Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Training for your first marathon: practical tips to get you to the start line

raceexpoSo you registered for a marathon! Scary and exciting! In this post I’ll share some practical tips and tricks to get you through your training. After all, there is nothing a marathon runner likes to do more, than share advice with others running their first marathon (something you will soon find out, if you have not already).

1. Find a training plan that works for you

TrainingPlanA quick Google search will return a number of different marathon training plans. Hal Higdon, Hanson, etc… You can train for a marathon using any of these plans. Here’s a few things to consider when picking a plan.

  • How many weeks do I need to train? Most marathon training plans are 16 weeks long, if you have a good running base (can you go out the door tomorrow and run 15 km/10miles without being completely dead?) you can manage with a 12 week plan. For your first marathon I would recommend a 16 week plan so you can build up the mileage more gradually, but if you are reading this and your marathon ins 13 weeks away, then go find a 12 week plan and get going!
  • How many days a week will you realistically run? I’d recommend trying to run at least 4X a week if training for a marathon. You can train for a marathon with a 3x week plan, but it’ll be easier race day if you can manage 4 days a week. If you are looking to have a strong race you might have a 5X or 6X a week plan. The pros sometimes follow 9 day plans and run 8 days out of 9!
  • Is your marathon hilly? If so you probably want a training plan that includes hill training once a week. That said, I know there are many marathon runners who do not do any hill training because they have hills on their long runs and mid-week runs.
  • Do you want to finish strong? or just finish? If you don’t care if you end up walking for part of the race, then you are fine using a ‘beginner’ training plan. If you are going out for a Boston Qualifying time in your first marathon, then you want a training plan labelled ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’.

2. Respect the long run

Of course how long should your longest run be? There are many schools of thought on this. The default is 20 miles/32 km. There are training plans that take you up to 22 miles or 34/36 km. The Hanson plan peaks at 16 miles for the long run, but has you running more mileage on your mid-week runs so the total weekly mileage is similar.

I know runners who had great marathon races with each of the above.

The theory is you never run the full distance before race day because it takes so long to recover. Well given the world of ultra running, and people like Yuki Kawauchi even that is debatable. But for your first marathon, suffice to say you do NOT need to run the full 42 km/26 miles before race day.

Running a 20-22 mile (30-34 km) run does help build your confidence, it helps you believe you can complete the marathon distance.  Even so, most marathon runners are exhausted at the end of their first 20 mile run and can’t help but wonder “how on earth will I run an additional 6 miles/10km on race day!”  Answer: You will be rested and ready, trust in your training!!! I know you don’t believe it when you are dragging yourself through that last mile, but this is how 98% of marathoners train, and pretty much all of us felt like that after our first 20 miler. I know I did!

slowdownAnother common mistake runners make is to run too fast on the long runs. The goal on your long run is to train your body to run for a longer period of time. If you run your long runs at your goal marathon pace you are missing part of the goal. You need to train your body to run for a certain amount of time in addition to a certain amount of distance. Your long runs should be 1 to 1 and a half minutes per mile slower or 45 seconds to 60 seconds slower per km than your planned pace on race day.

If you are one of those lucky people who feels really good on your long runs, and find yourself wanting to run them faster,  try running your marathon pace for the last 3 miles/5 km of a long run. Just to teach your legs how to run at race pace when they are tired.

3. Respect the rest day

Cat nappingHey I’m going to try and get a Boston Qualifier on this marathon, I don’t need a rest day. Yes you do! When you do a hard workout you are tearing your muscles and they are rebuilding stronger! But they need rest to rebuild. Talk to any serious body builder about their workout schedule, they always give the muscles time to rebuild. Give yourself one day a week, or if you are that gung ho follow a 9 day plan and rest once every 9 days instead of once every 7. But that rest day is a REST day, no cross training, no hopping on the bike, or just hitting the gym for a little cross-fit. I know many of you are reading this and going, who in their right mind would trade a rest day for another workout.  Trust me those people are out there, you know who you are!

For the rest of us, enjoy your rest day! A guilt free day (or 2 depending on your plan)  to look forward to with no run, no cross training, nothing, put your feet up, sit on the patio and enjoy!

4. Practice your race day nutrition

You can run a half marathon with nothing but water. Heck some people can run a half marathon without water ( not recommended mind you). Marathon runners typically take some sort of nutrition during their race. You should consider including BOTH of the following in your running nutrition plan:

Electrolyte drinks

nuun tabletsGatorade/Nuun type drinks provide you with electrolytes during your run. When you sweat you lose more than just water. These drinks are designed to help replace what you lose in sweat. They usually come in a tablet or powder form. You mix them with water and bring them with you to drink on the run. If you aren’t sure which brand to try, consider looking up the brand that is provided on the race course for your marathon. It would be great if you could didn’t need to carry your own with you on race day. Gatorade tends to be more syrupy than Nuun. Nuun tends to be more fizzy.  Some flavours contain caffeine (there’s a theory that caffeine can help you on race day) If your stomach reacts to caffeine, a particular brand or flavour you want to know that BEFORE race day! There’s a decent article here on Electrolyte replacement for Marathon training.

