Sunday, 28 December 2014

Bang and Olufsen Yorkville 5K Race Recap

One of my best friends decided to start running at the beginning of 2014 and I was on a mission to get her started.  I told her the only way to really get committed to training is to register for a race. I promised I would find a race the perfect race and run it with her. As a first time runner, she agreed that a 5km distance was just right for her.

I had heard about the Yorkville 5K Race the first year I started running, but had never run it myself.  This year they was they were happy to announce that  the Canadian Masters Athletics was adding a masters championship component to their inaugural Canadian 5K Road Race Championship 

We were able to find some early registration codes and signed up the minute registration opened up in March.  It was one of the more expensive races I had ever signed up for, but the swag seemed to be very promising. 

The race was on Saturday September 7, 2014. Yes, I know, this race report is late, but it's been a hectic year. My girlfriend flew in from Montreal with her boyfriend just for this race. So, we made it into a fun weekend. I picked them up from the airport and whisked them right down to packet pickup. As it was her first race, I told her that there was no big expo that we would be attending, but a more intimate and personalized experience.

Packet pickup was at a New Balance store not too far from where the race was going to be taking place. We were greeted by volunteers with t-shirts with tuxedo prints and white gloves. We were asked our names which they wrote down on post-it-notes along with what we were wearing and asked to go into the store to look around while they retrieved our race kits.
Gen with her race kit
We walked around the store and soon after the volunteers found us and hand delivered each of our kits to us.  Gen's first reaction was "Awesome race kit, you can take us back to the airport now". I was not going to let her get away that quickly.

When we got home we were able to dissect out race kit. As you an see from the photos, it was worth the $100 registration fee. We were not disappointed.

All our goodies were neatly packaged in a pretty black box with all the stuff you see in the photos. The personalized bibs were a nice touch and lined up perfectly with or race shirts. 

I know that it is faux pas to wear the race shirt before you've completed the race, there was mention of prizes for those who decided to don their race shirts.  So I broke the rule just once as we are all about winning prizes. 

After a good nights rest, I headed down to the race with my run buddies. It was a nice small race and we would be able to watch the masters runners race first before we were to race. It's the nice thing about a 5km race, most masters runners would finished in 25minutes.

The Master's runners were running first at 9 am and the rest of us runners would follow. It was a gorgeous day for a race. I couldn't believe how nice it was.

Masters runners ready to go
The first runner came in at 14:34 which totally blew us all away. It was amazing to see all of the runners come it at lightening speeds.  I am more in awe of the last person who crossed the finish line at 25:13!!! and she's in the Female 65-69 age group. Needless to say, I was truly humbled.

When it was our time to go, we leisurely walked to the start line. It was a fairly small race with 738 participants in the race. We stayed near that back as this was where my friend felt most comfortable. We were there to support her and get her to the finish line.

As you can see from the race photos, we were just having a great time. She was able to run the first kilometre without stopping. I didn't know how she had been training, but she did tell us when we started the race that she wasn't sure how long she would be able to run without stopping. She was over the moon excited about getting this far. I think for her next race, we will have to come up with a definite race strategy.

Free Race photos, always a nice perk
We ended up slowing down our pace and settled with a walk and run pace. She actually walks super fast, my run buddy had to trot along to keep up.  I was not going to race this one as I had promised that I could stay with her the entire way.  The course took us through the core of downtown Toronto. It was a loop that took us around Queen's Park, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and back to where we had started.  There were a few cars on the road that were not happy with us as we heard some complaints from drivers. I knew the finish was near and told my friend to suck it up and give it all she had. We cheered and yelled and hollered at her right up to the finish line.

Crossing the finish line
I was so proud of her and a that I was able to share her first race with her. 
Showing off our medals
The post race party was held on the grounds of a beautiful school. We were treated with fried Nutella balls and many other goodies. The sun was shining and we just relaxed on the field and soaked it all up.

This was a perfect race for my girlfriend. It was a great distance for her as she was using the couch to 5k app and the number of participants were small. The swag was fantastic, but the price was steep at $100. With that being said, my girlfriend has signed up for this race next year. I will have to see how much I have left in my race budget. I just may cheer her from the sidelines.

Where was your first race? 
Did you run it with anyone?

What is your limit on race registration fees?

Have a great week 



Monday, 22 December 2014

My New Garmin 620 - Marathon Motivation

I was so so happy to get my Christmas gift early this year. I had bought my first Garmin 305 when I started running 5 years ago. It started to give me a low battery indicator during my runs this summer when I was only 5 minutes into my run. It almost gave out on me during my San Francisco Marathon. I had hoped that it would last a bit longer, but sadly it didn't. I had to borrow my hubby's for most of my Athens Marathon training and the race itself. Deep down inside I was kind of  happy as I knew I could shop around for a new one.

I bought my first Garmin after asking around some of my fellow runners in my run club as I was brand new to running and not sure what I was looking for. I was very please with my 305 and slowly learned to use most of the features on the watch. This time around I had an idea of what I was looking for and went back online to do some more research.

