wineglass marathon recap

Also known as the day my music died.

It’s been a little over a week since the Wineglass Marathon and I’m finally writing a recap. As always, it’s long and painful just like a marathon but I hope it is handy for all the Googling marathoners out there who are looking for their next race and landed here. Afterall, it’s other people’s race recaps that influence me to sign up for stuff like this in the first place.

After running last year’s New York City Marathon, I needed to find something totally different. As much as I loved the big city experiences of Chicago and New York, I wanted to go back to something smaller and less overwhelming but yet a bit bigger than PEI. My sister Erin, who lives in upstate New York, mentioned the Wineglass Marathon so I looked into it and it met all of my requirements:

  1. Smallish (3,000 runners in the full).
  2. Early start (8:15 am) and minimal travel to the start (our hotel was 2 minutes from the shuttle bus drop-off).
  3. Great route (flat and point-to-point). I should clarify that there is no wine on course… a lot of people asked me that! 

With all of these factors in place, I decided to sign up despite being slightly injured in the Spring but with physio, training started off better than expected. I set my goals prior to a marathon:

  1. Sign up, show up.
  2. Finish.
  3. Finish sub-four hours.
  4. Get a new personal best! I would need to be under 3:56.

Unfortunately, early into training I stupidly bruised the arch of my foot doing jump squats on and off a curb and my training got slightly derailed. I cut back on my mileage and went back to physio. There were many times I thought about deferring but kept running as much as possible and decided to show up and do my best. By the end of 18 weeks, I got in a few good long runs and things we feeling okay.

Race weekend

The Wineglass Marathon is in New York (state) and the finish is only 45 minutes from my sister’s house so I was excited about being close to family and the beautiful Finger Lake region of New York did not disappoint!

I flew to my sister’s on Friday morning and with my parents also in town, it was fun and stress-free leading up to the event. Erin’s friend Tara, who was running the half, flew in from England on the same day so we all chilled in Binghamton and went to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning before making our way to Corning. We got our race kits and drove to the small town of Bath where the race starts. Although the Corning is bigger, I prefer being as close as possible to the start line and booked a hotel as soon as I registered for the race. This was a smart decision because there were limited accommodations options in Bath. A not so smart decision was thinking I was the only one with the idea of having a carb-happy Italian dinner in the cute town just a few miles outside of Bath. There were about 1,000 runners with the same idea but luckily we found a great tavern and chowed down before checking-in at the Super 8. My sister introduced me to her friend Nick who was also running the full so it was nice to see a familiar face at the starting line.

Race morning arrived (as usual, with little sleep and lots of anxiety). It was cold (about 1 degree Celsius) but I put on my shorts and tank-top, knowing I’d warm-up once I got going. As I mentioned above, I love this start time. I was able to stay in bed until 6:00 am, got up and took my time getting ready – ate a bagel, popped some Advil, drank a coffee and water and layered up. Erin and mom drove me to the shuttle bus at 7:15 am and I reluctantly left them and the warm car. The bus ride (which is a requirement) to the start was less than 10 minutes. There were tons of porta-potties and they opened-up industrial garages for us to congregate in (heat!). Bag check was super-easy too – with about 5 minutes to go, I pulled off all my layers, stuffed them in the bag and lined up right behind the 3:55 pace bunny.

The goal was to stick with the bunny, eat my chews and hydrate early.

About 1 km into the race I felt great and decided to jump to the 3:50 pace group. About 1.5 km into the race by shuffle died. I spent the next 2-3 km totally distracted trying to get the music to work but also felt great and was pumped to see my sister and mom early on. I threw them my arm warmers but kept my gloves on. It warmed up to about 7 degrees at the sun came out about halfway through. I was grateful that David gave me his lucky hat and promised me it’d give me speed!

About 5 km into the race I still felt great, having just climbed the only significant hill in the race and decided to jump ahead to the 3:45 pace group. Without music, it was nice to listen to the conversations and since it was a very rural course, the crowds were pretty quiet most of the time. I stuck with the group for the next 15 km and I was remembering to hydrate, the road was fairly flat and there were lots of nice country views. As we approached the half, I hesitantly moved ahead of the group but not by much. I just needed some me-space and was excited to see my mom and sister again at 22 km.