Gels/Chomps

Tap Endurance GelElectrolytes replace your sweat, but how do you replenish some of the energy you burn off during the run. You need to keep your muscles fueled! This is where the Gels/Chews/Chomps/etc… fit in. There are gels which come in little packets coming in every flavour imaginable! (Fruit Smoothie, ChocolateMaple syrup, French toast?). Different brands will have a different texture. Chomps/Bloks tend to be more like a gummy bear in texture. Like the gels they come in a variety of flavours. Some runners find it easier to use the chewy nutrition options, swallowing gels mid-run takes a little getting used to. Though I will say if you use the chewy ones on a cold winter run they take forever to soften up and you can spend two miles trying to get all the gummy stuff off your teeth 😉

You really have to try them to find something that works for you. DO NOT try something new on race day. That is not the time to find out that the new lime margarita chews in your race kit give you stomach cramps.

What about Salt tablets?

Salt-ShakerThis is a fairly controversial question, most of my marathon friends do not take salt, but there are some arguments for taking it in moderation. There is a Runner’s world article “Pass the Salt” that discusses it.  The theory is if you get a lot of cramping (multiple muscles not just one cramp in your side, or one cramp in your calf) that can be caused by lack of salt. I only had one marathon where I think I would have benefitted from a salt tablet and that was my 2016 Grandma’s marathon which was unusually hot. I definitely crave salt after a marathon, but Grandma’s was the first race where I think it might have helped mid-race, and I was actually fighting cramps for about 6 miles despite taking gels and Gatorade.

5. So chafing is a thing

body-gllideHaven’t experienced chafing yet?  Well as those long runs get longer, that will likely change. One day you will hop in the shower after a run and yowsa once that water hits you, you’ll know!  Consider it a rite of passage 😉

If you are a guy you want

If you are a girl you want

A good fitting running bra! Okay a few notes on this if you haven’t done a serious shop for your running bra yet.  What is a good fit is different for everyone, so you have to try on several to find what works for you. A few things to consider. Go to a running or fitness store. Ask for help with the fitting. Trying on sports brass is a bit like jeans shopping or swimsuit shopping, it’s going to take a while to figure out what fits you properly, so be prepared to spend a solid hour trying things on. It’s worth it to find something that fits well.

  • For marathon training, you want a bra designed for maximum support (i.e. minimum bounce)
  • I prefer the bras that have a clip on the back because they are easier to remove when I am tired and sweaty at the end of a run.
  • How do I put this, well I guess I just say it, if you wear a light tank top or shirt and you get sweaty or rained on during your run, there will be nipple bumps showing through your shirt. Some bras have firmer or more padded fabric in the front so you don’t have to worry about what shows up in your race photos.
  • If you will spend a decent amount of time training in heat and humidity, you may want to purchase a running bra you feel comfortable wearing without a shirt. Even if you will never run without a shirt, it’s nice to have a bra that you don’t feel is too revealing if you want to change into a dry shirt at the end of a run. Not usually a problem since most swimsuits are more revealing than a running bra.

Other chafing considerations for female runners

  • You may need something extra under the bra strap across the chest, a well placed blister band-aid can apparently help (I have had chafing issues there at EVERY marathon no matter what I try, but I haven’t tried the blister band aid yet, off to buy some this week)
  • As far as undies go… well honestly, many female runners go commando to reduce chafing, but you can buy running undies for women as well.

Regardless of gender you want some Body Glide, or equivalent (fyi no difference at all between the Body Glide for her in the pink container vs the blue container, so buy whichever is cheaper or comes in the bigger container).  Put it wherever you need it! Anywhere that gets red after a long run, or is getting blisters. I put it on my feet, on my toes, on my upper arms where they rub against a tank top, and anywhere else I have noticed friction after a run. I don’t do this for every run, just for my long runs and race day. Hot weather runs cause more chafing than cold weather runs.

Some shorts chafe more than others, you might want to switch to better running socks to wick away the sweat and moisture more as well (SmartWool, Feetures).

Figure out what clothing is best for you on your training runs. DO NOT try out new gear on race day! That is not the day to find out those new shorts or new socks cause chafing or blisters.

6. Cross-training?

You can complete a marathon without doing any cross-training at all. You can follow a marathon training plan, and finish your marathon. *IF* you get addicted to the marathon distance and plan to train for more marathons, you should definitely do some cross-training.

Common Running Injuries

Marathon running is tough on the body, you work out the same muscles over and over again. If you have any weak points in your body, you will find out on marathon day. Some people finish the race bent over because their core muscles are their weak point. I used to have trouble lifting my leg after a marathon because my adductor muscles were a weak point. Weak glutes can result in your hamstrings overcompensating when you run pulling on your lower back giving you back pain and stiffness. Weak hips can cause IT Band issues around your knees.  Shall I go on? I’m not trying to scare you, it’s simply a reality that when you do one activity (in this case running) a lot you build the same muscles, a lot. Over time this creates an imbalance and causes stiffness and injuries.

