Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Oakville half marathon race report 2014

Some days you are the windshield, some days you are the bug. And you know people only use that phrase when they were the bug, which should give you an idea of how this race went.

Saturdays before a Sunday race are always weird. It just feels wrong to sit around instead of going for a long run or ride. Trying to laze around but being so full of nervous energy the 'lazy' part is always a fail. I ended up doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen. I really know how to party.

Midmorning I headed over to Oakville to pick up my kit at the expo.

No need for my high fashion Hello Kitty umbrella this year! At least not at the expo...
I learned the valuable lesson that if you bring an adorable small child to the expo with you, the vendors are more generous with the free crap. Got me a couple of new water bottles thanks to my younger daughter being all extra cute, and scored a couple of Subway gift cards.

Oakville always seems to have pretty solid race kits. Lots of random free stuff (a full roll of KT tape? nice!). And the shirt this year is one I'll actually use!

After the expo, I aimlessly wiled away the time, got my shit organized for the race, hydrated, etc. Tried not to worry about the windy/rainy/humid weather forecast, because really there's nothing you can do about that.

Flat Emma, which I do before races just to try and make sure I don't forget anything important.
Race Day

Got up, had a cup of tea, toast with peanut butter, the requisite bathroom visits, etc. Patty picked me up at 6:15 and we collected the rest of the skirt brigade and headed over to the race, where we met up with Zindine and Irina and Kim. It rained while we were in the car, but stopped when we got to Oakville so I felt optimistic about the weather.


Skirt brigade/carpool group. Wearing a lot less pink than usual. Even Sam is barely pink at all! Photo via Irina.

Did some pre-race chatting, and pre-race porta potty lining up. Bless Landmark sports group for their commitment to having a million porta potties at their races - both this race and Mississauga always have plenty and the lines move really quickly. Unlike some races, *cough* Around the Bay *cough*.

Me, Amy, Patty, Sam, Kim, Zindine. Thanks to Irina for the pic! Can you believe we let Zindine in this one? He's not wearing a skirt! Way to let down the team, Zindine.
And then it was time to line up and get this thing started. I would be running solo, since unfortunately Nicole had to go to a hockey tournament and I lost my personal pacer. There was no pace bunny for 1:50, so it was just me and the road with a few hundred of my closest friends.

Waiting for the start.
First 5k: 26:01

The first 5k went well. I had my watch set to only show my pace at each km, and I didn't always hear it beep, but I felt good and it seemed about right. A touch slow but better to be a few seconds slow at this point and negative split the back half. (I would insert a 'hysterical laughter' gif here but I'm too lazy to find one)

Shark! pic via Irina

I got passed early on by the Connor's Runners mascot - a guy in a shark costume. That was somewhat demoralizing. Although I can't decide if that's better or worse than being passed by a joggler. Random aside, but I really admire the jogglers, because I know how to juggle (really, I do! I have hidden and weird talents) and I can't even imagine running fast while juggling. Like it doesn't even seem like it should be possible.

At some point it started to rain. Light rain, so not too terrible. It was also pretty humid out, but not oppressively so. YET.

10k: 53:06

I'm not entirely sure what the hell happened here. I was still feeling good at this point, but my legs just wouldn't go. The 5:33 is the bit with the one 'hill' on the course (it's not very big) but for whatever reason I couldn't get my legs back under me after the hill (but even before that things weren't great, obviously).

It might have had something to do with the SUDDEN TORRENTIAL RAIN that hit while I was on the uphill.

I half expected to see these guys. Image source. 
I like running in the rain. I am not so fond of racing in the rain, it turns out. My tank top was sticking to my stomach (ewwww, clammy!), the water was cold but the air was warm so somehow I was overheating while still being cold (what?), and it was just generally pretty miserable.

Water water everywhere.
I also had the most difficult time I've ever had during a race eating a gel. I almost threw the damn thing right back up again.

So, hey, this race was just going great.

15k: 1:19:51

And more rain. My basic thought process through this section:

"I hate racing. Why do I sign up for these things? At least my feet are somehow still dry. And there's another massive downpour and I'm not sure I can get any wetter at this point. Oh except I just stepped in a deep puddle and got a soaker, So I guess I can get wetter! YAY. When this is done I'm never racing again. I may never run again. Oh there's the shark up ahead. I bet his costume must weigh like 20 pounds more than when he started what with all this RAIN. I wonder if his support crew would like to trade positions for a bit? She could run, I could ride her bike. It would be way nicer to ride a bike right now. Hey, there's Irina! Pretend to be having a great time when you clearly are not!"

