A Midsummer Night’s Run 2014 – 15K (Race Recap)

On Saturday August 16, I ran the Midsummer Night’s Run 15K. I have a  love / hate relationship with this race. This was my fifth time running the race. In 2009, I ran the 15k distance for the first time. Then I ran the 30K distance in 2010 & 2011. I went back to the 15K in 2012 and then skipped it in 2013 because I swore I would never run it again. But then my friend convinced me to sign up again this year at the last minute, and before I knew it, I was lining up at the start line wondering what I was in for.

Every year, the race gives out pins to past race participants that adds up how many kms they have “raced”. This year, I hit 105kms. Pretty cool.

I also had a pretty awesome team this time to run with (“with” is relative, these guys are seriously fast and I actually could not run beside most of them even if I tried).

Photo credit: Pace and Mind.

It’s not that I have anything against the race itself, or the way it’s organized. I am just a fair-weathered runner and don’t like to race at night or in heat and/or humidity. Usually the race delivers at least one if not all of those things.

When I decided at the last minute to register for the race, I told myself that I wouldn’t bother trying to race it. Every time I’ve gone into this race in previous years with time expectations, I’ve crossed the finish line disappointed. So when my coach sent me my race plan a couple nights before the race, I started to get a little nervous. The paces he gave me would ensure that it would be far from a leisurely long run. But, I decided to give it an honest try anyway. Why not.


I’m still smiling so this must be somewhere at the beginning. Photo credit: Pace & Mind

To start, I was lucky because Mike decided last minute to run with me. Since he was still coming back from an injury, he decided to treat the race as his long run… which happened to be close to my race pace (lol). Because of that, I didn’t look at my watch once throughout the entire race. I’ve been working on trying to race / run based on feel, rather than pace, but I haven’t really done this for longer races yet, mostly just 5Ks. At the same time, I don’t know if I should do this since the point of having the watch is to pace yourself appropriately for longer distance races. We’ll see.

The race

KM Splits: (1) 5:09 (2) 5:12 (3) 5:08 (4) 5:04 (5) 5:03

Like most races, the first few kms felt too easy and it felt hard to hold back. It felt like I was out on a long run, which was a new experience for me – I almost always start out too fast. At around 3km in, I suddenly felt a cramp just under rib cage that I couldn’t shake off. I don’t really know how to describe it… maybe it was a side stitch? The funny thing is I ALWAYS get one of those cramps during this race. I’m starting to think it is a pattern – maybe something to do with racing at night, or the humidity at that time of the year. Whatever it is, it was annoying. I wasn’t even breathing heavily or anything at this point. Just running with pretty fresh feeling legs and a weird cramp that made it a little hard to breath deeply.

KM Splits: 6) 5:22 (7) 5:00 (8) 4:59 (9) 4:58 (10) 5:09

We hit the water station at 6km, and I decided to stop to take one Shot Blok and drink some water like a civilized person. I know there are ways you can drink water without stopping, but I decided to just take the extra few seconds to rest. I figured I could make up the lost seconds over the next few kms so that is why I ran them a little faster. Also, my cramp eventually disappeared somewhere between 6 and 7km, so that was nice.

A few post-race thoughts here:

  • Should I have taken more than one Shot Blok to get me through the entire race? I rarely take any fuel at all on any of my runs (too afraid), but maybe I should start experimenting again before my Fall Half.
  • Did I pick it up too much in the between 7-9kms and is that why I faded so much in the end?

(11) 4:59 (12) 5:09 (13) 5:21 (14) 5:07 (15) 5:18

Luckily, I was feeling really great throughout the entire race up until 12-13kms in. Compared to all those painful 5Ks I ran earlier this year, this slower pace felt almost conversational to me. I was really surprised and happy. Until the familiar race fatigue caught up to me near the end of the race, like it always does. When it came, it came hard and fast. I tried to give myself a few mental pep talks and I tried repeating encouraging “you’re stronger than you think” and “no regrets!” phrases in my head, but I could feel the negativity creep in. This is without a doubt, the hardest barrier I’ve ever had to overcome during a race. I just can’t seem to shake the overwhelming desire to give up, and I really want to work on this. I ended up taking a few walking breaks which I knew I would regret later, but at the time, I just stopped caring. Ugh, Alison!!