If you don’t do cross-training you will end up in physio sooner rather than later. You simply cannot keep working the same muscle groups over and over as much as you do when training and running marathons without finding a weak spot or reaching an imbalance that causes an injury.  There is an expression in marathons, half the battle is won if you reach the start line healthy!  Many, many a marathon runner, has had to give up their bib because they did not take care of the rest of their body during marathon training. Youc an likely get through your first without an injury, but if you decide to keep going, figure out a plan for cross-training!  Since I started consistently cross-training (strength and mobility) I have run 5 marathons without a single trip to physio or massage therapy.  Before that I used to go to my physio once a month to tackle knee and/or hamstring issues and/or achilles pain and/or plantar fasciitis.

What sort of cross-training is best for marathon runners?

There are basically two approaches to cross-training.

Strength

Activities that stkettle bellsrengthen your muscles, don’t just focus on the glutes and hamstrings, make sure you work out other muscles groups as well: core, glutes & hips are three of the biggies too often ignored by runners and can cause issues. Over the years I have done everything from kick-boxing, to Tae Kwon Do, kettle bells, to power yoga, to weight training, to HIIT/Tabata classes. Honestly at this point I just do whatever is convenient for me at a local gym, give me a good cardio or strength workout and keeps me motivated.

Mobility/flexibility

yoga for runners bookActivities that help you loosen up those tight muscles such as a martial arts, yoga, or just going for a massage. When I did kick boxing and Tae Kwon Do I found that helped (in particular those both involve a lot of kicking which was great for loosening up my hips and legs). These days I do yoga and yoga tune-up. Yoga tune-up, sometimes called mobility or myofascial yoga, is totally different from normal yoga, it’s basically a guided rolling class, where you roll out your muscles on balls and foam rollers. Again, its a question of finding something that fits into your schedule and your routine.

7. Don’t freak out over a missed run

oops signLife happens, even when you are training for a marathon. Generally speaking if you miss a run because you are sick or travelling, let it go, pick up with the next run on your training plan. If you are travelling and can get your long run in a day earlier or day later that’s better than missing a run.  Some runs are more significant than others. The long run on the weekend and the longest weekday runs are probably the most important because those are the runs that build up your strength and mileage for race day.

All that said, I almost never get all my longs runs in when training for a marathon. Inevitably something messes up my training and I miss a run or two. If you miss multiple runs multiple weels, well, you may need adjust your expectations on race day.

DO NOT move your training plan back a week to make up for a week vacation. One thing you will notice: All training plans taper to lower mileage the last two weeks before the race. That taper is very important. Once your marathon is two weeks away, there is nothing you can do to run that marathon faster or stronger except take it easy and rest. If you try to add extra runs, extra speed or extra hills in those last two weeks the only thing you can do is potentially hurt yourself or tire yourself out. You want to feel restless, you want to find yourself at the start line with legs saying, oh good finally a run, let’s do this!

8 Accept that some training days are better than others

snailSome days you get out there and the training goes great, you feel good, you may have a target pace and you keep that pace. Other days you get out there and you are slogging from the first step and it doesn’t get easier. There are weeks where you find yourself really struggling to get in the miles and you are running slower than ever! This is normal! You have been pushing your body for weeks on end, at some point your body says, hey this is hard! Run slower if you have to, walk a bit if you have to, just know that even though the runs are slow you are improving. You will find your speed and energy again for the race.

9. Embrace the suck

Tired runner on a hillAt some point in one of your training runs, it will suck. You will be tired, or hot, or cold, or wet, or your legs will hurt, or you will reach a hill and be exhausted.  This is a chance to mentally practice for race day. There will come a point on race day which will suck, and you will be tired and you will want to walk or stop. So every time you hit a moment like that in your training and you manage to get through it, give yourself a gold star! Ask yourself if this happened at Mile 24 /km 38 on race day would I still finish! Yes I would! I can do this! This is my chance to practice working through the tough parts. Find a mantra, a thought, a tune to listen to, that gets you through those moments. Training is a chance to practice building mental strength as well as physical strength.

10. Figure out what will get you out the door

At some point during your marathon training, life will give you convenient excuses to skip your run. For example, as I type this, there is an extreme heat warning, yet I am supposed to do hills today. I did my long run yesterday and I did a 5 km race Saturday, I could skip this ‘one’ hill run right? I could, but I also missed two runs last weekend because I was travelling for a wedding. As my friend Christopher once told me “There is always an excuse to not run.” The challenge is to know when to use that excuse (e.g. you have the flu!), and when to tell yourself, “well that just means it’s a bigger achievement to get the run done today!”

