Thursday, 15 October 2015

2015 Chicago Marathon Recap

Wow - is the word I would use to describe my experience at the Chicago Marathon. The build up, the training and the race execution. Everything in my control went as well as it could have!

Leading up to this marathon I was filled with all types of nervousness, memories of the Vancouver marathon always at the back of my head. After Vancouver I said I would never run another full marathon again. Yet here I was, ready to toe the start line of my 3rd marathon in 3 years of running.

I took the training for this marathon very seriously, found my weaknesses and made them strengths. (You should see my single leg squats and hip flexibility!) One of my biggest issues in the past was staying injury free during marathon training. Strength training 2 days a week and running 4 days was the perfect balance and kept me injury free during the 3 months of training.

1. Stay injury free
2. Run sub 4 hour marathon (reach goal)
3. Run sub 4:20 marathon
4. Beat my mental demons (my toughest goal)

Getting out of my head and not negative talking to myself during a race has always been a weakness of mine. I've always been able to convince myself to let up and settle for less than I know I am capable of. It was no different this time, but how i battled it through the race was different.

Race Recap:

Pre Race: 

From the moment we landed in Chicago on Saturday morning, there was a marathon vibe in the air. Leaving the airport we were greeted with a overhead highway sign welcoming runners to Chicago for the marathon. The streets were lined with banners and posters. I stayed at the Hilton Chicago the official race hotel, all their staff were in Chicago Marathon shirts, elevators plastered with with marathon posters and even the room key was Chicago marathon themed! They automatically gave all runners late checkout and really catered to the hotel being filled with runners.

The Race expo, very well organized no lines but plan to spend money and a bit of time there! The race weekend high gets to everyone and money will be spent! There are a lot of cool things to take photos with too!

Nutrition & Fuelling:

I find pre race nutrition one of the toughest things to get right, but I think after 2 marathons of not doing it right along with the advice of my naturopath, Dr Marc Bubbs I nailed it on the head for Chicago.

I had the usual carb loading pasta dinner the night before. My breakfast is a bit unique but works for me! My breakfast was two palm size portion of grilled salmon, I know a lot of people would think that is absurd to be eating fish for breakfast but it works for me! I also was hesitant but followed the advice of my naturopath to try it! It's so crazy that it works and I didn't feel hungry throughout the race at all! I love it for the fats and protein it provides. Along with the salmon I have a bowl of oatmeal about 2 hours before my start time.

First half of the race I had non caffeinated gels, 3 Honey Stinger chews every 45 minutes. The second half caffeinated chews, also 3 every 45 minutes. During training I laid off the caffeinated chews at the end of my training to ensure I would feel the extra kick when I needed it. Oh yes, I felt the much needed 9.6mg of caffeine kick every 45 minutes!


I ended up in start corral J with the estimated finish time of 4:59:56-5:00:05 (yes they were very specific times). Though these times were way off my goal time I tried to not let it bother me and planted myself as close to the front of the corral as I could. Starting too fast I knew wouldn't be an issue, there wasn't room to go anywhere. There were 3 corrals ahead of us in the Wave 2 start.

Here are some interesting, fun, odd things I noticed throughout the 42.2k course:

  • Under the first bridge, the number of guys drop their shorts to go wee under the bridge. Quite possibly the only day they can ever pee in public in front of the police without repercussions
  • Porta potties at the first two aid stations were packed - I held off till the third aid station to go to the washroom. Also go the extra distance to the stalls at the very end. There was only 1 person ahead of me. 
  • Running over bridges is weird but if you aren't on the side with the carpet don't sweat it. Just watch your step and keep running.  
  • Roads with islands in the middle and you have to choose to stay left or right. I always hung left, I knew most turns were on the right side and the right side of the course was always packed. Left side, less runners. 
  • Aid stations, I always got my Gatorade and water at the very end of the tables. The front is always crowed and many stopped to drink. I drank 1 Gatorade and 1 water at every aid station. 
  • Last 400m was on a slight incline and I mean slight. But after running 41.80km you can feel every bit of that incline (I'm a bit hesitant to call it anything more than an incline, certainly not a hill).
Also with 45,000 runners don't expect to ever be alone or have a lot of space. There was quite a bit of weaving throughout the whole race but it was nice to always have that many people around as well. It wasn't until the final 3 miles did I really notice the street widened and runners were more spaced out. 

The final 800m was completely lined with spectators, I took my headphones out to fully embrace what I was seeing. It was pretty amazing. I loved the finish, I had heard a lot of about the spectators as well as the the slight incline that takes you to the finish line. It was pretty amazing getting to the top of the incline turn left and the finish line is a sprint distance away! 

