Boxing Day 10-Miler

On Monday we made our way to Hamilton for our 5th Boxing Day 10-Miler and one last race of the year. It was a dicey start to the day as we slid down the ice-covered driveway and drove through pouring rain on the way there, but the conditions ended up being close to perfect. It was comfortably cold with just wet roads to deal with by the time we started at noon.

Every race should begin with piano and preaching in the YMCA chapel!

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After a few solid workouts in the weeks leading up to the race, I realized I could quite comfortably chase a PB – which would be my first PB at any distance since 2011. Long overdue, I’d say! My previous 10-mile best was 1:25 but with some urging from my coaches (aka husband Mark and friend Andy), we decided that sub-1:20 was a realistic target. My Garmin has been acting up recently and recording all of my runs far short, but luckily Mark and Andy agreed to provide pacing and support so I was able to ignore my watch and rely on them. #blessed

I did wear my Garmin anyway, just to see how far off it was, but turned it inward so I couldn’t see the screen every time I habitually glanced at my wrist. The splits included below are slightly off since I clocked a few hundred metres short overall. And yes, my new Garmin is on the way. 🙂

There was a crowded start as usual but it helped us stick to our plan of starting off easy and relaxed. A bit of weaving was necessary, but it soon opened up so we could settle in. It was weird not to be looking at my Garmin but I knew I was in good hands and found myself cruising pretty comfortably with Andy’s re-assurance that we were right where we needed to be.

KM 1 to 5 – 5:14, 4:56, 4:55, 4:54, 4:57

I love this route, especially around Bayfront Park and on the path alongside the harbour. We saw several swans and thought of our friend Greta who would have described it as “just like being on vacation.”

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There’s a long-ish climb toward the turn-around (8K split @ 5:07) although it was much shorter than I remembered. I even said so out loud and another runner declared it “long enough!” Canadian marathon champ and all-around awesome guy Reid Coolsaet was out on the course along this stretch and I had a slight fan-girl/creepy-stalker moment when I hollered out his name after passing him (because I was too busy looking at his dog as we ran by to realize it was him.) Pretty cool that he came out to cheer me us on!

KM 6 to 10 – 5:00, 4:57, 5:07, 4:44, 4:48

I was starting to feel the effort after about 10K and it was time to turn on some music and zone out a bit. I resisted the urge to peak at the overall time on my Garmin and really had no idea where we were in terms of pace, although it felt like I was having an awesome race. Andy was running a little bit ahead and I knew he was trying to pull me along so I kept my eyes on him and kept pushing, always looking for the next mile marker and counting them down.

There are a couple of decent hills in the last 2 miles and it took a lot of will to get my legs moving quickly again after each one. Finally we hit the long straight-away to the finish and I could just barely make out the red of the finish clock in the distance, still having no clue what it was going to read. Andy urged me ahead, Mark continued pulling me along and I gave it all I had.

KM 11 to 16 – 4:44, 4:48, 4:49, 4:41, 4:53, 4:33*
*pace for the partial KM recorded on my watch

1:17:42
first half 40:11 | second half 37:31
140/503 overall
31/216 females
8/20 F30-34

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Road2Hope Marathon

After Erie in September, I recovered quickly and felt that I had another marathon in me this year. I set my sights on Road2Hope and wanted to take another stab at a 3:45. I had a few big training weeks and some really solid workouts that left me feeling strong and confident going in to the race – I definitely felt that I was in better shape than I had been at Erie and the conditions were looking just about perfect. Temperatures in the 5-15C range, light wind and clear skies made it a beautiful day to run.

We were spoiled with an awesome support crew once again and the usual pre-race shenanigans did a great job at keeping my nerves in check. We met up with the rest of our group for good lucks, hugs and photos and before we knew it, it was time to line up for the 7:30 start.