What will get you out the door on those days when you have a convenient excuse to skip the run? Do you need to bribe yourself? Do you have a favorite podcast or playlist? Do you have a training partner? Is there a local running group you can join?  If you are running a local marathon there may be a running group that has a clinic specifically for people running your marathon! Would it help if you tracked each run completed and each run missed? You may need to experiment to figure out what gets you out the door.

When I first got back into running, my friend, Christopher and I had a bet. if either of us did not get in at least x runs a week we owed the other person dinner. We were  competitive enough that got us out the door on days we felt like skipping. I do maintain  a spreadsheet with my running schedule and I mark each run as green (completed), red (missed), or yellow (altered to be shorter or easier).  When I see a week with a lot of red, the next week I am motivated to get back to green!  I joined a running group that does speed work together.  The friendly peer pressure gets me through the full workout, if everyone else is tired and they are doing that last mile repeat, why am I quitting early? Having company on long runs can be a blessing as well. My first two marathons I did my long runs alone, but now I have a have a group of runners I meet for long runs. Those runners have become friends. I look forward to catching up with my long run buddies and swapping stories on everything, and I do mean everything! When you run 14-22 miles week after week with the same group of people you have lots of time to catch up.

It may take a while to find the right running group, or within your running group and community people who are compatible running partners for your long runs. Things to consider include

  • What pace do they run? If they are slower than you, you could always run their pace for the first part of the run, and then pick up the pace and run alone for the last x miles. Nothing wrong with practicing a negative split. If they are faster than you, do you know the route well enough to make sure that if you can’t keep up you won’t get lost running on your own?
  • How far are they running? If they are running less than you do you want to go out early and get the extra miles in ahead of time and finish your run with them or do you want to add on miles at the end? If you have a shorter run is it an out and back route so you can just turnaround earlier or are they running a loop which will require you to find a creative shortcut to reduce the mileage.
  • Do they do a walk/run or a continuous run? It is very hard to walk run with a running group, or run continuous with a walk/run group. The two styles are not really compatible
  • Do they stop for water breaks and bathroom breaks? When I ran alone I took my gels and water without stopping. My current long run partners stops every 5 miles /8 km or so for water and gels. This took a slight adjustment for me, but it does not affect how I race. They will also stop and wait or detour as needed for anyone who needs a bathroom break! As fellow runners we are all sympathetic to that particular need!
  • How do you know where and when to meet? Some running groups post the long run plans to Facebook. The Seattle Green Lake Runners use Meetup to post the long run routes and start times. The Ottawa K2J runners don’t have a formal long run, so various runners within the group just use email: one person emails a suggested time and departure point, the others respond with their distances and by the weekend we know who is coming when. That works well, but sometimes a new runner joins and we accidentally forget to include them on the email thread, so it’s not a perfect system.

11. Get the right shoes

pile of running shoesGo to a good running store and find out which shoes are right for you… neutral?  mild stability? moderate stability? Which brand fits your foot best? some have a larger toe box than others, some are better for a narrower foot or higher arch. You can run a 10 km or a half marathon on a shoe that isn’t quite right, but as the miles build up the wrong shoe is more likely to cause injury. Do you need orthotics?

Some running stores will do a gait analysis in store and have treadmills so you can try out the shoes then and there, or allow you to take home shoes to try on your treadmill so you can see which feel best. I actually went to a local foot clinic to get a professional gait analysis and recommendations for shoes.  It cost about $150 but if that saves me buying the wrong pair of running shoes or one visit to physio it’s pretty much paid for itself!  At least now if I do get an injury I am confident it’s not because of my shoes.

FYI – A pair of running shoes will typically last for about 500 km of running before they should replaced.

DO NOT try a brand new pair of running shoes on race day!

Are you noticing a trend here about NOT trying new things on race day 🙂 Yeah that’s not an accident 😉

12. Find inspiration in others

Spirit of the marathon movie posterOkay I guess I have 11 tips. The marathon is part physical and part mental. You will get bored on race day, you will reach a point on race day where you think to yourself, why am I doing this, this sucks. But you can get through it!

There are lots of running podcasts, movies, and books you can read to get yourself motivated. My friend Christopher introduced me to the movie Spirit of the Marathon, a great way to get motivated the day or week before your race (I am getting all choked up just watching the trailer just now). Deena Kastor’s “Let your Mind Run” is a great read on the power of positive thinking to get you through training and race day. Meb Keflezighi’s 26 marathons reminds us that even the best marathon runners have setbacks, make mistakes, and have good and bad days. Or you can watch  Where Dreams Go To Die and suddenly a marathon doesn’t seem quite so insane in comparison, however much you are hurting race day, it’s nothing compared to what the Barkley runners go through!  That doesn’t make finish our marathon any less of an achievement. Take pride in knowing that the moment you cross that finish line on race day you get to say:

I AM A MARATHONER!