This thumbs up is a LIE. pic via Irina
I'm pretty sure that 5:32 was during the fourth or fifth massive downpour. Soaked to the bone. You win, Mother Nature. I was feeling pretty defeated, just hoping to get to the finish in one piece and without too many blisters from running in soaking wet socks.

No thumbs up for you, photographer, because this fucking sucks. You're lucky to get a smile.
At 15k I was doing the math in my head and realizing just how sucky a day I was having. I started wondering if I'd even manage to finish under 1:55.

20k: 1:47:31

I walked the aid station at 18k, which proved to be a huge mistake, because as soon as I started again my left inner thigh started to hurt in the same way it did last year at Scotia. No, really, am I a hockey player? How do I keep straining groin muscles in races? WTF?

The other reason walking that aid station was a mistake? The 1:55 pacer passed me as I walked . Fucking hell, I thought, this race is turning into a titanic disaster.

But I did pass the shark at some point! So I had that going for me! And a lady on a bike told me I looked strong (LIE) and my outfit was cute (true). This is why I wear the skirts, for the unsolicited compliments. I'll take any positive feedback I can, really.

Just before 19k I spotted my tweep* Prasheel cheering, which did provide a nice boost. It's amazing how a friendly face provides a pick me up during late race suckitude. Give him a follow and cheer him through his first marathon next month!

*that's what the cool kids call someone you know largely through twitter, although I did meet him at a MEC Burlington race first. I am not a cool kid and should probably stop trying.

The last kilometer took forever, as per usual. And for the second time this fall a dude came roaring past me in the finish chute at a million miles an hour (also happened during the duathlon). What is up with that? Like maybe you guys should have used some of that energy during the rest of the race!

Just a few more steps until I can quit running forever...
Final time: 1:54:23.3
5:18/5:08 pace for the last bit
Place: 275/671
Gender place: 80/331
Age group place (F30-39): 23/105 (what's with the 10 year age groups??)

So I dunno what was going on with that 1:55 pacer passing me, but I did get under that mark at least. And now I know: humid day + pouring rain = gonna have a bad time.

Post race with (most of) the Daily Mile crew, and Richard's son Nick who did his first half! Congrats, Nick! Photo via Richard.
Sooooooooo. Didn't hit the A goal. Didn't even come close. But the weather was shit, seriously. So I'm kind of OK with the result. It wasn't what I wanted, but given the conditions, what can you do?

The acorn on the medal is cute.
So now what?

I've registered for Road to Hope the first Sunday of November. My husband wants to run it, and we do love our 'run dates'.

However, I'm not sure I really want to take another shot at a PB at this point. I might decide to just do R2H for fun and hang out with my various awesome running friends. I dunno. I'm taking a few days - heck, maybe even a full week - off running to let my legs recover, because the DOMS after this race has been ridiculous.

Depending on how I feel when I do start running again, I'm leaning towards going for it at Road to Hope. My tentative plans for next year don't include another stand-alone half until next fall at the earliest (read between the lines on that one!). So I likely won't get another shot for a while. But it also wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to shut it down for the rest of the year and just bike and run easy and enjoy the fall weather.

Next blog post will likely be a Run for the Toad race report, since I'm bored of writing training recaps. I don't know if I'll have decided what to do by then, but at least there will be pretty trail pictures!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Oakville half marathon: Pre race

Well, here we are. Kinda dropped off the blogging train last week because I am so bored of myself, plus it's all over on the Daily Mile account anyway. Did some running, did some biking, etc, etc. Even managed to get to a TRX class for the first time in like 6 months and got reminded that I have this thing called a 'core' and I should probably work it more. Ow.

#selfie from some run I did recently. I think. It's all kind of a blur now.
The training is done. A few easy runs this week and now I'm just resting up for the big day on Sunday. It's probably telling that the highlight of the last two weeks was a 60k bike ride where I climbed the escarpment 3 times - can you sense my lack of enthusiasm for running right now? I just want to get through this race and then spend October squeezing out every last ride on my bike possible before things get all cold and snowy and non-bike friendly.

Random picture of the lake. Yep, still wet. 
What happens Sunday? Sub 1:50 is the A goal, assuming the tingling in my throat and vague congestion is, as I suspect, allergies and not a Death Cold about to descend on me. But to be honest unlike some previous PB attempts, it just doesn't feel like it really matters all that much. I want the PB, but I've got a lot of other stuff to look forward to if it doesn't happen, like having some fun at the Run for the Toad in a few weeks and (gulp) learning to swim in anticipation of moving into triathlon next year.

