Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some bullets, some crazy 8's and a little announcement

• Thanks for all the comments on my half marathon; I’m stoked about the PR but can’t help wondering if I can beat it on the 10th at Mississauga...

• More thanks for the concern over my little frostbite incident. I’m happy to report that it’s a lot better now – still pink and warm to the touch, but not stinging much and it didn’t blister. Phew!

• Logged a 5.5K recovery run yesterday to work out the kinks – legs felt pretty good.

• 9.6K tonight at the park where I did most of my long runs last summer.

• Bugs were out in full force – I swallowed a huge mouthful in the first 100m and by the time I finished I had little black specks all over my face. Ew.

• The weather has been seriously awesome. Love it! It's about time.

• Sporting Life 10K coming up this weekend - 13000 runners barrelling down Yonge Street. Can't wait!

• I don't have an official goal, except that I'd like to beat last year's 49:10; we'll see if I have it in me. When I'm running all these back-to-back races, I know I shouldn't be racing all of them.


Last week Amanda and Heather tagged me (thanks!) for Crazy 8's, so here's some more random info about ME:

8 things to which I'm looking forward
1. a bubble bath and book before bed tonight
2. Dinner with friends on Friday
3. SL10K Sunday
4. New Moon the movie
5. marathon training this summer
6. Hubby's first marathon (November)
7. Christmas in Cuba
8. Walt Disney World and the Goofy Challenge in January '10

8 things I did yesterday
1. grocery shopping on my lunch break
2. started planning our Canada Day BBQ
3. went for a run
4. ate half a tub of hummus (yum)
5. washed the kitchen floor
6. watched The Biggest Loser
7. put away the winter running stuff
8. registered for the Ottawa Half Marathon (see below)

8 things I would like to do
1. take the summer off
2. travel the world
3. win the lottery (this would help with no. 1 and 2)
4. learn to play piano
5. paint our house
6. follow a meal plan every week
7. re-read the Twilight series
8. stop taking blood thinners (2 more weeks)

8 shows I watch
1. Grey's Anatomy
2. Private Practice
3. Lost
4. The Biggest Loser
5. House
6. 24
7. Amazing Race
8. What Not To Wear

This thing has been going around for a while now, so I won't bother tagging 8 more people... but if you want to play along, please do!


So what's this I hear about the Ottawa Half Marathon? A group of friends from my running group are staying at someone's cottage for the weekend and I was offered free transportation and accommodations. At first I was just going to go along as part of the support crew, but the race addict inside me couldn't resist the opportunity for another half - especially at the National Capital Race Weekend. So I signed up! I've never even been to Ottawa, so this should be a fun way to see some of the city.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hartwell Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday I participated in a local community event, the Bob Hartwell Runner's Challenge.

The Bob Hartwell Runner's Challenge is organized by the Aurora running community to celebrate the spirit and life of the late Bob Hartwell.

Bob was a well-known Aurora, Ontario businessman, civic leader and veteran marathon runner. Bob died October 14, 2001 while running a marathon.

It had always been Bob's dream to organize an event in Aurora that would appeal to competitive and recreational runners alike. His friends have joined together to make Bob's dream a reality and to honour his memory.

I volunteered last year and loved the community spirit that surrounds a smaller, local event. This year, I was excited to participate in the half marathon - especially since it took place just minutes from where I live. It was also nice that at least a dozen of my running friends were also participating (and hubby, of course!) and my Mom and sister came out to volunteer.

The course was an out-and-back forming a zig-zag, running along only three streets. I enjoy straight stretches of road, but the elevation profile looked pretty intense, especially when all of my previous long distance races have been flat or downhill. Still, I had confidence that I could handle it since my clinic instructor incorporates significant climbs into almost all of our training runs.

I had a difficult time coming up with a game plan for this race. It's week two of a four-week stretch of races, including another half marathon two weeks from now. I knew I wanted to PR, but I also didn't want to wear myself out too much. Ultimately, my goal was to make it to the finish line without completely bonking in the last few miles as I have in all three of my previous half marathons.