If you found this post helpful, check out the rest of my running related posts including marathon race reports

 

 

 

 

 

Cross Country racing – what a road runner needs to know

In this post, I will share what it is like to compete in the Canadian cross country championships from the perspective of a road runner.

Last week I competed in my second Canadian Cross country championships. For the past 4 years the meet was in Kingston, Ontario. The race moves to Abbotsford, BC for 2019-2020.

Is Cross country the same as trail running?

No.  There’s a good description on the Athletics Canada website:

XCountryMidRaceSusaTrevorCross country is a race run on outdoor courses over varied terrain. Distances vary but can range from four to twelve kilometers. It is both an individual and a team sport; runners are judged on individual times and teams by a points-scoring method.

Races, for both teams and individuals, are run on either grass or woodland courses and might also include stretches of gravel paths, road and hills. Races usually take place in the winter months, outside the usual track and field season.

The IAAF recommend for international competitions that there is a main course loop of between 1750m and 2000m with natural obstacles used where possible, and the likes of deep ditches, dangerous ascents and descents as well as thick undergrowth should be avoided.

Can anyone enter the nationals?

There is a community race anyone can enter, but if you wish to enter the U18, U20, Seniors, or Masters you need a competitive Athletics Canada membership.  You don’t have to do any sort of qualification to enter.

In all honesty, the only reason I have a competitive membership was because some of my fellow K2J runners entered this race in 2016 and a bunch of us decided, sounds like fun next year I want to try it.

What’s different from a road race?

The start line and timing

The first thing you will notice is that the start line is a big long line of runners. There is no timing mat at the start line, it’s a mass start and only your gun time is recorded.  Of course with the wide start area the difference between your gun and chip time would only be 1-3 seconds even for runners like me who are hanging out in the back.

The really serious teams will group together to protect their top runner and ensure they have a nice clear lane to get out in front.

The terrain

The biggest difference in cross country is the terrain. You will be running across a field.  The first year I ran this race it was very muddy and wet. The second year, it was colder and there were icy patches on the course. You can expect at least one good up hill and down hill on the course as well.

Personally, I love running on grass instead of pavement. It’s easier on the shins and knees, you can really let go on the downhill and let gravity carry you.  Of course that does mean the ground will not be perfectly even, but this isn’t trail running, you aren’t leaping over logs and boulders. When I trail run I am constantly looking ahead thinking about where to place my foot next to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle. Cross country terrain isn’t like that, I could run the way I do on pavement, it was just softer underfoot and more slippery.

The conditions change between throughout the race and throughout the day. Because you have a pack of runners in spikes running on the course tearing up the ground, expect the course to get muddier and muddier. We were lucky because the masters course was at 9:30 AM. It was windy and cold, but mostly dry, the conditions were very different for the senior men’s race at 3:30 PM. It was raining and the course was mostly mud!

The shoes

XCountrySpikesDid I mention it was slippery? My sister Judy ran this race in 2016 in regular running shoes. She said she had to slow down a lot on the course because she was slipping in the mud.

The first year I ran, there was a guy running it barefoot (much to the surprise and amusement of the announcers), he wiped out completely more than once. (Side note: no barefoot runners in 2018)

Myself and the rest of the K2J runners who competed in 2017 benefited from my sisters experience. We bought cross country shoes and spikes for the race.

I’d like to mention here that although I did run cross country in high school (over 20 years ago), I had NEVER run with cross country shoes and spikes before. The same was true for most of my friends. My teammate Randy discovered that if you don’t tighten the spikes enough when you screw them in they can actually fall out during your run. Luckily he found that out on a practice run, not on race day.  I went out with my sister Judy, and my friend Jim for exactly one 5 km run in my spikes before the race. I just wanted to see what they felt like when running.

spikesThere are multiple lengths of spikes you can purchase. Real cross country runners apparently change their spikes depending on the conditions, sort of like a skier trying to select the perfect wax

Cross country shoes are light, with a very flexible sole. The moment you step in a puddle your feet will be wet. If you step on a rock you will feel it, but those spikes are AWESOME for traction. In 2017, since none of us had any experience racing in spikes, we decided to go with very short spikes (1/4 inch), technically they would be considered track spikes. The course was very muddy and I only slipped a bit on a couple of the corners (there are some tight U turns on the course). In 2018, we bought slightly longer spikes (3/8 inch, apparently a common cross-country spike length). In 2018, the course was more icy than muddy. The spikes did their job beautifully and I was able to race without worrying about traction.

The route

Unlike road races, most cross country races involve multiple loops. This course had a 2 km loop and a 2.5 km loop. You repeat your loop as often as needed for your distance. I was in the Masters 8 km race. We ran the 2 km loop 4 times. Running a multiple loop race has an interesting effect on the brain. On the first loop you feel out the course, on the second loop all I can think is wow do I really have to do this two more times including that long uphill with the headwind! On the third loop I got lapped by the top male runners. On the final lap I had an exact plan on where to make my move to catch up with and pass the two runner in front of me. (Side Note: I passed them 100 meters before the finish line as planned, but then one of them kicked and passed me as if I was standing still… great finishing kick Rita!)