I saw the overhead clock and it was 5+ hours gun time but I looked down at my watch 4:17:35. I was ecstatic, I was tired, exhausted but without any of the pain or hurt I felt after the Vancouver marathon. I had a 30 minute marathon PB but what I was most happy was not letting my head get in the way of my running. Fighting back against the negative talk. I achieved 3/4 of my goals and I know a sub 4 hour marathon is more than possible now. 
Post race Shake Shack, it tasted so good!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Thoughts Leading To My First Triathlon

9 day and counting to my first ever triathlon at the Toronto Triathlon Festival downtown Toronto. To say I was nervous would be an understatement but with that, I am also very excited. If it's anything like running my first marathon - it will be the start of something amazing!

This post is going to be about my thought process leading up to coming up with the courage to sign up for my first Olympic triathlon.

Sprint or Olympic? 
I clicked back and fourth several times form the Sprint to Olympic distance. The only part I kept thinking about was the SWIM! Up until then I have never been able to swim ore than 200m continuously, thinking about 1500m was mind boggling.

Then I just said GO BIG OR GO HOME!! Olympic it is - I better start practicing my swimming!

Sign Up! - December 4, 2014
I read a tweet, clicked on a link, put in my credit card info and POOF I was signed up for my first Olympic triathlon.

The thoughts that ran through my head, "How hard could it be? I biked 90km ONCE and bike to school and work dodging traffic everyday. I ran a few marathons and love running! This should be a piece of cake! (Wrong, wait till you do it one after the other!)

It's not official till you make a Facebook post about it!! Approval measured by Likes from your friends! Also their words of encouragement and assurance that you aren't insane are nice too!

Now that I've committed to the Olympic distance tri, actually I like to just call it the 1.5k swim tri. It was time to swim and forget about the fact that I need to bike and run after the swim.

An all new experience of getting into a wetsuit - I was told it was going to be the most amazing thing in the water. Helps you float and keeps you warm. Took me over 25 minutes to get this thing on! The wetsuit is named Balgoa the Blue.

First Practice Tri AND Open Water Swim!
Thanks to a friend for organizing I got to try out my new wetsuit and do my first open water swim.

Thoughts during my first open water swim in a wetsuit:
  1. It's true! - the wetsuit does entrap water between your body and suit and it warms up fast! 
  2. I'M FLOATING!!! I just laid back and I was floating!! 
  3. Started swimming - "Oh no, I'm so tired! We've only gone 25m?! I think my GPS watch is broken! Find the shore, I'm going to drown!! 
  4. I REALLY think I should drop down to the sprint distance! This is insane! 
I later learnt that it was completely normal to feel and think what I was thinking for my first open water swim. I guess it's good it was just a practice run! 

Bike to Run Legs
Completely new feeling - it was darn tough! I've never had this feeling in my legs before! Again happy to have experienced it during a practice run rather than race day! 

I Think I Need to Do More Bricks
After that practice triathlon I told myself I needed to do a few more bricks - I was essentially using the same mentality I do with exams. Crunch time - cram cram cram knowing it probably didn't matter at this point anyway, it felt better cramming. Luckily I had Tuesday and Thursday mornings free before school so I got 2 weeks worth of mini bricks before racing to class. 

Weather Checking
Just over a week to the race I've been checking the weather non stop. Hoping and praying the water temperatures are warm enough to not get the swim cancelled. A duathlon seems fun but it would certainly be disappointing with such a build up to my first triathlon. 

We will know 1 hour before the first wave start if the swim is a go or not. The water temperature will need to be 13C + also taking into consideration the air temperature. 9 days out - the water temperature in Lake Ontario is only 11C and the weather is suppose to only get cooler next week! 

Final Thoughts
Since I signed up I've always told people "If I get out of that water, I'm already a champion. There is no way of drowning biking or swimming." I have no goal time, my goal is to finish my first triathlon - I know it will be as much mental as physical challenge for me.  

I'll see you at the finish line! 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Stay Obsessed. Set Goals. Work. Dream.

A chapter of my childhood closed when Steve Nash announced his official retirement on March 21, 2015.

When major events happen in your life for some reason those memories stick no matter how long ago they may be. The memory of how I learnt about Steve Nash is one of those memories I never forgot. In the second grade in 2002 we were assigned to make a mobile of a Canadian Olympian. My mom recommended I do it Steve Nash. The rest was history.

Shortly thereafter I also demanded she sign me up to play basketball. So I played competitively from when I was a wee little girl till grade 12. During this time I also stood by my reasoning to never wear the  number 13 or #7 because I was always worried the one game or practice I didn't work hard enough or play smart enough it would make Steve Nash's number look bad. Kind of silly but I stuck with it.

So how does this all relate to my present day goals in running? It's no longer my dream to play basketball for Team Canada or get a division 1 scholarship.  But it is still my goal to chase those scary dreams that keep me up at night, that make me second guess my dreams.

