Thursday, October 15, 2015

Did That Really Just Happen? (aka 2015 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon)

On Sunday I ran (and won) my debut marathon at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon weekend and since then it has been a whirlwind few days. I have caught a bit of slack for only posting "So this happened today. That was kind of cool" along with a photo of the finish on my Facebook. Some seem to think I downplayed it too much. To be honest, it's simply what came to mind at the time I posted the picture. I have also caught slack in the past for being "too cocky" when posting results so it's not like I wanted to post something like "Eff yeah I won my debut marathon". I guess I have to find the middle ground somehow or I will just continue to post what I want and to heck with opinions! ;)

I came back from Flagstaff, Arizona feeling fit and ready. I love the feeling of coming back down to sea level. Every run feels effortless. It's amazing how easy it is to run up a hill at sea level and not feel as though you are dying. New Flagstaff resident Craig Lutz from Northern Arizona Elite actually blogged on his experience of coming to altitude. It's called "Tell me how I'm Supposed to Breathe with No Air" and it's a good read, you can check it out here. In short form, he basically sums up my thoughts in this one paragraph. 

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” – Amit Ray

"Amit Ray could very well be the father of breathing and relaxation. His “Om Meditation” and yoga technique would be impossible without breathing and the ability to allow calmness to settle over your body and soul. He spent the time between 2004 to 2010 living at 4500 feet and probably meditating higher in the surrounding landscape. Amit Ray knows his breathing but where I think I differ from him is that I know the importance of breathing while hitting an incline at 7000 feet and wanting to quit running all together."

So the first week back I was flying and then into the final week of the taper things changed. My body still felt okay and runs were certainly still easy, I didn't feel quite as smooth. Panick started to set in with thoughts that maybe I had returned from altitude too soon. In previous visits I returned to sea level to race within 3 days whereas this time it would be more like 12 days. At the same time, I knew that I came home earlier in order to get in a few final workouts at sea level in order to get a feel for my marathon race pace as paces are altered to be slightly slower at altitude.

The final workout was on Tuesday, which was a very short session at marathon pace where I practiced for the first time, picking up my water bottles. I chose a short loop (only took me approx 3 min to do the loop) and took over 2 newspaper boxes at the end of people's driveways. Around and around I went for the workout, snagging a bottle each time. Probably should have practiced this more, but at least I had plenty of practice taking in fluids already via carrying a small handheld water bottle during most runs.

In the days leading up to the marathon I was still slightly panicked. The legs didn't feel as fresh as I wanted them to and my coach plus many friends kept me sane. My throat started to bother me and I was worried I was coming down with something. Not to mention I swear something was up because I tried to injure myself 3 different times. I burned my arm right near my watch strap so it kept getting torn open and I feared an infection. I dropped something on the top of my foot which left a bruise and I walked into the door at work smashing my right hip. Thankfully, none of those events turned into anything major. They were definitely wake up calls to be careful though.

Saturday morning I headed out early for my shakeout run and wasn't pleased with out it felt. Again I was assured by friends that it was just the taper and all would be good by the next day. I left Nanaimo shortly before 11:30am as it started to downpour. A brief stop in Ladysmith for gas (102.9 vs Nanaimo's 112.9) and it was still pouring. The roads were in horrendous conditions. Thankfully it was daylight so I was able to see where the water was pooling to avoid hydroplaning. After Chemainus it cleared up enough. Another brief stop in Duncan to buy some straws for my water bottles and then I continued on to Victoria.

Downtown was terrible traffic. I am from Nanaimo, I hate traffic. I am not used to traffic. Put me in rush hour type traffic and I become less than happy. Finally I made it to the race hotel checked in and just as I got to my room and looked outside at the view it started to downpour. Oops I guess I brought the rain with me. 

Soaked after package pickup

That night was filled with picking up my race number, getting my bottles ready, driving the course with my coach and his fiance and going to dinner with Anne-Marie and Kim (John and Drew joined us later). After that it was back to the hotel, a bit of social media and then trying to sleep which went as normal (waking up multiple times). 