I ended up with the the Garmin 620 after much research. I had contemplated switching to another company but after reading this review, I was convinced. I had read up on the 305 model on his website before and found it very useful. I highly recommend checking out his website.

I love my gadgets and this one is pretty awesome. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. It is super light compared to my 305 and has some great new functions. The watch also came right as I am starting my Paris Marathon training. I was super pumped and took it out for a run as soon as I could.

On my first run with my new toy
I just finished up week 2 of my training plan and excited to get out for another run just so I can use the watch. There is a new heart rate strap with a transmitter pod with an accelerometer that measures torso movement to measure 3 running metrics:

1. Cadence - the number of steps per minute
2. Vertical Oscillation - the bounce in your running motion
3. Ground contact time - the amount of time in each step that your food spends on the ground while running. 

Yes, I'm a bit of a run nerd as this information is pretty interesting to me, I just need to know how I can take all the information to help me become a better runner.

My week 2 totals - 44 km and 2 strength training workouts.

Rest day today and right back at it tomorrow. This will be a tough week with Christmas in a few days, I'm not sure how much running I'll be able to squeeze in. I think I'll be doing a lot my eating than running. Tis the season.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

What are your plans for the holidays? 

What motivates you to run?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Heartache and the journey ahead

I haven't had a chance to blog lately as I have been very overwhelmed with a terrible event. Twelve days after returning from Athens, my best friend and running buddy fell in the shower. At first we all thought that it was just a fall, but within 24 hours the hospital realized that it was worse than their initial diagnosis. She was rushed into emergency surgery for a block in the bilateral artery. I was devastated when I found out. We had just gotten back from her 40th birthday trip. She was young, fit and lead a healthy lifestyle. She is a chiropractor and has always lead by example; to her patients and everyone she knew. I have known her my whole life. We have gone through thick and thin together. She is like the sister that I never had. It turns out she had a stroke. I wanted to scream. I was completely lost. She had called me that day to see how I was as I had just returned from a flight and we were going to try to plan a get together. 

I was able to see her post surgery and sat the night with her and her brother in the Critical Care ward. She was able to look up at me when I got here and spoke her name.  But she was not the same person I had seen just days earlier. I could barely recognize her. I was a complete mess. I felt terrible that she was lying there so helpless. I knew that people were probably going to blame the running to have caused her stroke. I am not a doctor, but I believe that the running probably saved her and kept it at bay and I'm sure she would say the same thing.

The surgery to unclog the artery took place 3 weeks ago and she has since come a long way, but still has a long journey ahead of her. The doctors have checked her heart and it is in great shape and did not cause the original stroke. They are still trying to find out what caused her stroke so that preventative steps may be taken. We have been cautioned that they may not be able to pin point exactly how it occurred.  I have been pouring over websites trying to learn as much as I can. I feel so lost without her. We chatted daily about life, she was our family chiropractor, my running buddy and my best friend. I miss our daily chats whether it was a phone call or a quick text message. She always made time for me and my family. She was always so selfless. We were brought together by God when we met at Sunday School as pre-schoolers and continued onto be friends to this day. I believe that she will be healed. Doctors still say that it's a miracle that she's come this far. I know that it is by God's hand that she has come this far in such a short period of time. I know and believe with all my heart that she will overcome this and fight for a full recovery. She is now in a rehabilitation hospital where she will living for the next little while. I will continue to visit her and be her biggest cheerleader to help her with whatever she needs.

I am starting my training this week for the Paris Marathon. It has been a very emotionally draining year. I lost my uncle and grandfather this year and now this. I know that she would want me to continue on. I am dedicating this run to her and the people I lost this year.

Life is so very precious. Appreciate every moment with the people you love. Tell them you love them daily because you never know if it will be the last time you see them.

Please keep my buddy in your prayers and thoughts.

Thank you for reading.

At the Acropolis together 2 weeks before her stroke

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Chasing Pheidippides...Running the Athens Marathon - Part one

My running buddy who is also my best friend turned 40 this year. I have know this lovely lady since we were preschoolers. We have been through a lot together and also started our running addiction together.  For her birthday, I promised to take her anywhere in the world to run a marathon of her choosing. After searching online for a few months, we decided that Athens was where we were headed.

Sure, there are tons of races out there and many of them are on my bucket list of races I want to run, but Athens was definitely near the top. Any marathoner you speak to should know the significance of Athens. It is where the marathon originated. Check here to see the whole story, but here's my quick version. The marathon is named after a Greek legend that tells a tale of a messenger, Pheidippides who was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians around 490 BC. After running the distance to Athens and delivering the great news, Pheidippides collapsed and died.

