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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.