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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!

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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

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon – race recap

The Scotiabank Vancouver Half-marathon last weekend was a race I should not have raced. It wasn’t even on my radar until Mike and I decided to move to Vancouver and I discovered that it coincided nicely with the time we’d be moving there. I’ve always been weary of summer races, but I thought with a 7:30am start and the promise of milder temperatures in Vancouver, it would be a good race to go for the sub 1:45 half marathon that I’ve been aiming for this year.
Unfortunately, the weather had other plans! As soon as I saw the forecast at 7am to be around 23-25C (73-77F), I knew it was going to be a tough race. But, did I still want to try to race it? Hell yes! Race registration fees aren’t cheap, and I never sign up for a race to do as a long run. If I wanted to run casually, I would just create my own route for free.

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Warming up at the start with Heather, who not only PB-d in this weather, but managed to come in 2nd in her (our) age group. She is one of the most positive, mentally strong people I have ever met.

But.

But, trying to race when I hadn’t yet acclimatized to the hot weather was asking for trouble. Trying to PB was suicide – at least for me since a few of my amazing friends actually pulled off PBs in that atrocious weather!

The race

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Lining up at the start.

Official race splits:
10.5km – 54:48 (5:13/km)
10.6km – 56:20 (5:19/km)
Official chip time: 1:51:08 (5:16/km)

I don’t have the km splits for this race because somewhere along the way, I accidentally paused my watch (I have no idea how I managed this since I never pause my watch during a race). In a way, I’m glad, because my splits would have shown me what I already know – I started off slower than planned and faded badly in the end.

The first 2-3kms are downhill which starts you off feeling strong, but then you end up running up a very long steady hill for about 4-6kms. It’s not very steep, but it feels like it goes on forever. After the 5km, I tried to will my legs to start moving faster when I saw that my pace was quite off from what I was intending to run… but they just felt like heavy bricks and refused to listen.

When we reached the steep downhill portion of this course, I finally started turning over my legs faster and tried to keep the momentum going once it evened out. But the rest of the course is either flat or rolling with hills. And with the sun fully out with no shade in sight, I just melted and my confidence / mental strength went with it.

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Running in the blazing sun really is the worst. Worse than hills. Worse than wind.

I don’t know. I just didn’t really want to try anymore. I knew I was so off pace that a PB was completely out of the question. Also, my left toe box was numb for most of the race, which I tried to ignore but I broke down to a walk about 12kms in and considered DNFing the entire thing. Mike was with me at the time and as soon as we agreed to quit, I knew I would be more devastated afterwards if I used a non serious injury to give up. So I got back on the course and said I would try running on it for another km and re-assess.

Shortly after, I realized my shoelace had come undone. Mike jumped to help me tie it and in my cranky state, I yelled “not too tight!!!!” at him, followed by, “FAAASTER!”. NOT one of my shining moments. The poor man puts up with a lot of me in my cranky, overheated racing state.

The final hill was up Burrard Bridge which, on any given day is not a challenge to run up, but at the 18km of the course, it felt like I was slowly climbing to my death. I knew at this point that I was going to finish the race, but I also knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. I stopped and walked several times in the second half (but I did manage to run up the bridge without stopping – a small victory).

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Not even striding to the finish. Just cruising. Just trying to get to the end so I could stop running.

I crossed the finish line just happy to be able to stop running and that was it. Nothing spectacular, and another dig at my self-confidence when it comes to where my fitness is at.

Post-race thoughts

  • I shouldn’t have tried racing this one. I should have treated it like a tempo or long run from the start and enjoyed the scenery. Why does every race have to be a RACE, anyway?
  • I think my “heat adjusted” paces need to be much lower than what my coach and I were planning for. He gave me a range of 5-10 seconds for the most part… but judging by how much I’ve fallen apart in other really hot races (Chicago’s 5:08 marathon, anyone?), it’s clear that I do not handle the heat well at all. In fact, I completely collapse.
  • I have a lot of work to do on building up my mental strength again. I finally made some great progress at the end of last year which led to a great start at marathon training earlier this year. But I’ve regressed and I need to accept that, move on, and start building it up again.
  • I’ve lost some fitness. It’s time to accept that and move on. Fitness comes and goes, and even if my speed is lacking a little, I can continue to build my endurance and be patient that training  (/slogging) through the summer will eventually pay off in the Fall.
  • I don’t know what this means for my Fall goal races. Originally, I thought this would be a nice way to kick off marathon training for the Fall. I was going to make my first BQ attempt. But now, I feel so far from where I need to be that I’m wondering if I should wait until the Spring before I attempt to race another marathon.
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Post race selfie with Mike. PS. This it the fourth race that I wore my ipod “just in case” and never used it. Maybe it’s a sign that I really don’t need it…

Not every race will be a PB, and I know that. I’m frustrated because I know I had a better race in me, but the conditions are what they are and while I WISH I could have been tough enough to run hard anyway and give it my all – I wasn’t. I didn’t, and my time reflected my lack of effort.

I don’t have any more summer races planned at the moment. First of all, I’m not exactly up for another kick at my confidence and secondly, I’m more in the mood for a few months of relatively uninterrupted training. We’ll see!

alison

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