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Road2Hope Marathon

It seems that every year, by the time I finish the Road2Hope (first Sunday of Nov.), I am so burnt out that I simply can’t be arsed to write up a race report. Even last year when I had a major PB and only ran the half, I simply vegged and my motivation to do a write-up was nowhere to be seen. As such, I still feel obligated to post this (horribly late) for posterity sake.

Road2Hope Marathon – 42.36 km – 03:50 – 5:26/km pace

What a mixed bag this race was.

On the bus ride to the starting area, a chatty dude from Windsor sat down next to me and happily talked away the entire trip. It wasn’t a bad thing, he was quite nice, but one of the last things he said before we left the bus was how much he hated wind while running…I should have seen the foreshadowing but hindsight is 20/20 so…

headwindsThe first 20km flew by and I stuck pretty closely to the 3:45 pacer until he stopped to use the washroom. Right around that time we hit the significant downhill and I was determined to use it to my advantage, but Murphy did his best to throw a wrench into the works. As we turned onto the Red Hill Parkway, the cold wind coming off Lake Ontario became a massive headwind which negated some of the advantage. I probably pushed too hard on this section trying to bank some time, and when the 3:45 pacer passed me at 33km I was kicking myself for not racing smarter.

I ran a pretty decent race; hitting most of the tangents, fueling well etc., but ultimately I didn’t have enough fitness to hold my position. My right leg (glute, groin, hamstring quad) had been barking since the 15km mark and by the time I reached the mid 30’s I was in some serious pain. My lower back joined in the pain parade as well, but the major contributor was my feet; they were simply aching, and I’m not sure why. My feet hurt so much that I seriously considered taking off my shoes and running barefoot at one point, but quickly realized that was desperation talking. Finally, I knew things were a train wreck when a lady in a puffy winter coat passed me at the 37km mark and I couldn’t catch her…the shame.

seinfeld_puffy_coat

maybe not quite that puffy…

This race was still a PB by a couple minutes, but I wasn’t really happy with how I ran it. My mental game was ok, and I thought my fueling was decent, though I felt hungry at the 12km mark, and had finished all my gels etc. by the early 30’s. I thought I had carb loaded effectively the days before the race but something was definitely off.

It’s all in the books now (especially with this significantly delayed race report), time to move onto new challenges.

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C+, Just Like High School

In general, I don’t try and do a mile by mile breakdown of races but instead talk about instances or moments I noticed during my death march.  I know I veered away from this with the Around the Bay Recap, but you should know here-and-now….I’m a hypocrite and you shouldn’t do anything I do or say or even think about doing…or saying…just sayin’…As much as I try to be altruistic and hold true to all the edicts/assumptions/declarations I’ve made (I really do have the best intentions in mind) I’ve discovered that Irony has a habit of completely buggering up my plans, pushing me face first in the mud and laughing at my misfortunes.  Am I complaining?  Hell no, this in my life and I’ve simply come to terms with it.  Overall I’ve been ridiculously lucky so a few kicks to the junk here and again REALLY aren’t anything to get upset about…although I do love my junk…

I’ve gone back and forth on whether this race was a success or not when describing it to people, it’s right on the emotional fence between the two.  The nitty gritty of it is that I finished in 3:55:58 (chip time), which puts me solidly between “Goal B” and “Goal C”, or if you want to be technical I landed in “Goal C” territory while being close-ish to the B-border….sound like an ego-saving cop-out?  That’s exactly what it is.

Overall, the Ottawa course is gorgeous.  TONNES of natural (or naturalized) sections, the downtown sections of both Ottawa and Gatineau, prominent or historical landmarks, and simply lots and LOTS of public support (the city really buys into and celebrates this race weekend).  At the same time, this course is deceptively hard; when you look at the elevation profile it really doesn’t have any major obstacles, but therein lays the rouse.   The Ottawa course is constantly undulating, you don’t realize it right away, but after 30km let me tell you…you notice it.  By 32-34km-ish the majority of the hills are out of the way, but by that time your race fate is sealed.  If you’ve raced smart you are cruising, although there are lots of us that simply got caught up in the course and had to fight our way through to the finish line.

