The Next Big Thing

Over the weekend, a friend asked me what my next running race would be. I had to think for a second, and I realized that I don’t have any on the calendar until Chicago. What a difference from previous years when I would easily have 6 or 7 races lined up between now and the fall.  That’s not to say I won’t be running any, but nothing has been decided. This time around I’m planning my season based on tri events, some of which are still being determined.

A few days after I ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, I registered for Muskoka 70.3. Last week, I registered for another one. I seem to be making a habit of this…

 

Welland Half Iron Distance Triathlon

June 24, 2012

 

Muskoka is in September and I originally intended for it to be my first 70.3. I later decided that this would be a good addition to the tri roster as part of my training. Given that it is so early in the season and I have not been building my cycling mileage yet, I will most likely be treating this one as a “training day.” A 2K swim, 90K bike and 21.1K run training day…

Welland is a much smaller race and also a “friendly” (flat) course, so I thought it would be a good way to get some long distance tri experience before my “A” race. Practicing things like hydration, fueling and pacing will help me determine what I need to work on over the summer. 

We are going to be spending a lot of time together. 

With my focus being Boston until, well, now, I’m on an accelerated 8-week training plan that starts today. It consists of 3 build weeks followed by a recovery week, then 2 more build weeks and 2 taper/race prep weeks. I’ll be keeping it on the lighter side for the first couple of weeks to ease into it and ensure that I have fully recovered.

My primary focus is to build endurance on the bike; I know I can do it, but I have a long way to go. There’s no question that I have the running base, but I’d like to “sharpen up” in that department with less mileage and more workouts. Of course there will be plenty of brick workouts as well. I’m getting back in the pool with Masters tonight and hopefully we can get into the lake before the end of next month.

I’ve been cycling and swimming consistently since last fall so I don’t think it will be too much of an adjustment, and yet it feels so different now that I am actually working from a tri-focused training plan. As of right now, I’m about 20% terrified and 80% excited.

Let’s get started!

After

It’s crazy to think that 11 days ago (to the minute) I was about to start the Boston Marathon. Sometimes it all feels like a dream and I’m sitting here wondering, ‘Did that really happen?’

Yep, it sure did.

I seem to go back and forth between being high on post-Boston adrenaline and low on post-Boston blues. Sharing more stories at the Marathon Clinic last night took me right back. If I try hard enough, I can see the crowds and hear the sounds and feel the heat. I look at the pictures and relive moments that I hope to remember forever. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Yes, I will do it again (as soon as possible), but there will never be another “first Boston” – I’m not quite sure if that makes me feel elated or depressed.

Boston was hyped up so much for so long that I honestly wondered if if could possibly meet my high expectations. Of course, it blew them out of the water. From the start line to the finish line and everything before, after and in between, it was everything they said it would be and more.

Confession: I’ve been in extreme lazy recovery mode, which I had planned for one week but not necessarily two. Whoops. I’ve been out for a couple of short, easy runs but I feel pretty sluggish in general. I seem to have taken an impromptu hiatus from cycling and swimming… back at both next week!

Confession 2: My diet is out of control and needs to get back on track STAT. It’s a slippery slope once I get off track. I’m too embarrassed to even tell you what I’ve been eating! I feel like a fat kid trapped inside a [Boston] marathoner’s body.

So aside from getting off the couch and out of the treat cupboard, what’s next? This week I signed up for the next big thing. Stay tuned…

Boston Marathon Race Report

It’s been hard to find the words to adequately describe the experience running Boston, my 10th marathon. It’s even difficult to answer when people ask about it in person. It was equally the most challenging, thrilling, exhausting and rewarding thing I have ever done and I would not change one single thing – not even the weather (incase you haven’t heard, it was hot!). We’ve come away with a good story to tell and memories that will last a lifetime.

We had been receiving weather advisories from the B.A.A. all weekend long and one last peak at the forecast confirmed that the predictions were correct: we were in for a scorcher. All along we had planned to run for the experience rather than any goal time, so the conditions only reinforced that decision. I’m sure everyone heard about the deferral option, but we did not consider that even for a second. It was going to be a tough day out there, but we were here to run Boston and nothing was going to stop us.

