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

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Flagstaff > Nanaimo > Rotterdam

Where in the world am I? This last month has been a whirlwind of experiences and I wouldn't change it for the world. Last I checked in I was midway through my Altitude Stint in Flagstaff Arizona. Normally I am there alone (since my coach hasn't been able to join me for the last 2 years) so it was a nice change to be there at the same time as fellow Canadian Lanni Marchant (everyone knows who she is). Thankfully I had her there for the first 3 weeks of my trip, with the last week being solo.

It was quite the change to go from always running solo back home to having a daily run buddy but it was such a good change that it was then weird to go back to solo. Amy Van Alstine was very kind in offering me to join in with NAZ elite; however, none of our easy days seemed to match up. While in Flagstaff I was able to catch the Bagel Run each of the 4 weeks which was always fun. If you catch yourself in town on Thursday mornings, head to Biff's Bagels downtown at 8am.

Shortly after my last blog I had my longest/hardest workout of the marathon build. I arrived back to the house after with many text messages from my sister trying to get ahold of me. Apparently my Grandma (last remaining Grandparent) was failing and she wanted me to know in case I wanted to call. In the 2.5 hours I was gone, it went from Grandma having a few hours left to receiving an email from my Aunt that she had passed peacefully about an hour before I got back. Poor Lanni walked into my room to ask about my workout and I think it went like "how did your workout g......." as she saw I was in tears. Ultimately it was a good thing as my Grandma suffered for years with Dementia and simply was not the same woman anymore. She passed exactly 1 week before her 89th birthday. Rest in Peace Grandma.
Old Picture but this is how I remember her

The rest of my time was spent with too much time on social media where #RyanSnaps was trying to convince me to run the Barkley Marathons. Umm yeah no, especially not after watching that on Netflix. I do not care if I could be the first Canadian to finish it or even the first woman to finish it.

Day hike to Devil's Bridge in Sedona

I also caught up with the Team Run Eugene BBQ for a quick night out. Even though I think I only met a couple of the actual team members, thanks for having runners out.

Sadly though my time in Flag came to an end and I had to pack up and leave on March 30th. I know I have said it before but the running community in Flag is simply AMAZING. Even though I always know I am coming back, I am always sad to leave. Not to mention I simply suck at goodbyes. I'd prefer to sneak out of town then actually say goodbye or even see you later. I say goodbye and there's a HUGE chance of tears. Yep, I'm a suck. Some good people in Flag that's for sure. I'll be back.

Dinner at Diablo on the last night

The last 2 days in Flag were actually filled with tons of wind and some snow. Those runs were freaking cold. My hands took the brunt of it, even with gloves. The day before I left, I ran with Canadian (and Vancouverite) Natasha Wodak as she had just arrived to town. Natasha and I go WAAAAAAY back. My claim to fame is that I did used to beat her. Sure we were like 12 or 13 but still it happened. ;) We tried to take some pictures and my fingers were way too frozen to even press the button on the remote so I had to pass that job over to Natasha. I ended up with pictures of the sky, and my stomach etc. Apparently she went "button happy" and pressed it at random times. Haha. But we did end up with some good ones.

Good Pics with Tasha
Last Day, Last Run

March 30th I flew out from Flag to Phoenix and were on the same flight as Steph and Ben Bruce (plus their adorable kids) as they were heading over to Stanford where Steph CRUSHED the US Olympic Trials Standard and snuck in under Olympic Standard only 6 months after having her 2nd baby! HUGE congrats Steph. We talked in the airport about hopefully getting it out of the way so you didn't have to do too many track 10k's. Glad it actually happened. Also got to finally meet the famous Oiselle star Sarah Robinson and her daughter PJ.

Aug 2012 - March 2016 = 5 trips to Flag

I flew Flag > Phoenix > Seattle > Vancouver. The lovely Catherine Watkins picked me up at the airport at 8pm and I spent the night at her place because the 9pm ferry to the island was impossible to make and I really did not want to take the 10:45pm ferry which would have gotten me home at 1am. #islandlifeproblems

I totally travel is style aka Capri tights and compression socks

The next morning I hit up an 8x1k workout at the UBC track and while it felt great to be at sea level and have oxygen, the legs were definitely feeling the travel. From there, it was a quick shower and then off to the 12:30pm ferry home. Very thankful to my friend Jason who was able to pick me up at the ferry and take me home and also thankful to my chiro Dr. Abe Avender who was able to move my appointment from 3pm to 5:15pm as there was no way I was going to be able to make that 3pm time slot!

Sea level!