Morning came and my roommate Lindsay was up at 5:30am as she was racing at 7:15am in the 8km (my race was at 8:45). I took my time waking up and then ate some breakfast and slowly got ready. As I got dressed and got my bottles ready to drop off I began to feel my heart rate get faster and faster. Panic mode was setting in. The nerves were running crazy and I was doing the best I could to stay calm. Thankfully I had some nice text messages from friends to keep me going.

I dropped off the bottles at about 7:50am and came back to the hotel for final prep before heading down to the start line around the corner. A quick 10 minute jog warm up and a few drills before getting on the line. Definitely felt weird to wait until 30 minutes prior to the race to do any type of warm up. And certainly was even weirder doing no strides before the start. My competitors and friends (Catrin, Shauna and new friend Kat) were very encouraging before the start as I was pretty nervous. 

Trying to stay calm on the start (pc Craig Odermatt)

Before I knew it we were on the start and off we went. The race went off and I positioned myself not far from #1 ranked (and previous champion) Lioudmila and with a pack of guys. I ran this way for about the first 5km and then Lioudmila started to pull away. I decided to stick with my pace and run my own race so I let her go. Slowly I watched her pull away. 

Early in the Race (pc: Jason Calvin)

Key points I remember about the race are approximately 11km I remember thinking "I am not feeling that comfortable considering it's only 11km. There is still a long way to go." Looking back at my splits I had dropped a few fast ones around 8 and 10, so that could explain it. The men slowly started to fall off and just before half way I found myself running alone with no one in my immediate sight ahead. Well I shouldn't say that, I had early marathoners out on the course and they were great support. 

Approx 6km in (pc: Paul Little)
 7km I think (pc: Dan Hedekaer)

I hit half way and didn't even look at my watch. I concentrated on hitting the turnaround which was around just over 23km. Then I focused on hitting 28km then 32km etc. I had a ton of support out there, not only from my coach popping up all over the place thanks to Sarah's spectacular driving skills, but from spectators and early start marathoners.

Somewhere on the way back I had people start telling me that I was 90 seconds back of Lioudmila and that she looked like she was hurting. I kept plodding along. Soon that 90 seconds became 1 minute and that turned into 45 seconds then 30 and somewhere along the way she popped into my view again. I kept being told how much stronger I looked, how much more comfortable I looked and how much smoother I looked. I figured if I had closed the gap so significantly in only 5km that I just had to keep going a few seconds faster than her per km and I would catch her eventually.

I think around 30km I missed my bottle because someone placed it on the far side of the table making it unreachable but I wasn't worried. I felt like I had fueled pretty good so far, had a spare gel with me anyway and I still felt pretty good. In the back of my mind though people said that somewhere between 30 and 35 this wall would hit.

Finally we came back onto the half marathon course and I became familar with the area. I only had 12km to go. I came to the next aid station at 36km and saw again that my bottle was on the far side. This time I deaked around the table to grab it, only to notice that I had a bottle on each side of the table. I guess a volunteer picked up my initally discarded 10km bottle and put it back on the table, so I actually grabbed the 10km bottle again. Thankfully it still had plenty of fluid in it.

Up the hill on Dallas Road towards 37km, coach Matt was giving me updates and yelling at me like he was throughout various points of the race. At this point he yelled my name and Lioudmila at that point turned around to find me only 20m or so behind her. She instantly picked up the pace and I proceeded to curse my coach in my head for yelling my name. I think I even said something to another runner that I caught and passed. Lioudmila put a bit of distance on me (40m or so) and I kept going trying to keep her within striking distance.

With probably 2.5km to go, my left hip suddenly out of nowhere became unhappy and I had a deep ache that altered my stride and made me limp and favour that leg a bit. I remember Darren yelling at me on the sidelines that I could catch Lioudmila and I remember yelling back "Darren my hip is gone." Thankfully after a brief period it came back. It went again slightly but again came back good enough to regain my stride. I kept pushing on. 