The route that we ran traced the route of the 1896 Olympic course starting in Marathon on the eastern course of Attica, the site of the Battle of Marathon of 490 B.C., and ending at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

Because of my benefits with working for and airline, we were going to be travelling standby for most of our flights.  We would be traveling through 3 different countries in 7 days. Trains, planes, and buses.  We started our trip on an early Wednesday morning and flew out to London Heathrow. Since it was a day flight and with all our excitement, we didn't sleep and watched movies and had a glass of wine to celebrate our up coming race. We arrived in London the same time as my cousin who was flying in from Biarritz and made our way down to her flat for a quick stopover as we had about 24 hours before our next flight to Athens. Our first stop was at her local pub around the corner from her place. My buddy had never been to a traditional British pub, so off we went and chugged down a pint and had some nice chit chat before heading back to crash at her place. After 3 hours on her couch, we were off to catch a bus to a local airport about an hour away to catch our flight to Athens.

Cheers from London
After a bumpy bus ride and a 3 and a half hour flight we were finally in Athens. We had been on the road for over 36 hours with barely 6 hours of sleep. We were exhausted by also pumped with knowing that we had finally arrived. After figuring out our way to our apartment, we were on our way to the expo to pick up our race packet.

On the roof of our apartment with the Acropolis behind us

We didn't have much time to get to expo as we had been taking our time to adjust to our new surroundings. After getting lost and trekking the dark streets of Athens, we made it to the expo with an hour to kill.

We were so happy to finally see a 'sign'

With Our Bibs
We did a quick walk through the expo after picking up our bibs and made our way back to our apartments. We were hungry and exhausted. We found a quaint little restaurant by our place, ordered some nice local fare and chowed down. 

Greek cheese with Tomatoes and Olive Oil

Grilled Squid w/local greens

It was a great start to our adventures in Athens. We were quickly back at our apartment and passed out from all our travelling. We had a few more days of exploring before the marathon, so rest was much needed.

Touring through Athens and race recap will be following in my next post.

Where's the furthest you have travelled for a race?

Which races are on your bucket list?

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Injured and Onwards Towards Athens

I am now 14 days away from my third marathon. I have been training for the Athens Marathon for the past 15 weeks. Training has been coming along steadily with a few races that I had planned within the schedule to help me see if I was progressing. I had a personal best at my last 30km race and trudged on. I have been working with a new training plan that a friend had suggested. It helped her with her BQ.

I developed some pain in the arch of my right foot at the beginning of October. I decided to take it easy and use orthotics in all my shoes and roll it out over a golf ball whenever I had a chance. It has been quick painful. I'm not sure what caused the pain, but I am hoping that it will go away.

My family and I had planned getaway for Florida with some friends and I had my training all planned out. Unfortunately I feel out of our mini van and landed with my tailbone hitting the curb. This happened on day 2 of our holidays. I was devastated. I cried when hubby tried to help me up. All I could think about was how I was going to be able to run a marathon in 4 weeks. We were on our way to the beach so I crawled back into the van and made a run for the ocean when I got to the beach. I was hoping the salt water would help with the pain.

When we finally made it back to our residence, I took a look at the damage. It was not pretty. I was black and blue. My right leg somehow got smashed in the fall as well. I had brought some anti-inflammatory gel for my foot and quickly applied it on all aches and pains. I was definitely not going to be able to run while on holidays. I could barely sit.

It has been 14 days since the fall and my tailbone is feeling slightly better. I saw my chiropractor the day after I landed and she's been taking good care of me. In her words "it's not good, but I've seen worse". I went for a trial run today with my little guy and it seems to be holding up. I only ran a slow 5km and was very cautious during the whole time.  I have been nursing my bruises with my stinky oil elixirs I picked up from the dispensary in Hong Kong. They are very minty in smell and are warm once applied. I've been rotating heat and ice packs on my tailbone and rolling my foot over the golf ball.

My run Buddy and I with the little guy
I'm hoping that my injuries will get better for me to at least walk/run my marathon in Athens.  I do not want to pull out of the race as all the tickets and accommodations have been booked.  Until then, I will try to patiently not run and let my body heal.

Hope you all had a great weekend...

What do you do when you get injured?

Any tips for my injuries?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro70 Review

Being a busy working mom, I always try to make sure I have something to start my day off right. I usually have smoothies as they are quick to make and can be fully loaded with everything you need to start your day right.

As a  Sweat Pink Ambassador, I was offered the opportunity to try Manitoba Harvest's Hemp Pro 70. I was sent both vanilla and chocolate flavours.

Here are some key features about HempPro 70:

*  It is the only water soluble hemp protein powder on the market. It's super smooth and it doesn't    
    need to be mixed by a blender. Unless of course you want to create tasty smoothies

*  It is pure plant based protein that's 95% digestible. There are only four ingredients in either flavour      
    of HempPro 70

*  It is sweetened with organic coconut sugar - so it's low on the glycemic index

*  Both are full of healthy Omegas, Vanilla has 15g of protein and Chocolate has 14g

* They are vegan and non GMO

There are recipes on the back of the package, but I just made my usual morning smoothie with spinach, banana, blueberries, almond milk and the vanilla flavour. I tossed it all into my Vitamix and had myself a very tasty smoothie.  Considering it is plant-based, I was please that there was no artificial taste. It was the right amount of sweet. It wasn't heavy and perfect to start of the morning.

