Edmonton Marathon Weekend V2.1: The Edmonton Tourist Chronicles

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Yesterday I mentioned that I was pretty nervous and not feeling very confident about my half marathon, nor was I excited. I never did get that “RACE DAY IS EXCITING!” feeling. Why? I have thought about that, so I made a list.

  1. None of my friends were in it. Not that I run with them, but the camaraderie is a big part of the fun for race. I was feeling lonely.
  2. 21.1km is far. I had done it two weeks prior and the thought of doing it again made me tired.
  3. Edmonton Marathon is a boring race. Sure it is flat but no one comes out to cheer, there is zero entertainment and did I mention boring except for a very important point – The River valley views are spectacular as always. It is my favorite part about living in Edmonton. The North Saskatchewan River Valley is Stunning!!!

Race morning I got up after sleeping reasonably well from 10:30 pm – midnight. Then it was hit and miss all night long. The alarm went off at 5:30 and I begrudgingly hauled myself out of bed. I was not feeling it. I felt sluggish, un-enthused and dreading the distance.

I ate my usual long run breakfast – pancakes and banana, no coffee and a huge glass of water. I gathered my running gear and jumped into my car, the Trusty Steed was taking his own car because he had post celebratory plans with his friends. I was taking my own car because my great friend had just announced the previous day that she was going to meet me at the finish line. I cannot tell you what that meant to me. I was prepared to go it alone, unsupported. Knowing there was a friendly face waiting for me at the finish was a massive thrill for me. It was the reason I stood at the start line.

The morning was cool 16C/60F perfect for me. Way warmer than Calgary’s marathon morning at 4C/39F, and I still found that a perfect running morning. I like it cool so this was a plus. I was tired and just couldn’t find the enthusiasm for the race as everyone around had. I knew quite a few people who were racing that morning, only because I know about a million people. We exchanged polite hellos and talked about running stuff. Then I heard the bugle. The Marathon is held at Northlands Racetrack – the Horses and Slots. The bugle was a cool way for the runners to get into the gate. There are no corrals in Edmonton because there are only about 2000 runners/walkers for both the half and full courses. 

They played “O Canada” and then John Stanton did the countdown. We were off!

I am somewhere in there

Again I felt swept up in the crowd, running too fast but able to keep it down to 9:30/km instead of the previous nights time of 7:45/km. I ran to the first water station at about the 3k mark, grabbed water and spit it out because it tasted like mouthwash. GU Brew has a mouthwash minty flavour? No thanks, just plain water please because I packed my own Nuun. I didn’t pack water because I knew I could get it on the course.

I followed my plan.

Rule #1: Bring your own gels and hydration formulas because testing new stuff during a race is never a good idea. 

I had been practicing hydrating while running and made good progress this summer, so no stopping this time!

I kept running and followed the next step in my plan.

Rule #2: Run a 10:22/km pace for a 5 minute interval with a 1 minute walk for the entire race.

When I was on one of my walks, a couple of ladies walked up on either side of me and tapped my shoulders. On gal smiled at me and asked if I run in Mill Creek? I replied yes, and she said, I see you running there all the time, we often high-five! I got all excited and replied”you yell GO GIRL!” She smiled and told me how proud she was of me.  – Wow…a stranger proud of me? I will be honest, this is weird to me but I said thank you and she yelled GO GIRL and High-Fived me again. She and her mom passed me while I walked. I would soon over-take them and cross the finish line 3km in front of them. This was in accordance with my next plan.

Rule #3: Pass people by working for it.

In Calgary I would avoid people, slow down or change lanes. I didn’t want to run past anybody. The NightRace changed that. Passing people now Rocks my World. I passed quite a few people and some we played a back and forth tag. It gave me something to focus on in the quiet Edmonton morning streets.

After the 7k mark, people were begining to run back towards the finish line. This was an out and back half marathon, and the full marathon runners also ran this part of the course. I saw the Kenyan Sprinters, WOW they are fast! I saw a gal running in a Gorilla Suit. I see her a lot, she high-fived me. I saw lots of people give me a thumbs up or yell YOU GO GIRL! I have to admit, I didn’t understand why I got this kind of attention when they are doing the same thing as me. No one else around me got that kind of attention – so I found it odd…until the end and I will get to that in a bit.