Weather could be considered to be a factor, but having taken pride in running in near blizzard conditions it’d hardly make me a bad-ass to be complaining about a little bit of rain and humidity.  In reality, it rained over night, drizzled during warm up, held off for the first 26km-ish, then rained in earnest for the remainder of the race (if it’s any consolation, by the time my eggs arrived at brunch it was sunny outside…). For my race, the rain really didn’t have an effect but I’m sure to some (all the people being treated for hypothermia in the medical tent) it was a huge PITA.

Moreover my thoughts for the weekend lay with two groups of people.  1.)  I rode to Ottawa with my speedwork partner and her family.  We visited with their friends, and I waited for my accommodations to be ready.  These people MADE my weekend.  They often commented that as a fellow parent I should be out doing something significant with my time away from the family, but reality, they provided a calm environment where I could put all my race anxieties aside and just chill out.  These folks showed me such gracious hospitality that I really didn’t know how to respond.  2.) On the other side is a friend I was supposed to have dinner/hang out/crash with Saturday night.  As I was dropped off at her apartment, I called her to let her know I was there, and received no answer.  A little while later my phone rang, and it was her, telling me that she was 7-8hrs away at her childhood home.  Initially I was PISSED, assuming that she had simply forgotten that I was coming into town…until she explained that her Dad had gone into the hospital with some complications for a condition he’d been battling for a while**.  As I was trying to digest all this information and she told me that despite her rush to leave town, she had arranged for a friend to meet me with the key to her apartment.  To be honest, it was awkward staying at someone’s house when they were out of town, but I did my best to be an over-the-top guest, you’d hardly know I’d even been there.  I tend be a tad cynical about the general public, but everyone I met, or depended on this weekend went out of their way to help me out.  Kudos to you all, you were all fantastic.

Have a good one kids; remember to pay it forward when you get the chance.

 

**I found out later that my friend’s dad passed away shortly after the race.

What a difference a couple of days makes

I’ve always been rather short-sighted.  The here and now is where I live, which makes for long-term analysis kind of a crap shoot.  I know how I feel right now, and the recommended remediation for it….but unless you take the long term trends into account it’s mostly guess work.

I went out for my long run last Saturday, which was the BEST day of the weekend around here, clear blue skies, slight breeze, and most of all no rain!  As described in my last post, I tried to keep the pace WAY down on this long run to give my aching body a break, but what I experienced was anything but restful.

The first 5km felt creaky.  Everything in me felt like it was covered in rust and would break at any minute.  Surprising?  Not really, at this point I had taken nearly 2 full weeks off (although I had done other exercise) but it still sucked to work through it.  After warming up, I spent the next 5km worrying about the possibly (HA!) recurring shinsplints.  Even though the there was some aching pain, and some minor sharp pain it didn’t get so bad that I had to stop.  As I’ve mentioned briefly before, I’ve been trying to find the source of some minor knee pain during my long runs.  I thought slowing down and using my orthotics again (I had been trying to get away from them) would alleviate this but I was wrong.  From km 8-9 to km 18 was spent dealing with that exact knee/patella tendon pain.  Awesome, what else could go wrong?…..I really should know better than ask that… IT CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE!

AgonyAfter suffering through all the previous bullshit, I thought I’d be in the clear…who could have predicted my old friend “Left ITB Issues” stopping by for a visit?  I haven’t seen or heard from ITB issues since last year at exactly the same time of year, training for exactly the same marathon, so this flare was a surprise to say the least. I’m 3 ½ weeks out from race day and here I am nearly dead on the side of the road not even at the 30km mark yet.               (Pardon the following melodrama)
I’M SCREWED!
What am I supposed to do to fix this in time to run a full marathon, let alone try and meet any of my goals?   At least while the ITB was acting up my shins and knees felt great…eventually I cut the run short since there was no real benefit in pounding my aching body any more just to break the 30km mark.