“Marathon Monday” – April 16, 2012 

We set our alarm for 5:30. I had slept pretty well and felt rested and ready to get this show on the road. I had breakfast # 1 in bed and surprisingly, my nerves allowed me to get it all down.

We suited up and headed downstairs at 6:30. We didn’t end up needing half of the throw-away gear we had brought, but packed an extra (light) layer, something to sit on, plenty of fluids and breakfast # 2+3.

There was a different vibe in the hotel that morning – you knew that everyone else who was up and about was either off to the race or seeing their loved ones off. The adrenaline was pumping, but there was also an odd sense of calm. There wasn’t a lot of chatter being exchanged, just a discreet nod or grin to say “Good luck” and “Here goes nothing.” Of course, meeting up with our gang was a different story. We were pretty much giddy and buzzing with excitement. I really couldn’t believe the day was here.

It was about a 15 leisurely minute walk for us to the far side of Boston Common to meet the buses, with a couple of stops for Starbucks, port-o-potties (2x for me, nerves kicking in) and photos along the way.

We were blown away by the lines winding all over the park. For a brief moment I panicked, wondering how on earth we would ever make it on to a bus to get to Hopkinton. I calmed down with a bit of re-assurance that we were all in the same boat and had plenty of time. It was actually amazing to see how quickly the line(s) moved.

We watched as the sea of runners were gradually ushered on to buses, volunteers raised their flags when they were full, and a convoy of dozens upon dozens of buses pulled away in one long, seamless line. An instant later, empty buses pulled right up. What an efficient system! I think we only waited about 20 minutes to board our bus, which was mind-blowing considering the amount of people there.

We were first on our bus so we snagged seats at the front. I felt like a kid on my way to my first day of kindergarten! We had been warned over and over that the ride is long, especially if traffic gets backed up towards Hopkinton. I was careful not to drink too much as we waited for fear of needing the use the washroom, but the fear of dehydration later on was worse so I sipped water slowly all along.

The trip was pretty smooth with the exception of a slight back-up on the freeway. We ate our next breakfast and watched the road signs, getting excited as we started seeing the names of the famous boroughs.

Before we knew it, we were pulling up to Athlete’s Village and piling off the bus. I think it was 8:30 or so when we arrived.

It was incredible walking into Athlete’s Village and finding a sea of runners sprawled out all over the grass, seeking out whatever shade they could find. We were glad to see that the port-o-potty lines weren’t very long at all, and we snagged an open spot in the shade under one of the big tents.

After one potty stop, we settled in for a bit and began slathering on several layers of Body Glide and sunscreen, while munching on breakfast # 3 and continuing to hydrate. I feel like I did not stop eating all morning, but I knew it would be crucial for the late race start. It was already very warm and certainly not the typical pre-race scene where people are bundled up and huddled together for warmth.

At this point they had only called the Wave 1 runners, but we were getting very restless sitting around and couldn’t seem to relax. After another potty stop, those of us in Wave 2 decided to start making our way toward the baggage buses and then to the start line. There were people everywhere, but we never felt overwhelmed by the crowds and the entire process was very easy.

There were plenty of port-o-potties outside of Athlete’s Village as well with minimal lines, so we made one last stop. After that we found the appropriate buses to drop off our check bags and then joined the flow of traffic heading toward the start. The sun was high in the school, there was no shelter and we really noticed was how hot it was. This was a reality check for what we would be in for – we were already sweating just from a slow ~1 mile walk.

There was a station set up along the side with markers so Nicole and I took advantage to write our names down our arms (and “CANADA” on the opposite arm).

We hit the corrals before long and slipped into ours easily with plenty of space; I had expected it to be quite a bit more crowded. I think we were there about 10 minutes before Wave 2 was set to take off.

We fired up our watches, exchanged some last minute good lucks and took a minute to soak it in. This was it – we were lined up to start the BOSTON MARATHON! I think one of us said, “Well we made it!” Or maybe I just said it in my head? Anyway, it felt like a huge victory to have gotten to the starting line and I was ready to pour my heart into it all the way to the finish.

Time to run!