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I figured I was very near the end of the pack. The Bike Sweeper Guys would stop to talk to me, so it seemed obvious to me I was almost last because I passed a few runners.

My Biker Sweeper guy is in the Yellow and Brown shirt

The Bike sweeper guy said “nope, you are even close to being last” Whaaaaaaat? He told me I was doing AWESOME! I thanked him and told him how much it meant to hear that. That meant the next part of my plan was working.

Rule #4: Run faster than the To Complete Pace Bunny.

I did not want her talking to me and distracting me like she did the last time I was in this race. Because I was so happy about hearing I was not last or close to last, this made me run faster, not on purpose just pure adrenaline. I had reached the 5km mark at a record time of 50 min. (I had run 6km in 60 minutes – 10 minutes faster than the previous Tuesday!) When I reached the 10km mark, I was at 1:40 min. Seven minutes faster than my Epic Calgary 10k! This was the highlight for me. I was working hard and feeling great, meeting goals and breaking old time records. My ego was PUMPED! At this rate I was going to complete in under 3:30. This was where I broke with the plan.

Rule #5: Do not look too far ahead. Set small goals to get to the finish.

Suddenly I was celebrating my EPIC finish and I still had over half a race to go. Not good.

At the turn around point I kept up with my fast pace but I was getting really tired. I was wishing this was only a 10k race. I kept going sticking to my 5:1 ratio for run/walk intervals.

By the time I made it to the bridge that crosses over Groat Road, I had a flash of giving myself a stress fracture like the first time I walked across this bridge. I needed to change that pattern for my mental status, so I stayed off the sidewalk. The Bridge is a metal grate and difficult to run on, my shoe could easily fit into the holes of the grate and trip me up, so I walked across – breaking my stride and causing me to walk for 2 minutes. Walking that long felt good, so I did it a bit longer. Breaking RULE #2 in a big way. I walked for another 5 minutes until my watch evened out and I ran again. But after that 5min interval, my hamstrings were locking up, I think it was from all that walking, so I pulled over and did pigeon pose on someone’s lawn. This made a huge difference and had a police officer run over to me to check the state of my health. I assured him I was fine, I stood up into Downward Dog to stretch again and then I walked for one minute. This was tough. I could only run for 3 minutes but then I was at the water station at RailTown. I drank 3 cups of water. This did a lot for me. Re-hydrating makes a big difference. I kept running. I passed more people and an old guy in a wheelchair was cheering for me. He held his hand out to high-five me and asked me to run for him. How could I refuse? So I said “My Pleasure!” Off I went again. 

Somewhere around the 17km mark I had a bit of a melt down. My thoughts were beginning to overwhelm me. There was a lot of pity partying going on, I was comparing the support I give to friends verses the support I  got in return. I thought about people not being here when the said they would. I thought about that guy in the wheel chair and thinking I was going to quit. I thought about how much my toes hurt and how tight my hams were. I thought about how things are never going to be the way I want to be so I need to just get over it and suck it up. Then I took a big breath and remembered the next part of my plan.

Rule #6: Remember why you run.

Why do I run? I run because of the look on my girls face when she saw me cross the finish line. I run because it makes me strong physically and mentally. I run because most days its fun. I run because it makes me leaner than I have ever been in 20 years. I run because my friend is waiting for me at the finish line when I didn’t think anyone else would. I am crying now writing this, so you can imagine what kind of mess I was at 17km – all tired and unreasonable. It was the image of my friend waiting for me that made me start running again. I credit her as the reason I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t let her down.

Which lead me to the last part of my plan.

Rule #7: No matter how tired you are PUSH yourself to run the last kilometer through the chute and finish strong. 

