Saturday, April 23, 2016

No They Were Not New Shoes (aka Rotterdam Marathon)

I am currently on my Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver (or I was when I wrote this 1.5 weeks ago), somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. Right about here, apparently. 

I figured it would be a good time to jot down my thoughts about the race as the 2 days post-race were spent venturing around Amsterdam with fellow Canadian Leslie Sexton.  

Race day, oh where to start. I last left off on Saturday evening, where Leslie and I pretty much laid around the hotel most of the day. The race organizers were nice enough to agree to put me into the hotel along with Leslie from Thursday until Sunday. Leslie (2:33) was fast enough to meet their criteria; however, my 2:39 was not. We had meals included which made things a little less stressful. Meals took place in the restaurant downstairs via buffet. Breakfast had tons of options. Oh man I would be in trouble if all that was offered to me daily. Croissants and chocolate filled croissants at that. Even Nutella muffins. 

Of course they had their usual eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, toast, sausages, yogurt, oatmeal etc. Lunch and Supper were quite similar. Pasta plus chicken or fish. I ate WAY too much pasta by the time the race started, but that was the point right? Carb loading? Sometimes I think you can eat too many carbs. Sunday post-race I was simply hoping they would NOT serve pasta (oh but they did plus a few other options).  

We went to bed at around 10 (I think) the night before the race. I did my usual routine for pre-race, which meant lay awake for an hour and get up to the washroom 3 times in that hour. Then go to sleep for an hour, wake up and go to the bathroom. Sleep for maybe 90 minutes, bathroom, sleep, bathroom, sleep, wake up in sweat, bathroom, sleep. When Leslie’s alarm went off at 5:45am I did not want to actually get up.

Leslie went down to breakfast whereas I had brought my own Stoked Oats from home to eat. Race morning I was not going to play any games with other foods and was going to eat what I was used to. Plus it meant I got to hang around in bed. After eating and checking social media (so many updates while I am asleep and North America is awake) and then I started to feel tired. Uh oh. I still had time so I closed my eyes for a bit but I did not actually sleep.  

Closer to 8:30 I had a quick shower to wake me up and got ready for the race. At 9am, we headed to the elite room where everyone was supposed to gather before we headed down to the start. The room was packed with fast Kenyans and Ethiopians among other counties. Eventually around 9:20 we were taken down to the start in a big group. We were roped off on either side and everyone outside was pretty much staring at us.  

Once we arrived to the start we were given a 200m stretch at the start line to do our warm up. Back and forth around and around. Most people followed the circle of up the right side, down the left side, but we still had to dodge a few people. Next thing we knew our warm ups were off I took a deep breath and said “here goes nothing” and lined up on the start line.  

Now let me tell you, the start at Rotterdam was the WORST start I have experienced thus far. Houston was crowded to, but I have never been pushed and shoved so many times in a start and even before the gun went. I don’t know if anyone fell but it wouldn’t surprise me because it was a rough go. Thankfully both Leslie and I managed to stay on our feet. 
Clearly unimpressed with the start. This I call, my Running Bitch Face ;)
We both had different race plans. She was lucky enough to have the chance to join with the 2:31:50 pacer who was here to pace F7. The next pacer lined up was 2:39 and well, I have been there and done that. There were of course faster pacers, I think they had 2:22, 2:26 and 2:27 also setup but for obvious reasons, I didn’t go with those either.  

I went out and kept an eye on my watch, which is actually rare for me. Quite often I race and don’t look at my watch. In Victoria I only peered at it a few times but then again I did have my coach Matt Clout out on course. If only I had clued into the fact he was telling me my overall race pace and not just the pace at that exact moment.  

I guess now would be a good time to mention my goal since I am going to talk about overall pace anyways. I wanted to hold 3:40’s. All my training had been geared towards 3:40’s and everything indicated 3:40 was the way to go. A few of the first 5km were slightly fast, but nothing outrageous. A few 3:37-3:39’s. We were only 2km and had gone up and over the Erasumaus Bridge when I thought “wow I am already warm. This is going to be a warm day.” 

I was feeling strong through 5km which was slightly fast, but again, nothing outrageous. I decided to pull back slightly and go back to the 3:40’s to be safe. By 10km I had dudes drafting off me. Actually it probably started around 5km. There I was, a girl leading the group and dudes running RIGHT behind me. I’d venture to one side of the trail, dude would follow. Okay let’s test this, I decided, so I ventured to the other side, dude followed. Ugh. Annoying.  

