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Milton, Ontario, Canada

Monday, March 30, 2015

Race Report: Around the Bay 30k!

This past Sunday was the 121st running of Around the Bay and like the past three years, I was eager and ready to take part! I didn't have to go to the expo as the bestest running partners ever, Sam and Emma went down on Friday and got my kit for me. I was eager to see the shirt colour, until I got the text from Sam showing me the comparison between these and the 2013 version:

2015 and 2013
To be fair, the 2015 shirt is MUCH nicer fabric and fit, so I don't mind. Saturday passed by uneventfully and I settled into fish tacos and oven fries for dinner. Normally I would have pasta and chicken. This change of meal ended up being a mistake as we'll soon find out. I've given up potato chips for Lent (SO. CLOSE. TO. THE. END.) so I ate some rice crackers as a snack instead.

Sunday morning 6am came and I was up, dressed and on my way to pick up Sam and Patty after a quick stop at Tim Horton's for my now traditional pre-race meal of a plain bagel, butter and cheddar, with a small coffee and half a Powerade. A banana before the race completed my pre-race fuel. One last hurrah and it was time to head to the C corral with Patty and Sam.

Back row: Kimberley, Sam, Peter, Me. Front row: Emma, Patty and Zindine. Photo from Irina
Getting outdoors in our throwaways let us know that yet again, the weather predicted for this race was wrong. It was far warmer than the predicted -14. I didn't worry about my vest - then.

KM 1-10: Best race ever!

The gun went off and the crowd surged forward. Sam and I surged as well. The plan was to run 3-4k warm up around 5:25/km and then drop to marathon pace for the rest of the run (5:08/km), or if feeling poorly, attempt a long run with an average pace at 5:15-5:20/km (good thing there were two options).


We started off strong and fast. WooHoo! I smell someone smoking and yell, "I love the smell of smoke on race day!" Sam tells me a funny story about her husband. There are lots of people cheering us along and before long we're downtown. Downtown Hamilton at its finest with all the runners running their runs. Including Sam and I. Running. Sweating. Running. Too fast.

Sam: Oh my God, I'm so hot.

Me: Yep (tosses Dollar Store ear warmer). We should slow down... got a sub-5 here.

Sam: What? Jeeze

30 seconds later

Me: Good thing we slowed that down... by 1 second. HAHAHAHA


And thus is the feelings when you start a race strong and everything is just feeling so, so, so good. Which the below photo lies about as we don't look awesome, but we were feeling great. Check out the splits.

I know this is the first 10k because I haven't dropped my gloves yet.
5:06-5:05-5:05-5:13-5:11-5:05-5:19-5:09 (GU)-5:08-5:06, split: 51:26

KM 11-20: Things begin to fall apart

The first 10k features three inclines up and down highway underpasses. As you can see above, these didn't make much a difference to Sam and I. Oh no. Things were A-Okay! We were chugging along, taking in water and Gatorade at the stations and enjoying our own from our hand-held supply. After the third water stop, we head on to Beach Blvd. amongst the crowd of runners and its all familiar territory. My back starts to feel a bit tight at this point and I try to not think about it. It was all too much like the Mississauga Marathon all over again and I tried not to freak out because it resolved the last time. So we kept running along, the entire time with me trying to figure out if I should take another gel even though I had taken one around 9k and trying not to think about my back. I know that there is water before the lift bridge at 15k and I figure I'll do a huge drink of Gatorade at that point. Then I smell marijuana. Sam smells puke, but details. There'll be time enough for that. Funny thing is, I smelt this as we ran by Wallenberg Castle. Where the old lady in the fur coat always sits and cheers on runners. You go old lady!

So we get to the lift bridge and Sam mentions something about Zantac. I tell her my back is tight. We momentarily forget about it all when we see Paul waiting to run the second half of the two person relay. Then we really forget about it when we navigate the lift bridge. In case you're wondering, yes, the footing still sucks. It takes major brain power to get over the bridge. By 16k, I tell Sam that I need to stop and stretch out my back. Its horrible. I stand up again and start to run and Sam's refilling her handheld from her Penis Bottle. "Stretch more!" she demands and I do and she refills and we're off.

At 18k, there is another water station. We both take a gel before this station. It takes me four goes to get the damn thing down. UGH. Funny thing is, I was starting to feel cloudy. I simply needed the carbs. The meal the night before was not sufficient for my needs on this day, that's for sure. So I take the GU and then at the station, I drink a huge cup of water and a huge cup of Gatorade (Yellow. Gross. My theory is that they don't sell the powder of yellow the same way they do the other flavours so they give them to the races. No one likes yellow).

The hills begin and a man charges past Sam and I, "WooHoo! Hill One!!! Here we go!!!" I look at Sam and declare, "This is going to suck." "Yep," says Sam. Next thing I know, I'm puking in my mouth. Oh good God. At least my back isn't hurting. I stop Sam and ask her to pull over to the side so I can try to puke properly, but I can't. Oh well... time to climb the hills.