This year my goal is to run a sub 4 hour marathon - it scares me to even think about it. When I read Steve Nash's retirement letter it provoked feelings and thought. Why should I be scared of this challenge? The odds were stacked even higher and harder against Steve Nash.

This was my favourite excerpt from the post.

Stay obsessed. Set Goals. Work. Dream. Scheme and push yourself beyond what is normal or expected. Simply put, work your butt off and anything can happen. There are a lot of runners I look up to, most of them are teammates or friends. It's a nice reminder to think, why can't I be as good or fast as them in a few years if I work hard. 

This is a lesson all athletes or anyone with a dream can take away. 

Steve Nash did pretty good for a kid no one knew. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Running into the New Year

Welcome back...if you're back. My blog has been a ghost town...mostly because I didn't have anything to write about when I wasn't training and was just exercising just so I could fit in my jeans. Also I just renewed my domain and thought what a waste if I don't use it!

A quick recap of 2014.

May 2014 - Blew the Vancouver marathon, didn't even come close to my goal time. I came back to Toronto and really thought about never racing for PBs again and perhaps pick up a new hobby? I took 3 months off of running to do whatever. Also to let my poor sad foot get better. You can read more about that race in a pervious post. It was not pretty, my race nor the weather that day!

June 2014 - Biked my first 90k on a relay team at the Mount Tremblant Half Ironman. Before this date I had never ridden more thank 35K non stop, yep I had my work cut out for me on those rolling hills. I also changed two flat tires for the first time! I also experienced what is sounds like when a tire tube blows up very close to your ear.

Fast forward to August 2014 - I don't remember how or why I decided from not wanting to run for PBs to join a team so I could smash my running goals. I always knew if I was going to join a team it was going to be with Pace and Mind. Once I got over that fear of group running and knowing I'd be always just chasing teammate's heels I started to see results. I guess the only way to get fast is to chase the fast.

I ended up running 2 half marathons 2 weeks apart and PBing each of them!
1) Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon October 19th
2) Angus Glen Half Marathon November 2nd - I took full two weeks off between races and only had 2 goals for this race: not look at my watch and not walk. Completed both those goals AND PBed on a tough hilly course.

Fast forward to January 23, 2015. I took a break after that just continued my long runs to maintain fitness through the holidays.

January 18 I made the executive decision to get back to healthy eating and healthy habits. Paleo I go back to, I did a strict paleo diet in 2013 for about 5 months and the results and my health were amazing. So i know it works for me! Back to writing down every single thing that I eat and drink to keep me honest.

My 2015 Goals 

C) Complete my first triathlon
D) PB my half marathon time

My main goal for 2015 is to run a sub 4 hour marathon, everything else is just going to be gravy. I have a bunch of races lined up to help me reach that sub 4 hour goal. With hard work, focus, great teammates and coaching from Pace and Mind it will make this challenge possible.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Discovering the Marathon Through YouTube Star Shay Carl

March 20, 2012 I was 17 years old and I experienced what running a marathon would be like...through my computer screen.

October 18, 2014 running with Shay Carl.
As I watched a 25 minute YouTube video of my favourite YouTuber Shay Carl completing his first marathon after losing over 100lbs. It was one of the most inspiring and motivating things I have ever seen. Shay Carl is  a daily vlogger so I got to see the entire process from when he first started training to when he crossed that finish line at the LA Marathon.

I grew up hating cross country and track so I even thought I was crazy when I told myself I was going to run a marathon. I didn't know how or when I was going to complete a marathon but I knew I was.

I started running because I really had no excuse not to. When I started running I could barely run 800m without walk breaks. But on October 20, 2013 after 10 months of training I ran my first marathon and Shay Carl was right...I am addicted to the marathon. It was the most life changing experience.

Everyone gets introduced to a marathon a different way, whether it was passed on from their parents or from their friends. I was introduced to the marathon by Shay Carl, prior to his videos the only marathon I knew was a Simpsons marathon. So how did you discover the marathon?

Monday, 5 May 2014

My Defining Moment at the Vancouver Marathon

SPOILER!! To my surprise I did PB my marathon time!!

Passing kilometre 37 of the Vancouver Marathon, the rain not letting up once the entire race, wind blowing harder and colder. I can nearly see the end of Stanley Park. I felt so defeated and demoralized, the marathon was laughing at me.  I came all the way to Vancouver to run this marathon I was not leaving without a medal.

My legs and body were betraying me. I replayed the last 2 days and back to the last few months of my training, where did I go wrong, did I not fuel properly, maybe I'm really not  made for the marathon.

The final 5k of the race were the most agonizing and painful 5k I have ever run, taking nearly an hour to complete.