I tried the chocolate flavour a few days later and it was just as good as the vanilla. I made a chocolate banana smoothie. I will be ordering some more (check out the discount below) and incorporate it into some of my baking.

The Hemp Pro powder mixes well and tastes great. I look forward to trying out new recipes and including it into my regular diet. 

You can try it yourself as they are offering 20% off the new Vanilla and Chocolate Hemp Pro 70. Visit their website and use code sweatpinkpro70 Offer expires October 31

Disclosure:  This post is hosted with Manitoba Harvest through their partnership with Fit Approach. While I received Manitoba Harvest HempPro 70 free of charge in order to write a post, all opinions are my own. 

What is your favourite protein powder?

What are you go to recipes?

Monday, 29 September 2014

Oasis Zoo Run 10K Race Recap

I was asked to run this race for a friend who was not able to run and I gladly accepted the bib. The race take place at the Toronto Zoo which happens to be right around the corner from my home. This is a very popular race in Toronto as it has races for the whole family and at the end of the races, most family stay and enjoy a day out at the zoo.

We were having my son's birthday party the same day of the race, so I knew that it was going to be an in and out kind or race for me. It took me only 10 minutes to get to the zoo and I had loads to time to spare. It was an 8:15 start for the 10K runners. Parking was plentiful and race volunteers were eager to help guide us into the right spots. I prepared all my race essentials in the car and headed to the start line which I could see from my car.  It was a cool Saturday morning, so I had decided to run in a long sleeve, but in the end I realized that this was a big mistake.

I recognized a lot of runners from the local run clubs wearing their singlets. Two in particular were right by me when the gun went off. They joked about running and exchanged some very humorous banter once we were off. I was going to try to keep up with them as for as long as I could because I knew that they were speedy dudes. Between trying to not laugh and not tripping over my feet, I felt like I was starting off at a steady pace. The race starts inside the Zoo and takes you out off to some back roads and back into a scenic loop through the Zoo grounds.

This was my first time running this course and was told that the course would get slightly hilly as we entered the Zoo and they were right. I was keeping a steady pace and hoped to finish under 55 minutes. The two jokers that I was running with at the start had taken off after the 3 kilometre mark. I tried to catch them, but every time I got close they would dash off. Once in the Zoo property, we were greeted with the animals as well as the many friends and family that had come to cheer on the runners. At this point we were running on the Zoo paths, which didn't allow for more than 3 runners across, but was never crowded because of the corralled starts. I settled into a comfortable pace 5:30. I reached the 5km mark at 26 minutes. I was feeling pretty good and was looking forward to a decent finish.

I ended up chasing the same few runners. We would pass each other at different parts of the race as our paces were fairly close.

My running group 
I chased the girl beside me for the last 3 kilometres of the race. She motivated me to run faster and it was very healthy competition to get me over the hills. I looked down quickly at my watch at 8km and I was just under 42 minutes. I knew I would not get my sub 50 finish, but pushed onward. The finish line came quickly as it is around a quick turn and down the finishers chute. I was happy with my finish. I finished ahead of the girl that I had been running with in the photo and she came up to say hello afterwards and we congratulated each other on a great race. 

Overall, this is a wonderful race. It was a great course that attracts many runners. We were able to watch the elite runners including Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis loop us, but totally humbling to see them racing in the flesh. The post race party is well organized with many sponsors and volunteers out handing out goodies. If you have children, please bring them. It's a great day out for them. They had jumping castles among other activities to keep them busy. There are races for the little one as well dubbed the "Cub Run" and for parents that want to run with their babies, there is a stroller run option. After the race, you can spend the day checking out the Zoo.

Time -  52:51.4
Pace - 5:18
Category Place -  31/275
Gender Place - 163/1556

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Midsummer Night's 30k Race Recap

This race was 2 weeks after the San Francisco Marathon so I didn't have much of a downtown to rest between races.

This was going to be the first year that would be runinng the 30km distance on the original course as it was moved last year due to construction in the area. 

I did not have the chance to run much as I was still recovering from the hills of San Francisco, so I decided just to take it easy and see what would happen 

The weather had been great right up until race day. This race is held at dusk. I has woken up to rain in the morning and was praying that it would let up for the race. 

The other issue for me was to figure out what to eat during the day so that i would not have any stomach upset during the race. I decided to have a bagel for breakfast and stuck with smoothies full of greens for the remainder of the day. 

The sky was overcast as I drove down with my run buddy. We had packed garbage bags just in case we would be running in the rain. It started to spit as I pulled into the parking lot. We climbed into the shuttle bus along with the rest of the runners and headed to the start area. 

