible. I had signed up for my second marathon which would take place in Ottawa in May. I had maintained a base long run of 15km for the past few months thinking it would be the best way to keep me fit and at the ready to jump into training. I was pumped and ready to go!

Through January and February my training went pretty well. I was training with Ginny and the Running Room marathon clinic. I was still dealing with a sore hamstring that I’d had for months but it wasn’t getting any worse. It was just there.

A couple months into the training Ginny sustained an injury that forced her to take some time off to heal, and eventually to drop out of the marathon and I found myself basically training on my own. Well, at least I would have, had I not been part of the best clinic ever!

Sunday Run

In March I ran my first race of the year, Around the Bay 30k, as a training run. I ran it at my LSD pace with Julie. I’d never done that before – run a race as a training run. It was nice to take all pressure off and just go out and enjoy the day. The result of that race was a time on par with my PB for that race which told me that my training was paying off.

My training continued to go wonderfully until the second week of April, when about 25km into a 32km run I tripped on the sidewalk and pulled my already sore hamstring. That seemingly minor trip caused a ripple effect that lasted most of the rest of the year.

I tried to continue on with my training, but with 4 weeks to go until marathon race day, I had to stop running completely for 2 weeks to try and rest my leg and even when I started up again, it was slow and painful. Thankfully, the race was not painful at all, but my lack of training showed when by the halfway mark my legs were done. I finished the race, about 40 minutes slower than my previous marathon, but I finished it. It was a long race, and a very humbling experience for me.

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I had a lot of time to think as I went around the course on my own that day, and in the 5 weeks that followed, as I was forced to take some time off to heal my leg, and I realized that after my first marathon, I had gotten it all wrong. I had chosen not to listen to the many experts that came to talk at our clinic, or to the experienced friends in my run clubs. I should have taken more time off after Chicago – more than the 6 days I’d taken off. I should have taken at least 2 weeks off with absolutely no running to allow my body to heal, and then kept it to light running until it was time to start training for my next marathon in January.

So, when I came back from the injury, at the end of June, I decided that the rest of the year would be taking it slow, letting myself recover, and just having fun. No pressure.

I trained through the summer, increasing my distance slowly and running slowly. I didn’t have much choice on the running slowly part. I had lost so much of my strength and cardio through all of this it took a long time to get it back. In fact, I’m still working my way back to where I was. I’m almost there, finally!

I sPride and Remembranceigned up for a bunch of races that I had enjoyed doing or had wanted to do just for fun. The Pride and Remembrance 5k, The B&O Yorkville 5k, The RBC Run for the Kids 15k, Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon and ended the year with the Holly Jolly 5k run 1-P1040581which was one I had wanted to do since they had begun this run a few years ago and it did not disappoint. It was so much fun! I ran them all for fun, no pressure. At each of the races, I found myself feeling stronger, and my times were getting better.

After the Holly Jolly 5k on November 15th, I had promised myself that I would take the rest of the year to run easy, run less and let myself totally heal. And that’s exactly what I did. I was even able to resist the temptation to run the Tannenbaum 10k when it was put in front of me.

The results of this downtime has been wonderful. I’ve enjoyed the light running that I’ve been doing, I feel rested and my leg is almost always pain-free now.

Easy Run

Even with all the downtime I took, I still managed 139 running workouts including races and 1357 km for the year.

I feel like I’m ready to take on the challenges that 2016 will bring. My plan is to start off with a full training schedule up to the beginning of April while I train for Around the Bay, take a bit of a breather with lighter running through the spring with maybe a 10k in May, and hopefully start training in June for a fall marathon.

New motto for 2016 – Hill? What hill?

Race report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

Race date: October 18, 2015

After I ran the Ottawa Marathon in May, I decided to take some time to finally look after my right hamstring. I signed up for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half marathon, took a few weeks off from running, and then began a slow, and sometimes discouraging summer training cycle. My leg was healing, but I’d lost so much cardio throughout all of this that I couldn’t keep up with my usual running buddies anymore. I have always been a back of the packer, but I was now running behind the back of the pack. Alone. It was a very humbling time for me.

In the final couple of weeks before the race, I was starting to feel some improvement. Not being left behind right from the get go, feeling a little stronger. My final race pace runs had me at a 7:05m/km and feeling winded so I decided that my goal for the race would be to just run comfortably, stick to my 10 and 1s and try to come in around 2:30:00.