The rest of the race went by fast – I still felt good but started walking through the water stations. As per usual, things start to hurt but nothing significant. I never saw the 3:45 pace group pass me and although I was walking the water stations, I caught up to the runner’s that passed me. Without music, I spent a lot of time trying to predict my finish… but I honestly had no idea if it was going to fall apart. Finally, when I thought I still have a few kilometers to go, I realized I was at 41 km and the finish was just over the bridge! Not sure how that happened but I kicked into gear and pushed hard for a strong finish. Now, it was no New York or Chicago but running down the final stretch of Main Street and seeing my sister, mom, dad, brother-in-law, Tara and my niece and nephew in the crowd was awesome. I threw out some high-fives and finished!

The medal is the prettiest yet (glass of course). I saw Nick again at the finish:

They had chocolate milk, coffee, bananas, pizza and soup (to name few) and a PB bell plus a place to get an instant print out of your results.

After catching my breath and calling Mike and David, we made our way home.

Guys, I can’t say enough good things about this race. It was near perfect. If you are looking for a great smallish race that’s early in the fall this is it! There are not a lot of turns, it’s very flat with a few small rollers and there is very minimal congestion. The only small negatives would be the road is not fully closed-off to traffic so the pylons are a little obstructive (a poor guy fell over one and broke his nose…) and there is not a ton of crowd support because of the limited cheering locations. My mom and sister (bless them) were cheering for the half and full, which made for a lot of crazy back-and-forths but still managed to see me three times.

I hope this is helpful for anyone thinking about the Wineglass.

***

Oh, but wait, there’s more! I almost forgot to talk about the swag! A long-sleeve tech shirt, a wine glass and some celebratory champagne. That’s the icing on the cake!

And with my new PB, that’s a check off the forty before forty bucket list! Now I need to think about a spring marathon. Let me know if you have any recommendations. 😉

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empire state of mind : NYC marathon 2016

I have been trying to figure out if this will be a positive or negative race recap… so please bear with me.

After running Chicago last year, I was itching to try another marathon – I was on a personal best high and loved the energy of a big city race – the crowds offered so much positive energy that I decided to sign up for the biggest marathon possible: The TCS New York City Marathon assuming I’d probably not get in (my last attempt to get in the lottery was a bust three years in a row about 10 years ago). But oops, I got in and so began training.

The thing about running a marathon (I’ve now done 5) is it’s more about the training than the actual run and my training had always been just running but not thinking about speed and tempos. I decided I wanted to chisel some time off my PB (3:56.20) and thought about finding a coach however, in the end, I went with the more affordable option – I purchased Hal Higdon’s Marathon – The Ultimate Training Guide and enrolled in their 18-week online Advanced Marathon Training Peaks program. It provided daily emails and a well-detailed plan which involved 6 runs a week (from 48 to 95 km / week). This was a lot more running than I’ve ever done but I stuck to it and really noticed an improvement in my speed and strength. In the end, I was confident that I could reach my race goal: sub 3:50

Tip: Always have 5 goals for a marathon because you’ll never know what will happen during 42.2 km! Mine are 1. Show up. 2. Finish 3. Finish Strong 4. Personal Best 5. Goal Time

But about a week or so before the race (during the dreaded taper), I started reading a TON of NYC race recaps and online advice. Despite everything I read:

  • It is a tough course
  • The second half is harder than the first so less than 5% get negative splits
  • It is about the experience and not a race where you’ll likely get your fastest time
  • It starts late in the day (10:15 am  for me) but I’d have to get up at 4:30 to get to the start line on Staten Island
  • It starts on the biggest uphill and there is another long incline at the end (plus there are 5 bridges)
  • Its crowded (+50,000 runners)

I still thought I could hit my goal … SPOILER: Nope.

