Sunshine Coast April Fool’s Half Marathon – Race Recap!

On Sunday I ran the BMO Sunshine Coast April Fool’s Run presented by Coast Cable. It was a really beautiful day, lots of friends were on the coast for the run, and I actually ended up running a surprise PB! Here’s how the day went:

I’ve been living on the Sunshine Coast for the past 8 weeks while working at St. Mary’s Hospital and the Upstream Family Medicine Clinic. On Saturday, our friends Greg, Martina and Greg’s brother Jeff took the ferry over from Vancouver to join me and Jan in Sechelt for the weekend. We had a late lunch at Shift Kitchen, and then drove to Smuggler’s Cove Provincial Park for a short hike. We didn’t attempt anything too intense, since Greg, Jeff and I were running the half the next morning. On our way back, we grabbed some groceries and made an awesome dinner of steelhead, quinoa salad, risotto and grilled asparagus. Martina also made this really awesome guac that we ended up eating with lime-flavoured tortilla chips..the best.

almond milk + coffee + nervous Alyssa = must be race day

So Sunday morning I woke up early with my usual pre-race nerves. After scrolling through Twitter for Barkley Marathon updates, I decided to just get up. I ate a bowl of oatmeal with a little bit of almond butter and chocolate chips. I also drank about 1/2 a mug of decaf coffee with almond milk. It was so nice to have Jan, Greg, Martina and Jeff to chat with! Really helped distract me from the race.

time to boogie! Greg 1.0 , me, Jeff and Greg 2.0

 

Since the race is point-to-point, we left one car at the finish line and all piled into Martina’s car to head to the start. There, we met Alan, Greg B., and Dimitri (also saw Julie and Steph!). We all grabbed our race packages, put on our numbers, and did a quick warm up.

It was sunny and clear, so I went with shorts + singlet + arm warmers and gloves for the race. I think it was the right call! I would have been warm in a tee-shirt but I was glad for the arm warmers. #ventilationFTW! The race goes off at 9.17 am, and around 9 the volunteers started corralling us all to the start line. I went to the bathroom one last time and gave Jan my joggers and hoodie.

Before I knew it, the race started and I was over the timing mat. I was trying to run by feel for the first little while. The last time I raced a half marathon was in August – Seawheeze! This was also my PB, and while I knew I’d gotten stronger since then I also didn’t feel like I was in that kind of shape. I didn’t taper into this run and I’m in the middle of a 50k training cycle, so I thought “ok, let’s just see”. My best guess was that I’d run around 1:40.

So we start the race and I just try to settle in. My first three km splits were 4:19, 4:13, 4:17 (averaging 6:45/mi) and while my initial thought was “whoa too fast”, I also thought “but I feel really comfortable”. I decided to just go with it and see what happened.

still feeling good at 6k

The first 10k of the race flew by. This has never really happened to me. I felt like km markers were just coming up so quickly. I’m not sure if it’s because I was enjoying the rolling hills, or because I’ve gotten used to much longer runs, but I found myself thinking “How are there only 10km left in this race?!”

With every km I checked my watch to see how far off of 4:30 pace I was. I wasn’t planning to push myself for anything faster than that, but the plan was to try to use it as a benchmark. For every km under 4:30, I just felt like I was putting seconds in the bank – and I ended up needing a bunch of those to get up the hills in the next part of the course.

there’s the pain face!

I ran with a few small groups until this point in the race, occasionally drafting in the headwind or pulling one or two runners (mostly men) with me. I took a cup of water at every aid station (there were four) but none really made it into my mouth. One I splashed on my face, another down my neck and I think I got a tiny sip out of the third or fourth. I didn’t have any food for the race (this is pretty standard for me in a half).

At km 15-16, I was running totally alone, and came to the start of the large hills on the course (Marlene road up to the highway, which continues up). I really had a moment coming up Marlene when I thought I’d burned all my matches and just about died, but then I settled back into a rhythm and the highway seemed like no big deal. At this point the race was really spread out – I could only see one or two other runners ahead of me.

chasing down 10th place!

The hill crests at km 18, and from there it was just get to the finish! I saw Jan and Martina at a few points (the start, 6km, 12ish km, and the finish, plus driving from point to point) and that was a big boost. I saw Jan with his camera just before the finish, and turned to sprint home. I passed one woman in the chute with only a few metres to go!

I have fast friends :) Alan and Greg were already done and demolishing bagels!