I had expected a slow and congested start, but found that we had space pretty quickly. It was hard not getting swept up in the crowd since we were clearly running slower than most people around us. We reeled it in and tried to hold back on the downhills without hitting the brakes too hard, running along right around my typical long run pace. I knew that discipline through the early miles is what would save me later on, and hubs was a good sport considering this pace probably felt like slow motion.

I settled in, continued drinking a ton of water, took in the sights all around us, sweated like crazy and tried not to think too much about the many miles that lay ahead. I was determined to enjoy myself, but it was definitely daunting to think of how far we had yet to go in this heat, and it was only getting hotter.

We both noticed that this first part of the race was a lot more hilly than we expected. Everyone always talks about the downhill start, but there were non-stop rollers. We cruised up and down, in awe at the long snake of runners ahead of (and hehind) us.

It started off relatively quiet save for the pounding of thousands of feet, but we soon made our way into the first “town” area where spectators were out in full force, and it never let up for the remainder of the route. I could not believe the number of people out lining the road so early on.

It was fun to recognize all of the neighbourhood names that I’ve been hearing about for years, and it seemed like each one wanted to outdo the others with the amount of people that came out and how much noise they could make. There were people screaming, signs everywhere, music blasting and everything you can imagine being handed out by the locals – water, sports drinks, ice, freezies, candy, lube, tissues, damp paper towel (saved the day to get sun screen out of my eyes), beer… the list goes on.

I was carrying my 20oz handheld and needed to refill it at every second water station. Whenever possible, I tried to refill from the jugs which was faster and also meant colder water. I took gatorade occasionally, although it was often too warm and syrupy to get much down. I gu’d every 7-8K and also took a salt pill at the start and every 10K.

Mentally, I was tackling the distance 5K at a time. I looked forward to hitting every 5K milestone, knowing that we would cross the timing mats and everyone at home would get an update. It was uplifting to know how many people were watching and rooting us on.

I was looking forward to Wellesley and the infamous “scream tunnel”, which did not disappoint. As promised, we could hear them long before we saw them and the girls were going nuts. This was exactly as I had imagined it. Although I encouraged hubs to go ahead and steal a kiss, he declined. (It’s probably more fun without permission…)

Not long after that, we were officially half way there! (1:58:41 split) We were running pretty consistently for the first half with our 5K splits all within about a minute. I was sweating like crazy and hotter than I could ever remember feeling, but my legs were doing good.

The hose/sprinkler/fire hydrant/misting stations had started early and we took advantage of every single one. It was hilarious to watch hoards of runners darting from one side of the road to the next for an instant of cold, refreshing spray but it was so worth it! For a moment, I would feel completely cooled off and refreshed – unfortunately, each time it would be short lived. I was so grateful to everyone who was out there doing what they could to help us endure the grueling heat and sun. One guy was even dunking sponges in a bucket of water and squished it on my head and back as I ran by. Amazing!! Of course, our clothes were heavy and sopping wet and our toes were squishing in our shoes from splashing through puddles all over the road, but that didn’t bother me one bit. (Miraculously, my toes survived the race free of blisters!)

 We made our way to Newton and I knew the real hills would be starting soon. People were walking and stopping all over the place and it became very clear that the heat was taking a toll on many. We started noticing more and more people filling the medical tents or getting assistance at the side of the road. I was definitely tired and drained, but it made me realize that I was in pretty good shape. We had a long way to go, but we were upright and still happy.

There were electronic sign boards all over the course reading “SLOW DOWN!” and “WALK!” Definitely not your usual motivational peppy words of advice. It was almost comical. I wish I had taken a photo!

A lot of our runing buddies has been telling us that the hills would be no big deal compared to the ones we train on, and that we would be up the last one without even realizing it. Yeah… not so much! One in particular seemed to go on and on and I was convinced in was Heartbreak, only to hit another one shortly after. Turns out that wasn’t Heartbreak either! Ha! We joked afterwards that we had run up Heartbreak Hill three times. I silently gave myself permission to walk at the top of each one, but I managed to keep running.