This was the third time I’ve done this race and each time has been a slightly different course. The current version of the course was by far my favourite.

It was a special day for me because1-_DSC5194 my daughters were there to watch me run a half marathon for the first time and Mike was going to be there taking hundreds of photos.

12115751_10156257660030160_2760446347450234148_nWe met up with Ginny and Julie before the race and walked over to the start together. I enjoyed being able to leave home 45 minutes before the race avoiding the pre-race port-a-potty situation and just getting comfortable in the corral.

It was a cool, crisp fall morning and we were all wearing throw away tops over our race gear along with gloves. I had on a jacket, gloves and arm warmers that I would either give to Mike if I saw him within the first 5k, or throw away if I missed him.

The plan was to start out together, but to run our own races. We all agree that training together is great, but on race day, it’s your race. You have to run it for yourself.

The race has both the full and half marathons starting together with each corral going off at 5 minute intervals. As we slowly walked up to the start line you could feel the excitement growing. We reached the mat at the start, shouted something like “let’s do this!” and we were off!

Right near the start I spotted Mike and the girls taking pictures and cheering us on. What a great way to start a race.

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I almost immediately fell just behind Ginny and Julie. Not because I couldn’t keep up, but rather because I really wanted to run this race alone. I didn’t want to be subconsciously running at a faster pace than I should be, potentially burning out prematurely.

The first 10km of the race took us through some of Toronto’s downtown neighbourhoods and landmarks. We ran up University through Queens Park turning onto Bloor and passing through Yorkville, the Royal Ontario Museum and then down Bathurst past Honest Ed’s (it will always be Honest Ed’s – even when they finally close for good). By 2km I had already taken off the jacket and tied it around my waist until I could find Mike. The arm warmers and glove came off shortly afterward. 1-_DSC6008At around 5km I saw Mike and the girls and prepared to stop for a second to give them my stuff. I had a hard time getting the jacket off my waist. The knot had tightened and my fingers were a bit cold so I lost a few seconds but not a big deal.

I continued down Bathurst, across the steel bridge, onto Fort York Blvd. and then began the long out and back on Lake Shore Blvd. where I moved into the centre of the street hoping to see some of my friends on their way back and was happy to see Andrew who was pacing a friend to a Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon run in a suit. I also saw Colin, Melissa and Greg along the way.

I was running comfortably through the front half of the race, not putting any pressure on myself, and only glancing occasionally at my Garmin, but each time I did, I was happy, and even a bit surprised, to see that my laps were consistently well under a 6:50m/km pace. Even the laps that contained a walk break in them were in that range as well.

The back half of the race took us the rest of the way out along Lake Shore to the turnaround at Ellis and back into the city. I was still running a fairly consistent pace and feeling really great but knew that I had to run the hill up to Jameson along this stretch. This out and back along Lake Shore is one of my least favourite places to run. There is a park that runs adjacent to the street with a trail on it that is very heavily used by runners, cyclist, inline skaters. 16-145154Personally, I’ve never liked running it. I’ve always preferred to run on the streets in the city than to run in the parks. I need the stimulation to keep my mind occupied. But near the end of this training cycle, I ran the trail a few times. I think that may have helped. There were no mind games. I was running at a good pace and even when I got to the Jameson hill, it didn’t seem as big as it usually does.

17-145559As we approached the city again, we were treated to a spectacular view of our great city with its beautiful skyline and the CN Tower in all it’s splendor. I ran through the 18k water station that was run by some of our running community, and then made the final turn onto Bay St. with 1km left to go.

Everything was going fantastic. I had been running consistently throughout the race. And then, it happened. As usual with about 2km left to go, I looked at my Garmin, did a quick calculation, and confirmed that I was ahead of my 2:30:00 goal time. So, what do I do? With 1km left to go, I take a walk break. For no reason other than I could. It was just a short walk of a few seconds. Maybe 10 or 15. But it was the first of 3 short walks I took in the last km of the race. I guess in the grand scheme of things it didn’t make much difference in my overall time but I think this is what I really need to work on. It seems that every race, regardless of the distance, I talk myself into taking unscheduled, and most importantly unnecessary walk breaks near the end.

