Category Archives: Marathon

Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon – Race Recap

Nervous at the start.

I went into this race knowing it wasn’t going to be as fast as Manchester. All summer long, I’ve been struggling through training. Every run felt hard from May onwards, and I never really felt like I adjusted to the summer, running in BC, or the fatigue from running slightly higher mileage this training cycle.

Despite that, I started to regain some momentum and motivation in the last month and a half and had hoped it would translate into a surprise “you’re fitter than you think” kind of moment for the marathon. I knew it was a long shot, but I still thought it might be possible.

The final week leading into the race was a bit of a disaster. One of my coworkers showed up to work on Tuesday extremely sick and I’m pretty sure I caught whatever bug he had. I took every vitamin I could get my hands on and tried to focus on more sleep. I even skipped two planned training runs in favour of rest and playing it safe.

By Friday, I was definitely sick. By Saturday, I was going back and forth between feeling better and then feeling run down. I carb loaded, but not as meticulously as I did before Manchester. I kept telling myself that nothing I did was going to make much of a difference anyway. It wasn’t worth documenting.

The only things I want to remember in advance for my next marathon are:

  • Pay more attention to nutrition in the lead up and during the taper. Choose carbs wisely and with purpose. Travelling to Victoria the day before the marathon meant eating a late lunch, which then meant grabbing the first thing we could find – greasy pizza. I ended up ripping off the cheese and I could tell the pizza crust was doused in oil. Gross.
  • Do a warm up. In Manchester, I did a very short warm up, ending with strides. For Victoria, I thought I could use the first few kms of the race as my warm up. That resulted in me huffing and puffing and trying to settle into a rhythm for the first few kms. Next time, I will do a warm up!

The race

My coach told me that he felt I was capable of running a 3:41ish marathon. While I was really pleased to hear that, I knew that mentally, I wasn’t ready to attempt it. I told him that I was more comfortable starting out at a 3:45 marathon pace and then picking it up halfway IF I felt better. The A goal became sub 3:40, the B goal 3:45, the C goal 3:50.

Spoiler: I missed all of those goals. My official chip time was 4:01:33.

Official race splits:
(First half) 1:58:01
(Second Half) 2:03:32

I had heard the course was hilly, but many people I met who regularly run in BC would tell me that it was actually nothing to worry about. Had I been training in BC this whole time, I probably would have been fine. But, since I have spent most of my running life training on the flat, I died. I’m really determined to work on this and adapt moving forward. I really don’t want every “slightly hilly” race to destroy me!

course-elevation-vicmara
Course elevation profile according to their site. I didn’t really understand how this would feel when I saw it.. but now I do. According to my Garmin (to compare apples to apples – not saying this is definitely what my elevation gain was), my total climb was 686m (2250ft). Total climb for Manchester was 74m (242ft).

So back to the race. My friend Maxine ran with me for the first 5kms or so. From the start, I could see myself struggling to hold a 5:20/km pace (~3:45 marathon). A few times Max tried talking to me and I was having trouble answering her in between laboured breaths. Not a good way to start a marathon. I decided to slow down, especially because we were constantly running up and down hills from the start. I finally started to get into a rhythm somewhere after the 5k point, but every time I glanced at my watch, I could see my goals slipping away. I made a choice to stop looking and try to run by feel. This was hard because of the course. In Manchester, I could just focus on putting one foot in front of the other and trying to stay at the same pace. In Victoria, I was constantly slowing down on the uphills and trying to make up for it on the downhills without going too fast to avoid burning my quads. It got really tiring.

So grateful that my best friend Max flew in to spend my birthday with me (and run a marathon, NBD).

The seaside views were absolutely stunning, and enough to take my breath away temporarily. Unfortunately, I’d say they account for maybe 30% of the actual race. The rest of the course goes through mostly neighbourhoods which is still very pretty, but it would be misleading to say that the entire course runs along the ocean.

Smiling… because it’s only 1km into the race.

By the half-way point, I knew I was in trouble. 21.1km (13.1mi) felt like a REALLY long way to go. Again I was comparing to Manchester when I crossed the halfway point and thought to myself “wow, that went by fast!”. It’s really crazy how differently these two marathons played out. Mike had been jumping around the course to catch me at different times, and when he caught up to me at the 32km mark, I was fully ready to throw in the towel.

By that point, the 3:55 pace bunny had already passed me and I had a feeling the 4:00 pace bunny would soon follow. I was just… tired of running up and down hills. I’m disappointed in myself because I wasn’t in any physical pain; I was mentally worn out from running up and down hills, and watching my time goals slip away from me.

This is a fake smile for the camera. Mike didn’t even pretend. 😉

When Mike started to break away from me to catch me at the 38km mark, I just felt dread and quietly begged “please don’t leave me”. I knew I was asking a lot from him given that he had raced earlier that morning and must have been tired. But he stayed. I love him. I told him that I didn’t want to finish. The race was over in my head. I missed all of my goals, and I was tired of running up and down hills. We talked about quitting. He was worried that my cold was affecting me more than I realized and could end up in the medical tent if I pushed myself too hard. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t the case. We talked about where we’d catch a bus to the finish line. But, I knew that I would be so angry if I quit just because I didn’t feel like running anymore. If I was actually about to pass out, that would be different – but I didn’t really have an excuse to quit.

