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Thursday, 29 November 2018

2018 Seattle Marathon



Apologies for the lapse in entries, but 2018 was a busy year for me.  Jen and I got married in August and racing took a back seat to life for a bit.


But, like last year I signed up for the Seattle Marathon.  Thankfully, everyone in my family is in good health and I was able to make it down to Seattle for the race.

Jen and I drove down Saturday morning and went straight to the expo.  It was extremely well organized and we were in and out in under an hour.


We checked into the hotel and spent the rest of the day relaxing and prepping.


I woke up early after a great sleep and began to get ready.  I had been wearing what I wanted to wear on race day during training, but I was worried about how cold it was.  I went outside just to see how bad it was.  Turns out, what I was planning to wear was good.  I went back inside to get Jen and we made our way to the start line.


As we arrived at the start line, we watched as the early start athletes took off.  After cheering them on, I did some stretching and warmed up.


It was soon time to line up.  There were no corrals, just a mass start.  I was surprised to see that Seattle was a much smaller race than BMO.  Then again, running a marathon in May does sound better than running a marathon in late November.


Soon after we were off.   I started my watch as I passed over the timing mat.  There was no going back now.


I'm going to go off on a small tangent here about my goals.  I have run 4 marathons* previous to this one (and the last being 4 years ago), but all of them were over 6 hours.  If my goal is to do an Ironman by 2020, I want to get my marathon time under 6 hours.  With my best time being about 6:24, it was a tall order.  I knew this was going to be a mental challenge more than anything.

My coach recommended that I put 'Average Pace' as one of the read outs on my watch.  As long as I kept an average pace under 8:30 minutes per kilometer, I would come in just under 6 hours.

A course preview was posted online that came in very useful for visualizing my race day.




Ok now back to the race.

As we ran through Seattle, the streets were lined with spectators and half marathon runners on their way to the start.


Around 2k, the course began to climb.  I passed a larger runner who seemed to be struggling up the hill.  I told him to keep it steady.  "All the runners who started off to fast will drop off toward the end."  He smiled and I continued on.


The course then went into a freeway tunnel for the next few kilometers.  It was a good break from the cold, but it was also reeking havoc on my GPS.  I had to run by feel.

As we came out of the tunnel, the course began to climb as we continued on the freeway.

A police car and a police motorcycle passed us and I knew the first of the half marathoners were about to catch us.

Once over the bridge at around 8k, the course got very crowded.  Half marathon pacers and their entourage took over the roadway.

Once off the bridge, the course split.  I joked with the volunteers that this is where I regret my decision as I kept left for the Full Marathon distance.


The course then became a long out-and-back along the Burke Gilman Trail.  The trail was littered with city share bikes. It was so tempting to just hop on one. But of course I did not.

Around 10k, we passed the University of Washington's Husky Stadium.  It was very impressive.


The Burke Gilman Trail is a very nice, paved bike/pedestrian walkway, but I opted to run along the side on the soft gravel.  It did not feel that much softer, but I knew that over the distance I had to cover, it would help.

Soon, the first of the marathoners were making their way back.  At first it was cool to see them running toward us, until the pace groups started coming back too.  They took up the whole path.  Good thing I was already running off to the side.

Around 17k, the view opened up and we could see Lake Washington and the snow capped mountains beyond.


Then we were at the turn around point. Soon after I was at the halfway point.  I used one of my walk breaks to upload a video to facebook.  In the video, I explained that I was at the halfway point and feeling good.  My average pace was 7:30 min/k.  Well under the 8:30 I needed to finish on time.  It gave me some extra wiggle room for when I would inevitably slow down toward the end.

I was getting tired, but was determined to get sub-6.  I kept envisioning what my finish pose would be.  I thought it would be funny to cross with my watch to my hear, as if it was broken.  Showing how 'surprised' I would be to get my sub 6.

As I continued back along the trail, runners (not in the race) and cyclists cheered me on.  I saw the big guy from earlier and was sure to cheer him on as well.

I was soon under the bridge where the marathon and half marathon split.  I knew from studying the course that I had an out-and-back again before heading up onto another bridge.

This part of the course felt much longer than how it looked on the map, but I pushed on.  My average pace was dropping, but I was still on track.

But I soon began to lose steam. My run intervals got shorter as my walk intervals got longer. I pushed as much as I could to keep pace and keep to my run/walk timing, but it was getting difficult.

At 36k no matter how hard I pushed both mentally and physically, my walk intervals became longer than my run intervals.