 

By the time we reached mile 21 and had made it up all the hills, my legs were just about toast. I felt so physically drained by the heat and sun that it took everything just to keep moving. I was also feeling a “ceasing” sensation all the way down my left side which made me extremely nervous that my whole leg was going to cramp up on me. Hubs had noticed that I was no longer talking but we plugged along. He was often running a few paces ahead of me, which helped me to keep moving. It’s like he knew that running beside me would give me permission to slow down. (It would have!) :)

We did slow, but not dramatically. (For comparison, our fastest 5K was 27:33 and our slowest was 30:44.) Hubs was taking really good care of me, asking what I needed and grabbing treats like ice and licorice from spectators for me. I continued cooling off in the hoses (etc.) whenever I could and shoved handfuls of ice down my top at every opportunity. One time I heard a guy on the sidelines yell out, “I saw that!” and I gave him a big grin and a thumbs-up. (Hubs asked me later if I had given him the finger, LOL)

 

The crowds were thicker and louder (and started smelling more like beer…) as we continued on. It had cleared out enough for more people to read my arm and I heard my name or “Oh Canada!” called out often. It’s amazing what a boost it was to have a perfect stranger cheering me on. The crowd interaction was truly incredible. I found that people would make an effort to get my attention, locking eyes and making me feel like I was the only runner out there, saying “YOU’VE got this. YOU are doing amazing. YOU are almost there.” They really made me believe it and while I wanted to scream “HELL YEAH” I could usually only manage a nod, a smile or a thumbs up.

Hubs was suffering at this point too, for a different reason. He wasn’t tired, but his feet were sore from being out there for so long. This was the longest he had ever run time-wise (except Disney 2010) and his body was not too happy. He was a trooper and hung in there, urging me on without complaining. Luckily he knew better and only told me later how much the pace was killing him. We stuck it out together and counted down the miles one at a time.

All along I managed not to walk except briefly at the water stations. It was so tempting to stop and I battled the desire constantly, but starting to run again was more difficult each time so I knew it was not a good idea. Just keep running…

As we neared 40K, I recognized Nicole up ahead. Part of me was disappointed because it meant that her race had not gone according to plan/goal, but I was also happy to see her. We caught up and scooped her up with us. I think she was relieved to find some familiar faces as well. We rallied together and swapped war stories for a minute, but soon became silent again because talking required way too much effort.

Mercifully, we soon spotted the Citgo sign up in the distance. One mile to go from that sign. I got choked up when I saw Mile 25.

Hubs darted ahead to snap a photo of us plugging along.

In my head I had started chanting “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston” over and over. I knew we were close – SO close – but it was starting to feel like we may never get there.

But then we turned, and turned once more. And there it was.

We still had several hundred metres to go, but I couldn’t believe we were really there. People were layered deep all along both sides of the road cheering like it was their job. I remembered watching the finish three years ago when my friend P ran her first Boston, wondering if I would ever have a shot at this. It felt pretty freaking amazing being on the opposite side of those barricades this time. I tried hard to stay in the moment. I tried even harder to enjoy it no matter how agonizing the last hour or so had been. We made it.
 
 
We clasped hands and crossed that finish line together. Our first Boston – check!
 
 
What a relief. I honestly thought I would cry, especially after all of the emotional moments I had already experienced, but I think I was just too spent and slightly in shock that we had finished. Instead I just hugged hubs, hugged Nicole and relished in the fact that I could finally stop running.
 
Of course, we still had a long way to walk. We were all hurting pretty good and it was a slow hobble to reach the water, foil blankets (which suffocated me but I wanted to keep as a souvenir), MEDALS (!!!) and food. I picked a nice older lady to place my medal around my neck and she asked me “How many?” A sob caught in my throat when I answered “Number 1!”
 
 
 
By the time we reached the baggage buses, hubs was not feeling good at all. We stopped a few times for him to sit down, but I couldn’t make him eat or drink and he really needed to get out of the heat. It was a maze getting through the barricades and although our hotel was so close, we had to walk around the long way.
 
 
We eventually made it and were greeted with an eruption of applause from all of the hotel staff, which was completely awesome! They were handing us cold beers as well, but we declined and headed for our room. Hubs was sick to his stomach, but I got him into a cool shower and then into bed. By the time I had soaked in a cold bath, he was feeling better and able to eat and drink a bit.
 