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I am generally most comfortable racing solo (until the end when I’ll take all the help I can get!) so I was ready to just turn up the music and do my thing. I enjoyed the quiet country roads and views from the escarpment during the first half, although I did find it a lot hillier than I was expecting. I didn’t talk to anyone at all, but zoned out and tried to stay in the moment. I decided to try gelling earlier this time and had a Gu every 6K. I opted not to carry any bottles but took a cup of water and a cup of gatorade form each aid station (every 3k), slowing only slightly to grab them.

5:18, 5:19, 5:22, 5:17, 5:17, 5:17, 5:16, 5:24, 5:15, 5:21

I was surprised to seeing our support crew cheering at 12.5K and it was the best thing ever. I could still hear them screaming even as I carried on a couple hundred metres down the road and I didn’t stop smiling for ages. What a boost – hence the 5:11 split below. Oops!

5:16, 5;21, 5:11, 5:20, 5:15, 5:15, 5:16, 5:20, 5:14, 5:18

My first half split was just under 1:52, which was exactly where I wanted to be. At 22k we hit the downhill for 6k and I was careful to keep my pace controlled. I only sped up by about 5s/km and instead took advantage of the benefit of less effort. Before I knew it we were climbing the off-ramp at 28k. I hated the next section on the trail, as I have in the past,  with its tricky footing (those bricks?!) and short, steep hills. My legs were also feeling a little wobbly from the downhill and all I could think was WTF!

5:18, 5:24, 5:10, 5:17, 5:11, 5:15, 5:15, 5:25, 5:25, 5:42

What a nice surprise when I spotted my friend Luis running toward me with the biggest grin on his face! He made this tough section fly by, filling me in on how everyone else was doing, taking my sweaty wrist pouch and gloves for me and giving me water. The next thing I knew we were hitting the waterfront at 31k and I got to see the whole gang again for a much-needed boost.

Andy jumped in with me here to take me through the rest of the race. I told him I was feeling a bit tired, to which he said “that’s ok!” I remember thinking, easy for you to say… lol. I told him where I was in terms of pace and then settled in to follow him to the finish.

It was awesome to see Laura out cheering on the trail – thanks for the pic!

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I felt myself starting to fade at about 34k – the same place it happened at Erie. My pace only slipped slightly (5-10s/km) but I knew it was about to get very tough. I told myself to just hang in there until the turn-around and then it would feel easier to be running toward the finish. HAHAHAHA! Not so much. Andy kept telling me how well I was doing (I remember thinking, liar!) and told me to quit looking at my Garmin. Finally I just took it off and handed it to him because it was only frustrating me. He pulled out all the stops to keep me going – pointing out how many people we were passing and telling me we were sucking up all of their energy as we did so (this felt like some kind of messed up video game in my delirious head at this point), waving his arms around to pump up the crowds and telling all kinds of random people my name.

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I wanted to walk so badly and kept promising myself I could walk at 37k, then 38k, then 39k. But I never did. I hadn’t walked a step of that race so far and this was no time to start. Plus, I’m pretty sure Andy would have yelled at me! I think I only said 3 words during this section and they were “I can’t” and “ughhhh”. I didn’t feel like drinking anything anymore but Andy kept handing me cups of water and gatorade from his bottle so I forced them down. He was telling me that this was just like the final few KMs of the Tottenham trail where we finished many of my key workouts together, always with a negative split. I wanted to pick up the pace so badly but I just could not will my legs to go any faster.

5:10, 5:16, 5:15, 5:22, 5:23, 5:32, 5:34, 5:36, 5:36, 5:42

#letitgo socks working their magic

#letitgo socks working their magic

Finally we were passing 40k and our fantastic group of supporters were screaming my name. I made Andy tell me what time my Garmin was showing when we passed 41k (3:40) which added a 4th word to my vocabulary: “f*ck!” Finally, mercifully, I could see the finish and Andy pointed out one last person that I needed to pass. I have no idea if I did or not but somehow I got over that line.