Fronrunners Vic caught my bad hip/glute (pc: Erhard Laslo)

We came to the final km and I had closed the gap a bit, but at this moment in time I still thought I was going to be 2nd. In my head I kept saying "I can't believe you are going to come within 20 seconds of winning, after all this way." At the time I did not think I would catch Lioudmila. Matt yelled at me around that 1km marker and I just couldn't take it anymore. I knew he was trying to encourage me but at that moment in time, I wanted him out of my ear so I yelled at him and with some swear words thrown in I basically told him to shut up (sorry). 

The gap coming into the final homestretch (pc Craig O)
The pass (pc: Ross Palfrey)
(pc: Jason C)
Onto the final stretch which I think is about the final 500m or so, I realized I was again gaining on Lioudmila and it was at this point that I realized my legs were not weak, I was not dead tired and that I had more in me. I began a sprint and I was gaining ground fast. With 300m to go I passed Lioudmila like she was standing still. I looked briefly behind me to see whether she made any attempt to go with me and saw instantly that she did not but I didn't let up. I kept kicking and it was at that moment that I saw my overall time for the first time as it clicked over 2:39:00. 

 Some final stretch pictures 
(pc: Ross P)

I crossed the line, threw my arms up and put on the best smile I could manage as I thought "I actually did it." After the race, it was insane. Cameras in my face, interview after interview. Finally I found my coach on the sidelines and the first thing I said was I am sorry for yelling at you. Hugs all around from coach and fantastic driver Sarah and congrats from so many people. It literally blew me away. 

I did it! Pure relief!
(pc: Paul L)
(pc: Sarah Redding)

By the time I got back to my phone at the hotel, social media had blown up my phone. Texts, missed calls from family with voicemail's, tweets, Facebook, etc. It was nuts. I responded to immediate texts and a few Facebook messages and left the rest for later as awards and food took precedent and then a lovely drive got me home around 7pm. 

Post race craziness (pc: Frontrunners Nanaimo)

I am not going to get into details on my fueling during the race and I honestly cannot remember a lot of the race. People might wonder why I chose Victoria. Well simply put because it was somewhat local, I knew the weather and it was the same time zone. While it is a rolling course and considered much slower than other events going on around the same time, we chose Victoria to reduce pressure on time. We wanted a positive experience for my first marathon and I believe I got that. I finished still feeling good, with a sprint finish, never hitting the famous "wall" unless the little hip blip counts in which case it wasn't a wall but a curb. I know all marathons don't feel that way, but to have your coach say after that you looked like you could have done a post race workout and to have people comment on how well you are walking/moving, it's a good sign. Though it might also be a good sign that I didn't leave it all out there on the course. That would be why I cannot wait to do it all over again! 

AG Awards- Myself, Shauna Gersbach and Kat Ahokas (pc: Lowell Greib)
BC Marathon Champ awards- Myself, Catrin Jones and Shauna

Now I know this post has become lengthy, but please stick with me while I say a few quick thank yous.

First off, a HUGE thank you to my coach Matt Clout (West Coast Endurance). Matt started working with me in late 2008 and has basically taken me from a 1:45:00 half marathoner to this. I owe him a lot for my success. I may hate him during some workouts or even during some races, but in the end I love him and owe him big time. So thank you Matt for sticking with me over the years and for believing in me. I cannot wait to see what we can do in the future. As Sarah says, we make a good team. Special thanks to Sarah for driving the course, for a great finish photo and for supporting both Matt and I in this adventure. 

Coach and I post race (pc: Craig O)

Next up, has to go to my family. Unfortunately while other commitments kept family from being at the finish line, I had calls and voicemail's waiting when I arrived back to my phone after they followed along with the finish line stream. They put up with my crazy training schedule and even if they don't fully understand, they try to. I always know they have my back and I can't wait to have my nieces at the finish lines once they understand what is going on!

Thanks needs to go out to my friends. Many of you kept me feeling positive and motivated towards this marathon and for all the marathon tips and tricks. From Catherine, Lanni, Natasha, Dayna and Josh to Jason, Craig and Kris D. All your messages whether text or Facebook were greatly appreciated. Special shout outs to Trevor for always being supportive in a huge way, to Adam for keeping me calm race morning.