I hope to do marginally better than this.
I'll be running this race by feel, mostly, because that seems to work better for me than watching my pace closely. Hopefully I can find someone else during the race running a similar pace and latch onto them, because most of my best races have happened when I've made a pacing friend partway through and we support each other to the finish. I have a motivational play list ready, and so far the weather looks decent. Huh, maybe I'm getting excited about this after all!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fall 2014: Week 11 & MEC race 4 race report

Peak week! Oh man, the race is only two weeks away now. Eep.

Didn't really take many pictures this week, so the short version of what I did:

Monday: 46k bike ride with Sam and Richard. Flat and easy (yes, it is possible to ride a flat and easy route around here - who knew?).

Tuesday: Supposed to be intervals, but HAHAHAHAHA. No. I was still recovering from the duathlon. 9k easy instead.

Wednesday: Intervals, except I kept hitting the wrong buttons on my watch. So it was more of a fartlek type workout. At any rate I put in a few decent sub 5 km, so it counts. 10k total.

In the evening, after throwing an epic adult temper tantrum about the idiotic beginning of the year school forms, a 35k ride to burn off some rage. Worked nicely!

Thursday: Easy 12k.

Friday: Rest. Also the day I was a very hungry caterpillar. Steak fajitas for dinner finally filled the void.

Saturday: MEC Burlington race 4 - 15k. The idea here was to use this as a long tempo. I warmed up for 2k, then ran the 15k at comfortably hard effort (I don't show my paces on my watch during races and run by feel instead), 3k cooldown for 20k total. I was very curious what my final pace would end up being.

The race started really well and I was feeling pretty good as we did the first out and back section (the route consisted of a short out and back to the south, then a longer out and back to the north). But after passing the finish and starting the second out and back, things fell apart a bit. It got a touch windy, but the main problem was I really, really should have used the bathroom once more before the race. By about 8k I really had to pee, and by the time I reached the turnaround towards the finish it was clear my options were find a portapotty or, well, pee my pants (skirt). Or duck into the woods, but that was the section of the path with poison ivy warning signs, and oh hell no on that. Fortunately I'm quite familiar with the path used for this race, since I often run it at lunch, and I spent most of km 11 anticipating the porta potty I knew would be coming up soon and crossing my fingers it would be empty. It was.

Route map. Love a run that stays by water for pretty much the whole race.
If you take out the minute spent in the porta potty, I hit my goal half marathon pace pretty much perfectly. Could I have run another 6.1 km at that pace? I don't know, maybe. I was pretty tired by the end of the 15! But on race day I'll be well rested and carbed up, and hopefully won't spend half the race needing to pee, so I think I'm good shape for that sub 1:50 half attempt.

Oh, and I also completely forgot to gel during this race. I think that might have helped with a bit more energy in the last few km, plus I wanted to practice gelling and running. But it just totally slipped my mind. Oops.

Official results
Time: 1:18:46.2 (15k PB)
Place: 34/72
Gender place: 5/29

The MEC race series is great, and I highly recommend it. Well organized, nice routes, chip timed, no frills, but you can't beat the price. Plus your race bib is good for 10% off in the store after the race, and that makes it a great opportunity to stock up on things like gels!

Still loving the salted caramel, even though it really feels like more of a winter gel. I need to find the new root beer ones, just so I can determine if they are the greatest idea ever or the worst idea ever. It's really going to be one or the other.
Sunday: Sore legs! Definitely time to spin them out on the bike. I love a solid ride after a hard run effort; it seems to make the recovery go faster.

Wait, these hills weren't on the elevation profile of the route I planned...
It was such a gorgeous day I ended up riding about 20k more than scheduled, for 59k total. Just fantastic. Even if there were some sneaky unanticipated hills.

The extra bike time meant I was only 7k shy of 200k total for the week, so naturally later in the afternoon I had to tack on an easy run to hit the double century. Obviously. I didn't have a choice! Ran 8k. It felt good to really get to that exhausted, I really can't do any more training and must have a rest day state - first time I've done that this training cycle, as I haven't pushed my long runs up to that 24/25k mark like I have in the past.

Weekly stats
Run: 60.4
Bike: 141.3
Total: 201.7 km in 11 hours, 12 minutes

And now it's time to taper!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Race report: Subaru Guelph Lake II Sprint Duathlon 2014

So, my multi sport debut!

I had two goals going into this:

1) See if I like multi sport racing
2) Don't embarrass myself

On point two, I was mostly worried about transition, and doing something like setting out on the run course through the wrong exit or while still wearing bike shoes or knocking over a rack of bikes or something. I mean, the reason I don't do team sports is my complete lack of coordination, so transition seemed ripe with opportunities to screw things up, Mr. Bean style.