It was around 10 degrees and gloomy which made it seem much closer especially for an August weekend. I made a raincoat for myself with my garbage bag and huddled under a tent and waited for the start.
Hiding out and staying dry
I hadn't given to much thought to a goal finish as I wasn't sure how my legs would hold up with the little running that I had done. I was hoping for a 3 hour finish and my run buddy reminded me that I had finished under 3 last year so I decided to follow the 2:45 pace bunny.  

It was still raining as the race was about to start. I posed for last minute photos with my run buddy, wished her a good race and off we went.

At the start line
I ran the first few kilometres with the garbage bag on me because I was frozen. The rain was starting to stop so I ended up taking it off around 3km. 

I was able to keep with with the pace bunny for most of the race. There was still some construction to run around but the course was quite lovely. We ran out to the Leslie Split which has beautiful views of Lake Ontario and the skyline of Toronto.  We were a fairly small group, about 5 of us circling the pace bunny. Thank goodness for my music as we were all pretty quiet and just kept to ourselves. I guess you can say we were focused. I had decided to run this race with my Nathan Hydration belt which gave me the freedom to not have to stop at the water stations until the later part of the race. I only ended up taking one gel at the 18km mark. I was feeling good, but knew that I should probably take it so that I would not bonk.  The sky was quickly turning to dusk as I was nearing the 25k. It turned out to be a really nice night for a run. As I was nearing the 28km mark, my right side decided to cramp up. I'm no sure what happened. I was doing so well. Was it the gel or was I dehydrated? I slowed my pace down a bit and fell back from my "group". I was sad, but I knew I was going to do whatever it took to finish strong.

Coming into the finish line
I looked down at my watch and knew that if I pushed I would be able to finish under 2:50. I looked ahead to try to chase down whoever I could and thought about all the 400m tempo runs and gave it all I had. 

Showing off my medal

This is one of my favourite races to run as it's a nice small race. It is very well organized and the funds raised go towards a wonderful charity. The swag is also fantastic, a great shirt and a super cool medal.

So here are my final stats - 

Time - 2:49:12.8
Chip Time - 2:48:40.8
Pace - 5:38
21km Split - 1:56:2.8
Category Place - 32/108
Gender Place - 87/297

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Road to Athens

I will be running the original marathon course in Athens, Greece in a few months. I have been looking forward to it as we will be celebrating my run buddy's 40th birthday with this race. After running the San Francisco marathon, I decided I wanted to find a new training plan.  I was disappointed with my race in SF and wanted to do better.  I'm not sure what I did wrong, but all I knew was that I wanted to train better and race better for any up coming races.

A friend of mine recommended a book, Advanced Marathoning by Peter Pfitzinger. She had said that the plans inside were good and that the book had helped her out. I quicker downloaded the e-book and started to find a plan that would work for me.

After flipping through the book, I decided on the lowest weekly mileage plan. I took a week off after San Fran.  My legs felt pretty good after a week of no running, so off I went. I was 13 weeks out when I finally nailed down the plan and tried to do what I could. I felt that I was doing alright as I had just completed a marathon.  The first thing I noticed right off the bat was that I would be doing higher mileage runs in the middle of the week and the long run was actually much longer than what I had been used to. The plan starts off at 53 km (33miles) a week and increased to a peak of 88km (55 miles) a week. 

I am challenged by this new plan, but finding it hard to fit in all the runs. Since I started the new plan, I have run a 30km race where I did have a new personal best. I am excited yet terrified by the new training plan. I am now going into week 6 of the training plan and wondering how I will fit in all the running. We were hit with a blast of summer last week, so many of my runs were cut short or done on the treadmill. I'm hoping I have better luck this week.

I am excited to say that a close friend of mine will be running her first race ever. I will be running the entire 5km with her and will make sure she crosses the finish line. She has been training for a few months now and I am full of anticipation for her. I can still remember the excitement and nervous butterflies from my first race. I look forward to an awesome race day tomorrow.

Happy Weekend!!

How is your training coming along?

Do you have a coach or use training plans suggested in books/online?

Any tips for my friend for her first race?

Friday, 5 September 2014

San Francisco Marathon - Race Recap

This post has taken me quite a long time to write. Sorry for the long delay. It was a tough race for me; mentally and physically.  It was written over the past few weeks as I was able to look back and try to remember the race.

The San Francisco Marathon was my second marathon. I'm not too sure what I was thinking when I registered for the race. I had talked it over with hubs and we were going to head down with the family for a holiday during the weekend of the race, but due to some unforeseen circumstances I ended up heading down to San Francisco on my own. I am very lucky to have a cousin who lives right in the heart of San Fran, which was super convenient for me.

I took the last flight out to SFO Friday night as I knew for certain I would get a seat. Working for an airline has great travel perks, but only when there are seats available for you. It was hard to leave the family behind, but I knew I had to run this race. After finding my way to my cousins cozy apartment, I crashed on her couch and tried to get some good rest. I had read somewhere that it was important to get lots of sleep 2 nights before the race. I knew this wasn't going to happen as it was already way past midnight and I was planning on waking at 7am to attend the SF Marathon Shake Out run hosted by Bart Yasso.

