Race Report: 2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon

I’m going to start at the end: 3:48:30.

That’s a new personal best for the marathon by 5:29 and a full 20 minutes better than I last ran this course in 2012. I’m pretty happy.

Rain. It was bound to happen.

It was raining this morning when I got up. That was expected as the forecast called for a 100% chance of light rain all day and light winds. I left for the start pretty early which normally would be a dumb idea for a wet race.

racedayweather-300x300However, I bought the Platinum Package for $99 which included a VIP tent at the start to chill out in. They had a heater and despite getting there soaked including wet shoes and socks, within a half hour or so, I was dry and comfortable. The other bonus was private, luxury ports-potties. No lineups, and flush toilets! Win!

About five minutes before the race we did the bag check (also VIP) and walked out into the rain. By now it was more of a misty drizzle instead of the steady rain the half marathoners left in.

The start

Then anthem was sung, and the countdown started. I crossed the line about a minute after the gun and we were off.

The first couple of kilometres are uphill, and I resolved to run them fairly easy. 5:11, 4:59 and 4:54. So much for that idea.

I was feeling good and the weather was much better than expected, so I just ran what felt comfortable. Lately that’s been around 5:00/km and today was no different. Kilometres 4 and 5 were run in 5:03 and 4:55 respectively.

Then the course starts heading downhill for a bit. I stuck with the same effort which meant a faster pace with 4:46 and 4:45 for kilometres 6 and 7. Kilometres 8 and 9 were 5:00 and 5:13 as they had a bit of incline and I convinced myself to ease it back a bit. I took a gel at 8km as scheduled.

Camosun you don’t scare me

Then comes the hill known as Camosun. This thing is a monster. 7% grade for 900m with some more hill on either end to keep you honest. I ran kilometre 10 in 5:39 and 11 in 5:38. That felt good and my heart rate and effort were controlled. I was glad to have it behind me, but it’s far from the end of the hills on this course.

It’s another 4km to the campus of UBC. There’s a new little out and back section here too and that was uphill for the run north, downhill for the run south. 5:11, 5:15, 5:05 and 5:07. Time for UBC.

UBC

The campus is nice. It really is. But all I could think about was getting to the big downhill section and banking some time. 4:59, 5:08, 5:06, 5:04. Pretty consistent through here as it’s fairly flat and easy running. It was also cold and a bit breezy. For the first time I thought maybe long sleeves would have been smart.

The hill! 4:40 and 4:53 for kilometres 20 and 21. My half split was 1:47:15 which was a touch fast, but I didn’t feel like it was too fast.

Spanish Banks, Jericho

I saw Jon Suk here and that was a nice boost to the psyche. It was also starting to rain lightly again as we ran along Spanish Banks towards Jericho. 5:05, 5:05 and 5:30. There was a decent hill there for kilometre 24 and I eased back to keep things under control.

Jericho is next and the residents really get out to support the runners through here. That provided a decent boost, as did the gel I took at kilometre 24. I remember thinking I couldn’t believe that I’d already run 25km. I felt tired, but time was passing quickly. 5:13, 5:23 and 5:24 for kilometres 25-27. I was slowing a bit.

The Burrard Bridge

Then the gel kicked in and the crowds picked up and I got things back together with a 5:11 for kilometre 28. It was short lived and the Burrard Bridge was coming up soon. 5:32 for kilometre 29 and then 5:48 up and over the bridge. I was glad to be done with that as it’s the last real hill before the finish stretch.

Kilometre 31 is down hill and then you hop on the Seawall. I ran it in 5:15 and then was surprise to see Kirsty (who I ran the 2012 race with). She ran along side for a half a kilometre so I kept the pace up and ran a 5:16.

Seawall…the long, tough Seawall

The Seawall is my nemesis. It killed me in 2012 and I ended up walking a lot of it. I was much more prepared mentally this time around and I had a good ten minutes in my pocket to play with over the last 10km. I resolved to not walk this time.

5:30, 5:38, 5:42 and I was through 35km and had just 7km to go. Don’t kid yourself. The Seawall is long. I still hadn’t run under the Lions Gate Bridge and I was really starting to tire. My pace over the next few kilometres reflected that. 6:01, 6:22, 6:31. I was hurting. But I was running.

