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?

Monument Valley 50 Miler Race Recap

Alarms were set and I was ready to go! It was my first ultra marathon.  I had spent the last 4 months of the Canadian winter training and co...