On race morning we awoke to a temperature of 8C (46F) and light rain, which was expected to continue all day. We arrived at the community centre (and start/finish area) about an hour early to get our time chips and sign up for a post-race massage being offered by our physiotherapists. We were able to hang around inside and stay dry until just minutes before the start. Thankfully, the rain had reduced to a drizzle by this point.

I approached with first half with a goal of holding a steady pace around 5:30/KM (8:51/mi) without allowing the hills to wipe me out. I felt strong and remained right on target. Some of the hills were definitely challenging, but I was always able to make up any lost time on the downhills. My mantra the entire time was "What goes up, must come down!"

And then the skies opened up. We got caught in an absolute downpour. I had to laugh as I got completely drenched and sloshed through puddle after puddle.

When we finally hit the 7K marker I knew the worst of the hills were over and we turned onto a relatively flat stretch of road (still some rolling hills, but nothing like the first part). As we approached the turn-around, we crossed paths with the lead runners and I also got a quick glimpse of hubby and some friends. It was a good distraction.

Half-way split: 58:03 = 5:30/KM. I was right on target and feeling great!

I made my way back along the flat(ish) road and kept my pace pretty even. Before long, we hit those big rolling hills from the first section of the race. It was definitely more "down" than "up", but I felt myself struggling to hold my pace on the climbs. I took them one at a time and fortunately was always able to recover on the downhills.

I found myself waiting for the inevitable "wall" that I tend to experience around 16K/10mi in a half marathon, but it didn't happen! 16K, 17K, 18K and I was still feeling strong. I was definitely tired, but not feeling like "OH MY GOD, I'M NEVER GOING TO MAKE IT, SHOOT ME NOW, WHY DO I ALWAYS START TOO FAST?" I was proud of myself for holding a steady pace the entire way so far and intended to do so all the way to the finish, hopefully with a little pick-up at the end.

Sure enough, the last two kilometres were my fastest at 5:09 (=8:17/mi) and 4:57 (=7:58/mi). I sprinted around the corner and totally "chicked" this guy who is clearly in pain.

And the results are in!

1:56:16 (PR by almost 2 minutes!!!)
114/222 overall
4/11 AG F25-29
32/95 gender

This was my first half marathon with even splits (second half only 10 seconds slower than the first), my first half marathon without a single walk break and my first post-race trip to the ER... but that's a whole other story. Here's what the affected area looks like now. Ow.

Hubby finished in 1:39 and placed first in his age group! We didn't even realize it until we heard his name over the loud-speaker in the community centre. Yay hubby!

We enjoyed our free post-race massages then headed home for an ice bath before heading to our friends' house for the post-race BBQ.

Thanks for reading!

Post-Race Trip to the Emergency Room

Last night hubby and I were just lounging on the couch, watching a movie and resting our legs after the morning's half marathon. My right hip was feeling pretty tender after a massage so I decided to ice it. In a moment of utter stupidity, I placed the ice pack directly against my skin.

(Do you know where this is going?)

Fast-forward 15 or 20 minutes: I remove the ice pack and my skin is hard, white and numb. I was pretty sure I had given myself frost bite. I warmed it up with some hot cloths and it gradually became pink and also flaming hot.

I did a little reading online and managed to freak myself out enough (infection! amputation!) that we made a trip to the ER at 10:30PM. The place was jam packed, but we were processed through "Fast Track" - this was good news, but also worried me a little. Was it that bad?! We saw the doc after about an hour (no idea how long we would have waited had we not been rushed through) to confirm that my diagnosis had been correct but it was a mild case (phew).

Doc assured me not to worry and that it would heal like a typical first degree burn. He offered me pain meds, but I declined. It didn't hurt any more than a sunburn.

I now have a large pancaked-sized red welt on the outside of my hip and it stings like a *$#@&! It's still manageable with aloe vera and I'm just hoping it doesn't blister.

Ugh! This is one mistake I definitely won't make twice.

Race report with pics coming later today!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

B.A.A. 5K Race Report

I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural B.A.A. 5K on April 19th, the day before the Boston Marathon. The event promised to offer "offer a fun and competitive course for athletes and - for those who have always dreamed of crossing the Boston Marathon finish line - a 'non-qualifying' chance to do so."