To my coworkers, thank you for taking my shifts recently so that I could take some time off to get in my training while in Flagstaff and to my work for always giving me my time off (even if unpaid).

Thanks to my therapists, from my main go to man (aka chiro) Dr. Abe Avender at Island Optimal who always fits me in when needed and gives stellar treatments to Greg Howe who I strength trained with earlier this year though the Island Optimal gym. Thank you Abe for always listening, motivating me and for keeping my body in check as best as possible as I continue to reverse every single treatment you give me within hours. Thank you Greg for giving me some newfound strength. I also have Yvonne Visser who I rely on for massage. Those treatments are a lifesaver sometimes.

A special shout out to Dr. AJ Gregg (Hypo2) who is my go to when away from home man (aka chiro) down in Flagstaff. You really saved my butt last month and through minimal treatments I saw relief in my niggles. Thank you for taking the time to not only fix me but to give me some rehab to help in the future. You helped get me to both the start line and finish line.

Also thank you to everyone out there who supports me from near and far, whether in person or via social media. I felt HUGE support out there before the race, while on course and certainly after. To everyone who cheered while racing themselves or after their race, thank you. I heard a lot of you out on course. Thanks Kris S, Dan, Alexis, Paul, Darren out on course. Plus many others who I can't seem to recall right at this time. To the Nanaimo people cheering at the finish including those who took photos (Ross has an awesome photo stream of my finish) and all the people I don't even know cheering, THANK YOU! Your support means the world to me and you have made me feel like a celebrity this week! 

Love this picture because it shows some of Team Nanaimo in the background! (pc Ross P)

Lastly, I saved these guys for my final thank yous. Thank you to my sponsors that have either stuck by me through injury or have recently joined on. Asics Canada thank you for the shoes and apparel. Sundog Eyewear I couldn't live without you! Thanks for protecting my eyes and making me look cool. CEP Canada, thanks for keeping my legs feeling fantastic. Nuun Hydration, thank you for supporting me in my addiction towards you. Island Optimal, thank you for everything you do for me from strength to treatment and for always believing. 

**If any other business wants to join in on assisting me with my dreams, please see my website

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wow, just Wow!

So yesterday this happened. You will have to stay tuned for the race report as I work in an hour but I will get started on that report as soon as I can. 

Pure relief and "I did it" going on right now!

In the meantime, here are some media articles posted so far. 

Times Colonist

Canadian Running

BC Athletics

Chek News




Monday, October 5, 2015

Flagstaff Recap and Marathon Annoucement

Upon racing the Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon on September 6th, I headed off bright and early the next morning for Flagstaff. This marked my 4th trip to altitude (August 2012, September 2013 and April 2014). I was a bit leery heading to Flagstaff this time around and even whined to coach Matt that I didn’t want to go. Reason being was because my body was hurting me and I was a tad worried that I was on the borderline of another injury.

Kelowna Finish

See you later Kelowna

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I had some x-rays taken on the Thursday prior to the race and hadn’t heard back by close of office hours on Friday. With Monday being a holiday I also never heard that day, so I made sure to send an e-mail to my doctors office on the Tuesday asking for results. They responded back promptly with a scan of the results stating that there was no issue. That was good news, but I also knew deep down that my body still hurt and that x-rays don’t always catch stress fractures.
I spy the Rockies
Hello T-Hof
In Calgary. My plan certainly was not as cool as the Disney plane.
I arrived in Flagstaff after having a bit of drama with the car rental, though thankfully I had pre-booked with 2 companies and neither requested credit card details so when I didn’t like the hidden fees with the first one I went on to the 2nd one. This delayed my arrival slightly, so when I arrived I had a quick tour of the house from Jonny and then went off on a shakeout run before hitting the grocery store for some solid food. Let me tell you, airport food was lacking on this trip. Calgary didn’t have much once you went through security (I flew Kelowna – Calgary – Phoenix).
Oh Flagstaff how I missed you

Ooh that first shakeout hurt. Well technically the lungs weren't too bad, but the legs were a different story. Actually the first few days hurt. My quads had taken a pounding from the downhills on the course. Good thing the house had stairs in it. I might have had to walk down them sideways on the odd occasion.
Duck Pond