By the time I could see the finish line 250 metres away, the longest 250 metres I have ever witnessed. I was numb, unaware of my surroundings, I no longer felt the pain I just kept reminding my legs to keep going.

As soon as I crossed that finish line and left the finishing chute I bent over with my hands on my knees gasping for air. Eyes welled with tears asking myself, what am I doing, promising myself to never put myself through this type of physical and mental anguish.

I had been training for a 4 hour marathon but had a very rough winter training from weather to injury. I reassessed and believed a 4:15-4:25 marathon time was attainable. I was on track, I had gas left in my tank, I was feeling strong and confident but so quickly all that came crumbling down.

Running is suppose to be fun, suppose to keep us fit and healthy. After this experience I think running is actually hurting me. I'm sitting here typing and every muscle in my body hurts, walking up or down stairs hurts even more. Running should leave us feeling good, so why doesn't it?

Perhaps I'm pushing too hard, setting expectations too high. I know I'm never going to win a race or even come close to ever making money from running. I run because I love it, yet after many races I curse racing and say never again yet 1 month later sign up for another race.

When I first started running I never obsessed about my pace or time I just ran because it felt right and I enjoyed it. Now my eyes are glued to my watch, checking my pace deciding if I can push a little harder without pushing over the edge.

Running shouldn't be something I stress about, my friend Catherine always reminds me "running is a gift". It really is, we are very lucky we are able to lace on our shoes and run, whether it's for 10 minutes or 5 hours.

I want to go back to enjoying running, I don't want to feel defeated or left feeling like I got hit by a truck after a race. Running my first marathon last fall, not worrying about a time just going out there and having fun, I want to go back to that. I was really having fun, smiling and laughing after 42.2km run.

Every good tale has a defining moment, the Vancouver marathon was my defining moment. Perhaps pushing my body to the ultimate edge is not what I want. I no longer want to race marathons but I will certainly run more marathons.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Every Running Shoe Has a Tale to Tell

Since I began running I've gone through 2 pairs of shoes and onto my third. When my mom told me to donate the old ones that I no longer wear not even as "running to the store" shoes I realized I've become quite attached to these shoes. They all have a story to tell.

Nimbus 14

The very first pair of running shoes I bought to begin "training" for my first 10K race and half marathon. Didn't know anything about shoes just knew I liked the colour and they were pretty comfy.

These shoes will tell you it sat for weeks on end and whenever the sun came out we went on stupidly long runs without ever building up the distance.

These shoes ran through snow and discovered the Waterfront and Don Valley trails with me for the first time. These shoes experienced the excitement of being at the start line of a race with me for the first time too.

They've now become my winter/running on ice and snow shoes. Put some Ice Spikes in the bottom and they're rediscovering the snowy icy trails of the Lower Don.

Shoes that helped me run my first race can never be thrown out.

Nimbus 15

I bought these shoes just before I began training for my first marathon. I fell in love with the Nimbus and stuck with the same model when the time came to buy new shoes.

I hit many new milestones with these shoes, longest distances, running through wind, rain and mud. These shoes sat many days with newspaper stuffed in it absorbing all the water from wet rainy runs. It's heard many conversations between my friends and running partners Liz & Llorene on those long runs lasting 4+ hours.

These shoes helped me complete my very first marathon on October 20th, 2013. My very first 42.2. They certainly aren't going anywhere!

Nimbus 15

Another pair of Nimbus 15, I guess when you find something that works for you, you stick with it.

These were the first pair of shoes that experienced running 4 days a week, track days and -20C temperatures. It might have been November but I was training for my second half marathon in these shoes. My first out of town race, a half marathon in San Diego California.

I PBed my half marathon time in these shoes. They aren't going anywhere.

1 hour after completing that race these shoes walked 6 miles on the Boardwalk from Pacific Beach to Mission Beach and back. Good day, good weather and even better friends.

Through winter 2014 I have been doing all my outdoor training runs in these shoes. I have another pair that currently do indoor runs and are itching for nicer road conditions to come out.

Nimbus 15

Same shoe different colour. These shoes are destained to help me PB my full marathon time at BMO Vancouver Marathon in May, 2014.

They've ran many mile repeats, fartleks and sprints on treadmills and indoor tracks. When the road conditions get better they'll be out on more runs. For now they're quite comfortable indoors.

This story isn't complete yet, not until it sees the view of beautiful Vancouver BC and crosses the finish line of my second marathon.

They're also in my favourite shade of blue! :)

Nimbus 15

This story is still unwritten. As a runner when you see your favourite running shoe for more than 50% off you buy it. As you can probably tell, I have a favourite running shoe.

These shoes have big hopes and dreams. These shoes are going to train all summer and do what it takes to help me try to achieve my Boston Qualifier of 03:35 at a fall marathon.

They've got a big job to do but I know they're up for the challenge.