So here’s how it all went down 

We arrived in New York on Friday evening and went straight to the expo. Although Chicago had a huge expo, this one felt really overwhelming… I am not sure if it was due to a long day of travel, but I was exhausted and only stayed long enough to grab my kit, a souvenir hoodie and my Nuun water bottle. We met up with my parents and took the subway back to Brooklyn for pizza and checked in to our lovely airbnb Brownstone in Park Slope (great neighbourhood!). The next morning, (the day before the marathon), Mike and I went for a 3km shakeout run in Prospect Park (great park, 500 m from our place). After, we left for Manhattan and met my sister and niece for an afternoon tour of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. On our way home, Mom and I found the Highline and could not resist quick stroll. Mike, David and my dad had tickets for the Islanders vs. Oilers game so mom and I went home and made spaghetti.nyc-marathon_2 nyc-marathon_3 nyc-marathon_4 nyc-marathon_5 nyc-marathon_7The next morning my alarm went off at 4:30 (which actually felt like 5:30 thanks to Daylight Savings) and Mike and I were out the door and on the Subway by 5:00. I signed up for the 6:00 am ferry to Staten Island and after the boat ride, a bathroom stop in the terminal and then the shuttle bus ride, I was at the start village for around 7:30-8:00. Only leaving me +2 hours to kill. The ferry is great – you go right by the Statue of Liberty and feel like a rock star because of the police escort following along. I was really happy I brought extra clothing, a hat, mittens, a towel and a plastic bag to keep me warm because it was about 8 degrees and a little windy. Since I selected the post-race poncho, everything I brought with me was left in one of their Good Will donation bins. I ate my bagel and some chews and waited.

Not going to sugar coat it… The start for me was the hardest. You wait around a long time (from wake-up to run time was 6 hours!) questioning how much to eat and drink and how many times you can wait in line to pee (3 times)… then you move into your corral about 45 mins before the start and are herded like cattle through this bizarre road/field/bridge terminal and can’t really see much. Besides the nervous chatter, there are helicopters flying over and in the far-off distance you can hear Frank Sinatra’s New York playing and then BANG, we were off! The first mile or so was up the bridge and everything I read said take it slow… it’s the biggest hill… which was easy to do when there were so many people. My pace was slow and I kept it that way up to the top and back down.

One of the coolest parts of the race is coming off the Verrazano Bridge – it goes from a ghostly silence to a loud roar – the crowd was insane and I had goosebumps when I saw the signs “Welcome To Brooklyn”. As the course flattened out, I tried to find my pace. It was hard. I kept looking at my watch and I was all over the place. I felt like I was loosing control and my pace was not mine – I was dodging elbows and thick packs of runners and there was so much congestion at the water stations. I quickly realized this was not my race but kept reminding myself NYC is all about the experience so I took a deep breath and tried to have fun.nyc-marathon_8