The day I got home was busy. So much so I was barely home. I walked in the door, found my delivered shoes from Asics, went through my mail oh and of course said hi to my cats even if they were apparently snubbing me for leaving them for a month. I had a proper shower and then was off to my chiro appointment and then to give a quick talk to the Running Room half and full marathon clinic. After the talk I did their 3.5k warm up and then hung around while they did their own workout of km repeats. Some food and then a few groceries on the way home meant I really didn't get home until after 9pm.

I was then home Friday, Saturday and Sunday (filled with errands, running and chiro) and oh right, finding out that I was being laid off from my job as of September 30th once again. April 1st, 2014 my entire work was fired and we were able to re-apply for our own jobs as a reduced rate with reduced benefits and loss of seniority etc. I was hired back and then bam, April 1st, 2016 it happens again. This time they are selling the building and contracting out the workers, so even if I wanted my job back, I'd have to re-apply with another company and have my wages and benefits reduced even more. 8 years there this August, so it's slightly disappointing; however, I am trying not to worry about it until after the race. My Grandma, the layoff and other major stuff going on in my life, this is NOT the time for it. Ugh.

Unpack the bottom 2 and repack the top 1

Anyways I was able to also catch up on Dragons Den and see my sponsor Stoked Oats get a deal! Not surprising as it's a yummy product! Then Sunday night I found myself finally unpacking from Flag and repacking for Rotterdam. I left Nanaimo again at 8:10am on Monday morning (Thanks for the ride to the airport Mom).

Stoked Oats Getting the Deal
Ready to Leave Vancouver

This time travel took me Nanaimo > Vancouver > Toronto > Amsterdam. Travel was pretty uneventful. The nice Air Canada attendant in Nanaimo was able to get me an exit row seat from Toronto to Amsterdam (Glad I never paid the $100 upgrade the night before when checking in). I was hoping to sleep from the Toronto to Amsterdam flight as I left Toronto just before 9pm Eastern but I think maybe I slept only 2-3 hours of broken sleep.

The lovely Air Canada flight attendant was great and she did her best to get me comfortable with bringing me 2 extra AC blankets and then a nice AC duvet but who the heck can sleep sitting up on airplanes. It wreaked havoc on my back after too long. It was great to have the legroom but I would have preferred an empty seat next to me like a few people had a the back of the plane. Oh well, I survived and landed in Amsterdam shortly after 9:30am local time Tuesday. We then had to wait 10-15 minutes for our gate to open and then the slowest customs process ever (clearly chose the wrong lane).

From there I eventually met up with fellow Canadian Leslie Sexton who had landed not long before me from her flights. We were able to figure out how to catch the train to Rotterdam only with a minor error (apparently we sat in First Class instead of regular). How dare we sit in red seats vs blue. We got to our initial hotel shortly after noon and had an hour to kill before we were able to check in so we grabbed some lunch (thankful for English menus). We did a bit of walking around before our eventual run later that afternoon and boy did that feel awful. Plus we got a little lost trying to find a local park which we both found the following day.


My goal was to stay up until bed time which I managed until 10pm and then I crashed (on and off as usual) until 8am when the noise outside the hotel kept waking me up. Wednesday we grabbed our Athlete passes so we could have our food covered and just laid low other than our final workouts at Kralingse Bos. I apparently picked the wrong time of day to go do it, has for my actual workout I was hit with a downpour and crazy winds. The workout went well considering.

Post last workout

Thursday after we changed hotels and checked into the race hotel (Hilton) and celebrated how we finally had a proper flushing toilet, an actual good shower, facecloths and internet that didn't cut out (can you see our first hotel was low budget?) we did some touring around and checked out the Erasmusbrug Bridge and Euromast which gave spectacular views of Rotterdam. You go 100m up where you can then take the Euroscoop to the top which is 185m.

Easy Run
Erasmusbrug Bridge

Friday all we did was check out the race expo and eat carbs, lots of carbs. The race expo took probably 10 minutes to walk to and from and I think we spent about 10 minutes (if that) in the actual expo.

Leslie and I

That brings us to now, Saturday at 10:30am where we have eaten breakfast and are now chilling before we head out on our final short shakeout run. The rest of the day will be spent lying around and resting up (other than meals and the Tech Meeting today at 5pm). In 24 hours I will be 30 minutes into the race (eek).

Goals? Some people know and I'll leave it at that. There are times being posted on social media and I will NOT confirm those times as my goal. Enough said. Alright, time to chill and try to keep the nerves in check.

 Think these will work for the race?