At 38k I looked at my watch. It read 5:08; 6k and 52 minutes to go. I thought to myself, I can run 6k in 50 minutes!  That is 8 minutes per kilometer.   I started pushing, keeping the dream alive.  I felt good until I looked at my watch and realized I could not even get to an 8 minute kilometer, let alone maintain it.

My goal of a sub 6 was gone, but I could still push with what little I had left for a new personal best (PB).

As I looped around, I looked over to see the big guy starting his out-and-back.  I gave him thumbs up and a smile. I think we both knew he was going to be very close to the cutoff.

I turned left onto Stone Way to start my climb to the bridge.  I ran when I could and for as long as I could and walked the rest.

I got to the bridge and knew I was almost done.  The view was great with more snow capped mountains all around.  I tried to push more, but found I was pretty much spent.

As I walked across the bridge, I saw 4 large buses.  They were there to shuttle those who did not make the cutoff to the finish.  Even though I was having a tough time, I found solace in the fact that I would still finish.

As I made my way off the bridge, I thought to myself, "I never want to run ever again!"

We turned right onto Aloha Street and I knew I was almost there.  I walked up the final hill, turned left and ran down the hill.


I knew exactly where I was and where the finish line was.  This gave me the extra boost I needed to get there.  The downhill helped as well.

A block away from the finish, I saw a young man stopped, with his hands on his knees.  As I ran to him I started yelling, "You are almost there!  No stopping!  Run it all the way in with me!"

The finish line was inside Memorial Stadium.  As we ran to the entrance I told him, "No one in there saw us suffer, if we finish strong, they will think we kept this up the whole race!"





He smiled and we ran to the finish line.

Jen said I was smiling, but I know I was grimacing. Maybe it was a little of both.



I crossed the finish and stopped my watch.  I looked at the time.  Although still a PB by about 4 minutes, I was very upset I did not get my sub 6.  Jen was there to talk some sense into me.


After a change of clothes and some food, I felt better. A PB is a PB.  There will be plenty of other races and opportunities to improve my time.


As I looked over my race day data and collected my thoughts in preparation for writing this report, I made note of several minor mistakes.  The more I analyzed these mistakes, the more I realize just how close I was to a sub 6.

First was my heart rate.  I am not sure why, but for some reason, my heart rate was very high for this whole race.  Maybe it was the pressure I was putting on myself. Maybe it was race day excitement.  Maybe it was the temperature.  I am not exactly sure, but something to look out for in the future.

Second was my split time.  I ran WAY to fast for the half of the marathon.  My first half split time was very close to my average half marathon time.  It should have been slower.  My average pace dropped steadily from about 7:00 min/k to 7:30 min/k in the first half (based on my memory).  I figured if it dropped at the same rate, the second half should go from 7:30 min/k to 8:00 min/k, keeping me under my goal average pace.  It should have read more like 7:30 min/k to 8:00 min/k in the first half and 8:00 min/k to 8:30 min/k in the second.  Again, I attribute this to the pressure I was putting on myself.

Third was nutrition.  I had a good nutrition strategy that I had practiced in all my long runs.  I have a custom electrolyte blend that I use.  However, the taste is not that great, so I add some Gatorade to make it palatable.  I have a good Gatorade to mix ratio that I found while training, but since I knew I was going to be out for 6 hours I added more Gatorade.   The extra sugar and electrolyte concentrate made it hard to stomach the electrolytes and my gels.  Because of this, I didn't take as many gels as I probably needed.

Next race I will not use a concentrate in a camelbak backpack.  It may take more time to fill up a bottle and mix in my solution at aid stations, but if it means I won't crash, the time lost may be negligible.

Fourth was training.  While my training went well and was consistent, I did not get as many long (over 35k) runs in as I would have liked.  As stated before, 2018 was a busy year with a wedding/honeymoon right in the middle of training.

Taking into account these 4 mistake (or learning opportunities if you want to be a little more positive), I feel confident that a sub 6 hour marathon is within my grasp.  So much for never wanting to run ever again.

Thank you for taking the time to read my latest race report.  Even though the day did not go as planned, I learned what I need to improve on to reach my goals next time.

I am going to be taking it easy over the Holidays with just some fitness maintenance, but keep an eye out for next year.  I have some equipment upgrades, some training changes, and some big goals set.

*First marathon
  Second marathon
  Third marathon
  Fourth marathon

Thursday, 7 June 2018

2018 Ironman 70.3 Victoria



With the wedding drawing closer and closer, it was time to get one last big race in the books. So on June 3rd, 2018 did just that at the Ironman 70.3 Victoria.

Jen and I decided to make the weekend a bit of a family visit as well since her brother, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, and cousins all live on Vancouver Island.