Transition, registration, etc. Very pretty conservation area setting.
After an easy drive to Guelph (and I didn't even have to leave that early!), I arrived at the race site with plenty of time to pick up my kit, get my body marking, set up my transition area, and visit the bathroom.

First race, no idea what I'm doing, so I copied what the person next to me had done. #cheater I must have looked the part, though, because later on two people asked me how to put the stickers on their bikes/helmets and if they'd set up correctly. Sure, why not.
Met up with Sam, saw Jana, but somehow the hour before the race just vanished and it was time to do a quick check of my transition area and then warm up. In my infinite wisdom I decided to re-tie my ponytail, and of course my ponytail elastic chose that moment to break. PANIC! I managed to tie the elastic ends together and jam my hair into the now far too tight elastic, so it worked out. Not what I needed a few minutes before heading out to warm up, though!

Waiting in the porta potty line, watching the triathletes in their super hero suits.
I took a caffeinated gel as pre-race fuel and did a quick 1k run to warm up my legs. The duathlon had a wave start, with men under 50 going first and the rest of us going 3 minutes later, starting about 10 minutes after the first wave of triathletes got into the water. It all seemed very well organized, and I assume is designed to spread everyone out before they hit the bike course.

The horn sounded, and off I went on my first ever multi sport race!

Run 1 - 2k
Time: 9:57
Average pace: 4:59
5/15 for age group

Since the first run was 2k, my strategy was to just run. Not max effort, but a solid fast pace. It felt like no time before we were running down into transition to get on our bikes.

Transition 1 - 1:16

I did this very deliberately, like I'd rehearsed in my head and in my garage a few times. Kick shoes off, pick up helmet, get helmet on, bike shoes on. But of course during this process my sunglasses fell off my face onto the grass, the guy next to me was all over the place (I seriously thought he was going to drop his bike on me at one point), and I initially tried to put my helmet on over my run hat. Yeah, I am awesome. Still, I got out of there reasonably quickly. Ran my bike up the steep hill in transition (foreshadowing!) to the mount line, which seemed awfully far away. Made it over the line and onto my bike without falling over. Success! And I passed at least one person in my age group in transition that I saw. Amazing how those age group numbers on people's legs fire up the competitive juices.

Not entirely sure why the body marking guy wrote mine on the side of my leg. But you get the idea.
Bike - 30k
Time: 1:01:20
Average speed: 29.3 km/hr
2/15 for age group

Ah, the bike. So the first km, getting out of the conservation area, was a bit of a clusterfuck. Lots of people riding very slowly, on a narrow road so not easy to pass while making sure I didn't cross the centre. Plus every so often a Hardcore Tri Dude would come blowing past screaming LEFT on a fancy tri bike. It was all a bit overwhelming and it took me about 5 minutes to really start to feel comfortable.

I have no idea where this photographer was. Too focused to pay attention to that sort of thing!
Once we were out onto the roads I was able to settle in and start hammering. Since I knew going in my bike was likely to be stronger than my run, my strategy was to go all out and get it done as fast as possible. The second run is only 7k, how bad could it be?

The bike route was pretty much perfection as far as playing to my strengths. Lots of rolling hills and oh my god is it ever good times to blow past people on an uphill! I need to work on my cadence, though, and improve my speed on the flats and downhill grades, because that's where people would catch me. There were a couple of girls racing the tri I must have played leapfrog with a half dozen times over the course of the 30k - I'd pass them on the uphills, they'd catch me again a few minutes later on the downside. Overall I felt like I passed more people than passed me (I definitely passed more women than passed me back), and that felt amazing. In running I'm usually the pass-ee, so it was quite fun to be the one doing the passing!

On a turn at some point? I think?
One lesson learned: practice hairpin turns before doing an out and back bike course. About 10 seconds before I reached the turn around I realized I had no idea how to execute a hairpin turn and I ended up going too wide onto the gravel on the opposite shoulder. Whoops. That's got to be a great place to be the volunteer, watching newbies fuck up the turn over and over and over again.

Yes I paid for all the pictures so I'm using them. This one is clearly near the end because I look really tense through the shoulders.
I loved the bike. I'd been wondering going in if I had a shot at finishing 30k in an hour, and I got pretty close to that. Considering I've owned the bike for all of two months and my training has consisted mostly of riding what I feel like riding when I have time, I'm thinking I've got plenty of room for improvement. And I'm really excited about that!