5:11-5:07-5:08-5:08-5:32-5:33-5:09-5:57-5:16-5:35, split: 53:57, Total time: 1:45:23 (aside, we can totally get that 1:45 half marathon!)

KM 21-30: We totally have th... SRSLY HEADWIND!!!

And the race slowly falls apart. We tackle the hills as best as we can. We run them all because the first ones are easy and Sam basically threatened me with death if I didn't run the one up to La Salle Park. "My sister stands at the top of that hill and WE WILL BE RUNNING  past her." So on and on and up and up we ran and Sam's sister was no where to be found. Oh well, the threat got us up that hill. Then we coasted down the other side before climbing again. Sam was ahead of me, but I kept running. She actually kinda stopped and looked back at one point, surprised to see me so close to her. I guess I wasn't death breathing like the old man we played leapfrog with in the first 15k of the race. I felt like so much shit. I think Sam did as well. There was an unofficial water station on the final mini residential climb up to Plains Road and we stopped to walk through it.... and kept walking. Sam was taking a gel and I totally SHOULD have, but didn't. Before we knew it we were on Plains!

WooHoo! Hills were over!!! No turn on to Springbank. no Valley Inn! No. More. Hills. Things were looking up! Then a car drove by and honked at us (must be my great crops). Sam freaks out. Then there are a bunch of people yelling at us and waving and Sam's waving and someone is asking how we are and Sam's lying and saying, "Great!" and I'm giving cut eye and being truthful. "This is SHIT."

Photo credit: Sam's Sister
At 23k, I tell Sam I need to walk. I 100% look at my watch and count down the one minute. "Let's go." and off we go again. I feel so badly about ruining Sam's race AGAIN with my antics, but she is truly the best and just keeps running along with no complaints. "Four miles left, Nicole. Let's go." The wind is starting to kick up, but our paces seem okay. We hit the water station at 25k, walk through it and get going.

I start to do mental math. I think that we should make a sub 2:40. I'm not too far put off by that. I had predicted a 2:37-2:38 and right now after everything a sub 2:40 sound great! Hey, my back feels fine. I'm not going to puke any more. And we're running pretty quickly. And then the wind hits up. And then it REALLY starts to blow strongly. Sam and I laugh. Really?!? Really!!! I guess it was Mother Nature's way of getting us back for the lack of Valley Inn hill (I'd rather take the hill).

I KNOW there is another water station at 28k, but it seems So. Long. Away. and I start to give up hope. I don't even look at my watch when I gasp out, "Sammy. Sammy. I need to walk." (I never call her Sammy unless we're racing).
"What?" says Sam, "No! No!!!"
"Wait is that the water station?"
"Okay, I'll get there."

And we do and we drink and we are head down, down hill to the end. At this point a man on a bike is behind us with a lady. And he's encouraging her like its his JOB. "You got this. 5 minutes left. One 5 minute kilometer. You can do it. What's five minutes. Look at the finish. Its right there. Five minutes. You got this." And he was my personal cheerleader too.

I hit the 29k sign and run the longest kilometer ever. I wasn't so out of it that I forgot the photographers though (I've joked that I could complement Kenny's Race Strategy with a photo strategy guide).

And finally, we make the turn into First Canadian Place and to the finish. This expression got me a, "you GO 923!!"

And we cross the line, no hands held, but together with Sam crossing the line 0.6 seconds in front of me.

5:36-5:39-6:03-5:29-5:27-5:30-5:21-5:41-5:09-4:31 (4:51 pace), split, 54:46, Total time: 2:40:07

Gun Time: 2:41:09
Chip Time: 2:40:07 (2 minute, 2 second PB!)
Place: 1741/7277
Gender: 472/3426
F35-39: 78/525

Final thoughts

I learned a good lesson about pre-race fueling on this one.  This is the first time I haven't eaten pasta the night before a hard, long race and it showed in my early "bonking". This caused me to shot gun Gu, water and Gatorade which lead to the puking. Good times! First time I've puked on a run since I was pregnant. Which I'm NOT right now. Not at all. I also think that I need to up my GU intake on course. Coach Phaedra and I have already discussed this.

I learned that I still need to tough it up mentally. The last 12k of the marathon are going to be hard and I need to find the gear to push though any negative thoughts. I think I may need music in this part. I don't think it will matter much; Sam and I won't be talking a whole lot.

Sam is the best racing partner ever. No ego on her at all. She is just there for the run and sticks with me no matter what. I'm not sure I would be as kind. I'm so lucky to have found her. I can't say enough kind words about her. Rewards will come in the form of chocolate and donuts.<3 p="">

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ottawa Marathon Week 8!!!

Time is just ticking away and I can honestly say that this week was amazing! I had emailed back and forth with Coach Phaedra at the beginning of the week, saying that I'd have to move my long run to Sunday as my son was still playing in the OMHA finals on the weekend. The Milton Winterhawks were up 2-0 and if they won on Saturday in Alliston, they'd win the entire championship! Then, the team organized a bus to take the team and family members to the game. And Saturday was my birthday (38! Last chance to get to Boston in the under 40 club is this year)! Then, my husband and I decided to invite the entire team back to our place on Saturday night win, lose or draw!