In the final stretch of the race, it was great to see the crowds getting thicker. I was able to see Sonia and Jonathan waving and taking pictures and just past them I saw James with his parents and the girls, and Maria and Miguel with Zach. It was great to have the support!

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All in all, I’m really happy with the result. I finished ahead of my goal, I had no pain from start to finish, and I ended the day celebrating another awesome race with a group of my family and running buddies both old, and new.  I can’t think of a better way to cap off the 2015 race season.

Official time: 2:25:36.7

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Race report – B&O Yorkville 5k

Race date: September 13, 2015

This is by far my favourite local race, and with the addition of the Canadian 5k Road Race Championship race being added to the event last year, it’s even better.

Going into the race this year, I had set 2 goals. My A goal was to finish under 35 minutes. My B goal was have a faster finish than I had at the Pride Run in June which was a personal worst for me at 36:39.

I have spent the last 2 and a half months coming back from that hammy injury. Slowly increasing my long run in accordance with a half marathon training schedule but only running 3 times a week. Basically taking it easy.

The course has a 2 km downhill at the start, turns flat and then makes another turn back up for 2 km before turning towards the finish line. It’s known to be a fast course, but that stretch of 2km up, up, up at 2.5 – 4.5 km is one of my least favourite stretches to run. I don’t know what it is, but I have a real mental block about it. It’s not really steep, it’s just a gradual, non-stop incline and it breaks me every time.

My race strategy was to run 15 minutes and take a 1 minute walk break to take a bit of a breather before heading up that incline. I thought that at some point along that stretch, I would need to take another bit of a walk to catch my breath and collect myself before turning to the finish stretch.

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The start of the Championship Race

I headed out early to take in the Championship race. A couple of people in my run community were brave enough (and fast enough) to enter and I love watching the elites tear it up on a fast 5k race. It’s really something to see and this year did not disappoint.

After being inspired by that race, I got myself ready for my race. I checked my bag, walked to the start line, caught up with Mike and wished him luck, set my iPod playlist to “Race Pace” and waited for the sound of the horn to start the race. There were no markers for people to line up according to their expected times, so everyone was mixed together depending on when they made it to the corral.

As I crossed the line to start the race, the crowds were pretty thick. It’s a small race of about 1,000 people but as with a lot of small local races, the field includes kids and a fair number of inexperienced people. I spent the first few minutes weaving past a lot of people who were walking, but running downhill made up for it.

The first 2km was even better than I had expected. orig-BOAD1079My leg wasn’t hurting and I wasn’t feeling that sluggish feeling I’ve grown to expect on most of my runs in the past few months. I was feeling great – Energized, stronger than I have in a long time. A glance at my Garmin confirmed that I was running quite well. About where I expected. Maybe a little faster. When I turned onto the short, flat section of the course I checked again and determined the timing was perfect.

By the time I hit the uphill, I would be at 15 minutes, I could take a walk break to recharge and psych myself up. But, when I turned onto University Ave., I didn’t feel the hill. orig-BOAE1843I thought to myself maybe the incline starts a little further up. So I decided to keep running until I felt myself slowing down on the hill and I actually needed a breather. Just past 3km, there was a water station. I walked through the water station, but decided not to take the full minute. I took a few sips and started up again. Another 1.5km of this incline to go. I still had it in my mind to take a walk before I made the final turn but I caught myself. I was feeling really great. Why did I need to stop at all? So I didn’t.

orig-BOAC1920I turned into the final 400m or so of the race, saw the finish line and kicked it up. As I approached the finish line, the time on the clock was 34:45. I knew then that I had broken 35 minutes. My A goal achieved. I was so happy.

When I looked at my Garmin, I saw that my chip time would be around 33:44. That’s not even close to my 5k PB of 30:47 which I earned in this race 3 years ago, but it’s well under my A goal, and after all my challenges over the past 6 months I’m really happy with this result. 
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I’m still reeling with fact that I didn’t feel that incline during the race. It didn’t wear me down. Mentally or physically. This is HUGE for me. I can’t count the number of times I’ve run that stretch, and I’ve hated every second of it. Every. Single. Second.

For me, that was the best part of the day.

Official time: 33:41.3

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Pride and Remembrace 5k race and injury update

Race date: June 27, 2015

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus since the Ottawa Marathon, trying to recover from this stubborn right hamstring injury. I took a full 4 weeks off, and then, just to get my legs moving and test them out before the Pride and Remembrance 5k run, I did two very short runs. Both were slow and sluggish.