So, we took it easy. I walked most of the uphills, and tried to run the rest pretty slowly. Mentally, this really ate away at me. I felt like I was giving up by walking and at one point, I burst into tears because I felt really weak and disappointed in myself. Gah! Emotions all over the course!

Slowly, but surely, we made our way to the finish line. The race organizers are cruel as you have to pass the start line of the 8k race before you cross the real finish line. They look almost identical and I was so crushed when I started to sprint towards what I thought was the Finish chute, only for Mike to inform me that I still had 200m to go!

By the way the last 10km went, I was fully expecting to finish in 4:10-4:15, so I was surprised when I realized that my official chip time was actually 4:01:33. Not terrible, but a far cry from what I ran in Manchester and more than 10 minutes off my C goal.

Thank you, Mike, for helping me salvage this marathon. <3

It is what it is. And you know what? I’m not as devastated as I thought I’d be. I managed to finish my fourth marathon uninjured, without hitting a physical wall (I do think I hit a mental wall, though), and I got to run the last 10km with Mike by my side. He even crossed the finish line with me which is something I’ve been dreaming about doing for a long time. At 35km, I told myself that I didn’t want to bother trying to BQ anymore because I didn’t have it in me. I didn’t want it badly enough. But, I do. And I believe I can get there someday. I just have to keep chipping away, training hard, and staying strong.

alison

Weekly training: Sep 28 – Oct 4 2015

Not a bad week at all. My body is starting to come around, although I set myself back a little by doing too many squats and lunges at the gym on Friday morning. I didn’t think I overdid it until I woke up Saturday morning with very sore legs. I know better, but I don’t always act logically. 😉

Sep 28 – Oct 4 2015

Mon: OFF
Tue: 10.2km / 6.3mi (easy run, HR: 168bpm)
Wed: 12km / 7.5mi (easy run, HR: 148bpm)
Thu: 14.6km / 9.1mi (tempo 15min/10/5 with fast 3min bits in between, HR: 171bpm)
Fri: 12.0km / 7.5mi (easy run, HR: 164bpm)
Sat: 10.1km / 6.3mi (easy run, HR: 163bpm)
Sun: 20km / 12.4mi (long run – 4k sections alternating between easy and marathon effort, HR: 175bpm)
TOTAL: 78.9km / 49.0mi

Overall thoughts:

Legs were still feeling pretty rough on Tuesday and Wednesday after my heavy weeks. I met with a friend on Tuesday and we had a great sunrise run. It’s not so bad starting a run in the dark when you’re rewarded with gorgeous sunrise views at the end.

Wednesday’s run made me nervous. I woke up feeling foggy and was tempted to sleep in and run after work. But as soon as I decided to do that, I felt the waves of guilt push me out of bed and out the door. It was a bad run from start to finish. I felt a little lightheaded and had a lot of “why are you doing this!?” thoughts going through my head. It’s very rare that I regret a run once I start it, but this was one of those times.

I love finishing up a tempo run while running towards the sun rise.

Thursday is when things finally started to turn around. I was nervous about the tempo run on my schedule, but as Mike and I were getting ready to go, I asked him if he would consider joining me and HE AGREED! Having him there made all the difference. There was a steep learning curve for both of us when Mike first tried to pace me for a few runs and workouts, but he’s taken the time to learn what works for me and he pushed me just the right amount for this one. I ended up having a great, confidence-boosting workout. I’m starting to feel some fitness come back. May be too late for Victoria, but I’m already looking forward to carrying this over into the next training cycle.

Friday is when I lost my head a little. I signed up for some personal training sessions that were heavily discounted with a friend. The trainer is great at what she does… but I told her that I have a race and that I needed to keep it easy on my legs. We ended up spending the majority of the time doing squats and lunges and at the time, I felt great and like I was getting a solid workout. But by the time I went for my run after work that same day, I knew I was in trouble. By Saturday morning, I could barely walk without feeling sore and ended up hobbling my way through a very hilly easy run with Mike.

Sunday’s long run was short but tough. It was 20kms broken out into 4km sections: 4k easy, 4k marathon pace, 4k easy, 4k M pace, 4k easy. I was really worried I wouldn’t make it through this workout given how sore my legs were and the usual pressure I put on myself to perform even on training runs. But the girls I ran with kept me company the whole way and I ended up having another great run. Pace-wise, I nailed and exceeded my goals. But in reality, I won’t be attempting those paces on race day. A few 4k segments isn’t the same thing as running them throughout an entire marathon. It’s only going to set me up for failure right now. I will be aiming for that or faster (depending on how training goes, of course!) in the spring, though!

My legs are still pretty sore, but if I really keep it easy (no lunges and squats… lol), then I’m hoping to cross the start line on Sunday feeling fresh and ready to go. Less than a week to go until race day!!!

alison

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