After some long contemplation and making sweet love to my foam roller all of Sunday afternoon, I hatched a plan.  A plan that was sure to leave me limping along at 36km of the marathon again, but dammit, I have to try something.  Last year, I skipped a lot of my mid week runs in favour of getting the distance runs in.  I was petrified of the 42.2km distance, but so sore from my body deteriorating out from underneath me that I sacrificed my maintenance runs in favour of 3-4 hour long sadistic death marches.  I wouldn’t repeat that mistake again.  In addition, I sought the advice/treatment of a physiotherapist who was happy to inform me that I was woefully inadequate in the strength department.  She advised some specific strengthening and stretching exercises which I promptly ignored or forgot or was too sore to do.  The one thing I’m confused about is that I’m in much better condition than last year; I’ve been doing speedwork and hills to keep my body strong, and prepped for the race to come, but it doesn’t seem to be enough…..so strengthening seems to be the lynchpin of my plan:

  • Keep up the mid week runs
  • Strength exercises at least 3 times a week, hopefully 4 or more if I can fit them in with my family/running schedule WITHOUT over doing it…after all, moderation is my middle name…(cough, cough…)  Leg Extensions, Lunges, Deadlifts, Squats etc.
  • Quality time with my foam roller…sweet sweet foam roller, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.
  • No more excessive long runs.  This coming weekend is supposed to be my longest before taper anyway, so instead of pushing 36km, we’ll see how the body feels in the 20s but I’d give my body a chance instead of pounding it into the ground. Is this a mistake?…I have no idea.

To be honest, I’m not sure how my body will react during the race without some really long runs under my belt.  The Around the Bay gave me a 30km, but that will be 2 months past on race day.  Since then it’s been 3 high 20km runs (plus another run this weekend of…who knows?) but at this point only time will tell.  Hopefully, the complete breakdown this past weekend was just a reaction to fatigue/dehydration/and two weeks off at a key point in the training cycle…hopefully…

Time Lapse Video of 2010 NYC Marathon

Check out this time lapse video of the start of the 2010 NYC Marathon, showing runners crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Found at : Gothamist.com & Laughingsquid.com

Road2Hope Hamilton – Race Experience

Yesterday’s Road2Hope Marathon was (IMHO) a resounding success.  I’ve thought about discussing it in km by km sectional breakdowns, but to be perfectly honest most of the miles were repetitions of the same feelings/sights/experiences over and over again.  As such I’ll touch on a few highlights, a low light, and look at a few points that popped up on Dailymile in the post race discussions.

Stay Calm

Stay Calm

As my last post so eloquently(ha!) pointed out, I was stressed about this race.  I had set a goal, actually put in the miles to make it happen, and simply had to execute on the plan.  As it so often happens, the temptation to deviate from the plan cropped up again and again.  Some of you gifted individuals can get away with that, but this guy…is still stinging from the last few times I did that.  Let’s just say that all that stress I was feeling…was a fantastic motivator to stick with the plan.

I wanted to maintain a reasonable pacing for the entire length of the race in order to achieve my overall time goal, instead of going out fast and crashing horribly (like I in Ottawa).  The exception to this was a section with a significant downhill for 2km, that eased out, back in to mostly flat 1 km or so later.  I gave myself carte blanche to run comfortably but within myself here.  As soon as the terrain evened out again I was back on target.  This tactic worked GREAT for me, and by the end of the race I still had enough gas in the tank to increase my speed over the last 4km….even though I was huffing and puffing like Darth Vader doing a stress test.  My wife met me on the back stretch along the lake and cheered me on for a 100m or so, and let me know that I was only a “couple of minutes” back of a pace bunny (the one 10 minutes below my goal time).  As soon as I left my cheering section behind, I zoned my eyes forward and went “Wabbit Hunting” .

Fudd

Wabbit Hunting

Much like Fudd, I never caught the wabbit, but I know I made some serious gains, and the pursuit ultimately propelled me across the line.  Anything to keep you going in those last desperate KMs.

One last note on my run, there was NO WALKING for me(except a couple of steps to drink at the water stations).  I don’t have any issues with people doing walk-run programs, but for me personally this was a benchmark of how my fitness has developed over the summer, and how my sacrifices have ultimately paid off.