5:36, 5:28

3:46:37
325/778  overall
73/293  females
8/31  F30-34

Admittedly, I was (am) a little disappointed not to get that 3:45 but I am damn proud of a 3:46. Last year at Road2Hope I struggled through a 2:04 half marathon wondering if I would ever run a marathon again. This year I was able to run three, improving with each one, and I’m starting to believe I might even be able to chase my 6-year-old PB again next year.

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A super duper huge congratulations to hubby who ran a 3:08:48 for a new PB and BQ! 

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Erie Marathon

We had an all-around fantastic trip to Erie, Pennsylvania over the weekend for the Erie Marathon. I was lucky to travel with a really fun group and the whole weekend went by entirely too quickly. Road trip silliness, group meals, grocery store shenanigans, hotel room parties and of course gathering with our mighty group at the start and finish lines added so many dimensions of fun to this marathon experience. I have never used an out-of-town marathon as a goal race and prefer to sleep in my own bed, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. We had such an awesome group of runners in which I was honoured to be included, and more importantly we had a top-notch support crew who devoted their entire weekend to looking after us. They drove us around, fed us candy (before, during AND after the race), retrieved disgustingly sweaty items that we tossed at them, provided fantastic cheer stations and even ran with us. Kelly, Katie, Matt and Luis were the real stars of the weekend!

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I would easily recommend the Erie Marathon and would do it again in a heartbeat. Not everyone in our group had the same opinion, but I really enjoyed the two-loop, almost entirely flat course. You couldn’t beat the beautiful scenery running alongside Lake Erie the entire time. As my friend Greta likes to say, it felt like being on vacation!

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It was a very quiet course for spectators except for a few spots, but this wasn’t an issue for us since we had our own personal crew cheering their heads off at 11k, 19k, 32k and 40k. It was a bit crazy getting into the park in the morning with 2000 runners bottle-necking down a narrow road into some small parking lots in the dark. The race organizers aren’t kidding when they suggest arriving no less than 1h15m before race time. Even with our crazy o’clock departure from the hotel, we only had time for one potty stop once we had arrived and parked – I think that’s a record low for me! Thankfully I was able to take care of business and then popped my 2 immodiums as usual to avoid any bathroom emergencies during the race!

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I was thrilled to be running a second marathon this year after all of my setbacks in 2014 and 2015. Ultimately I was just hoping to run another strong race and improve on my time from Toronto in May (3:58), but after a very successful training cycle I decided that a 3:45 might be possible in good conditions. The weather wasn’t perfect but it certainly could have been worse given the heat and humidity in the days leading up to the race. It was about 19C and fairly humid in the morning and although the temperature only rose by a few degrees, it felt much warmer when the sun came out in the second half. We did have quite a bit of shade on the course and a nice, cooling breeze a lot of the time – all in all, could have been better but could have been much worse!

Enough preamble, on to the race! I stuck to my plan of starting slower and kept a ~5:30 pace for the first 5k. Greta and I ended up together and soon picked up Scott. I didn’t expect to run with anyone and usually like to run marathons solo, but it was nice to have some company and it helped me relax since it kind of felt like any old Sunday long run.

2.75mi split = 23:59

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We gradually started picking up the pace, eventually settling into the 5:15-5:20 range for the long haul. I like to break marathons down into smaller, manageable chunks and it was easy to do so thanks to our perfectly spaced cheering sections and Katie jumping in with me/us from 11-19 and 32-40. In my mind it was Start-11k -> 11-19 with Katie -> to the half -> to 32K for cheer crew/pick up Katie -> to 37K (because it always seems like the last 5k will feel short til you actually get there) -> 40K cheer crew -> FINISH. Easy peasy, right? Ha!

10K split = 53:40

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Hitting water tables every single mile also helped break down the distance. I had originally planned to walk through every 2nd or 3rd water stop but I never really felt like walking so I skipped walk breaks all-together. Slowing just enough to grab a cup and drink seemed to work well and helped me keep a good rhythm. I took my gus every 8K as usual and alternated water/gu brew at the water tables. We were chatting a little and enjoying the sights as the miles seemed to fly by. I felt great hitting the half.