On Saturday, after athlete check in and bike drop off, we spent the day visiting. I'll admit I ate and drank much more than I usually do the day before a race, but this race was not for any set time. It was a "get out there and do what you can do" type race for me.

The next morning, Jen and I woke up very early. It was a 40 minute drive to the race from her brother's house. We had a bit of a late start and I was freaking out a bit. One thing I hate is rushing, especially before a race.

Jen dropped me off and went to go park. I made my way to transition to begin setting up. Apologies for my lack of transition photo, I was in a hurry and forgot to take one.

I found my bike, setup my transition, and aired up my tires. I found Jen and started to put on my wetsuit.

It was 5:30am. Warm up swim ended at 5:45am for the pro start. The biggest decision of the day loomed ahead of me. Do I poop one more time or get my warm up swim in? As mentioned before I always poop twice before a race. But I also needed my warm up swim. I don't use the swim as a warm up per se, but more to get used to the water temperature. Being inside a tight wetsuit, in cold water, with anxiety makes it a bit difficult to breathe. I use the warm up swim to relax and acclimatize.

I decided to opt for the warm up swim. I put on my wetsuit and made my way to the water. It felt great. Just warm enough to be comfortable, but cold enough not to overheat in the westuit. I swam out about 50 meters and then just floated. I took deep breathes and relaxed.

After my warm up swim, I thought I could use the washroom, but after taking one arm out of the wetsuit, I realized that if I took the whole thing off, I'd never get it back on. My theory was proven correct when I had a difficult time putting my arm back in the wetsuit.

Soon it was time to line up for the swim. Once again it was a self seeded wave start. I made my way to the 40-45 minute section.

The canon sounded for the male pro start, then the female pro start shortly after. Then began the slow march down to the start.

I made sure to position myself on the side so I could get a good start position and so I could see Jen.


Soon I was in the start chute and ready to rock!

The buzzer sounded and I was on my way

The Swim


I waded into the water, gave my goggles a quick splash, put them back on, then was on my way.


I could feel my anxiety start to rise, so I slowed down. It felt like I was going too slow, but I knew once the nerves passed I could pick up the pace.

I kept a good line using the sighting patterns I practice with SeaHiker. It was a lake swim with calm water, but I still sighted to make sure I was swimming straight.

There was one athlete who I could tell had no idea how to sight. He would be to the right of me then suddenly shoot off to the left cutting me off. He would swim about 10-15 meters, stop, then suddenly shoot off the opposite direction cutting me off again. This kept happening for a good 100 meters before he swam way to the far to the right and I could get away. He swam so far to the right, a volunteer on a SUP had to stop him.

I continued to keep my pace all the way to the first turn.

After the first turn, it became very crowded. At one point, 2 swimmers pinched in on either side of me and kind of trapped me in the middle of them. I slowed and let them both swim ahead of me. While the two of them battled it out, I drafted behind them.

Soon we were at turn 2. It was still crowded but not as crowded at before. All of the sudden, someone cut me off. It was the return of the Zig-Zag Swimmer! He did the same thing be did before. Now it was just annoying.

I kept my sight timing, my pace, and my calm all the way to the exit. As usual, many people were wading through the water. I kept with my swim exit strategy and swam past all of them waiting until the last possible moment to pop up,

I popped up, took 2 big steps, and was out of the water. I put my goggles on my forehead, lapped my watch, and began to unzip my wetsuit.



As I made my way up the bank, I saw Jen, then heard/saw Andrew (my coach) and Brenda (a fellow teammate).

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I looked at my watch and was happy with the time. It was not my best, but not my worst.

T1

I made my way into transition only to find it was not setup the way I had thought. We all ran by the relay section before making into our area.

As I ran by the relay section, I began to retch. I tried to stay calm and was feeling better until I saw the Porta-Johns. It was at that moment that my body said, "Look, a place to throw up! You have 5 seconds. 4. 3. 2. . ."

I flung the door open and vomited up some lake water. Once done, I went to find my bike.

Although entering from a different spot, I could still use the landmarks I scouted the day before.

I stripped off the rest of my wetsuit and started prepping for the bike.  I had set out a cycling shirt and arm warmers but opted not to use them.  This was a good decision as I did get pretty warm on the bike.

After a quick transition, my bike and I were on our way out of transition.  I made my way to the mount the line and was off!



The Bike


At the start of the bike course I pulled over the check my back tire.  I've been having trouble with the valve and wanted to make sure the tire had not lost pressure.  It was good so I carried on. 

It was hard to remember all the little details of the bike course.  It was one large loop and although I looked at the course map, it was hard to tell where I was.