It was amazing to log in to FB and find nearly 100 notifications from everyone who had been following along. I spent a good half an hour sitting in bed, drinking a fountain coke from the hotel bar (BEST THING EVER) and catching up on everyone’s messages. I could not possibly have been happier.
 
  Time Split Pace
5K 0:27:33 0:27:33 8:52/mi
10K 0:55:59 0:28:26 9:09/mi
15K 1:24:06 0:28:07 9:03/mi
20K 1:52:33 0:28:27 9:10/mi
Half 1:58:41 0:06:08 8:59/mi
25K 2:20:43 0:22:02 9:06/mi
30K 2:50:16 0:29:33 9:31/mi
35K 3:21:00 0:30:44 9:54/mi
40K 3:51:38 0:30:38 9:52/mi
Finish 4:03:49 0:12:11 8:56/mi

We did it! And I wouldn’t change one single thing.

Boston: Our next 3 days

We left off with a recap of our first 2 days in Boston. Moving forward…

Sunday

We had arranged to meet in the lobby for a run with the Newmarket gang Sunday morning. We headed out at 7am in order to beat the crowds, since the BAA 5K would be starting at 8. It was exciting to walk outside and see even more progress on the finish area. The flags were up!

We warmed up with a walk then took a leisurely run around Boston Common and the Public Garden, exploring some back streets on the way back when Boylston had started filling with runners.

After showering up, hubs and I went for breakfast at Panera and watched some of the 5K. Soon after, I heard from Bethany and she met me on Boylston. We went for a little stroll to watch the Invitational Mile, then Ryan joined us and we took a walk on Newbury street to get smoothies. It was so nice to meet them and spend a bit of time chatting about Boston, races, and life in general.

After Bethany dropped me off, hubs and I went and did a little more wandering and stopped for pizza slices from the grocery store. Then it was time to rally up the gang and walk to Fenway!

It was baseball mania and so different from what we are used to in terms of ball parks. The entire area was just hopping with Red Sox energy. We had seats in the bleachers and the view was just fine, but unfortunately we were sitting in full sun and it was sweltering. It was getting really uncomfortable and we didn’t have access to enough water, so hubs and I ended up calling it quits after 4 innings. I was glad that we had the opportunity to check it out, but just couldn’t handle another couple hours in the sun. The Sox did end up winning, though!

We arrived back at our room to find goodie bags from New Balance and The Lenox. It was such a nice surprise and just one of many special touches that made our stay special.

We cooled off and relaxed in the hotel room for a while and I got busy getting everything laid out for the next morning (!!!).

We had a dinner reservation at Papa Razzi that night, just around the corner from the hotel. The food and service were excellent and I enjoyed a hearty portion of pasta. A few of us indulged in a glass of wine again (just one!) and even a light dessert (sorbet). It was a short stroll back to the hotel and we turned in early to finish getting ready and tuck ourselves in before the big day.

One last peak at the weather… yep, it was still going to be HOT HOT HOT. Nonetheless, we were ready!

 

Marathon Monday

 

The good stuff is coming soon, I promise! 

After the race… our group had reservations for a celebratory dinner at Ye Olde Union Oyster House, which was kind of funny since I don’t eat seafood.  They had a couple of other options and a decent wine list, so it was all good. The “best” part was that we were seated on the third floor! Oof. Check out our matching sunburns:

We had a really good time celebrating with the gang and sharing stories from our day. After dinner, the “grown-ups” grabbed a spot in our hotel pub while the “kids” went for a walk looking for ice cream. Perfect way to end the day.

 

Tuesday

The intention was to sleep-in, but of course I was wide awake and restless by 6:30AM. We got busy packing up before meeting everyone for a late breakfast. It was great seeing the sea of orange jackets (and other accessories) all over the place. Marathoners were pretty recognizable by our hobble as well. :)

We hopped on the “T” and headed to Haymarket to explore a bit of Quincy Market. It was yet another clear, hot and sunny day. At least we didn’t have to run anymore!

There may have been more ice cream…

We had to boogie back to the hotel to check out and the rest of our hang was headed to the airport. Hubs and I were flying out later so we were able to store our bags with the concierge and head out for a bit more sight-seeing.