Around 10km I remember thinking that my legs really weren’t feeling as great as I had hoped, but I told myself that at 11km in Victoria, I thought the same thing, so I kept trucking along. At 12km, I came upon Leslie bent over leaning against a rail on the side of the course. I told her to hang in there (or something along the lines) and kept going.  

15km……. oh 15km. This is where the fun starts. As everyone knows, a marathon is 42.2km or 26.2 miles for those Americans reading (sorry US friends, all km talk here today). Well by 15km I began to notice blisters forming on the balls of both of my feet. 15 whole km into the race and it all began to go downhill. What started as a slight annoyance ended up becoming a burning sensation with each and every step. That burning sensation turned into a tearing feeling each time I took even the slightest corner or had the slightest of uneven ground. Essentially, they were tons of fun. 

PC: John Janse
Around 18 or 19km I started to get annoyed with dude behind me. Still drafting. Honestly I don’t know if it was the same guy the entire time of if a new dude drafted, but I turned around slightly and said a few words which included “you could help” and “are you kidding me.” No response, no offer to help. Then again who knows if said dude could even speak English. I got angry eventually and didn’t act very Canadian like. That’s all I am going to say about that. At the half way marker it appears the guy stopped because all of a sudden I felt free.  

The second half of the race was a struggle. My feet hurt. Each km they began to hurt more. Not to mention time seem to be ticking by so slowly. At 17km I thought I was over 20, but apparently not. My feet hurt, a lot, but I told myself that I didn’t come all the way to Rotterdam to DNF and I was going to run until my feet no longer let me.

At 25k I came up to the elite tables to find my bottle already gone. Matt had already warned me of this, so I attempted to grab someone elses (sorry) and I actually dropped the bottle and heard it fall to the ground. No problem, I veered off to the left and grabbed a cup of water. I still had a gel in my hand from the 20km station so I wasn’t worried but a dude came running up from behind to hand me the bottle that I had dropped. I think it said “Pacer” on it so not big deal. Whatever was in it was manageable and I took a few sips before tossing it. 

Approx 26k
Up next the 30km aid station, I look ahead to the table… yep gone again. I think I may have sworn and said “wtf again?” and then grabbed someone’s little bottle. (Can I just interrupt and say that dude in front of me just put his seat back and now I am practically typing in my lap. This plane has decent room but once someone puts their seat back, it turns into zero room. My shoulders are hunched trying to type this. Thanks buddy). 

Side note: Crammed into my seat for this blog

Anyways, the bottle I grabbed at 30km, one sip and I uttered “yuck what the heck is this” and threw it on the ground. I then veered over and grabbed a regular water cup, which might I add was a pretty dramatic grab. The first cup I missed and dropped it (sorry volunteer). The second cup I grabbed but didn’t quite get a hold of it, so it bounced up in the air and I caught it on the 2nd go. By the sounds of it the volunteers were impressed by that recovery.  

After 25km each corner I turned, the pain was evident on my face as it crinkled up into an “omg this hurts” face. But I pushed through. Each km I told myself it was only so many more. Between 25 and 30km we go near the start/finish area, my feet were definitely telling me to stop. My mind was telling my feet to shut up and just deal with it.

My bottles were back at the 35km and 40km tables though I didn’t really want or need the 40km one. I did take it anyway though. I won’t lie, my pace slowed considerably in the last 10-15km. With each burning step, my strides were slowing down. I was curling my toes and altering my stride trying to take the pressure off the hot spots but nothing was working. It was frustrating to have my breathing completely fine and my legs feeling decent but not being able to pick up the pace. 

1k left
Finally at 41km I decided to do what I could. I picked up the pace as the clock had just clicked over 2:34. Even though my goal was not within reach, I could still PB. My feet were not going to stop me now. I tracked down a few guys who actually stopped to walk or stretch and cruised in finally back under my 3:40 pace for the last km to cross at 2:37:50 gun (2:37:48 chip). One of the elite crew met me at the finish and asked how I was. Pretty sure my first words were “I need to take my shoes off, I have major blisters” or something like that. She helped walk me to the elite tent as I walked on the heels and outer edges of my feet to take the pressure off.


At that point I didn’t know my place or really official time. I didn’t even spent much time at the finish. I simply sat for a bit, put my warm ups back on and then asked for an escort back to the hotel. Thankfully my legs were okay because they make you go down the stairs to the subway and then back up the other side.  

I got back to the room expecting Leslie to be there, but she was not yet (she came in shortly after). I then took off my shoes to examine the damage. The blisters were not full of fluid anymore. As I thought, the tearing on the corners probably popped them. I then hit social media where I found out my gun time via an e-mail from my mom plus a few others who had gotten up super early (or stayed up super late) to track me (Thanks Matt, #RyanSnaps, JLC, Kris and mom). A few e-mails exchanged with coach Matt and then I wrapped a towel around me and climbed into bed temporarily (don’t judge me, I was cold and didn’t want to get off the bed). 