I remembered the importance of finishing strong. I wanted my muscles to remember the strength and speed of a great finish. After several kilometers of running an 11:30 pace, I somehow found the strength to run 10:22 just like I wrote on my arm. I crossed the finish line strong and heard John Stanton announce my name as FINISHER. 

I saw my friend and was thrilled to see her smiling and cheering for me! The medal was placed around my neck and I helped myself to 2 bottles of water.

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I was surprised to see The Trusty Steed at the finish line, I expected him to have left already because he had an amazing time of 3:00 for WALKING. He walks fast. His team was there and swooped in on me to congratulate me. Then I found my friend. I hugged her and told her she was why I finished. Pictures were taken.

I look like crap

Me after running 21.1km. I look like like crap but Kathy kept me from dying

I saw a video of me running across the finish line and I have to tell you I am shocked. I felt stronger than I looked. I feel thinner than I look. I have a pretty good idea why I am now singled out in the crowd and why so many runners high five me, give me thumbs up and yell GO GIRL! I watched myself and wow, it looks like tremendous effort to drag my body into a run. I am pretty sure people look at me and are shocked that I can do what I can. No wonder I am slow.

But you know what? I am faster than I was when I started – 8 months ago I ran a 16min/km pace. Sunday I mostly ran a 10min/km pace. Overall my pace was 11min/km. I will take that happily thank you. I set 3 personal bests on Sunday, fastest 5k time, fastest 10k time and fastest official half marathon time – 40 minutes faster than 2011. I finished at 3:50. I wanted 3:40 but I think going too fast in the beginning screwed that up. I was consistent and stuck with my plan for the most part – except for the mental brake down. I think that is normal for so many people when they are reaching maximum output. I left it all out on the course. I did my best and gave more than I had. How can you be disappointed with that? I did all the right recovery things and today I am fine – except my shoulders hurt where the massage therapist beat the crap out of me, but that is a story for tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, I am glad I did it and am left feeling a little smug this morning because it’s not just anyone who can run a half marathon.

Rule #8: Be proud of your accomplishments

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Happy Running!

8 thoughts on “Edmonton Marathon Weekend V2.1: The Edmonton Tourist Chronicles

  1. My favourite post! I was ok until you started talking about the lonliness you felt and then I started to tear up. Note to self, don’t read blog posts in the office! I read about all these people who’s family and friends come out with signs and balloons to cheer them on along the course and I think of my own and can’t imagine any of them doing that. It makes me sad. Knowing how it makes me feel without anyone there, I’m super happy to support others in their races. The last time I started running, I broke my big toe and had to stop while a friend progressed rapidly. In the wintery depths of March I was in the river valley in my parka with cookies, a sign and a flag offering her support. If we hadn’t been volunteering this year, I’d be out there with a “Rockin’ Robyn” sign to help you along. Next year, we can both take some comfort knowing that we’ll be racing together (or at least in the same race) and we can celebrate afterwards. I’m so glad you have a “Kathy” in your life (and the Trusty Steed who waited for you!). I think that picture of you you after the race is beautiful. I don’t see tired and exhausted. I see a strong, confident half marathoner. Like the lady said “YOU GO GIRL!”.

    • To be fair, my mom is laid up with a back injury and my dad was looking after her, he did make it to the previous night’s race. My friends were texting me, but that just isn’t the same…you know? I adore Kathy, I drove to Camrose to see her cross the MS Bike Tour finish…so she owed me HA – not true…she would have come to support me because we are pals. We all need a Kathy, Karen and Robyn in our lives 🙂

      • LOL Yes, we do!

        I was telling Pat the running coworker about your post and we both really loved the rules you set for yourself ahead of time. Great plan! Thinking of something similar for next year incl. possibly writing them on my arms so I remember them ’cause you know as soon as we’re off, I’ll forget 🙂

  2. So glad I found this blog. And CONGRATS on your half!

    I’m a run/walk/runner too, and am always on my own during races – which is fine – because I can think of a lot worse people to be with 🙂

    Keep it up, girl!

  3. Pingback: Welcome to the Fall Running Season: Next up Kathy’s Run for Pancreatic Cancer | Me and Mo

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