Ultimately my official time was 1:34:17, 10th F overall and 5th in my age group. This is a 41 second PB over Seawheeze on a tougher course, so I’ll take it! After the race we all came back to my Sechelt place for a family brunch – the best way to finish a race :).

Jan and I also took a quick afternoon drive/walk to Porpoise Bay, just up the road from where I’m staying. It was so pretty but so windy! Towards the end of the evening I got a really bad headache. I tried everything (caffeine, fluids, rest, a shower) until I realized I probably needed salt (I had already eaten oatmeal, then pancakes, fruit salad at brunch and then a salad for dinner). I literally put some margarine on a piece of toast and dusted heavily with salt and magic! 30 minutes later I felt like a different person.

What did you do this weekend? Anyone else a very salty sweat-er? 

All photos by the wonderful JAN except the one with the Fool’s Run banner, which is thanks to Rick Horne

Sun Mountain 50k Training Plans

This past Saturday marked 10 weeks out from Sun Mountain training. I don’t know if it’s going to be my “A” race for the year (will I have an A race?) but it’s definitely what I’m focusing on for now.

I haven’t set a serious goal, but I’m loosely hoping to be between 5:30-6:00 (average 6:35-7:12/km).

I’ve never raced anything further than a marathon on my feet (and I’ve only run one marathon!), but doing some longer triathlons did get me accustomed to multi-hour race day efforts. I tried to use some of the things I learned there to build a plan for Sun Mountain. Mostly:

  • I tend to log more miles when I’m with a group and there’s a set plan
  • I need to build in some solo workouts to prepare for how it will feel to be racing on my own
  • I need to listen to my body!
  • I need to practice fuelling.

I’m also trying to consider a few extra things for Sun Mountain:

  • It’s just a lot of time on my feet
  • I have only done a few short races on trail

Long Runs

I decided to build up to the race in parallel to the Running Room BMO Vancouver Marathon clinic. Dave and Greg are leading a big group of people who are running the race, and since Sun Mountain is just a few weeks later (and a few km’s farther), I’ve hopped onto their long run schedule.

This past Sunday was 29km (although a bit short), and I’ll loosely follow the clinic until they start to taper. My plan is roughly: 29 – 32 – 29 (with 21 as the April Fool’s Race!) – 32 – 32 (clinic starts to taper) – 36 – 40 – 30 (race day for the clinic) – 20 – Race!

Weekly Mileage

With those long runs, I’m looking to steadily increase my weekly mileage. For the past seven weeks, it’s been mostly between 65-75 km.

For the next four weeks, I’m hoping to be able to increase that a bit to 75-85 km/week. For the three weeks after that, I’ll look for 85-100k, and then I’ll taper down to the race.

Types of Runs

Since I’m working on the Sunshine Coast, I’ve also been trying to make my runs hilly and looking for opportunities to run on trails. I’m trying to do a bit of speedwork as well!

Fuelling + Listening to My Bod

So. My fuelling has always been something I forget to focus on. I tried hard during marathon training to nail down a strategy and practice it early. On race day, I didn’t end up getting all the calories I planned, but I did get most and I felt really strong, so I called it a success. Lately though, I haven’t been thinking about it as much and I want to make an effort to get back to being strategic. I haven’t fuelled with anything except water and a few gummies for my long runs during this cycle, so that’s gonna have to change.

As for responding to my own cues, I did take an almost rest day 2 Sundays ago – I woke up with a bad cold and decided not to suck it up and do my long run. Overall, I don’t think this made me lose any fitness and I felt great last week, even though I still have the end of the cold.

And that’s it! Any trail runners have some advice for me? 

PS – photos by Jan, except for the blurry cell phone photos I took of Dave’s map + my salad creation

2017 Races

Good morning! I’m writing this at 6:45 am from the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal waiting to head back over to the Sunshine Coast. I have a tiny case of the Monday’s, probably because springing forward this weekend means it’s pitch black out there.

I’ve been pretty quiet here since the marathon, mostly because (1) I haven’t raced (2) I’ve been studying for the CCFP, and (3) I’ve been away working in Sechelt/Wilson Creek as part of a rural medicine experience.

I definitely want to devote a couple of posts to living, running and working on the Sunshine Coast, but this morning my plan was to get organized for my 2017 races. So far, I have a few longer things on the calendar, and I hope to fill in some shorter races too.

April

  • April Fools Half Marathon (Gibsons to Sechelt) – since I’m already living on the coast for a few months, I may as well throw a race in here, right?!