Transition 2 - 1:32

I'm really surprised this was only 1:32. It felt a lot longer. I got off my bike before the dismount line, like the very enthusiastic volunteer was screaming, and started to run it into transition. Remember how to get out of transition I had to push my bike up a steep hill? Well, now I had to run down that hill, in my bike shoes, with my legs screaming OH HELL NO at me. Plus the duathlon racks were the closest to the run exit, so we had the farthest distance to travel from the bike entrance. I ended up walking because running wasn't happening. Racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my hat and changed my shoes, and took a few seconds to drink some water. I was in no rush to start running, because I knew it was going to suck.

Run 2 - 7k
Time: 38:59
Average pace: 5:35
6/15 for age group

I had joked before the race to Sam that she would know I'd overcooked it on the bike if she saw me curled up on the side of the road during the run.

That joke was suddenly seeming a lot less funny. The run started with an uphill and it was not good. Not the noodle legs I've felt doing brick workouts, more like every part of my body screaming THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA. I forced myself to get moving, just one step at a time. The course kept going uphill. Fuck.

(the course wasn't, objectively speaking, particularly hilly, but after a fast 30k on the bike the gradual inclines felt like mountains)

In addition to the fact that the flat conservation area had suddenly turned into a Himalayan mountain range, the sun was now out in full force. There's a reason I don't like to run at 10:30 in the morning in the summer! Especially with very little shade! It's horrible!

I made a deal with myself that if I kept running, I could walk the water stations. At the first station I grabbed Gatorade for a quick shot of carbs, and a cup of water to dump over my head. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Bliss for about 4 seconds until I realized I was going to have to start running again.

I started mentally reminding myself #dontfuckitup (motivation stolen from Sam and Mari. Hey, it works!). 7k! That's nothing! Piece of cake! You've run a damn marathon, 7k isn't going to defeat you! And I continued on like that, pretty much talking myself into every step forward. Somehow, my pace wasn't as terrible as it felt. Just after the second water station a woman heading back toward the finish yelled encouragement at me, and I really wanted to trip her. I'm sorry, encouraging lady! I'm a horrible person when in the midst of a rough run!

Eventually I hit the turnaround and things felt a bit easier. My legs were more cooperative, I think there was more downhill (although it all felt uphill), and I wasn't being passed quite as often. I was keeping an eye on the age group markings of the people who did pass me, but it was almost all guys, very few women. I wasn't expecting to age group place in this race, but based on previous year's results I was hoping a strong bike would put me in the top 5 or 6. So I was glad to see that other than one woman who passed me very early in the run, I didn't see anyone else who was my age group competition.

Spotted Sam going the other way and told her I was death marching. It was just a really rough run. Lots of telling myself to suck it up and checking my watch every 500 meters to see how much distance was left (the answer was always 'too much').

The finish chute seemed to go on forever. So long.
Finally, less than a km to go - and this section was familiar because we'd run the initial out and back on this km way back in the first run. Also, finally, blessedly, downhill to the lake. Across the finish! Sweet jesus thank you it's over!

Too tired to smile, but at least I managed to do something.
Total time: 1:53:03.2
Overall place: 57/129
Gender place: 10/41
Age group place (women 30-39): 3/15

After crossing the finish and grabbing some water, I wandered around a bit to stretch my legs. There was a huge crowd around the board where the results were posted that I didn't feel like fighting through, so while I waited for Sam to finish, I pulled up Sportstats on my phone to check my finish time, and then almost fainted when I saw my age group place. I think my grin must have been a mile wide! My overall finish time was a lot faster than I had expected (I was thinking I'd be around 2 hours, as I was expecting the bike to take longer), and to be top three for age group was a huge surprise.
Post race people everywhere!
Sam finished the triathlon (way to go Sam! First sprint tri done!), and we hung out waiting for the awards. No way was I missing out on that, although I wasn't sure how they would do the duathlon awards (only medals for #1? 3 deep? 5 deep?). If there was any chance I was getting a medal, I was going to wait for it!

Post race with Sam

I did get a medal!

And got to stand behind a sign!

It would be weird to wear it everywhere, right? Damn.
So that kind of wiped out all the run awfulness, and I'm pretty much in love with this multisport stuff. But I will have to learn how to pace myself! There's a lot more multi sport races in my future next year, although whether they will be dus or tris is a whole different question. But no decisions right now. First I have to get through the rest of my fall race season.

In terms of the race organization, I have no complaints, and will consider doing more of the Subaru series next year. Very well organized, the price was reasonable, and the shirt is really nice. Thumbs up!

Very nice tech material on this t shirt.
I've definitely started my fall race season on a high note - will it continue? Next race is the MEC 15k, so I won't have to wait long to find out. Although I rather wish that race included a bike component...