So... I took Friday to work from home and Phaedra moved my week around so that I could run long on Friday.

Which turned out to be a great decision considering this:

The team won in overtime, due to a shot MY SON took while dumping the puck and heading to the bench. I seriously wish I had worn a heart rate monitor during this game because I totally had my heart rate over 200 BMP at times. It was super exciting!

Anyway! On to the week of training.

Monday: I did NOT want to get on my spin bike for the my 45 minutes of cross training, but I did. I felt much better for it after!

Tuesday: This was a recovery week! So I "only" had to run 10k at a moderate pace. The goal was 5:25-5:30 and I was amazed when I hit it even after the first 3k were slow.

Wednesday: Hills! Back to Thomas Street for the first time in a year and I went up and down 7 times. It was awesome! I can't believe how fast I was! My average pace was 5:39/km for the 12.15k

Thursday: Rest day! Don't mind if I do!

Friday: Long run! It was going to be an early one and also a challenging one as it was my first time running such a distance alone (27k), and I was determined to hit the paces Phaedra had prescribed: 5:30-5:35/km

BOOM! 5:33/km on average and I felt good throughout. Confidence grows!

Saturday: Rest day. Birthday. Championship day.

Sunday: My fitbit tells me I slept 6.5hrs. I sure as heck drank a lot on Saturday, but I must have also followed up with a lot of food and water because I woke up absolutely fine. I spent the morning tidying up the house (which was actually pretty darn clean, just FULL of empty bottles, LOL). Then, my champion Alasdair and I went and took care of one of the things he wanted to do the second the hockey season was over:

Finally it was time to run. Man, I was tired and did not want to. But the day was glorious and sunny if a bit windy and cold. Off I went. I played wind roulette and won! And I ended up with a progression 5:46-5:43-5:35-5:32-5:22-5:13. I'm still not quite sure how the heck that happened, but man it feels good!

In total, I ran 55.18km in 5:06:35 with a 45min spin and a 46:30 minute heart rate busting final game. What a truly fantastic week!

This week brings Around The Bay! I can't wait. I love this race. Considering the long runs I've put together in the past three weeks, I'm looking to go in and own the plan Coach Phaedra gave me for this one.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ottawa Marathon Training Update: Weeks 5, 6, 7!!!

Wow! Its been a while. I'm sorry to have been away so long, but its been a very crazy time at work and with my son's hockey! The additional entry Milton Winterhawks are now 16-0 in Ontario Minor Hockey Association playoffs and are one win away from winning the whole damn thing. Its a super exiting time!

He shoots, he scores!
The plan is going to plan. I've gotten in long runs, I've run hills. I've gotten in cross training and weight lifting. I even got out on the mumbike last Monday!

Let's see. My tempo work has not been the best. I've been super frustrated. First, I just couldn't push through on the treadmill without stopping from time to time to take 15 second breaks to drink or breath or get my mind back together. Then, finally, FINALLY, I was able to get outside last week for a planned 11k run with 9k at tempo (4:55-5:05/km) and it really sucked. The melt was frozen still in a lot of points on the paths, but I was able to get in 6k at tempo pace (instead of 9k). Phaedra has been very kind about my lack of suck-it-uppage and is trying to work out a solution which will do the work that I need while keeping my confidence from sinking into the ground with the melting snow.

Of course, a lot of this confidence problem stemmed from not having the best day at the Chilly Half Marathon. I owe a race report and that's next on my list, but let's just say that I had a cold and after nailing the first half, I was over come with dizziness and the last half was a huge suck. UGG.

Now for the good news! Phaedra has given me pace goals for my past two long runs. The first was a 26.5k effort along the Northshore hills at a goal of 5:40-5:35/km. I was lucky to run with Ivanka again, and  Sam, and Emma as always. Even with the rollers of Northshore, we NAILED the pace at 5:33/km on average. If nothing else, I think Emma can be sure that she's going to SMASH her goals at Around the Bay.

The sign is from a wedding. The bride and groom are fellow hockey parents.

This past Sunday brought my longest run since A Midsummer Night's 30k run and Phaedra dropped the pace again (target: 5:35-5:30/km). Emma needed to run 21k at that pace and Sunday worked better for her so she joined me in Milton and we ran the Milton Half Marathon route together with me running 8k alone first. I'm thrilled to announce that we NAILED this pace at 5:29/km on average, despite some brutal headwind.

In week 5, I ran 47.3k, in week 6 it was 54.5k and last week was 58.1k with 10.3k on the bike.

Things are going generally well. Now its time to start nailing some speed and increasing that confidence.

First up? Let's win that OMHA cup! The next game takes place on my birthday and I honestly can't think of a better present than having my son win the championship!

Hope things have been well for you! Is anyone in the final stretch of training for Around the Bay?! That's my next race and I'm excited for it!