At about mile 7, I was at the neighbourhood where we were staying and started looking for my family – and there they were! A quick wave and a high 5 from David gave me a huge boost. At this point, I was not cold and happy to be wearing a tank top and shorts. Brooklyn was amazing – there was never a break in the crowds and there were a ton of bands along the way. At one point, the road tightened and a band was playing “Celebrate” – all of the runners had their hands up in the air clapping. Wow.nyc-marathon_9Once I got to the Pulaski Bridge, I was halfway. I felt great but knew my PB was vanishing. I still could not find my pace, it was so crowded and felt like a game of dodge ball. Then we were in Queens and I was excited to reach the Queensboro Bridge and enter Manhattan. The Queensboro Bridge however was probably my lowest point… my pace was slow and I was panicking. loosing hope. sad. lonely. It was a bit of a hill and then a big downhill into what’s the most loudest part of the run – 1st Avenue. On the way down the hill I felt a little pain in my knee but it quickly went away. Phew. As I ran along 1st Avenue, I kept an eye out for my family but knew it’d be hard to find them in the thick crowds. The next thing I knew, it was mile 19 and the bridge to the Bronx was right there! I loved the Bronx – I had read that it’s where you hit the invisible wall but I was so focused on 5th Avenue that I just kept moving. Back in Manhattan and on 5th Avenue, I kept looking ahead – wow, this is almost done and I feel fine. Not amazing but not bad. Oh wait, is this THE hill? Not so bad. Oh wait, mile 24 and I’m heading into the park? Not so bad. Honestly, this marathon was a blur, it did not feel like I ran 42 km. Near the last mile, in Central Park, which was a tunnel of noise and excitement, I saw my family – what a surprise! As I ran the last mile I knew I was not going to get under 4 hours. No!!!!. I tried to weave but there was a wall of runners in the way and my energy was dwindling.nyc-marathon_10In the end I finished in 4:00.18. Although that is my third best marathon time it is the first time I never hit a wall at 34km. As soon as I stopped the pain hit me and I felt sick. It was a long (like it felt longer than that marathon long) walk to the family meet and greet. On the way, I went from hot to cold really fast and my fingers went numb. A very kind volunteer wrapped my poncho around me and helped fasten it up (they’re fleece lined!). He then looked at me and said I should be really proud of myself. That’s when I cried.nyc-marathon_11I finally found my mom and we slowly made our way another 9 blocks to the Natural History Museum where Mike, David and Dad were. A few other marathoners had the same idea and I wandered around like a zombie for a few hours before we caught the subway back to Brooklyn. At the end of the day, I clocked 55,900 steps and happily devoured a veggie burger and two beers.nyc-marathon_12The next day, we went back downtown and visited Ground Zero, The Rockefeller, Time Square and Central Park. It was a lovely day and seeing the park again was great.nyc-marathon_1So why am I a little sad? I missed my goal by 10 minutes and although I know 4:00.18 is nothing to be ashamed about, it was a bummer because I trained so much harder than pervious marathons and feel a bit disappointed in myself. However, despite those feelings, the experience was worth every penny I am now even more determined to find a new race and start all over again. Any recommendations for a less crowded, fast Spring run? I have Ottawa, Fredricton and Sugarloaf on my radar.

I totally recommend the New York City Marathon as a bucket list experience and really, I should stop sulking. I did it, I ran the 5 boroughs!
nyc-marathon_13And  New York, I still LOVE YOU.

Not sure if you’ve seen this but it’s very accurate:

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in the woods

Oh May. You are jammed packed with action – it’s hard to keep up.

Two weekends ago was the Eco-Endurance Challengean exciting and challenging eco-adventure hosted outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. The E2C is physically and mentally demanding, with an event area of more than 100 km2 of thick forests, wet bogs, fast flowing streams and miles of backwoods trails and cart tracks.

It’s a 24-hour event (from noon to noon) and I have done it with my mom (and sister Jill / cousin Kathleen / and mom’s hiking friend Alice) more times than I can count. You use your map and compass and have only a few hours prior to the start to decide a POA. What’s cool is there are all sorts of teams including trail runners, orienteers, mountain bikers, military, SAR, competitive, recreational, young, old and even a few dogs.

Here are some pictures from this year – we had great success. Success being measured for us not by winning, but by surviving… finding every checkpoint we searched for, no epic fails (unlike 2013) and injury free. EcoChalleng_16.1 EcoChalleng_16.2 EcoChalleng_16.3 EcoChalleng_16.4 EcoChalleng_16.5 EcoChalleng_16.6 EcoChalleng_16.7 EcoChalleng_16.8With my excellent search and rescue skills, I managed to find some old, older and really old pictures from past years. As I was once reminded… “it’s not a fashion show out there”!

2015: (cancelled because we had TOO MUCH SNOW)

2014: Jill, Alice, Mom and I had a great year. It was wet but we did well. We heard coyotes and persevered. EcoChalleng_14.1 EcoChalleng_14.2 EcoChalleng_14.3 EcoChalleng_14.42013: Jill, Alice, Mom and I had an epic fail. This happens when you get so lost that you are actually no longer on your map. We literally kissed the trail when we found it. EcoChalleng_13.1 EcoChalleng_13.2 EcoChalleng_13.3 EcoChalleng_13.4 EcoChalleng_13.52012: Alice, Mom and I on the goEcoChalleng_12.12011: My cousin Kathleen joined us one year – she was such a treat to haveEcoChalleng_11.1 EcoChalleng_11.2I can’t recall how many years it goes back for me but here are some more shots from other years.