The day before the race, I saw my physiotherapist for my weekly appointment. I was sore and achy and starting to believe that this stupid hamstring is never going to get better. It’s been almost 5 weeks of total rest and I feel like it’s not getting any better at all… Well, except that I don’t have to sit on a pillow at work anymore, so I guess that’s something. My physio applied some kinesiology tape to my leg, showed me how to do it myself and gave me instructions to stretch my quads and hip flexors before I run.

Within a few hours of leaving her office, the pain in my leg was almost gone, but I wasn’t holding out much hope that it would lessen the pain that I felt on both of my short runs the week before because I had tape on my leg for those runs as well.

So, I’ve been looking forward to this race for months! I went out last year to spectate and it looked like so much fun I couldn’t wait for registration to open this year. This is a small race with a maximum of 1500 entries and they were all Me and the girls at pridespoken for. It’s also known for its amazing after party with a fantastic atmosphere, great music, food and cake from Dufflet Bakery. Mike and my daughters were going to come and join the fun as well. Neither of my daughters had ever been out to a race before so I was looking forward to them experiencing the excitement.

Because of my injury, the plan going in was to run easy and just have fun. No pressure. Based on the two runs I did in the last week (both were painful, slow and I found out just how much cardio I’ve lost in 4 weeks),Me and Julie I thought I would probably come in around 38 – 40 minutes. We met up with Julie and a couple other friends at the start line, took a few photos and then Mike and the girls went to find a good place to watch the race and we headed into the corral to wait until the confetti flew and the race was on!

We went out nice and easy, Julie letting me set the pace. The course is flat along Wellesley with a couple of small inclines as you circle around Queen’s Park (twice) before heading back along Wellesley to the finish. Julie and I chatted the whole way getting caught up with each other and enjoying the costumes of runners and the marching band along the course. I was really happy when I realized that I wasn’t feeling any of that familiar leg fatigue, ache or pain I’ve grown accustomed to. From beginning to end I was pretty much pain-free! Just a small niggling at the top of the right leg but that was it. I was also happy to be able to run for 21 minutes before taking a 1 minute walk break. That was the longest I’ve run continuous since the marathon over a month ago and nowhere near how I did earlier in the week. I didn’t bring any water and it was warmer than I thought so I did need to take advantage of the water station, and we took one other mini walk break before turning towards the home stretch.

1-_DSC6522 (2) I saw a lot of familiar faces along the final stretch. Friends who had already finished their race, or who had come out just to cheer. I crossed the line and was pleasantly surprised with the time I saw.

This race was both a PW (personal worst) and a PV (personal victory). It produced my slowest 5k race result to date, but it was also a victory because I ran it comfortably, pain-free and faster than anticipated. In fact, I couldn’t believe how great I felt!

Five days later, as I write this, I’m cautiously excited to share that I have had about 85-90% less pain in these 5 days, than at any time, in the past 5 months. I have to wonder what it was that caused such a drastic change. Did the weeks of rest I’d had finally kick in, was it the taping of my leg, or was it the magic that is the Pride and Remembrance run? Whatever the reason, I cross my fingers (and my toes) that the momentum keeps going.

My short term plan is to increase mileage and number of runs slowly over the next few week and hope that I’ll be back to regular training for my fall half marathon soon.

Official time: 36:39

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22 Days and Counting

It’s been a tough month or so since Around the Bay. My troublesome right hamstring took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago when I took a near tumble and strained it causing further injury. I’ve been struggling with myself trying to do the right thing by resting it, but the fear that I’m going to lose everything I’ve done over the past 4 months has kept me from really giving it a good rest. Until finally, this past Tuesday I realized I just can’t keep running through the pain.

Right from the start of that run, my leg felt sore. Worse than usual. I thought that once I warmed up it would feel better. And it did. Not 100%, but the pain that I was feeling gave way to the familiar ache of the last few months and I continued on my way. Slowly. The difference was that I noticed at the end of the run that my right leg, felt as fatigued as it normally would after I run 25-30km. In fact it felt more fatigued that it did after I ran Around the Bay. The thing was, that I had just run 7.6km.