The day before the race we spent several hours at the expo and walking around downtown. After dinner back at the B&B I tried to rest my legs and feet as much as possible. I got organized and laid out my gear before hitting the sack early.

(This was my first time using the Chronotrack Timing System. No problems!)

On Sunday morning I was up bright and early for a light breakfast (I couldn't stomach anything) before heading downtown for the race. We arrived at the site around 7, an hour before the start. After milling around, using the port-o-potty several times (nerves!) and a half-assed warm-up, I lined up in my corral about 20 minutes before the gun. I positioned myself about half way between the 7:00/mile and 8:00/mile signs.

Kathrine Switzer introduced the race and announced that she would be running with us. I went about my business (trying to calm my nerves and focus) as a woman wearing bib # 11 made her way into the corral right beside me. I remember noticing her bib, but only realized after the race that I had been standing beside Ms. Switzer! I couldn't see her at the podium but my girlfriend had snapped a few photos and sure enough, she was wearing bib # 11.

Before long, someone pulled the trigger and we were off. I quickly discovered that I should have started closer to the front as I spent the first several hundred metres dodging much slower runners.

Despite the crowds (3500+ runners), I was able to settle into my pace quickly. My goal was 4:36/KM (=7:24/mi).

1K: 4:37

The first section of the route took us along Boylston Street, around the Public Gardens and Boston Common.

I skipped the water station at the first mile marker and felt relieved to be a third of the way there.

We faced the only hill (up and down) as we headed toward Commonwealth Avenue. My pace slowed as we climbed the hill but I was able to make it up on the downhill.

2K: 4:48
3K: 4:32

I was really starting to struggle and doubting whether I could keep my pace up all the way to the end. Thankfully, the second mile marker came into sight (I skipped water once again). My legs didn't want to carry me any further and I was gasping for breath, but I dug deep and reminded myself of those mile repeats I had completed a couple weeks before. 'Just one interval,' I said to myself, 'You can complete ONE INTERVAL.'

4K: 4:23

I glanced at my watch and saw that my average pace was below target. I was going to do it! Unfortunately, I had neglected to compare the distance shown on my watch with the mile markers on course. As it turned out, it was way off. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

We finally turned back onto Boylston Street. The finish line was in sight and the crowds were cheering like crazy. At this point I really felt like I couldn't possibly run another step, but there was no stopping now.

I crossed the finish line (the Boston Marathon finish line!) in 23:46. A wave of disappointment and confusion washed over me because my Garmin showed an average pace of 4:33, 3 seconds faster than my 23:00 goal. It also showed a distance of 5.22KM. Ugh! The worst part was, I missed a PR by 10 seconds because I had been paying too much attention to my pace and not enough to my time in comparison to the actual mile markers. Lesson learned!

I didn't allow the disappointment to stick around. I knew I had run a strong race and pushed hard through a crowded field, and 4:33/KM is a pace unheard of for me. I happily collected my medal and loot... and secretly vowed to run a 23:00 at my 5K coming up in July.

The B.A.A. 5K is one of the most exciting and well-organized events I've been a part of and one that I will definitely run again. Overall, an unforgettable experience.


Hartwell Half Marathon is tomorrow! It's a local event with just a few hundred runners. The course is an out-and-back - mostly uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. Should be interesting!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Reese's Run Virtual Race Report

Today I participated in a great virtual event hosted by Marci and Christy to raise money for Juvenile Arthritis. We were invited to run 4 miles or 4 kilometres in honour of Reese's 4th Birthday.

Happy Birthday Reese!

I set out to run my four miles in a light drizzle. I had planned to take it nice and slow after Yasso repeats with my clinic last night and wanting fresh legs for my half marathon coming up on Sunday. Unforunately, less than 10 minutes into the run I got caught in a huge downpour! I made a "mid-race" decision to drop down to the 4KM event.

By the time I got back, I was soaked to the bone... but still smiling. I snapped a quick pic when I walked in the door.