 Post race
Eventually I showered and got some food, which included the candy I had bought pre-race. Leslie unfortunately didn’t have the legs and was unable to finish the race. While I have never DNF’d and cannot speak of the emotional roller coaster that goes along with it, I do know the disappointment of a failed race so I did my best to support her as needed with also trying to not to push her into talking about it.  

In bed without a shower

The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging around the hotel, social media, Netflix and the post-race supper where they offered pasta along with fries and fish plus a few other things. Apparently people were hungry because each time I went up to the buffet there wasn’t much left. Oh and one weird thing, the buffet in the restaurant had regular sized plates. The special dinner up in the banquet hall the night before the race and post-race had plates half the size. What was up with that? You had to go re-fill multiple times. 

Post Race Goodies

So my thoughts on the race. My body felt good. I felt healthier and fitter going into Rotterdam than I did into Victoria. I once again never got to experience the dreaded wall. I felt relaxed up until the end, other than the searing pain in my feet. I feel like sub 2:35 was there had I not had the foot issues. I had a first aid guy look at my feet after to ensure they wouldn’t get infected. He said “well there’s your 3 minutes right there, I can’t believe you ran 27km on these.” Yeah well me neither buddy. All I can say is I am super stubborn (shocker).  

I left Rotterdam unsatisfied. Yes I ran a PB of nearly 90 seconds, but it was less than what I was capable of. I am fitter than that. I am happy I still came away with a PB but it is not what I came to Rotterdam for. I am hungry. I want another crack at it. I want another marathon. Boy this whole marathon thing is addicting eh? I now have to decide when and where I will make my next attempt.  

As for the blisters, this is not the first time I have had this issue. No I was not wearing new shoes (you don't know how many times I have been asked this). In Victoria I ended up with one blister on the ball of my left foot. At the Houston Half I wore the same shoes and socks and had double blisters. At the Vancouver Half I wore the same socks but a newer model shoe (I think) and no blisters, but then again it was POURING with rain. And now Rotterdam, the biggest blister I have ever had on my right foot though this time I wore thinner compression socks. 

Whatever the cause, I need to figure out the issue before my next marathon as I NEVER want to run 27+km on feet like that again. If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to comment. I have been told swiftwick socks. I have been told trying tape, liquid spray on bandage or possibly baby powder. There is a solution out there for me, I just have to find it.  

In the meantime, my feet will heal as I think forward to the future and what it may hold for me. I will achieve my goals and no one and nothing will stop me. The future is mine. 

Ready to fly Home

PS. Thank you to everyone who helped me get to Rotterdam, including VIRA, Bastion Running Club and my to remain anonymous donor (we both know who you are). 

HUGE thanks to coach Matt and my partner at West Coast Endurance. We've been a team since late 2008 and I owe a lot to him! 

Also thanks to my friends and family for putting up with me during training and for your constant support. 

Thanks to Dr. Abe Avender at Island Optimal Health and Performance for his weekly treatments and keeping me on the road both mind and body. 

Thanks to my other sponsors aside from Island Optimal, including Asics Canada, Sundog Eyewear, Stoked Oats, Nuun Hydration and CEP Compression. Your continued support means a lot!

Thanks to my co-workers for covering my shits and Jason for looking after things back home. 

Myself with John Durkin from Bastion Running Club 
For those who really want to see my feet... scroll down. First some SnapChat photos cause they are always fun.

 Do you have SnapChat? Feel free to add me

 Now the feet down there

 Immediately post race

1 comment:

Superzoom said...

Thanks for another great blog post. I read your entire blog the other day and loved seeing your steady progression over the years to your current amazing fitness. You are a poster child for consistent hard work leading to results.

As a general comment, It seems very few elite runners in Canada bother to maintain a blog as regularly and as well as you do, which is a real shame. People like me do read them, and are inspired by them. We are fans, and we tend to lurk and not comment. So even if you feel like you are writing in some weird readerless void, know that there are enthusiastic people reading all your posts. I'm especially surprised that elite runners, who are sponsored, don't do as good a job as you at blogging regularly. I would have thought that part of their job is to promote themselves, thereby promoting their brand.

I think the simple reason you are getting blisters is that your shoes don't fit. You have a shoe sponsor, so that makes your choices a little more complicated. But a shoe that fits you like a glove shouldn't give you blisters, no matter what socks you wear with them.