May

  • Sun Mountain 50k – I signed up for my first ultra! And it’s 10 weeks away! More on this coming :)

June

  • Longest Day 5k – My current 5k PR and a really fun Friday evening race complete with post-run picnic

August

  • Seawheeze Half Marathon – this was such a fun race last year, and since it’s my current PR I really wanted to come back and run again
  • Squamish 23km – this race has a reputation for being hard. And, only a week after Seawheeze, it might be interesting ;).

September

December

  • While I’m not actually signed up yet, I was given a free entry to go back to CIM – my first marathon and BQ! If you’d like to enter, I highly recommend the forgiving course. You can use code ALYSSARUNS10 for a discount!

And, speaking of travel, Jan and I are going to be in Australia from April 26 – May 13 (insert happy dance!). If anyone knows of any cool races happening in Sydney around that time, I’d love to hear about it! I’m planning to have my peak week for Sun Mountain the first week that we’re there, so any excuse to get in some extra km’s would be amazing!

California International Marathon Race Recap – Part 2: RACE DAY

Earlier this week I posted about the start to the marathon weekend, and the day before – time to talk about race day!

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At 4am on Sunday, my alarm went off and I was instantly up. I covered myself with BodyGlide to ward off any chafing (more on that later). Then, I got dressed (I wore a lulu bra, tee, socks and shorts. My watch is the new Garmin ForeRunner 902XT, and my shoes are Saucony Zealot ISO. I carried my handheld bottle and added a trusty pair of BMO Vancouver Marathon gloves). I tucked my phone and headphones into the back pocket of my shorts, just in case I needed some mid-race motivation (spoiler alert: didn’t need it!)

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CIM is a point-to-point race, and we stayed in a hotel near the finish line in Sacramento. The buses to the start line in Folsom left at 5am, so I added more clothes (lulu warm up pants(old), throwaway sweater, and puffy jacket), and we headed out to the bus. I was trying really hard to eat, which just meant that I was carrying my breakfast with me. It’s a cup of black hotel coffee, and two blueberry toaster waffles with peanut butter and banana slices.

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We got to the buses and after a good luck kiss goodbye from Jan, the Belgian went back to bed and I sat down. I chatted with other runners while we rode to the start line, and was SO grateful for the distraction of meeting new people. The ride felt LONG and we finally got to the start line by about 5:45. I waited on the bus until about 6.30, when I decided it was now or never.

I got off the bus and got in a longggggg line for port-a-potties. LESSON ONE of the day: line up earlier. By the time I was done it was 6:58. I threw my jacket and pants into my gear bag, threw the bag onto the gear truck, and hustled to the start line. I slotted myself next to the 3:28 pace group just as the national anthem started. In the end, I think this actually helped, because I didn’t have any time to get more nervous! At 7 the gun went off and boom! I was running a marathon.

FYI: Instead of doing the traditional pace groups every 5 min (3:30, 3:35, 3:40, etc), CIM does 2 min before that to help people who want to BQ. This is because in the past couple of years, you have needed to run under the actual qualifying time to actually run Boston.

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I went out and tried not to run too fast, because everyone (Greg, Dave, Jan, Alyson, Danielle, etc. etc.) had told me I would easily be swept up in the excitement of the start and I should just chill out and run. Around km 3, I came up to Laura and Jess. Jess was running her first marathon as well, but pacing Laura. They were planning to aim for under 3:30, and I figured it would be nice to have some buddies, so I joined in.

Thank goodness for those 2! The three of us ran together, sharing water and chatting. The first several miles absolutely FLEW by, and I found myself feeling good at the half (1:43). It was rolling but way more downhill than anything else for the first half of the race.

In the second half, we all started to feel it at different points. Poor Laura was looking for a big PB but had sore legs and an upset stomach, so we both talked to her a lot. I think all the positive talk really helped me feel like I was in better condition than I was! At 36k I decided I didn’t want to risk losing time, and started to pull ahead. I could hear the girls behind me for most of the way, so I knew they weren’t far off the pace.

By km 40 I had had about enough. I told myself I would run one more km (to 41), enjoy the last one (42), and push for the final 200m to the finish. When I saw Jan cheering like crazy at km 41.5, it suddenly hit me that I was ALMOST DONE my first marathon. As I turned towards the finish, I saw the capitol and the gun time, which was ticking towards 3:29. WOOHOOOO! I ran in with the biggest smile on my face.

Chip time: 3:28:13.