Brockton to the finish

The Lighthouse was in sight and I knew that meant three kilometres to go. A big PB was within reach if I could just keep running decently. 6:27 to the Lighthouse. I started getting a rush of energy thinking about the finish now. 6:04 to the yacht club which was the turnaround for the Friendship Run on Saturday. 2km from here.

Finally…done with the last of the Seawall and could see the crowds starting to pick up. Lots of encouragement here from spectators urging us to the finish. 6:16 and the turn up Denman was in sight. 1.2km to go. Still running. Time to dip into the reserves for the run up to the finish.

I ran a 6:23 here to get within sight of the line. I passed Jon again and he said I was looking strong. A huge PB was waiting at the finish along with a medal and a hot shower. It was pouring ran and I was cold and wet and ready to stop.

Finisher

Through the finish and none other than John Stanton of the Running Room was there to put a medal over my head. I thanked him again for everything he does and told him I wouldn’t have accomplished what I have in the last six years without his stores and the Running Room community.

And then my right leg totally seized up. I could barely walk, but luckily I had the VIP bag check pickup inside my hotel. I got my bag in a lovely conference room on the third floor and called Ginny and Mac on FaceTime. My phone was constantly beeping with notifications of Facebook likes, texts and Tweets.

Twenty minutes after I finished I was in my hotel room for a nice hot shower and I was finally warm again.

Best race ever, and my best race ever

I know I faded in the last 7km but I also knew that I would. I banked up some time early and held on for a five-and-a-half-minute PB. I wouldn’t change a thing about the race. I think I ran it about as well as I could, and I know I didn’t leave anything out there. Other than a bathroom stop around 10km and a few steps at a water station at 39km, I ran this thing from start to finish.

I love the Vancouver Marathon. I’ve never run it well, and until today, I’d never run it under four hours. Considering that this is a much tougher course than the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I’m really proud of my result today.

Best marathon ever.

Race Report: 2014 Around the Bay Road Race

The 2014 Around the Bay Road Race was really my first chance to see where I was at since my PB in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, 2012.

racelogo11I haven’t run Around the Bay in two years, and I haven’t run a real race since the fall of 2012. I ran a half and full marathon last year, but I didn’t put in the training for either race since the spring half came just six weeks after my elbow surgery and the fall marathon was done on just eight weeks training.

Leading up to race day, I didn’t think too much about a time goal, but I did want to do better than my 2:43 AtB personal best (2:43). I’d come close to 2:45 for 30km in a few training runs this winter, so a new PB was well within reach.

Start to 5km

The course was a bit different this year to avoid crossing a set of train tracks that held up a good number of runners last year.

We started in front of FirstOntario Centre as usual, but made a quick left north on James St. That section was congested and Miguel and I kept things in control, but started picking off runners as we ran north towards the lake.

1 5:17

A good first kilometre, slowed a bit by traffic, but about what I had planned to run.

2 5:01
3 5:03
4 5:06
5 5:01

The next four kilometres reveal nice consistent splits as we continued to make our way through the traffic and past some of the big pace groups. I started behind the 3:00 pace bunny so we had to get through them and a 2:45 group that spread wide across the road.

Burlington St. to 10km

The new route features a trio of decent on-ramp hills that take you up onto something like the Gardiner Expressway – an elevated highway through some of the worst industrial areas of Hamilton. It smelled, and the road was not in great shape.

But I ran well through here, passing another pacer with a wide gaggle of followers (I think the 2:40 group). I let Miguel go a bit here as he picked up the pace and I held back a bit up a long climb around 8km.

6 5:05
7 4:57
8 5:06
9 4:58
10 4:54

To the lakeshore!

I took the 360º offramp just before 10km very smartly, hugging the inside to avoid running any extra distance. I had almost reeled Miguel in by this point, taking advantage of some downhill running to up the pace a bit heading to the first split mat and the first relay exchange.

I passed Miguel around 11km and didn’t look back.