After a quick 6km loop with Bart

The Shake Out run was perfectly scheduled right before the expo. It varied in any distance that you felt like doing. I ended up doing a short loop towards the Golden Gate bridge and back. It was a nice and easy 6km. The run ended at the expo location which had just opened when I got back from my run.
This is not what I had wanted to see
It was a pretty large expo with many retailers. I was able to pick up a few things that I needed and was able to head out and enjoy the afternoon if beautiful San Francisco.

I decided to take it easy and not kill my legs trying to explore the hills of the city and try to relax and calm my nerves. I knew that I was going to  be facing some challenging  hills in the morning. I took it easy, had a nice clean supper and passed out for the night.

It's a good thing that I was still on Eastern standard time as it made the wake up for the race very easy for me. My coral was set to start at 6:02 am, which gave me plenty of time to prep for the race.  I had my standard race breakfast of oatmeal and warm water and headed out to the start line. It was going to be a perfect day for a run. 
Ready to Go
Cupid's Span in the background

I was quite nervous about the race as I was going to be running it by myself and couldn't quite find a pacer in my coral.  As a runner, you always want to do better than your previous race, but I knew that there was no way I would be able to better my marathon time this hilly course as the only other marathon I had done was flat. With this in mind, I decided to try as hard as I could to stick with my slower than marathon race pace for the majority of the race. I would try my best at the hills and walk the moment I started losing my cadence and hope to make up for the speed on the downhills.

The marathon is a loop that starts out on the Embarcardero and brings you past the 'sights' of San Francisco finishing back along the water where you started.

The Race

Miles 1-5 The Embarcardero, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli and Fort Mason.

First of many hills
I had run this first part on a layover I had in June, so I knew what to expect. I started out as slow as I could trying not to get caught up with the crowds and knowing that I had to pace myself for the next 26 miles ahead of me.

It was nice to take in all the tourist sights even though I wasn't going to stop and take any selfies... this is race after all :)

Mile 1= 9.08, Mile 2 = 9.01, Mile 3= 9.18 Mile 4 = 10.37
Mile 5 = 9.59

The sun was just peaking out but definitely still overcast. I could see the fog just over the Golden Gate bridge as we were running towards it.

Miles 5-10 The Golden Gate Bridge

I was running up to the highlight of this race, the Golden Gate Bridge. There were great crowds cheering us on as we were about to run onto the bridge. This was the first time I had ever been on the bridge. I have visited San Francisco many times on layovers, but never had the chance to get to the bridge and now I was about to run over it. I pulled out my first GU around the 6 mile mark. The bridge was packed with runners and many were stopping mid pace to take photos. It was super frustrating trying to dodge these runners that were like pylons in the middle of the road. The views were stunning, but as you can see from my photo, it was still rather overcast.

Mile 6 = 9.28, Mile 7 = 8.45, Mile 8 = 9.43, Mile 9 = 8.32
Mile 10 = 8.47

The crowds on the bridge
Coming off the bridge

Miles 11-15 Presidio into Golden Gate Park

The crowds freed up after we got off the bridge, but the hills were just about to start. There was a rather huge descent, which were followed with what seemed like endless hills.

Mile 11 = 8.34 Mile 12 = 10.07 Mile 13.1= 9.44 (2:07.41) Mile 14 = 9.30 Mile 15 = 8.57

One of many ascents after leaving the GGB

Mile 16-19 Golden Gate Park
In GG Park with the Second Half Runners
on my tail

This is probably one of the favourite parts of the course as the crowds and runners thinned out. This is where the First Half Marathon ends and the Second Half Marathon runners start. There was a section of this race where it was only the marathoners running and I was running all by myself with the fresh air and tall trees an my back drop. I could hear the Second Half Marathon runners getting ready to start as I ran by their start area and shortly after I was overtaken by fresh legs that were starting their race. 

Mile 16 = 10.24, Mile 17= 9.42,  Mile 18 = 9.19,  Mile 19 = 9.40,

Heading out to GG Park running by
the Conservatory of Flowers

I was trying really hard to stay focused as I could see new group of runners blasting by me. It was really tough as my legs were getting really tired and the hills were really starting to get to me. I was really no prepared for all the ups and especially the downs.

Mile 20-26.2 Haight Ashbury, Mission, Potrero, and Mission Bay

Mile 20 = 9.42, Mile 21 = 10.40, Mile 22 = 9.40,  Mile 23 = 14.49, Mile 24 = 9.54, Mile 25 = 9.49, Mile 26 = 9.25
Coming in for the finish with Cupid's
Bow in the back

This final stretch was a killer. The sun had finally burnt through the clouds and it was starting to get warm. The Second Half Marathon runners were fast and plentiful which really was a downer as I was starting to lose steam. Did I mention there were more hills? It was great to run through this area as there were lots of people out on the sidewalks cheering us on. I probably needed this as I was starting to run out of steam and I knew that I was not going to be able to finish under 4:15. My knees were starting to hurt from all the hills, my glutes starting to burn, and my stomach was starting to dislike the GU I had taken. I knew that the rest of this race was going to be all mental and I would have to push through the pain. My knees finally decided to give up on me around Mile 23. I couldn't run anymore as my legs locked up. I couldn't even walk. I was 3 miles away from the finish and there was no way I was not going to cross the finish line. I hobbled over to the side and tried my best to stretch it out.