The start of the bike course had a few uphills.  Soon the uphills turned into windy, rolling hills.  I gathered enough speed on the downhills to get most of the way up the next hill. 

My heart rate was pretty high, but I knew that would come down.


A group of us played leap from for quite some time.  They would pass me on an uphill, I would go zooming past them on the downhill. I am not a climber.  I like to think of myself as a flat, slight downhill, and downhill specialist. 

The course was not closed to automobile traffic and there were times where we were forced to ride on the shoulder.  Some shoulders were littered with rocks and debris and a bit unsafe.  

I treated it as a large group ride.  I would constantly call "CAR BACK!" when cars where approaching and "CLEAR!" when they had all passed.  Many athletes were very appreciative of this.



With the streets being open, it was also very important to signal when you were passing.  A simple "On your left" is all it takes, but not all cyclists are that courteous it seems. 

On some of the faster descents, I was screaming at cyclists to move over.  They would ride in the middle of the road not giving anyone a chance to pass. This is called Blocking and is a time penalty offense.  Plus, it was dangerous!  

Jen, Andrew, and Brenda were at the 25k mark and cheered me on as I was passing a few other riders. 


At the 30K mark, I was 1 hour and 5 minutes in.  A decent pace. If I kept that pace, I'd finish in 3:15.  At 60k, I was at 2 hours and 10 minutes.  I had managed to keep my pace!  But then I realized, I was going to fast.  I knew the last 30k was even more hilly the past 60.

I slowed my pace to save energy for the last 30k, but I felt the damage had already been done. I was also starting to get a pain in my left knee, but figured it would work itself out.

I continued to have fun on the downhills and use them to aid in the following uphills.  A few times, I was able to use my downhill speed to make it all the way the next uphill, no pedaling required!




A little over 75k in and it was time for "the hill."  Everyone kept talking about this hill as the hill to end all hills.  When I took the right turn and was faced with this ascent, I remember what Andrew had said.  He told me that the hill looks bad because it is long, and it's not as steep as it looked.  I got into my easiest gear and began to climb.

The hill was indeed not bad, just long.  I stayed relaxed and focused on lifting my knees.

Halfway up the hill, a spectator was blaring Push It on a portable speaker.  He was singing along and encouraging us up the climb.  It brought a much needed smile to our faces as well as some extra energy.



At the top of the hill, after the turn around, I stopped for a second.  My feet were numb and I did not want to go bombing down that hill with no feeling in them. I know! I know!  No reward at the top, only recovery.  I was 80k in, I could take a short break. 

I bombed down the hill at a very decent speed.  I think it is safe to say that after a year of trying to build it back up mentally,  I am back to my old descent speeds. 

As soon as the hill was over, we turned right, then left, and then. . . Another hill!

A rider behind me asked if this was the last hill.  I responded, "I always assume there is one more hill."

The rest of the course was more rolling hills and soon I found myself closing in on the dismount line.  It was at the bottom of a long gradual hill.  I took the opportunity to make up a little time before my ride was over. 

As I approached the dismount line, spectators where cheering and the volunteers were screaming "Slow Down!"  I could see the line and knew when to slow down, but I knew they were just doing their job.

I made it to the line, dismounted and walked into T2 as Jen took some photos. She asked me how it was and I said, "The first 60k was fun! The last 30k was brutal!"


T2

As I entered T2, I could feel my knee hurting and both my hamstrings were pretty tight. 


I made a quick bike-to-run transition before making a pit stop at a Porta-John.  When I was finished, I noticed I still had my cycling gloves on.  My bike was nearby, so I went back and dropped  them off.

I then hobbled out of the main transition area and past the relay transition area.  

"You are the smart ones!" I called as I went past.  We all had a good laugh and then I was off. 

The Run  


As I came out of T2, I began to run. It was not as painful as I thought.

I saw Jen, Andrew, Brenda, and a whole host of cheering spectators.  This was where the run began, the second lap began, and the entrance to the finish line.



As I ran past, a few spectators gave me some high fives. Then an athlete passed me and headed to the finish.  Man he was fast.

The start of the run was crowded.  There were lots of athletes on their second lap and still going strong.  As they passed, they were extremely supportive.  I received several back slaps and even a fist bump.  This definitely made me feel good.  

It felt like I had been running for hours when I looked up to see a distance marker.  It read 3k.  At that moment, I knew that this would be a very long run.

At one point, I heard heavy breathing approach from behind me.  That's Diana.  And sure enough, it was!  She ran by in the speed that can only be described as "Diana's Pace" full of encouragement. 

Shortly after, another one of my teammates passed me.  I told her that Diana was not that far ahead. "Oh really!? I'm gonna catcher her!" And then she was gone. 