2007:EcoChalleng_07.12006:EcoChalleng_06.1 DSC02210.JPG DSC02215.JPG2005: This was the wettest and worst weather ever. It poured all night and we stopped at 2:30 amEcoChalleng_05.1 EcoChalleng_05.2 EcoChalleng_05.3 EcoChalleng_05.4

-EcoChalleng_old2 -EcoChalleng_old4 DSC02211.JPGTrust me, it is truly an adventure! I strongly encourage you to polish up on your compass skills and meet us out in the woods next year. After all, it’s for a good cause – Halifax Ground Search and Rescue. So If you do get lost, they’re great to have handy!

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how to be an awesome cheerleader

Really, who doesn’t want to be awesome at cheerleading?

I’m living in the post-marathon / it’s cold outside blue period so I want to lighten things up with something fun. Cheerleading. I have taken field notes and am here to report on some great tips – mostly related to running events however, I think you can modify them for anything (cook-offs, dance-offs, the theatre, surviving winter, etc.)

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Signage: 1-DSC_044911-IMG_2461 Be funny, send love to strangers, support your team… So many great reasons to invest in some cardboard, markers and glitter glue. The best distraction while running is reading all of the signs so make it good. Here are some of my favourites:
    “Go Mommy” / “The only marathon I do is Netflix / Remember, you paid to do this / “I don’t know you, but you’re doing awesome / “You’re Running Better than the Government” / “Running shoes: $120, Race: $75, Finishing: Priceless”. Also, I noticed a new trend: People are making cut-outs of their runner’s faces and posting them on sticks that they hold high – like lollipops. Kind of creepy but effective. You will totally notice your big head bobbing high in a crowd. Or alternatively…
  2. Balloon or umbrellas: 2-IMG_2539 The best way to stand out in a crowd is be tall. Easier said than done so buy some balloons or fun umbrellas and hold them high. Your runner will spot them easily. At the Cabot Trail Relay we had 4 & 2 balloons for our team number. Easily spotable until they popped in the car on leg 3. My poor teammates were terrified. In Chicago, a group had matching kid’s froggy umbrellas – I saw those five green and speckled frogs many times. Adorable.
  3. Cheer loud, send happy thoughts and have fun: 3-IMG_2598There will be music, so dance. Cow bells and bear bells are encouraged. Cheer for strangers. I will never forget the woman who yelled: “It’s all downhill from here” near the end of my first half marathon. She wasn’t lying and I really needed that positive encouragement.
  4. Pick a side: 4-simpsons-lefty As the Chicago marathon was about to start, I realized I should of talked to my family about what side of the road I’d run on so we could better find each other. When there are 1.7 million people on the sideline and 45,000 runners, it is a needle-in-a-haystack situation. Luckily my mom knows me well enough that I am left-handed proud and will always choose the left.
  5. What not to wear: 5-IMG_3576 Not a time for heels – being a cheerleader is a serious workout. You may be running to several spots on the course. You will be up on your tiptoes. You will be jumping and juggling signage, water and a camera. You may need to jump in an offer support and encouragement. Be prepared. No one, not even a cheerleader, should loose a toenail. And speaking of clothing, know what your runner is wearing so you can spot them in the crowd easier.
  6. High-fives: 6-IMG_5106 I once heard someone yell “high-fives make you stronger”. It’s true. Give them out, they’re free. I always try and take one from the kids.
  7. Gear: 7-IMG_3554 Mike calls himself Sherpa-Mike whenever there’s a race because he has to carry a backpack full of post run stuff (flip flops, food, water, the camera, my phone, clothing). Get a good bag, save your back. Also wear a watch – preferably a stop watch so you can track the time. It’s helpful to know your runner’s pace so you’ll have a better idea of when to start holding up the awesome sign you made (see #1 & 2).
  8. Meet-up spot: DSC_33148-IMG_2512
    At the end of the San Francisco half marathon I quickly realized I didn’t plan a meet-up spot with my parents. Not smart when there are 35,000 runners. Not smart when your iPhone dies after taking pics of the cute fireman who were passing out Tiffany necklaces at the finish line. Not smart when they have no idea what you were wearing. Luckily the race organizers are smarter than me and had a “call a friend” station set up. I was able to call my dad and find them right away.
  9. Training: 9-IMG_3529Listen, join, and practice. Listen to them ramble on and on about their training and join in if you can. That way you’ll know their speed and needs. Leading up to Philadelphia, my mom practice running and jumped in for encouragement (I had no idea she ran) – she kept me company and took my jacket all without needing to stop or slow down. Since then, she’ll often join me on her bike during long runs or family members will come and get me at the end of a run.
  10. Music: 10-say-anything-e1402066953749 Does your runner have a pump-up song? Play it. We made a mix for our Cabot Trail Relay team with each teammate’s favourite song and played the song during their leg. At the Rum runner’s relay we brought the songs back and no joke, Eminem is a solid cheerleader.