After a quick stretch I joined the rest of the runners and ran as fast as my legs could take me to the finish line. I had gone over the course map with my cousin the night before, so I knew as soon as I saw AT&T park, I was almost there. I saw some of the other runners that I had been running with and felt good that I had caught up to some of them. When I saw the finish line, I charged with all I had.  I was hoping to get some photos crossing the finish line, but some guy decided to cut right in front of me and totally photo bombed my crossing.

All Done!!
I crossed the finish line in 4:23:40 Pace 10.03

Overall Place - 2607 out of 6625
Women -  621 out of 2311
Age Category - 95 out of 352

Post-race thoughts

I'm thrilled that I was able to finish the course considering all the hills. I would definitely incorporate more hill training and not just the baby hills here, but I would look for some bigger ones and train my body for the ups and especially the downs.

The City of San Francisco put on an amazing race. It is one of my most favourite cities in the world. I was able to run through and by some of the highlights of the city. The volunteers were amazing. There were many volunteers from the Harley Davidson clubs. Many were dressed in their full leather attire and wore bright fluorescent orange hats to indicate they were volunteers. They were placed throughout the course from the start to the finish. They were always there to give us high-fives and at all the turning points.

The free race photos were a huge bonus. The race and expo were very well organized. The course covers a lot of the city and is a great destination race, but is quite challenging with all the hills.  I was quite beaten up by the hills. Looking back now, I wonder if I could have done better. This was only my second marathon and I still have to learn how to pace myself better as well as when to take my gels. I had a blast visiting the city and hope to maybe run it again one day.

Happy Friday!!

Are you racing this weekend?

What are your most memorable races?

Are you training for any up coming races?

Friday, 18 July 2014

Training update - San Francisco Marathon

I had to admit that I have been pretty lazy lately with my blogging. I seemed to have had more time when I was on maternity leave. But now, with work and taking care of the kids full time when I'm at home leaves me very little time to blog.

I have been plugging away at training for marathon #2 San Francisco Marathon for the past few months. It has been a tough go with training this time around as I will be running with marathon on my own. It was supposed to be a family vacation but plans were changed and I will now be heading down to San Francisco on my own just to run the race.

Checking out the SF Course 

I pulled out the training plan I had used for my first marathon and have been trying my best to follow along. I have tried to keep up with running while away on my layovers. I usually loose a day or two with all the flying, but thank goodness for hotel gyms and the nice summer weather. I have been able to get out in some fantastic cities and pound the pavement.

Running along the Hudson River, NYC
I have had a hard time with the mental aspect of training this time around. I am finding it very difficult to get out there of my long runs and I am always doubting myself with every step I take. I am very fortunate to have friends understand me and have helped me along the way. 

My last 2 long runs were over 30km's. I had one girlfriend ride her bike with me on one of the runs and another friend ran 20 km. I am certain that I would have not been able to do it without them. I was hoping that I would be faster this year as I am not nursing my baby and carrying a little less weight, but my legs just seem to not work when I want them to. My pace has been quite a bit slower than last year as I have been  comparing most of my long runs, but I have been getting all new personal bests with each race that I have ran this year. 

I truly understand what people mean now when they say that it's all in your head......

I think part of the reason is that I know that I will not have a personal best on this course as it is hilly. I am quite terrified of hills and would do tempo and speed workouts until I throw up than run hills. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I signed up, but I guess it's too late now. I just want to finish to cross the finish line with a smile on my face and upright.

I began to taper after my last LONG run this past Monday and will have one last longish run this Sunday. I am happy that the training plan only calls for 15km. I am looking forward to tapering and getting ready for race weekend.

Have a GREAT weekend..

Are you training for any races right now?

How do you deal with the mental part of running when your brain tells you that you can't do it?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon - Race Recap

Sorry for the late race report. I've gotten super lazy and busy, so here goes....

I signed up for the Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon during their early bird registration last year with a number of my girlfriends who had been wanting to run a "destination" race. Some of the ladies that signed up had been running for years, others were new runners and for one lady, it was going to be her first.

I had read another review from a fellow runner who's wife had run it the previous year and it sounded like a fantastic race. Katherine Switzer was going to be there for the weekend and the swag included a bottle of wine.... what more could I ask for???

By the time race weekend came, there were only 4 of us that raced. We decided to get a room in Niagara Falls the day before the race so that we could have a girl's weekend.