We decided to visit the waterfront/aquarium area, and stumbled upon Little Italy while we were there. A friend had told me about Mike’s Pastry and we ended up finding it completely by accident. I felt like I was in an episode of Cake Boss in there, with traditional Italian Mamas behind the counter and people shouting out orders all over the place. It was the best cannoli ever!

 We had an indulgent lunch at The Cheesecake Factory (hubs’ pick) before icking up our bags at the hotel and catching a lift to the airport. I couldn’t believe it was all over.

 

So long, Boston! We’ll be back…

Boston: Our first 2 days

Thank you so much for all of the comments, emails, messages, tweets, etc. over the last several days. Sharing this experience and knowing so many of you were watching from near and far made it even better. My race report is coming soon, but for now here is a run-down of the first part of our memorable weekend in Boston.

Friday

It all started Friday night when my Mom dropped us off at the airport. I was giddy with anxiety and excitement, and luckily everything went smoothly. I had fun spotting Boston jackets at both airports from previous years and scoping out other tell-tale signs that passengers were on their way to the race.

We were staying at a Best Western in South Boston for our first night. It was late, but we were starving so we went for a walk to try and find something decent to eat. We quickly learned that it wasn’t in the nicest area so we didn’t stray too far from the hotel and ended up grabbing ”dinner” from the gas station.

It was a late night (about midnight by the time we turned in) and the alarm was set early so we could be at the Expo by the time it opened.

Saturday

We bought “T” passes so we could get around on the subway lines, and it was a pretty easy trip out to the Expo at the Seaport World trade Center.

This is when it really started to feel real. We decided to scope out the merchandise first, while the rest of the crowd filed into packet pick-up. The sea of orange was amazing. I honestly wanted one of everything, but settled on the jacket (duh!), hoodie, tank top and a tee shirt. I teared up a bit trying on the jacket. Is that bad luck to try it on? I wasn’t sure but I am not superstitious anyway. I certainly wasn’t going to wear it out in public like many others were. (What’s up with that?? Lots of people were even wearing their official race shirts before the big day.)

After buying our goods, we headed over to pick up our packets. There weren’t any lines and they really made the process easy.

It’s official!

We decided not to stick around since we would be returning later with the rest of our group arriving that day. Instead, we hauled our loot back to the Best Western to get re-organized and head to our hotel for the next 3 nights, The Lenox.

We checked out and we were able to catch a complimentary shuttle to Back Bay Station, which was a short walk to The Lenox. It blew my mind when I saw just how close we were to the finish line. This was the view right from the entrance to the hotel:

The Lenox was all decked out for the marathon from the key cards to the elevator doors, and it was a thrill to find ourselves right in the middle of the action.

The energy at the hotel and all over downtown was just incredible. The place was crawling with runners and there was immediate camaraderie among all of us. The staff were nothing but supportive and made us feel like complete rock stars.

First things first, our jackets were hung in the closet ready to be worn on Monday:

Next stop was the finish line to check it out live and in person.

We stopped for lunch at ‘B Good’ for delicious veggie burgers, then went for a walk around Boston Common and explored more of the downtown area.

It was such a nice day that I couldn’t say no to the ice cream truck!

We made it back to the hotel with for a bit of down time before the rest of our gang arrived. I got super pumped all over again when we met up in the lobby and got to start sharing the excitement.

We all headed back to the Expo and stayed a bit longer this time to check things out, but it was extremely busy and we didn’t last too long.

We got to meet Kathrine Switzer and she told us that she’s coming to Toronto for our marathon in a few weeks.

We were all pretty pooped and ready to head back to the hotel after scoping out a few booths. We had a little bit of down time and then got ready for dinner at The Lenox City Table. Great meal and we even had some wine (just one glass for me).

After dinner, we hit the sack and I slept like a rock. Lenox beds & pillows are ridiculously comfortable. Ahhhh………

On that note, are we the only married couple that gets excited to sleep in separate beds at hotels? STARFISH!

This is getting long and picture-heavy, so I’ll save our next 2 days for a separate post. Thanks for reading!

Sadly, it’s back to reality…