After what felt like an eternity, I finally crossed the finish line feeling pleased with how I ran, despite my “ugly” finish. My official chip time was 1:16:48. We had amazing weather compared to the previous years that I’d run this race and for that I was really grateful. I’m certain that I would have run a few minutes slower if it hadn’t been for the cooler weather. It was quite windy a few times, but not to the point where I felt it was impacting me that much. And hey, I love running with Mike. I know he won’t always be around to pace me, so when he is ready and willing, I have no shame in immediately taking him up on his offer. :)

Post-race and all smiles (with ridiculous hair).

More post-race celebrating with my friend Dawn who smashed it out there despite not being in top shape and to our pacer Eric, who gets us through the tough interval workouts and is going for a massive PB at the Quebec Marathon this weekend.

So overall, I’m happy with how this went. Of course, I wish I could have done better (I was hoping to come in closer to 1:15, but I was pretty far off from that so maybe it was an unrealistic time goal for me to begin with). I felt strong out there for the majority of the race, except for the very end, but that is something I’ll continue working on. Was it poor fueling, poor pacing, or just a lack of fitness? I guess time will tell. I’m determined to learn how to push through the pain / fatigue barrier and hang on until I cross that finish line so I can feel proud for giving the race everything I have. The only way to learn is to continue experimenting, training, and running races.



What to eat before and during a run (I have no idea)

When I first started running, it seemed as if I had a stomach of steel. I never used to really think about what to eat before a run – it didn’t matter. If I felt like having a bowl of oatmeal (yes, I totally did this a few times), or a banana… it didn’t matter. At most, I’d feel a little full to start, but lighter by the end of the workout. When it came to long runs, I tried it all – powders in my water bottles, gels every 10km (for any long run over 10k), and gummy candies if I had any in stock. 

And then… my body slowly started to reject these things, one by one.

First it was the gels. I had a bad experience in Chicago where I took too many gels and drank way too much water. The combination of the heat, sugary gels and water sloshing around in my stomach was enough to put me off them for good. I still remember trying to gag a gel down on a long run after my first marathon. Can’t do it.


These used to be my favourite gels.

Rather than have a smoothie or half a cliff bar before my morning runs, I discovered that going on an empty stomach worked best for me. The only time I have a breakfast before a run is on Sundays when I know I’ll be out for more than an hour. For the most part, I thought I knew my body pretty well and had developed a pretty good sense of what I could and couldn’t handle before, during and after my runs.

Until last week, when I experienced the worst case scenario when it comes to poor fueling pre-run. No, I’m not talking about waking up and trying to run hungover. 

It started out with me making a bad lunch decision. I had a client meeting in the afternoon and had very little time to make a decision on what to eat. After rummaging through my lunch, I ended up pulling together a relatively heavy lunch that included salmon and eating it in record time before I had to leave. The cab ride there was an awful experience. It was a super humid day, and the driver had the windows up and the A/C turned off.  I felt sick within minutes and by the time we arrived at the destination about 40 minutes later, the only thing I was thinking about was not throwing up my lunch in the middle of the client meeting. My coworker graciously offered me some Gravol, but I was hoping that some fresh air and water would help me feel better. Just before I headed back home after the meeting, I decided to drink a large cup of black coffee to help me wake up. In my head, I rationalized that drinking it without milk would be okay. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I then ate a rice cracker with banana and healthy dose of peanut butter about an hour or so before the run. What was I thinking? I guess I wasn’t…

I felt sick during the warm up, but I never really feel stellar, so I was hoping that the more I ran, the better I would feel. Wrong again. By the time we started the intervals, I could tell that my stomach was off, but my stubborn self was determined to make it through to the end of the workout and “deal with it later”. I really need to learn how to stop while I’m ahead. I continued feeling worse until I caught myself heaving after my second interval and looking for the nearest private spot to (caution: TMI) throw up. Yes. you read that right.

Honestly, it was a traumatizing experience. Once I got over the embarrassment of it, I took a hard look at my day and realized that I got careless with my eating and should have known better. It’s crazy to me that I used to be able to get away with eating whatever, whenever, despite the type of run I was preparing for. 

I guess it’s a good reminder that figuring out what works best for you is an ever evolving process. Today, I can’t handle gels, energy powder mix-ins, and anything heavy for an entire leading up to a difficult run. But, I can stomach gummy like candies still – the question is whether I can handle these during a race when I’m pushing myself harder than normal. I think I can handle the salt tablets, but I haven’t tried using one in a really long time. I’ve always been told that the long run is where you test these things out, but I honestly find that stomach is a completely different beast during a race and no long run has ever been able to successfully stimulate it. Maybe that means that I’m not doing my long runs properly?

Honestly, I really don’t know. The longer I run, the more I realize how little I know about training, fueling properly, and recovery.



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