Check out some of Canada’s best runners

Nationals is a qualifying race for the Canadian national cross country team, so it’s a great opportunity to see some of Canada’s top running talent. The *big* race to watch is the senior men/women, but it’s amazing to see the up and coming talent in the U18 and U20 as well.

In 2017 the senior men’s race was won by Lucas Bruchet in 30:20, with Eric Gillis in 2nd place at 30:42 (Eric represented Canada at the 2008, 2012, & 2016 Olympics. The 10 km senior women’s race was won by Claire Sumner in 34:49.

In 2018 Lucas Bruchet repeated as senior men’s champion finishing in 29:55. The 10 km senior women’s race was won by Genevieve Lalonde in 33:47. Genevieve represented Canada at the 2016 Olympics.

How is the cheering/spectating?

Cross country is usually more spectator friendly than road races.

If you usually cheer on road runners you know that typically you pick a street corner and stand with your sign trying to spot your runner. After they go by, depending on the route and distance you might be able to hop on your bike, car, or subway to go find another spot. The race course in Kingston had a number of switchbacks which makes it fantastic for spectators.

Card_Download

Many cross country routes are designed so you can see someone multiple times in a single loop. On the first couple of loops the runners are so close together you can even dash across the course after the pack goes by to see them on the second half of the loop. You don’t have to choose between watching the lead runners and watching your runner. As they complete the loops you can watch the race progress, see the lead change positions or see the lead runner pulling away. This also means if you are a runner with friends cheering you on, you will see them multiple times and they will have lots of opportunities to see you and snap pictures.

For nationals, you should just plan on spending the day. Run your race, then check out some of Canada’s top runners in the Senior Men & Women’s races, watch the U18 and U20 races and check out the next generation, one of those runners may well be in the Olympics down the road. You can’t ask for a better view!

I’m an average runner, if I enter a competitive race, will I be last?

The first year I ran, I had a simple goal, not to finish last. We have some strong runners in our club. Some of them regularly win their age group and have been known to finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd overall in local road races.  in 2017, 3 of them earned a top 3 finish in their age group at nationals. In 2018 none of them placed in their age group.

I met my goal of not finishing last both years, but both years, I was lapped by the faster runners. I finished the masters 8 km in 37:09 in 2017 and in 38:29 in 2018. For comparison, the last 10 km road race I entered, I finished in 47:51. (Huh, I hadn’t realized until now how much faster I was in 2017… I wonder if it was the footing, the headwind or the fact I had done less hill training for my fall marathon, looking back I did set a personal best on my 2017 fall marathon despite the fact it was NYC which is a tough course). I was 178th out of 220 runners. The last runner finished in 59:03. That’s about a 7:20/km or 11:45/mile pace. Masters for this race is 30 +. Nationals is more competitive than your average road race, but it’s still fun!

Been there, done that got the hoodie! If the Canadian X-Country Championships come to a town near you and you enjoy new race experiences, check it out!

Beat Beethoven Race Report

Race bib and medalThe Beat Beethoven Race is a theme race in Kingston, Ontario. Runners are challenged to complete 8 km before the Kingston Symphony orchestra finishes playing 50 minutes of Beethoven’s best. I love a well organized community race, and this one was a lot of fun.

If you don’t keep an eye on the time, you could find yourself sprinting to beat the finish unnecessarily. I remember my mum telling me Beethoven pieces always sound like they are about to finish but then keep going.

Here’s the scoop on what to expect if you decide to take on the challenge.

The races

They had a kids 1 km race, a 4 km fun run, and the 8 km ‘main event’. Only the 8 km race has timing chips. The distance was a bit short this year for the 4 km, but since it’s not timed and the prizes are given out ot top 3 male and female based on gun time, it wasn’t that big a deal. The race organizer offered to add extra distance to the race next year so it averages out to 4 km both years 🙂  There are no finisher medals, only age group winners receive medals, so if you bring the kids you might have to go for ice cream post race as reward (or stick around for the draw prizes)

Logistics

With a race start time of 10:30 AM, and the option of race day registration and race day pick-up, this race is quite do-able from nearby towns like Ottawa, Cornwall, Brockville, and Belleville. Street parking is free in Kingston on Sundays, and it was not difficult to find parking an easy walk from the start line. This proved especially helpful as I could not find any sort of bag check. My car trunk made a convenient bag check.

Port-a-potties

There are no port-a-potties, but there are washrooms in the back of the tourist information building. I did the standard 20 minutes pre-race stop and was only in line behind 3 women waiting. The gentlemen did not have a line at all.

The shirts

I registered late so did not get a t-shirt. They had some wonderfully bright orange shirts, which the race organized blatantly admitted make for great advertising when you wear them around town. I have plenty of t-shirts, and I have no issues with races not printing a bunch of extra shirts for late registrations just in case. Like I said, most runners have plenty of t-shirts anyway.