View from Our Room
We checked into our fabulous hotel with the fantastic view and headed straight out for packet pickup. Packet pickup was located at a local mall and we got there close to the end of the day and the lineup was RIDICULOUS!!!
Runners waiting for bib pickup, it looped around the mall

I have been to many packet pickups and this was by far the worst. There wasn't really an expo, just a few vendors and the stores that were located in the mall. We waited for over a hour to get our bibs. Thank goodness for the good company of good friends and fellow runners. When it was finally our turn, I figured out why it had taken us so long.  Each runner had to give a their bib number to a volunteer to get their bib and continue to move around the room to each station to pick up the swag each item individually.

The swag was pretty good. The wine was the best part. There are 9 items in my photo plus the shirt, which meant I had to go to 10 different people plus the first person gave me my bib, so total 11 people. It seemed very disorganized to me and sloppy. At the end of all the swag item pick up, Katherine Switzer was there with her books. All the ladies ahead of us had stopped to take photos with her which was the main reason to why the line was so long and not moving. By the time we got to her, she was instructed that no photos were allowed and that if we were to purchase her book, she would sign it. BOO!!

When we finally got our goodies, we hightailed out of there for some retail therapy. After spending some quality time at some of our favourite stores, we headed to stuff our faces and celebrate with a pre race beverage. 

Group shot before the race

We got a good night's rest and was excited to get racing the next morning. We decided to take a cab to the start, but was dropped off about 2km from the start because the traffic into the start area was back up and the cab driver told us it would be faster if we walked. The start and finish line was in a really nice park, but only had one lane going into the parking lot, which made the wait even longer. We saw a lot of runners doing the same thing as we were.

We made it to the start line with 2 minutes to spare, the announcer told us that they were going to delay the start due to the back up of cars trying to get into the parking lot. 

Flowers in the port-o-potty

Funny Sign by the start/finish line

I wished my girlfriends a great race and placed myself with the 1:50 pacer. I know it was a bit ambitious of me, but I wanted to push myself and see how I would do. I had taken a look at the course map and it seemed fairly flat with water stations spread out quite evenly. I decided to not carry water and relay on the water stations. 

I tried to keep up with the pacer but she was going much faster than I had anticipated. She had said that she was taking advantage of the slight downhill at the beginning of the race and was going to eventually slow down the pace. I kept up with her for the first 5 km at a 5:13 pace, then gave up and decided to keep on my comfortable race pace. The course was right along Niagara Falls. The views were beautiful. The mist off the falls was very refreshing as the sun was starting to get pretty intense. The course took you past the falls twice as you had to go out and back to pass the start/finish line. I was able to position myself in a pretty good corral, so there were not many runners crowding the roads. There were only a total of 1995 runners that took part in the race. There were a few of us that stayed together for a good part of the race trying to keep a good pace. I was able to see my friends at the turnaround points. After the 7 km mark, it got a bit lonely as the course took you right along the Niagara River. There was no shade and the sun just beat down on us. I grabbed water at every water station as I had decided to not carry water this race. The water stations were plentiful and always had great volunteers cheering us on.

Still smiling
I was running alone for most of the race and ended up running a few kilometres with a fellow runner at my pace. It was nice to chat with someone to kill some time. I had run my first few half marathons with my best friend and we would always chat. But, for the past few races, I've raced alone and it's been lonely to say the least. We chatted about where we were from and kept each other going. I eventually looked down at my Garmin and knew that I needed to pick up my pace. I bid her a good race and ran on.

The second turnaround point was around the 14km mark. I was so relived to be finally turning back and heading back to the finish line. I knew that I still have a lot more distance to cover, but at least I was close to finishing. I knew at this point, I was not going to get my 1:50 finish. I had slowed down to a 5:30 pace.  It's true when they say running is a mental sport, because all I could think about was how in the world was I going run the San Francisco marathon in a month. I was starting to doubt myself, but when I saw my friends again, I knew that I could do it.  I was headed to San Francisco the next day for a layover and was going to try to run part of the marathon course. I knew that I needed to shake off the negative thoughts and plod on.

As I came down the final stretch I saw the finish line in sight. It seemed like the longest 500 metres I had ever seen. The crowds were cheering and I knew that I was almost there. I tried to pick up my feet and chased down whoever was running  in front of me. I closed my eyes and ran as fast as my legs would carry me. I crossed with Katherine Switzer giving me a high five and got my one of a kind medal. There was a nice snack from from Tim Hortons with cookies and fruit as I was exiting the finish corral. I was able to get a nice massage. There were tables were set up with table cloths and bowls of candies for runners and friends to sit and enjoy some food and water.

Katherine Switzer is on my medal
It was a great weekend with my girlfriends. There were some very nice touches to this race. If you're looking for a fun and nice small race, this one is for you.

Fun Group shot


Time 1:54:42 (PB)
Pace 5:27
Category Place 28/372
Gender Place 138/1979 (yes, men are allowed to run)

Where have you raced lately?

How do you deal with the mental part of running? 

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