During the race, I had planned to eat 5 HoneyStinger waffles. Overall, I managed to eat 1.5 toaster waffles + PB + about 2/3 of a banana and 400mL of black coffee for breakfast, and 3.5 HoneyStingers during the race. I didn’t want the last 1.5 waffles, but since my pace was holding I didn’t force my stomach. I drank water from my bottle until after the half, when I started refilling it with Nuun from aid stations. I’m not sure how much more I drank because I also shared with Laura and Jess, but I felt fine hydration-wise.

The course was totally beautiful – no wind, 7 degrees at the start line, rolling hills with plenty of down and awesome crowd support all along the way. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

After the race, I grabbed some super hot oatmeal from the Whole Foods truck (yes there is a Whole Foods truck and yes it might be enough to get me to move to Sacramento). The post-race food that CIM offered was chips (no, thanks, I didn’t need salt that badly) and a banana (also no thanks). I saw some people also handing out KIND bars, but after our YYZ adventure, I’ve had enough kind bars for a long time.

Once I crossed the finish line, I stopped running. Someone put a medal on me, and a space blanket. The problem started when I tried to walk again. I took my first step and immediately realized how sore my legs and joints were going to be. Ouch!

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We hung out at the finish line (and I rang the BQ bell!!), we grabbed my gear (and I realized how hard it was going to be to put on my pants) and finally started to head (hobble) towards the hotel.

On the way there, I noticed SCOTT JUREK leaving with his family. I stage-whispered to Jan “OMG THAT’S SCOTT JUREK”. Jan laughed and told me to ask him for a photo, so I did. He was so nice! His wife just ran her first marathon since having a baby (badass) and he ran as well. Total fangirl moment.
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img_0194Once we were back I FaceTimed my parents, who had been following the race online. My Dad was excited for me to have run so fast, and my Mom was in true mom mode and wanted me to sit down. I told them I was sore but feeling good.

I then began the project of taking a shower. First of all, I could barely take my own clothes off. Then, I sat down to pee (tmi? Sorry. I was actually hydrated!) and decided I might never be able to get up. Then, I actually got into the shower and realized that since I’d carried my phone in the back pocket of my shorts, I’d given myself some really beautiful chafing along the back of my hips, just above my butt. Cool.

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Once I’d finally showered, I threw my hair into a bun, put on real clothes and began the next project: walking down the stairs. This was not pretty :).

Eventually, we made it to brunch to meet up with friends Ben and Brian and fellow marathoners Nick, Kristina, Lissa (7th woman overall!!), Corri and Geoff. I wasn’t super hungry and ate some eggs and waffles (serious theme of the day) for brunch, and really enjoyed a Moscow Mule.

After that, we walked around to flush my legs, went back to take a look at the end of the Finish Line, and relaxed at the hotel. We had a semi-early dinner around 6:30, but my appetite wasn’t 100% back yet. I ate salad with chicken and also had an awesome glass of white wine from California.

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By 10:30, I was totally wiped and went to bed with a big smile on my face. It was a great day and I couldn’t be happier with my first marathon. I felt great during the race, nailed my nutrition/hydration, and BQ’ed by just under 7 minutes. I’m so grateful for all the Cambie RR people, RunVan, Danielle, Alyson, and of course Jan for helping me get there! When is the next one??

California International Marathon Race Recap – Part 1

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Guys, I had the best weekend. I think it would be too much to cover it all in one post, so I’m splitting it into Saturday (expo, shakeout, nerves) and Sunday (marathon, food, sleep).

Jan and I flew in to Sacramento on Friday night. I get nervous flying, and it was a windy trip, so by the time we checked into our hotel at 10:30 I was wiped. We both fell asleep watching Friends. 

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I found my name in the “R”!

On Saturday morning, we decided to hit the expo and then get brunch. I was hungry in the morning and figured I should carb-load, so I ate one of the small muffins that I’d brought.

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The expo was fun to wander around, but I brought everything I needed and didn’t end up having to buy anything. We did score some free HoneyStinger waffles (which I used to fuel my race). We also picked up my bib, gear drop bag, and course info. img_0055

After the expo we ate brunch. I had most of my spinach omelet… when we were walking around I felt ok but any time I tried to eat on Saturday I would realize how nervous I was.

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Is it a stack of waffles or a big mac?!

We rested for a bit at the hotel and watched the Food Network… we got pretty invested in an episode of Cupcake Wars. Ha! I got my waffles out of their packages and tucked them into my water bottle so they’d be ready for race day.

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chicken arms everywhere
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the finish line is right in front of the state capitol!

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Around 4, we decided it was shakeout run time. We went to a park near the hotel for strides, then jogged around the finish line area. Oh boy. I also managed to eat a Picky Bar (ah, fudge nuts flavour, obvi) somewhere in here.