The gel I took at about 8km kicked in and I felt great running along Beach Blvd. Much better than the last time I “ran” it during the Hamilton Marathon last November.

I was continuing to pass runners and saw a few familiar faces including Quinn who was running great.

11 4:59
12 4:55
13 4:50
14 4:54
15 4:55

Lift Bridge to the left turn

The 15km mat came and went, and we crossed the lift bridge and the weird metal surface felt weird underfoot as usual.

I was still running great here and I took my second gel around 16km. I worried that maybe I waited a few minutes too long to take the gel, but it kicked in nicely and the legs felt great again.

There was a bit of wind around 17 or 18km as we exited onto North Shore, but not too bad all things considered.

16 4:54
15 4:55
16 4:54
17 5:02

And now, the hills

It’s always a great feeling to make the turn onto North Shore Blvd. because you are finally heading towards the finish. It feels like you’re making the turn to home.

But it also signals the start of the hilly section. Gulp.

I was still running well at this point, and the hills weren’t bothering me much. The run up to Lasalle Park was good and I really enjoyed the DJ and cheering section through this stretch. Great energy!

18 4:56
19 5:03
20 4:59
21 5:01

Now for the tough part

Here’s where it really gets hilly and where you need to push hard to maintain your pace and earn your PB. I grabbed a half of a banana from some awesome people here and ate it heading up the hill. I thought about skipping my last gel because of this, and then admonished myself for even considering it. One of the three keys I posted the night before the race was “Don’t forget the gels in the latter stages.” I took the gel at 24km.

@yumke My keys: 1. Go out strong, but not too fast. 2. Stay within myself through 10-18km. 3. Don’t forget the gels in the latter stages.
— James Koole (@jameskoole) March 29, 2014

22 5:07
23 5:07
24 5:11
25 5:13

All that remained now was the big hill, and the 4km run to the finish.

We Will Rock You, “The Hill” and the Grim Reaper

Down the hill to the cemetery, and I high fived the little person on the chair playing “We Will Rock You”. Around the Bay is a race full of tradition.

I looked across the valley to peek at the big hill on the other side, and then re-focused on the task at hand. I ran across the little bridge and resolved to run up and over the hill. I hadn’t walked a single step yet, not even a slow down through the water stations and I had no plans to change that.

I ran up the hill, under the rail bridge, passing dozens of runners walking on either side. The crowd really helps here, encouraging you to keep running. I felt pretty good but I also paid special attention to my heart rate and breathing to make sure I didn’t push too hard.

I crested the hill and backed off the pace a bit to regroup through the left turn onto York towards the finish. I felt tired for the first time and started running some numbers in my head. 2:30 was out of the question, but a PB was still easily attainable assuming I kept up a good pace to the end.

26 5:00
27 5:35
28 5:29

The finish

IMG_6011-225x300Two kilometres to go and I had a huge PB locked up. The only question that remained was whether I could beat 2:35 and finish strong. The crowd was amazing, lining the street over the last kilometre to the finish at the FirstOntario Centre. I started thinking about making that turn, and coming down the ramp.

29 5:33
30 5:10

I moved over to the left side of the road and swung out wide to reduce the tightness of the turn before running down the ramp towards that last right turn and the 50m finish sprint. I love this part of Around the Bay – you emerge into this loud, bright arena like you are a rock star. I found higher gear and ran across the line.

Finish: 2:33:39

Lessons learned

Looking back at my keys to the race:

  1. Go out strong, but not too fast. ✔
  2. Stay within myself through 10-18km. ✔
  3. Don’t forget the gels in the latter stages. ✔

Mission accomplished.

I started smart, and ran my race through the first 10km despite Miguel running a bit faster than me and the ever present temptation to try to bank some time early.

Through the flat middle section I ran a quicker pace, but never too fast. I banked a minute or two here to use in the hills and at the finish, but made sure to save enough energy for the last 5km.

I took my gels, and added fuel to the tank as required. While I faded a bit in the last 5km, I still had enough to run 5:30/km through the finish to grab a 10 minute PB.

atbpace1

Looking forward to the BMO Vancouver Marathon in five weeks, I’ll probably shorten up the time between gels just a bit to avoid the touch of fatigue I felt at 15km and again around 25km.