Results are in!

My pace is certainly nothing to write home about, but it was fun to get out there and run for a good cause. Thanks to Marci & Christy for organizing this great event and congrats to all the other Reese Runners.

B.A.A. 5K report coming up tomorrow. Promise!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Boston Marathon Spectator's Report

**click for full-size pics**

We were up early on Monday morning to get ready for the big day. Patricia had a quick breakfast at the B&B, got ready and we were out the door by 6:30. We drove into the city to drop her off at her bus. She had to be there shortly after 7 even though her wave was not starting until 10:30 (we learned later than she had a 45 minute wait for the bus, one hour bus ride, 50 minute line-up for the port-o-potty and into the corral just in time for the gun.

Meanwhile, her hubby and I headed back to the B&B for our breakfast before taking transit to the finish line. We arrived around 9:00 and there were already several people all set up with chairs, blankets and some even had coolers! We found a pretty good spot about 150 metres from the finish line.

It was going to be a long day so I had to pick up some fuel.

Before long, the wheelchair racers were whizzing by.

When the police came out in new force, we knew the lead runners would be coming in shortly. by the point the crowds were insane! The elite women finished first (they had started 30 minutes before the men). Here is Kosgei from Kenya (2:32:16) with Tune from Ethiopia right on her heels (2:32:17).

Seconds later, Kara Goucher finished in third place at 2:32:25 after leading most of the race.

Shortly thereafter, the top men came through following the lead car.

Kenya's Deriba Merga won the race in 2:08:42, maintaining a strong lead over Ethiopia's Rono who placed second in 2:09:32.

Ryan Hall finished in third place at 2:09:40. Not sure why he's sticking out his tongue...?

Check out Richard Whitehead from Great Britain who finished in just over three hours!

We watched as runners flooded the finishing chute in bigger and bigger groups as the morning went on.

The energy was incredible. The crowds were screaming and cheering and ringing their cowbells non-stop. We called out runners by name whenever we could and shouted GO CANADA! any time we saw someone sporting the maple leaf.

Meanwhile, we had been tracking Patricia's splits and knew exactly when she should be finishing. Unfortunately, we still missed her. There were just so many people! She finished in 3:49:46, good enough for a re-qualification!

It took almost an hour to find her after the race in the family meeting area and another half hour for us to find our way to a "T" station. Patricia wasn't feeling well at all, but still managed to smile for the camera (while uttering 'Never again!')

It was an unforgettable experience and I highly recommend it if you ever have the opportunity. I can only hope that one day I'll be on the other side of those barricades... but until then, spectating isn't so bad!

Next up: B.A.A. 5K race report!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Boston Trip Report & Pics

My good friend Patricia qualified for Boston at the Toronto Marathon in October with a strong 3:36 finish in only her second marathon. I was thrilled when she decided to go to Boston this year and invited me to come along for the ride. She, her husband Ueli and I loaded up the car and hit the road dark & early Friday morning for the long ten hour drive. (Hubby was not able to join use because of work commitments.)

We arrived at our cozy B&B in the quaint town of Newton, MA just outside Boston by early evening. Our hosts were wonderful and the place was perfect. Here's my cute little single room which was next door to Patricia and Ueli's - a steal at $60/night with breakfast!

On Friday evening we wandered around Newton, including a trip up Heartbreak Hill just around the corner from our B&B.

Saturday morning we woke up and went for a little run around the quiet (and hilly!) neighbourhood before having a great breakfast of french toast and fruit prepared by our hosts.

After breakfast we made the short walk to the "T" which took us right into Boston for the expo.

We were there pretty early and it was already swarming with people. I've never seen anything like it!

We spent 3.5 hours there; visiting the booths, scoping out races, collecting free swag, taste testing everything from gels to tortellini and shopping!

Here's a look at some of the goodies I left with.

After the expo, we headed straight for the finish line, where they were already setting up for Sunday and Monday.

We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner and BEvERages before wandering around downtown for the remainder of the afternoon, taking in the sights of beautiful Boston.

Up next... Boston Marathon spectator's report and BAA 5K race report!