After the run it was time to get some dinner. Thank goodness Jan had made reservations at the local pasta restaurant, because it was crazy in there. I got spaghetti with meatballs (usually I don’t eat red meat, but I wanted to get the simplest pasta) and ate about 2/3 of it. I also tried really hard to get some fluids in, so I had 2 big glasses of diet coke (better than nothing, and I just didn’t feel like water).

On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped to pick up a banana for me to have on race morning. It was COLD at night (around 3 degrees) and I was a little shaky. I couldn’t tell if it was because I was cold or because I was super nervous. We went to bed and I tried to calm my brain down. My heart rate is usually in the low 40’s before bed, but Saturday night it was 65! I laid awake until around 2, when I think I fell asleep for a bit.

Next up it’s race day! Stay tuned!

Marathon Weekend

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don’t worry, it’s decaf

It’s Friday night and Jan and I are sitting at SEA-TAC, waiting for our little plane to Sacramento. The week went by pretty quickly, considering how little running I did. On Tuesday morning, I got up for an early run around downtown and Lost Lagoon – it was a cold but otherwise really pretty and NON-RAINY morning in Vancouver. Then, Thursday morning I went for one last pre-marathon RunVan. We kept it short (just over 6k) and easy pace.

Lots of people told me to expect “taper tantrums” and to feel a bit weird this week. Nothing hurts, exactly, but I’ve found myself obsessing weirdly over my level of hydration, eating carbs, and sleeping. I’m also… irritable? Antsy? Sorry, Jan.

img_8084 Last night, we packed and I had flashbacks to Sweden as I remembered how much stuff I seem to need for a race. This time, I separated my lists into three main categories: pre-race (flight, expo, shakeout run, relax), race (SO MUCH STUFF) and post race (food and relax, I hope).

Here’s what I brought:

Pre-race

  • clothes, shoes, small bag
  • shakeout run clothes
  • laptop and passport
  • couple of magazines and a book for the plane
  • snacks: home made muffins, an apple and plenty of Nuun

Race

  • Pre-race food: my trusty toaster waffles, PB, and a home-made muffin (plus extras for Jan)
  • Actual race-day outfit: top, shorts, bra, socks, shoes, watch, hat, body glide
  • Throwaway layers that I plan to shed during the race: sweater, gloves
  • Layers that I’ll wear to the start line and check in: puffy jacket, warm up pants. I’ll also check in wipes and a brush, for immediately after the race.
  • Nutrition: Honey stinger waffles, one pack of honey stinger chews, some Gu, and handheld bottle

Post-race

  • Clothes and comfy shoes

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Hopefully I didn’t forget anything! In a few minutes we’ll be up and away. See you soon, Sacramento!

 

The Final Countdown

Race day is almost here! I’m late recap-ing workouts last week, but there was less than usual to talk about. I figured I’d smoosh it into a post with a few runs from this week.

Monday Rest, as usual

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absolutely freezing before heading out to run (had to walk there first)

Tuesday It was so, so rainy all day. Danielle texted me around 5 and asked if I’d run yet, because she was going to check out a group called Mile2Marathon. I decided to tag along, because there was no way I was running alone in the pouring rain again. I did 10k with a few of the guys at (for me) tempo pace. 10k

Wednesday I went out for an easy run around the neighbourhood and threw in a few hills by taking Chilco down to the water. Nothing special, but I felt good. 8.2k

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post run dinner and marathon talk with the Belgian

Thursday RunVan! I was a bit late for this run so I had to hustle to make it on time. With my cooldown, it ended up being about 9.6k

Friday Last pre-marathon run with Danielle, and a coffee and lululemon shopping date after.

Saturday Off – I meant to run, but weather/timing just didn’t work out and I didn’t really worry about it. I did get in almost 30,000 steps (according to my Garmin) since we were scrambling around to clean, run errands, etc.

Sunday Last long run. I went out with a bunch of the Running Room people for the usual pre-marathon out and back to Siwash Rock. We added on a bit by going around Science World for a total of 18.3k. This run felt really good and added a bit to my confidence that I can get through this race.

Totals for last week = 58 km

This week hasn’t looked like much! I did one early morning Tuesday run (8.2k) and a very easy RunVan one today (6.2k). I’ll probably run about 5k very easy on Saturday, and then it’ll be a marathon on Sunday for a total of 61.6km. What am I going to talk about after this!?!

I’m off to pack. Tomorrow we head to Sacramento!