The competition

I initially thought this might be a good race to place in my age group or maybe sneak in a podium finish. At smaller races I have placed in my age group, and at *really*small races I have managed a top 3 women overall (by really small I mean < 50 runners in the whole race). The website had a link to the 2018 results.

The top male runners in 2018 finished in 24, 25 and 26 minutes. The top women finished in 30, 31, and 32 minutes. Okay zero chance of a podium finish, how about the 40–49 age group? 32, 32, and 34 minutes! It appears this race brings out some very fast runners. I did not expect times that fast in a race with under 400 people unless they had prize money like Emilie’s Run (https://hockeygeekgirl.com/2019/05/01/emiles-run-race-report/).

The Kingston Symphony Orchestra

Unfortunately it was raining and the orchestra was hidden away inside a tent. We could hear but not see the orchestra as the tent walls had to be kept up to protect the musicians and their instruments.

The 8 km race

The town crier with a fine rainbow umbrella welcomed us all to the race, the gun went off, and off we went. The light rain was actually perfect for running. The route has a few odd little turns, no doubt to ensure you do the correct mileage, and it had a few decent uphill climbs. Since the race is a loop, all the uphill is rewarded with downhill later in the race. There were two water stops along the route, I think the first was around 4 km and the second was around 6.5 km.

The volunteers as always were much appreciated and cheered us on. Thank you volunteers!

I finished well under 50 minutes, but like many other runners I stayed around, intrigued to see how close to 50 minutes the orchestra would finish playing. There is only one pace bunny on this course: the 50 minute pace bunny! We saw him coming toward the finish line and we could hear the closing bars of Beethove emanating from the tent. The pace bunny’s foot hit the timing mat, the last note came from the tent and the clock turned to 50:00 at exactly the same time. I’m impressed!

Race results

Sportstats had results up almost instantly after you crossed the finish line. I was pleasantly surprised to see myself listed in 3rd place in my age group. The website did not mention whether there were age group awards but as I strolled over to the food table to grab a clementine and a roll (no bagels just rolls), I saw them laying out medals and envelopes. There were no finisher medals for the race, but the medals for the age group winners were really nice!

So, I waited around for the award ceremony. It was cold, and it was a bit of a wait. I think they started just after noon. Not unreasonable, I just wish I had known I had time to go put on warmer clothes, all I had done was grab a warm jacket.

Draw prizes and age group awards

Awards were given out for the 4 km first, and then a few draw prizes, then they worked their way through the 8 km awards, interspersing draw prizes in between age groups. draw prizes were awarded by bib number. It took me a couple of rounds to realize they were looking out into the crowd and calling out bibs they could see. He did tell everyone after giving out some draw prizes that everyone with jackets zipped up might want to unzip them 😉 Hey, I think that’s a great way to do it, I don’t want to sit there while they call out bib numbers for people who have left, and that way if there is a kid who ran a race lookign really excited about the draw prizes, or a runner wants to blatantly walk up and stand in front of the stage with their bib prominently displayed to try and win a draw prize, go for it! The prizes were a mix of shirts, water bottles, and race entries. Most of the medal winners had the opportunity to grab one of the prizes as well.

Summary

This is a fun but quite competitive community race. Race registration can be done right up to the day of the race so it’s great for those of us looking for a couple of fun runs to do after our big spring races. There are plenty of little shops and restaurants around the finish area if you want to make it into a day trip. If you stick around until awards I’d say there’s a good chance you can win a ‘draw’ prize just by standing in front of the stage with your bib clearly visible 😉

If you are interested check out my other running related posts and race reports.

Bay 2 Breakers race report – in San Francisco anything goes

I just ran the infamous Bay to Breakers. A 12 km spring race in San Francisco whose notoriety comes from it’s reputation as a clothing optional race.

There’s practical information at the bottom of this blog post in case you plan to run it yourself.

If you run, you probably have the same reaction I did: Male or female wouldn’t that be uncomfortable? Do you really want things bouncing around as you run? We runners happily splurge to purchase supportive undergarments to avoid that sort of thing.

And what do they do with their race bib? Are there race bib temporary tattoos you can apply? Or do they wear nothing but a smile and a race belt?

It does explain the market for the Body glide with built in sunscreen I saw at the Big Sur marathon expo. I was baffled when I saw it there, generally speaking Body Glide is applied where the sun does not shine.

So with these important thoughts occupying my brain, I met my friend Christopher in San Francisco to experience Bay to Breakers first hand.

Sparkly light up tutus anyone?

Since most of us have no intention of running naked, costumes are a popular alternative at Bay to Breakers. I expected the race expo to sell everything from sparkly tutus and tiaras to neon body paint. No neon body paint or tiaras, but we did find Christopher a fabulous rainbow light up LED tutu and I found a sparkly gold headband that would make Axl Rose proud.