Other than that, it was a perfect race for me and one of the best runs of my life.

Race Report: 2012 Hamilton Road2Hope Half Marathon

I haven’t done a big race report in a while and I also haven’t run a half marathon in a while (since May, 2011). So I’ll break both of those streaks with a rundown of my race in Hamilton this past weekend.

As mentioned, I haven’t raced 21.1km in a long time (Ottawa 2011 – 1:44:08 which was my PB) and while I’ve done a ton of runs over the half marathon distance, I figured it would be a good way to end the 2012 season by seeing what I was capable of over that distance.

In the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to get down under the 1:40 mark, and with a fast course, the Hamilton Road2Hope Half Marathon offered a nice opportunity to go for it. I figured out the required pace (4:44/km) and amped up my training after the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon to get the feel of running that pace.

Race Day

Race day arrived and after the short bus ride up to the start, it was a waiting game while the full marathoners started their race. At about 8:25am we set out to run the half. I was totally relaxed, feeling more than ready to run a good race in some pretty decent weather.

The temperature was about 3ºC with light winds from the northwest (that factored in later). Tights, two t-shirts and my new arm warmers were the perfect choice.

Off the start I noticed right away that this was no ordinary field of runners. This was a fast group! I was running fast and so was everyone around me. The first kilometre ticked by in 4:33. Solid! But maybe too fast? Kilometre two was run in 4:29 – probably a bit too fast and I knew it. I was breathing a bit hard and experience told me to ease back a touch. The next three kilometres were a bit slower – 4:37, 4:35 and 4:36 – as I backed off the early pace a wee bit.

I about died after trying to eat an orange slice right at 4km – the juice went down the wrong way and I was a coughing mess for thirty seconds. It’s really hard to breathe when you are choking, so that cost me a few seconds while I recovered.

Red Hill Valley Parkway

Then the big hill – alright! Let’s bank some time! 4:31, 4:19, 4:23 and 4:29 got me through 9km. I was planning to run 4:20’s down the hill, but I wasn’t really paying much attention to my pace. Instead it was about running comfortably fast when the course allowed it.

4:34 for kilometre 10 and 45:00 through 10k. Just 25 seconds off my 10k PB set at the 2010 Sporting Life 10k.

4:32 and 4:38 in kilometres 11 and 12 got me through to the end of the highway portion and onto the trail section. The 4:38 included the uphill section off the highway and over the highway on Barton St.

Trails, Wind and Cheering

The next bit was tough – a short, steep downhill, and uphill unpaved trail section. I slowed up a bit, especially on what turned out to be the biggest hill on the course. That’s assuming a 4:51 is considered slowing up.

Then it was over the QEW on the pedestrian bridge – this marked the first appearance of the northwesterly wind that reminded me it was cold out and that there was still work to do. 4:40, 4:43, 4:44 and I was down along the lake on the trail, and out onto Beach Road. Crowd support in that section was great and I saw the lead half marathoners heading back towards the finish.

The next kilometre was the toughest – heading away from the finish, into the wind and running out of energy. 4:43 and 4:48 got me through 17 and 18km and past the turn to head for home. I passed Alex who was struggling with cramps and kept running, knowing I had a PB for sure and a really good shot at a sub-1:40 time if nothing bad happened to my legs.

Big Finish

I ran a 4:43 for kilometre 19 and at this point I knew that I had my sub-1:40 for sure. I saw Rich heading the other way and watched the marathon leaders fight the traffic along the narrow trail with slower half marathoners not realizing that the top runners were trying to pass.

Crowd support was great along this stretch and so was my pace. I ran a 4:55 for kilometre 20 and kept pushing hard to get the best time I could. It would have been easy to relax and cruise home to a 1:39 and change, but I wanted the absolute best time possible and I kept pushing as much as I could.

4:56 for kilometre 21 and it was just the last turn, up the hill and then down the 100m finish straight. Boom – across the line in 1:38:25.