Half split = 1:53:06

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Finishing loop 1, we ran right past the finish line banner and had to veer right which could have been mentally tough, but we were in good spirits heading out. I (perhaps obnoxiously) called out, ‘That was fun, let’s do it again!’ We could see two of our friends, Martin and Fergie, up ahead for ages in their matching orange tops and eventually caught up to them shortly after the half. We hoped they would join our little posse but wished them well as we carried on. Greta and I ended up losing Scott around KM 26 or 27 and I hoped he would be able to hang in there! Meanwhile Greta and I continued running perfectly together. We seemed to be completely in sync as we took turns doing the pacing, talking and pointing out dogs along the way. At one point Greta asked me if I thought she might have been a dog in a previous life. Oh, the conversations during a long ass run!

20mi split = 2:53:37

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Before we knew it, we were seeing our gang again at 32K and picking up Katie. I could feel myself slowing slightly and told her that I was fading. Katie said ‘That’s OK! That’s why I’m here!’ Greta gradually pulled away from us looking strong and I was so happy for her, well on track for a big PB and BQ! I was tiring and feeling very hot by this point. It took everything to keep following Katie but she kept me going, saying all the right things and telling me to get out of my head and just follow her. She reminded me that I had worked all summer for this. I had slowed to 5:40s through this section and knew my 3:45 stretch goal was out of reach, but that 3:50 was still possible if I could rally for a strong finish. Katie kept handing me Gatorade from her belt (so much better than the nasty gu brew on course) and getting me cups of water to dump on my head. I couldn’t have been more spoiled. Suddenly our friend Luis showed up and joined us for a little while which was a great distraction as well. Katie was telling him how awesome I was doing and I remember thinking in my head that she was lying. Lol

Finally I could see (and hear!) our amazing cheering crew just past 40K – I felt like a rock star and got the biggest burst of energy! They sent me on my way and I used all that energy to pick up the pace again, somehow busting out 5:24 and 5:10 for my last 2K.

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Heading down the chute I could see the clock ticking up ahead with Greta finishing seconds ahead of me, and managed to squeak in just under 3:50.

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3:49:43
203/1385 overall
46/92 F30-34

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I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend or race. I’m so proud of my friends on some spectacular results and extremely grateful to our support crew who made all the difference for us. Even though I missed my “A+” goal, I’m thrilled with this result given the conditions, and a solid 9 minute improvement over my last marathon. #14 is in the books and I’m already looking ahead to the next one. It’s so good to be back!

A trip to the Erie Marathon wouldn’t be complete without some post-race pics and leg-soaking in beautiful Lake Erie. Until next time!

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Barrie Canada Day 10K

Another weekend, another race! I decided to join in the fun and enter the 10K at the Barrie Canada Day Race on… Canada Day!

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A late start (9:30) meant we didn’t have to rush out of the house at the crack of dawn, and thankfully it wasn’t going to be another sweltering day. It actually started to rain lightly shortly after we took the photo below (yay fellow racing running friends!) and subsequently poured during our warm-up.

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The 10K was made up of two out-and-back routes, sharing the first half with the 5K runners. We took off from the Spirit Catcher near Centennial Park and ran along the waterfront on a variety of surfaces from pavement to boardwalk and a couple of short detours on grass around construction. The course was a bit confusing at times and not very well marked or marshaled. I was able to follow the flow of traffic for the most part, but I did find out after that some runners detoured off the planned route. The good news is, my Garmin was agreeing exactly with the KM markers. Things that make me happy! 🙂

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The pace felt hard right off the bat, as it generally does, but more in control as the first few kilometres ticked by. I was so paranoid of having another crash and burn scenario, so I was constantly doing systems checks and analyzing how I felt. Legs were good, breathing was good, so I just had to keep my head in check!