So that’s it. Happy training and good luck next season!

psst. let me know if you have any other tips
psst. let me know if you have signed up for anything already!
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run, there are bears in Chicago!

So many people, so many great signage but my favourite was RUN, there are bears in Chicago!

Marathon 4 is done. Sorry this is long but so is a marathon…

357082_208083846_XLarge(Photo by race photographer about one minute after the finish)

I am going to write all about the fabulous city of Chicago in another post but today it’s all about the run. The training seemed a little off all summer; I never had a fist-pump-that-was-awesome long run and felt like everything was a struggle compared to last year. As the tapering approached I had these knee and ankle pains that I hoped were just phantom problems but part of me was worried. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t go into this race with big expectations and just wanted to have fun and enjoy the craziness of the event. After all, 45,000 runners and +2 million spectators is something to get excited about.

My goal was to finish with a negative split. Ha, that didn’t happen but to be fair, it was a hot day and with the promise of sun and temperatures reaching +24 by noon, I decided it was better to run faster before the heat kicked in.

We arrived in the city on Wednesday, giving me many opportunities to see parts of the course. There was definitely hype building and a lot of fit tourists roaming around. The energy was awesome (probably because the Cubs are HOT right now and the city is going nuts) #gocubsgo. After a great 8 km run around Oak Park on Thursday morning and a ton of sightseeing, I decided to skip my last 5 km run on Friday. I was nervous I was putting in too many steps and not resting enough. On Friday, mom and I went to the expo. It blows my mind how well-organized such a big event can be. We caught a free shuttle and the ease of picking up my kit was great. Although it wasn’t that busy when we were there, we didn’t stay too long. I bought a visor because I was worried about the sun when they sent out a weather warning.

IMG_3617 IMG_3669 IMG_3672(iPhone photos: Subway ticket, weather alert, race expo)

Fast forward to Saturday night – one of the perks to staying at an airbnb is homemade food. My mom made spaghetti and I tried to go to bed early. My alarm was set for 5:00 am and we were out the door by 5:40 am. I have never mastered eating a lot before or during a run – gels and power bars are not my friends and I can only drink a little bit of water and Gatorade so had a piece of toast and peanut butter plus a swig of coffee before I left and sipped on water. I went into the city with my Mom and it was great to see more and more runners boarding the subway at each stop. It was a beautiful morning and not too cold but I layered up and decided to check a race bag for the fist time ever. My mom got off before me and made her was to our first planned spot on the course where she was meeting Mike, David and Dad and I went to the start.

Once I got off the subway I quickly saw what 45,000 people looks and feels like. There was a mob of people flowing through security and I had a quick moment of panic when I realized it was 6:30 and I only had 50 minutes to get through security, check my bag, line up for a porta potty and get to my corral before 7:20. However, what amazed me was how smooth everything went and I was standing in Corral D with 10 minutes to spare. I wasn’t too cold and only wore my arm-warmers but what concerned me was my stomach was growling… I was hungry and knew it’d be a long time before I’d be eating again! After the American anthem and wheelchair start, the race started at 7:30 and we herded our way to the start. I passed though at 7:41 and quickly thought, this is it, go time!