A few days after being there I decided to go see my chiro away from home, aka Dr. AJ Gregg and hoped that he could sort out what was going on with my hips and why I was feeling familiar pains from when I had a stress fracture a year ago. AJ was fairly sure that it wasn’t a fracture and that if it was, it was very slight. He offered to get me some imaging but I decided to hold off and see what happened.
Many runs in the first few days resulted in feeling like this

Thankfully the runs turned into more like this

In the meantime he found some pretty good tightness in my left hip and went hard at loosening it. Let me tell you, I have seen AJ the last 3 trips I have been to Flagstaff and he is the only therapist I have seen that has made me want to punch them. Is that a good thing you may ask? Well he brings on good pain. It hurts like a beotch at the time and certainly takes my breath away and leaves me practically shaking, but in the end, it pays off. Boy that hip was tender for a few days though.
Eating dirt on Woody Mnt Rd

As the days ticked by running got easier and the body got better. It was funny how I went from telling Matt I didn’t know how I was going to go from a 75 minute run to a 2 hour 30 minute run as I couldn’t imagine doubling my time running, but that 35km run was when I suddenly hit my groove and felt great. Slowly most of the aches and pains disappeared (for the most part) and I was able to hit my biggest mileage week in a long time.
In my Happy Place

For most of the initial 2 weeks I concentrated on running and recovery and spent a lot of time with my feet up watching Netflix. Then Lanni Marchant came into town and I was able to hook her up with staying at the same house as me. This made it much easier to connect for runs and I was able to show her a few trails nearby the house so that she had a bit of an idea of where to run after I left.
Bagel Run Canadian Take Over (Adam, Dylan, myself, Lanni, Brendan, Rob)

Lanni and I

Also during my last week I connected with some Canadian boys from out east, including Adam Hortian, Brendan Hancock and Rob Brouillette. They even convinced me to enter a dark underground cave, which might I say was quite the experience. We might have been slightly under prepared, dressed in shorts and having 3 sources of lights from cell phones and tablets but we all survived.
Lava Cave Adventures
The Entrance

The last week was certainly filled with more fun which is normal when I go to Flagstaff. Generally I always spend the first few weeks concentrating on running. Then I do a bit of exploring near the end. As usual I didn’t want to leave Flagstaff. There is a reason I always call it my second home. It is somewhere that I could see myself living. The running community there is just unreal. Now now Nanaimoites, don’t get upset, I know there is a good running community here in town too but sometimes I just don’t feel as though I quite fit in.
Climbing rocks in Sedona with Rob and Brendan (missed you Adam)

As high as I got. The boys went slightly higher as they are crazy.
Brendan, myself and Rob
Needed an updated Sedona shot
Moon when leaving the Sedona Track

Made some other friends while in Flagstaff

And watched some sunsets from the Snowbowl

Or from closer to home

Funny though how I initially didn’t want to go to Flagstaff and wanted to hang around and run my usual routes and then in the end I didn’t want to leave Flagstaff. Don’t get me wrong, the west coast and Vancouver Island is beautiful and I love seeing all the fall colours here, but I miss the endless amounts of dirt roads and trails of Arizona. We have trails here but it’s just not the same. Funny me saying that considering I am 100% not a trail runner.
Track Work

So here we have it, I am back to my reality (aka island life and work) and all the major marathon training is done. Where does that take me now? I suppose some of you may wish to know which marathon I am actually debuting at. Certain people have been in the know for a while now, but I have avoided making it public. Why you might ask? Well for one I had tons of niggles going on and I wasn’t even sure I was going to make the start line. I did not want to announce my marathon debut and then pull out of the event. A good part of racing the marathon is simply getting through the training and getting on that start line. I now feel confident that I will be on that start line to give it the best shot I can.
Traveling Home in Style
Back at Sea Level (my Island Home)

I suppose you still want to know what marathon start line I will be standing on eh?
I am excited to announce that I will be on the start line for the 2015 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon this coming Sunday on October 11th. See you on the line and hopefully at the finish!
Till we meet again Flagstaff