Running every kilometre under 5:00 was a big accomplishment. Not walking a single step was a big accomplishment (I sailed through all the water stations without even thinking about stopping as I was carrying a half bottle of Q Energy Drink). Running strongly through the finish was a big accomplishment.

Setting a huge new half marathon personal best by almost six minutes was a huge accomplishment.

Race Report: 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Raised $4,026 for Fragile X Research. Ran a PB. Didn’t do walk breaks. What a great day.

I had a couple of lofty goals in my mind walking to the start – running continuously for the full 42.195km (no ten and one walk breaks) and maybe a PB (under 3:55:06).

Raining Start

The rain was steady and I was worried that the entire run would be a miserable, wet, windy mess. But just before the horn sounded, the rain tapered off and stopped. I started just past 8:40am with light sprinkles falling, but I was sure that wouldn’t last.

60196_10152166518845427_1551171068_n-225x300Sure enough, just before College St. heading north on University, we ran into a monsoon of rain. It was pouring. For 100ft. Then it was gone. It didn’t rain a drop after that.

The first part was lovely – running with the huge throng across Yonge, up Church to Bloor, west past the ROM and then south through U of T. The downhill stretch after Bloor was a great time to make up some time. 3km of steady downhill and I took advantage.

Lots of Familiar Faces

I saw Ginny, Lindsey and Mac at 7.5km and stopped for some hugs. Then I saw my parents at Bathurst and took my first of five gels. I was feeling good so I took off and continued down to the Lakeshore and out to Parkside.

I love this part of the course because the time flies as you can scan the oncoming runners for people you know. I saw Angela (3:45 represent!), Alice T., Ian from Team Fragile X and a few more Team Fragile X runners doing the half.

Back into the city and we hit the split where the half marathoners head north up Bay St. and the full marathoners head south to Queen’s Quay. Connie (in town for ICANN) was at the 20km mark and I stopped for a sweaty hug.

Back on the run and it was down to Queen’s Quay, over to Cherry St. and down to the loop at the lake. Miguel was on his bike and I saw him for the first time here. I was running strong, and remarked to him that I hadn’t stopped for a walk yet. He took off to go harass…errr…cowbell some other runners.

The Ugly, Desolate Section

The stretch along Commissioners St. is tough. My legs were tiring and I was wondering if I could run the whole way and hold the pace I was running. I kept going, made the turn south on Leslie, then back north towards Lakeshore.

I saw Jay here – he was rocking his first full marathon but was slowing with some cramping. I eventually passed him around the bend where Lakeshore becomes Woodbine.

The Beach and the Turn for Home

Then I hit the Beach. Kudos to everyone here – the cheering was amazing and came at a time when I needed some energy from the crowd. Out to Beech and then back west towards the city. I saw Peter Blair and family (second time, actually) and mentioned that I ran a PB for the 30km (2:40:17 – nearly three minutes under my best Around the Bay time).

222564_10151262300035560_692253813_n-300x200Eventually we made the quick out and back to Kingston Rd. and then it was all westbound running towards downtown – just 6km to go. Eastern Ave. is tough. There’s not a ton of support, and it’s at this point that my legs were really starting to give up. I ran the hill over the DVP (ran!) and was really glad to see Miguel again at this point. I asked him to pace me home and make sure I didn’t walk. I knew my PB depended on running that hill – I mentioned it to the guy beside me and it was true in the end.

No Walking! PB!

I walked for 8 seconds through a water station (Miguel was calling out the seconds – I promised no more than 10 seconds) and got going again. It was team CCRR next and my amazing long-time running buddy Nicole M. was there with the biggest cheers of all. One lousy kilometre to go. The support through St. Lawrence was amazing and I made the zig-zag onto Wellington, then north onto Bay knowing a PB was within reach. At 100m to go I saw Ginny and the kids again (and Marie A., Mike L., Linda B. Nalini and I think my mom as well) and ran by, pushing through to the finish.

Watch stopped – 3:53:59. I hoped that was accurate (it was). So happy.

Race Report: 2012 Niagara Ultra 50km

My second 50km ultra marathon…this despite the fact that I a) said I wouldn’t run a marathon again for a while, and b) said I wouldn’t run another ultra. I have a problem…I admit it.