I felt way more relaxed after making the first turn-around and heading back toward the start/finish area. I knew the guys would be there waiting and it was a huge boost to get some big cheers as I ran by (note 4:44 split below!).

4:57, 5:00, 4:59, 4:56, 4:44

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The second half took us onto the crushed gravel North Shore Trail, which is one of my favourite places to run although I don’t get there enough. It was still raining off and on with some gusty winds at time, but the temperature felt great – especially after my last two sweat-fest races.

I felt very strong with a few KMs to go and knew I had my sub-50:00 in the bag and might even beat my Sporting Life 10K time from May (48:49). I had been leap-frogging with the young lad behind me in the photo above for most of the race, often lingering just behind him or feeling him just behind my shoulder. He finally blew by me at the second turn-around and I wasn’t able to catch up again, but keeping him in my sights ahead helped me hold on for the final stretch. I also knew I was chasing the 3rd place female but she had too much of a lead.

There were a few quick turns and a slippery bridge to cross to the finish line. I felt like I was flying and had a quick final kilometre to squeak in under that SL10K time. Couldn’t have been happier with how this race went!

4:58, 4:57, 4:55, 4:55, 4:40

48:44
4:53/KM
14/75 overall
4/34 females

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MEC Barrie Half Marathon

On June 25th we headed to Oro-Medonte to race the MEC Barrie Half Marathon. I originally hoped to target a 1:45, but re-adjusted after seeing the (hot, hot, hot) forecast. I ended up going to the race with an “A” goal of 1:50, realizing it was probably a stretch. At the very least, I hoped to beat my Chilly Half time of 1:55:23.

It was already warm and sunny by the 8am start on the old rail trail. It was a flat out-and-back route (my favourite!) on a crushed gravel path with a few road crossings that were marshaled, though open to traffic.

There were only 65 people running the half (5K and 10K started later) and we spread out quickly, so it was pretty lonely on the course. Even so, I kept finding myself stuck behind a guy running with a stroller which was slightly annoying only because he was making it look too easy.

I knew I wanted to keep a very controlled effort from the start and just ride it out for a few kilometres to see how it felt. I seemed to be hitting paces on target for ~1:50 but it was taking a bit more effort than I would have liked. That being said, sometimes it takes a while longer to settle in, so I kept plugging along.

KM 1 – 5: 5:17, 5:19, 5:17, 5:15, 5:18

It was getting a lot warmer and harder to keep pace as I got closer to the turn-around. I started wondering if the trail might have had a slight uphill grade on the way out. I was looking out for Mark and Andy coming back in the opposite direction, hoping someone would give me a sign that it was going to be easier on the way back… they did not.

KM 6 – 10: 5:07, 5:24 (gel), 5:23, 5:23, 5:16

It felt good to be running back toward the finish after making the turn, even if it wasn’t getting any easier. It was quite hot by this point and my short 10-step walks through the water stations were getting a bit longer each time as I drank a cup and dumped another over my head. I was hot, tired, slowing and just trying to distract myself by smiling and waving at runners who were still heading for the turn-around.

KM 11 – 15: 5:30, 5:26, 5:33, 5:29 (gel), 5:46

With 5K to go, I joined the flow of 10K runners and tried to find people to chase after. I was still getting progressively slower, but at least it kept me moving forward. Finally there was a noticeable (though slight) downhill for the final 2K. I found some energy to pick it up, even passing a few people. It was a nice surprise to see Andy waiting for me in the final KM, and he jumped in with me to give me a final push toward the finish. With a few hundred metres to go, he pointed out a girl up ahead and told me to catch her. After an audible “do I have to?” moan, I tore off and passed her.

KM 16 – 21: 5:36, 5:48, 6:00, 5:55, 5:16, 4:46

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1:54:14
31/65 overall
12/37 females

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those handsome lads behind me ran 1:34 and 1:29 to finish 9th & 5th overall, super impressive in the heat! all in all, a super day at the races!