At this point it was raining, but since we were under tree cover, I could hear it, but never felt it. 

There was a long stretch of the run that was just under trees with the lake on the left.  This would not be good for my second lap.  There would be no landmarks to break it up, just a long section of tree cover.

I soon saw an open area and a park. I got excited because I thought it was the park Jen and I had parked at the day before.  I was almost done!

It was not that park.  It was a different one.  I still had about 5k to go on my first lap.

I went through an aid station and was excited to grab some cola. I downed it fast only to find out that it was not flat.

I was soon at the small out-and-back section.  The 'out' was all uphill.  I walked it.  There was a split timer at the top but it was not working. 

Turns out that because the split timer was broken, I disappeared from the tracking app.  This freaked Jen out.  

I was soon back into a long wooded section.  To keep my moral up, I kept repeating to myself, "My mind is strong, my legs are strong, my will is Iron. My mind is strong, my legs are strong, my will is Iron. My mind is strong, my legs are strong, my will is Iron."

This got me to the park, the correct park this time. I knew I was almost done with lap 1, but the thought of having to do it again was torture.  I was exhausted, the course was not broken up with landmarks for mental splitting, and my knee was killing me. 

I passed the 20k sign (not for first lappers) and thought, "Just keep thinking, I'll be here soon!"

The trees opened up and I could see and hear the finish area. I was soon running by the spot were earlier in the day I was starting my swim.

The course began to fill with spectators as I ran closer to the end of the first lap. Jen had walked out from her earlier spot to look for me.  She was still worried because I had disappeared from the tracking app. 

Andrew and Brenda were still there and cheered me as I passed the finish line to continue the run on lap 2. 

Lap 2 was far less crowded.  Everyone out there was on their second lap. 

I tried to pick up the pace but always ended up burning out and having to walk. 

My knee was killing me at this point, but I had come too far to quit now.


I ran by an aid station as they offered cola once again.  I asked if it was flat and they said yes!  I was so excited!

I met a guy visiting from Alabama.  He and his wife had traveled to BC to race here, then go mountain biking in Whistler. We played leap from all the way to kilometer 19.

I looked at my pace and time.  Did some match in my head and thought it was possible to beat my Tremblant time.  I began to run faster only to crash again.  I looked at my watch and scrolled up to 'Overall Time.'  My math was way off.  I was not gong to beat my Tremblant time.  The pressure was off. 

I passed the "wrong park" as a military band was warming up. I heard a bulge play a Calvary Charge and looked back to see a huge smile on the Alabamian's face.


I was soon at the out-and-back hill. I stopped at the aid station and poured cold water over my knee.  A volunteer saw me and asked if I wanted ice.  She gave me a hand full of ice and I put it under my tri suit just above my knee.  It felt fantastic. 

Soon I was at the "right park" and was passed by a runner built like me, but a foot taller.  He stopped to walk with me and said, "Keep it up! It's hard doing this and being so big."

I came to revelation at this point.  In so many races, I have people encouraging me.  And I always feel they are encouraging me because they see me as a bigger athlete.  This always frustrated me.  But now I realize they are encouraging me not because I'm a big guy struggling. They are encouraging me because they know just how hard I am working.

Then there was just under 2k left. I tried my best to run the final 2k, but still had to walk a bit to rest my knee. 

At the point where the trees opened up and I could see the finish, I picked it up.


I once again passed the swim start to the sound of roaring encouragement from spectators.  I smiled as I remembered my earlier revelation as more than one person yelled "You're killing it big guy!"



Andrew, Brenda, and Jen screamed as I passed. I took a right to the finish and ran down the carpet.  It was very uneven and I was careful not to trip.  What a finish photo that would be!


I crossed the finish line, elated that it was done



The medal was hung around my neck and I immediately asked for ice.  A first aid volunteer asked why.  I told him that my knee was hurting.  Once he realized it was not a reoccurring injury he told me that it was protocol to take me to the medical tent.


At the medical tent they did several test and concluded I had not done any permanent damage.  They suggested lots of rest and ice.  


After being discharged from the medical tent, I met with Jen, Andrew, and Brenda.  We talked about the race before I gathered my gear and Jen and I left.

We parked at the "right park" so had to walk along the last section of the run.  We mad sure to cheer for those still out on the run.  Turns out we cheered in the last few people on the course.  The sweeper bikes rode by just as we made our way to the car.

Thank you for taking time to read this entry.  There will not be many entries until the fall as Jen and I are in full wedding planning mode.

Just a reminder that all my 2018 races are benefiting The Alzheimer's Society of BC.

The donation page can be found here. As of right now, we have raised $520!