Training…a good idea

Compared to last year, I did a bunch more training for this race. After the BMO Vancouver Marathon, I kept things up during the week and got in a few longer runs between the marathon and ultra day. I had intended to run a full marathon as a training run, but a head cold got in the way. That said, I managed 37km at the Whitby International Marathon on May 27th before I dropped out. The decision to quit that race that day was easy when I thought about the real goal.

I came back strong after that DNF and ran 25km and 26km on the Sundays that followed. I kept up the weekly mileage with the same schedule I used for the marathon. 5-6km tempo runs on Tuesdays, longer runs on Thursdays and a short run on Saturday in addition to the Sunday LSD runs.

The first 20km – Time flies when you’re having fun

Race day arrived without much fanfare. I wasn’t nervous or even really excited. There was a bit of dread, considering my experience last year. But I had a feeling it would be easier considering the additional training I did this time around.

IMG_1304-300x225We set off at 7:00am and the kilometers just started clicking off. I stopped to snap a pic of the Niagara River around 8km – it was a calm and peaceful morning. Before I knew it 10km had come and gone and the big hill up the Beck generating station had begun. Steady running brought me all the way to the top. I walked for a minute (scheduled 10 and one) but other than that it was a great hill for me and I thought back to the run up through Pacific Spirit Park in Vancouver and how strong I felt then too.

20km to 30km – To the Falls!

More running and all of a sudden the 20km aid station was there. Seriously, it was the easiest 20km I’ve ever run. Time was flying by and the kilometers were just clicking off. I hit the marathon turnaround (21.1km) in 2:01:01 and was feeling quite excellent.

IMG_1306-300x225It’s a bit of a downhill run towards the Falls from there and I ran down into the tourist area and through the cooling mist of the Horseshoe Falls to the 25km turnaround. I made it to the halfway point in 2:23:00 and made sure I was signed in. As usual, there was a buffet at every aid station. The 25km turnaround was no exception. I spent a couple of minutes eating some oranges, a bit of banana and thanking the volunteers for helping out.

Then it was time to set out again to make the 25km trip back to Niagara on the Lake.

I ran back through the crowds by the falls, taking to the road now and then when the tourists were too thick to stick to the sidewalks. Ginny and the girls pulled up beside me in the car around the Rainbow Bridge and said hi. They left me to go down the course a bit and I guessed they would be out around the border crossing at the Whirlpool Bridge.

30km to 40km – To the wall and through it

I ran in to there (about 29km) and stopped for a very quick chat before setting off again. 30km clicked by and I had a quick break at the aid station for some more water and oranges. I can’t say enough how great the aid stations are – lots of energy sources to choose from.

From there things got tough for a bit. I hit the wall around 32km and stopped at 33km or so at the south side of the Whirlpool area near the Spanish Aero Car where the kids and Ginny were waiting. I mentioned that things were hurting, but that I was okay and feeling pretty strong compared to last year.

AwFkIthCQAAqIf2-jpg-large-225x30033km through about 37km were the worst part of the run. My left foot was really bugging me, especially on sections where the path sloped off to the left side. I stopped at the portapottie on the top of the Beck Generating Station and noted my hydration was good. My gut was sloshing a bit and I reminded myself to drink a bit less water until that feeling passed.

Down the long hill was nice and much better than up, although I was hurting a bit and the downhill takes a toll on the legs. I ran well all the way through the wooded section and down to where we crossed the road at about 38km. Ginny was there again in the car (surprise!) and I quickly stopped and took two Tylenol which turned out to be a fantastic idea. The foot and lower leg pain went away quickly and my ability to run well returned. They were waiting again at the 40km aid station and I could officially say that I was past the wall and having a blast.

40km to the finish – Feeling good, finishing strong

One more aid station to go at 45km and I was able to run straight 10 and ones – a huge improvement from last year when I was walking more than I was running at this point in the race.