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!-

Although the race finished really well for me, not everything was smiles and sunshine.  There is an out-and-back section of the course that was added near the start date to deal with some municipal construction in the area.  It wasn’t ideal, but it was great to be able to see the lead runners fly by.  As a confirmed mid-pack runner, you rarely get to see these guys in action.  In addition it allowed me the chance to look for faster friends in the crowd and pass along some encouragement (you know, pay it forward ;)), and as such I was running close to the road center line.  Nearing the 13km mark I found myself boxed in between the center line and a few fellow runners who, until that time, were keeping a good pace. Suddenly they slowed by 30sec/km on a small uphill section.  All I could do was wait for a gap in oncoming runner traffic, and when the gap appeared, quickly scoot around them.

Lost in Space Robot

Danger!

Now let it be known, I did not cross the center line.  I came close, but made every effort to pass cleanly, quickly, and not impede anyone (Anyone I was passing, or anyone  coming towards me)…..what I didn’t realize (I should have noticed this before hand) was that the road was cracked along/around the center line, and as I “made my move” I stepped on the edge of one of the crevices.  My ankle rolled.  Hard.  A quick swear word, and a self-deprecating joke to the runners around me and I made my pass, luckily I have flexible ankles (read: weak) and the roll didn’t effect me past 10 steps.  I certainly feel it today, but during the run it didn’t bother me one bit.  As if my blunder wasn’t enough, the runner I passed made a comment that I’m still not exactly sure about…but I’m leaning heavily towards “Guess that’s what you get for running on the line”.  Awesome.  So much for community.  I let it slide, but I‘ll be honest….it did feel little vindicating to watch him finishing the race as I was getting in my car later.  What can I say?  I’m human.

Construction – I’ve heard some discussion about the construction along Woodward avenue, and how some runners found it difficult to race on, or hard on the body.  I understand where they are coming from, however it’s hard to blame the organizers of the race for this.  The municipality dictates it’s own infrastructure schedule, and unfortunately these two events coincided.  At the very least, there was a concrete base; I did a training run on that section of road a few weeks prior and had to dodge huge holes in the ground, ripped up sidewalks and mud everywhere!  It’s regrettable that the road was in poor condition…but it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

Course Distances – Some runners have been questioning the distances near the end of the race, i.e. – The last km was too long, etc. I was going to discuss that in this post, however this piece is already too long, and I’d really like to formulate those thoughts into clearer post of their own.  Hopefully it’ll be worth the wait, and perhaps, garner some discussion on the subject.

One point I will leave here is: course lengths/routes are set by the organizers, but VERIFIED by an independent 3rd party.  This is how they can have a certified “Boston Qualifier”.  So if the distance(s) were off, where did things go off the rails?   Was it human error?  GPS measuring error or confusion?  Personal course meandering?  Or a combination of factors?

Cheers

Race Day Approacheth!

Last year at this time, I signed up for the Road2Hope 1/2 marathon.  I had be running for fun a bit, but never anything too long or too fast, in fact I rarely ever took a watch and only measured my distance after the fact (using Google Earth) out of curiosity.  Did I mention that I signed up 3 weeks before the race, so I only put in three medium-long training runs before hand?  The longest was about 14.5km and I was dying from the effort, but still I soldiered on and took to the line on race day.  Needless to say, my race didn’t go according to plan…wait…what plan? I didn’t know WHAT I was doing!  According to official time my race was pretty good (significantly under 2hrs), but deep down I knew I didn’t race well.

I crashed into the wall at the 17km mark, I could barely walk down stairs for the next 2-3 days, I tried an energy gel for the first time on the course which sent me running for the washroom for the rest of the afternoon, but worst of all….I got away with it.  All I ever have to tell anyone is my time and the fact I did it pretty much “training free”, but deep down I know I could have done better.

So in 1 day 17 hours and 22 minutes, I’ll get my chance for redemption.  I’ll be lining up at my 2nd marathon this year…actually my 2nd marathon overall.  When I started this distance running thing, I promised myself I’d do 3 marathons then re-evaluate my goals and I still intend do do that, but at this point I’d be remiss if I didn’t say my confidence is shaky right now.  Why the trepidation?  I think it stems from the fact that I actually TRIED this time;  I did all (ok…MOST) the right things.  Training, hydration, fueling, weights, etc. and if the walls come crashing down it’ll hurt that much more.  At least the last time I did this race I was completely unprepared…this time I’m emotionally involved.

Most of this is pre-race nerves talking, I’ve done my homework, now it’s time to put the knowledge to the test.

See you next week folks.