It was then that I had to concede. I have more issues with that leg than I’ve been letting myself believe. I could not deny it any longer. I decided that was it. No more running until after I saw my physiotherapist a few days later where I would need to make a game plan to get me to the start line of my second marathon.

So after another assessment, the plan as it stands right now is lots of calf stretching, light hamstring stretching, physio treatments twice a week and no running. In fact absolutely no activity that engages my hamstrings at all. Not an easy task. I’m hoping that another week and a half of rest along with the physiotherapy will allow me to get in some easy runs for the last 10-14 days before the marathon. We’ll reassess at each treatment to see where I stand.

Right now, the challenges are: trying to figure out how to get in some cardio workouts doing an activity that does not include activating my hamstring, and keeping myself from going completely bonkers. It’s like going through the taper crazies but you’re not supposed to be tapering yet.

To paraphrase something my very wise running buddy Ginny recently said, for the next few weeks I’ll need to control the struggle between the smart and stubborn runners on my shoulders yapping their opinions at me.

If all goes well, the smart runner will win the fight and make it to the race.

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Around the Bay recap

Race date: March 29, 2015

I’ve never gone into a race with the mindset of treating it like a training run. Hell, I’m way too competitive for that. But here I am, training for the Ottawa Marathon with 29k on the schedule for ATB day so that’s exactly what I set out to do. I had to think of it as “just another Sunday LSD run”. I wasn’t sure how that would go since I really am competitive by nature but I had to give it my best shot. Luckily, my run buddy Julie had the same idea in mind so I thought, between the two of us, we had a good chance at keeping each other in check.

This race has THE best pre-race set up being inside an arena with lots of warm places to sit and plenty of bathrooms available. It also has the best finish line which is on the floor of the arena and spectators can sit in the stands, in comfort, as they wait for their friends and family to finish.

FullSizeRender (2) The forecast was for sunny but cold temperatures so we put on some warm sweaters that we could throw off at some point on the course once we warmed up. Based on the forecast, I thought I might be wearing that throw-away sweater for at least an hour into the race.

11088994_10152675281955178_7953191851255306693_oWe headed out to the start a few minutes before race time and squeezed into the corral just as the gun went off. I was running with Julie and Stacey to start. I ended up beside Stacey and then noticed Julie running right behind me which was my reminder that Stacey was racing this race, I was not. So, I slowed down and met up with Julie. Within about 500 meters, Stacey had been swallowed up by the sea of runners and Julie and I were left to run our own run. It was a lot warmer than I thought it would be, with the sun shining so bright, and before the 2km marker I was throwing off that old sweatshirt.

The race itself was good. I ran comfortably not really looking at my Garmin to check my pace at all. I ran my regular 10 & 1s and walked through the water stations to grab a quick sip. Through the rolling hills in the middle third of the race we ran most, but did walk the top half of a couple of them. Due to construction, there was a course change this year and the big hill at around 25km was taken out. The new part of the course was a nice substitution after all the hills we’d run for the first 23km of the race. It was nice though, to see the man with his big boom box playing We Will Rock You on the new part of the course and Grim Reaper had a helper this year. As we ran by, Julie gave the Grim Reaper a high five and we carried on into the final 3km of the race.

IMG_0562At about 28k I was feeling really great and decided that I would run through the last walk break and try and pick up my pace a bit. As I approached the final intersection before the descent into the arena I saw Mike who took a few (dozen) pictures as I ran by.

Down the final stretch, turn into the arena, down the ramp, turn another corner, out onto the floor of the arena and cross the finish line. I walked for a minute taking stock of things. I felt pretty good. No, I felt great! Then I heard a loud cheer of my name. I looked into the stands and saw a group of my buddies. Some who had run the race, and others who had come out just to cheer us all on. I smiled and waved. I really love my running friends!

When I finally was able to see my official time I was pretty ecstatic. I was just off my 30k PB and I had run this race comfortably. Not pushing the pace at all. What this told me is that all the training I’ve been doing is paying off. At the end of the race, I felt like I could have kept going past 30k.

The weeks leading up to the race, I had started to feel tired, worn out, started to wonder what the hell I was doing training for another marathon. This run has boosted my confidence, renewed my commitment. And with eight weeks left of training, I’d say it couldn’t have been timed any better.

Official Time: 3:48:20.5

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