Throught 42.2km I noted my time – 4:18:35. Not my best marathon, but pretty darn good considering I had to run 7.8km more. I was 12 minutes up on my time from 2011 and still running. A huge PB was within reach. 45km was done in 4:40:00 or so and I was still running really well. Ginny and the kids were at the 45km aid station and I told them to expect me to take about 40 minutes for the last 5km.

From 40km on I was often looking down at my watch and seeing I had three or four minutes until the next walk and thinking, “I can do that, easy.” Last year I couldn’t run for two minutes. What a difference!

I started thinking 5:20:00 was within reach. Still running well, I spotted the road crossing ahead that marked one mile to go. I had taken my last walk break and had just 1.6km left to run. I ran along the trail behind Fort George and briefly considered walking. I cursed myself for even thinking about it. I didn’t need to walk – I could easily finish it up from here.

AwFmDF0CIAAW-I2-jpg-large-225x300I ran across the parking lot, was cheered by a volunteer who told me I looked strong (and I agreed) and then it was just one more road crossing before I turned off onto the open field and headed towards the finish. I could see the line and I glanced at my Garmin and knew I’d easily beat 5:20:00. My cowbell crew and Miguel were there to cheer me home – what a feeling it was to be running strong at 50km. Amazing.

5:17:32. Got my medal and a cup of flat Coke and walked over to see the kids, Ginny, Miguel and Maria. Smiling!

Best Race Ever

I am still stoked from the race. I didn’t think I could run that well for 42.2km, let alone 50km.

The BMO Vancouver Marathon was a bit of a letdown for me. I didn’t run well after 35km, but this made my year and gave me such an emotional boost. It was a great race – my best ever.

Race Report: 2012 BMO Vancouver Marathon

You train for weeks and weeks and then it all comes down to one day. You set goals, you imagine that you’ll have a good run, or a great run. And in the end you cross the finish line, get a medal and you’re a marathoner.
A few things stood out on this run.

Running buddy Kirsty and I ran well together. We rocked the hills, kept the pace sane early on, and had fun.
As usual, the last 6km kicked my ass. It always does. But it kicks almost everyone’s ass.

Running in Vancouver is awesome.

We ran a good first half. I owned a couple of huge hills and with a 1:56:15 for 21.1km, it was a sane pace that put us in a good position to come in under 4 hours which was the goal of my running buddy.

472215_3964872599796_1219807466_3738855_1053933732_o-300x225-1I defeated the Burrard St. bridge this year. Granted it was earlier in the race, but I ran up one side, and down the other. The cheering around the corner towards English Bay was amazing.

The seawall…beautiful, but mentally tough. It was once I got onto the seawall that I started hitting the wall. My first extra walk break came after 37km. And then it all started slipping away. My running buddy was running away to her sub-four and I knew I was going to be a bit slower than that.

Mentally that’s difficult because all of a sudden there’s no time goal to keep you going. I walked too much through 39 and 40km. From Denman and Georgia it was pretty good again. Walked once along Georgia and ran it in up West Pender, saw Ginny along with Miguel and Maria and made the two left turns onto West Hastings and under the Run Finish sign. Done.

Running buddy Kirsty was there and I asked her if she did it – she said yes and I was happy. Then it all hit me and I spent 30 seconds sobbing in the finish chute.

Not the finish I was thinking it would be

It’s been a tough year since the accident and I always imagined that Vancouver would be the end of a recovery journey. The fact that I ran it, and still have to go back and finish the physio for more months is tough. This race was the thing that really kept me going for the last few months through painful physio and some pretty dark days.

458354_3965029123709_1219807466_3738946_425686150_o-225x300Four days in Vancouver with Ginny and my YYJ, YVR and YYZ run friends has been awesome. Everything I hoped for and more. I’ll be thinking about how great the run was and about how things don’t always go the way you think they will for a while. I’ll get through physio, get better and maybe we’ll come back and run the crap out of the half.

As much as I love the challenge and the reward of the full, I think I’m done with 42.2km. Maybe it won’t be forever, but I’m a five-time marathoner and I’ve accomplished all that I want to for now.

Running is a big part of my life and I’ll continue to run half marathons and work on my PB there. It’s been a great couple of years of taking on the challenge of the marathon (and beyond!).