357082_207371364_XLarge 357082_207447805_XLarge(Photos by race photographer)

IMG_5452(Photo by my mom of the leaders)

We started inside the park, where there were no spectators allowed, and flew through a tunnel. It was filled with echoes of cheering and men pulling over to pee then we funnelled out on to the street and the crowd erupted. I couldn’t hear my music and thought this is insane! What surprised me more was it stayed like this the whole way through the race. It honestly felt like you were at a finish line every 5 km and the signs, high-fives, music, dancing, and noise can really move you along. I saw my mom at 4 miles and was feeling great.

IMG_5458(Photo by my mom near mile 4 – I pulled one of my arm warmers (aka cut up nylons) down and kept it to wipe my face)

DSC_0476(Photo by Mike about 4.5 miles into the race, I didn’t see them but they saw me)

At 10 km, I began to question a slight pain in my left knee and right ankle and decided to only think about one at a time to distract each part from bothering me. At 16 km I started looking for my family and sure enough, there they were. A high-five from David pushed me on and before I knew it, I was back downtown and approaching the half-way mark (still feeling pretty good). We passed over timing mats a lot and knowing I was being tracked by my family and friends near and far kept me motivated.

DSC_0486(Photo by Mike near 16 km – I was very excited to spot them)

The second half – this is when I always slow down and struggle. I stopped for my first sip of gatorade and water at 23 km and was feeling weak (remember how hungry I was at the start). The 3:50 pacers passed me and I was mildly discouraged but I focused on PILSEN knowing my family would be near the 30 km cheer zone. Sure enough, there they were. I stopped and popped one energy bean in my mouth and said I was okay… which was mostly true. I felt weak and was hurting but at this point, I thought 12 km… no biggie and kept going.

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I stopped at almost every gatorade stop and started drinking gulps and pouring water over my head. The 3:55 pacers passed me and I was very discouraged but decided to keep them on my radar. The last of major turn onto Michigan ave. was tough – I could see the city in the distance and knew the end was close but those 4 kilometres dragged on… my watch was reading more distance than the course markers were and I tried to pick up my pace a bit. I couldn’t see my family at the last turn but knew they were there so gathered the last bit of strength and pulled myself up the (only) hill and through to the finish. Official time: 3:56:20 and my watch read 42.9 km! My first thought was damn I could of had 3:55 had I made the 30+ turns more efficiently but then I smiled because it was so much fun.

357082_208490732_XLarge 357082_207813927_XLarge(Photos by race photographer not sure when but at least after 25 km because my sunglasses are on)357082_208513374_XLarge(Photos by race photographer near 35 km – I think the jazz hands are my attempt at looking happy and positive…) 357082_208006978_XLarge(Photo by race photographer at the finish – my first ever fist pump finish)

What amazes me is how fast this race flew by. Sure, there were hard and painful parts but overall, it never felt like I hit a wall! I had a lot of fun and smiled more than I ever have during a race. The crowds and volunteers were amazing and I can’t say enough about how beautiful Chicago is.

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My only criticism would be the finish. We finsihed back in the park and unless you pay big bucks, spectators were not allowed. It is a bit of a let down for family and friends to not see the finish. I walked for what felt like 100 metres before finding water and I really wished there was chocolate milk. As I kept walking and gathered more and more loot (a bag of food, my race blanket, a banana, a cup of Gatorade… it was getting to be a handful but then there was beer. Free cold beer. Sure, chocolate milk is awesome but a cold beer… I think I said I love you to the beer lady. With all of my stuff I kept walking to bag check and then on to the family reunite area. Although it was incredibly organized, it felt like I walked another few miles. I finally got to the “R” sign where I found my family right away. We stayed for a bit longer and then made our way to Cloud Gate (da bean).

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Looking back, I am thrilled – I got a personal best by 2 minutes despite some pain, hunger and weakness. The flat course is fast but not as easy as I expected. I can’t believe I am saying this but I think I missed the hills – there was never a point in the race when you could climb then fly down an I think 42 km of the same gradation is hard on your body because every step you pound down feels the same. Even though there were 45,000 runners, it was never too crowded – very little congestion and unlike PEI, I never felt lonely. Chicago, thank you – it was such a great experience!357082_207447654_XLarge

I’ll be back to write about everything not-running we did in the city.

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