Christopher was highly amused when someone working a booth approached me to ask if I would like more information on their anti-aging products. Hey! I’m walking through the expo in my Boston marathon jacket, getting older was the only way I can qualify for Boston!

Watch out for the flying tortillas!

tortillas in corral at bay to breakersWhen we got to the start corrals, there were cows, chickens, superheros, spacejam basketball players, lifeguards, Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, and more.

Suddenly a tortilla flew past Christopher’s head. That was when we noticed an impressive collection of tortillas on the ground. So in addition to keeping your eyes open for beach balls bouncing you need to dodge a steady stream of tortilla frisbees. Pro Tip: When you actually start running, try to avoid stepping on the tortillas they are a bit slippery.

Who are these people in the middle of the road?

After a fine Corral sing along to Don’t Stop Believing we crossed the start line. There were two lines of people in cow costumes in the middle of the road creating a high five tunnel for the runners. On Hayes Hill we met a group of runners dressed as salmon (running the wrong way of course) running down the middle of the road high fiving runners. Later in the course we got another high five from Jesus, I mean how do you turn down a high five from Jesus!High Five from Jesus

Are there really naked people?

About half a mile into the race, I said to Christopher “since this is Bay to Breakers, I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t at least one naked runner”.  I was not disappointed.  Oh and it’s not just runners! Spectators  get into the spirit as well. Our favorite was the guy on the side of the street with a happy face shaved into his chest hair wearing nothing but a carefully placed Crown Royal Bag.

We started playing a little game: Would we see more people trying to save us from our sins, or naked runners. Final score was about 8-5 for the naked runners.

Oh and they wear their bibs on hats or visors, so now you know.

Brought to you by cannabis

The early start of 8 AM did not stop spectators from coming out to cheer. There weren’t as many spectators as I expected, but their enthusiasm, and costumes more than made up for it. The mylar blankets at the finish line were sponsored by a local cannabis store. I suspect both they and the liquor store had a good day.

Thanks for a great time San Francsico, and thank you Christopher for joining me on the adventure. I would run this again. If you are interested in running it yourself, read on for some practical information

Practical information for those planning to run the race

Can you race it?

Bay to Breakers used to be the largest footrace in the world. City 2 Surf in Australia has since taken over that title. But, at it’s peak, Bay to Breakers had 100,000 runners! In 2009 the city officially banned floats, alcohol, drunkenness and nudity because some residents complained the race was getting out of hand. They still get 30,000+ registrations every year, but they can have double that number out on the course any given year as many people run without registering.

That said, we were in corral B, we were never alone, but if I had wanted to run my own race, there was room to run. If you run a sub 7 minute mile and can provide proof of that pace you can enter the seeded corrals which are likely even more spread out.

Corrals are seeded based on your predicted pace, but corrals are not enforced, so if you want to go out fast, move to the front of your corral.

This race is meant to be fun, and if you race it and go home, I think you miss out on a lot. I would recommend you move back a couple of corrals from your usual pace, carry your phone and have fun. If you do race it, then do what I saw several other runners doing. Race to the finish then do a jog/walk back to the start line along the course so you can see all the runners behind you. I think you will enjoy that more than running the optional extra 3 km at the finish for the extra medal. Just remember if you turn around to run back the first 3 miles on the way back is going to be uphill.

How hilly is it?

There are rolling hills for a lot of the course, and one decent climb at Hayes Hill, but honestly if you run half marathons or marathons and have done hill training, it’s not that bad. If you normally run flat 5 to 10 km runs and don’t do hill training, then yes it’s going to seem hilly. It’s a great course to run a negative split, since a lot of the last 3 miles is downhill.

They have timing mats at the bottom and top of Hayes Hill so they can award the fastest Hayes Hill run of the race.

Water stops

There were water stops on the course, all the water stops are on the right hand side and they had enough tables you could run past the first two tables and grab water further down.

Port-a-potties

I was surprised by how few port-a-potties there were in the start area, but each corral had a different section so I only saw the port-a-potties on my street. There were a LOT of port-a-potties along the route.

Bag check (or lack thereof)

Because of the large number of runners they don’t have bag check unless you pay for VIP registration. Backpacks are not allowed either. You can purchase an approved clear drawstring bag at the expo to carry a change of clothes (or your clothes depending on how you plan to run the race). That does mean you run the race carrying a drawstring bag on your back which is irritating. Next time, I would probably splurge on VIP registration to get bag check.

Race Expo

The race expo is next to Pier 39, a popular destination for tourists seeking food, souvenir socks, and sea lions.

Bib and t-shirt pick up is well organized.

The only clothing on sale at the race expo was official race gear, but they did have a nice selection. The lack of bag check may account for the Flip Belt and Roo Pouch boots at the expo. We expected to find booths selling stuff for costumes, but there was only one booth selling headbands and tutus.

Transportation to start and from Finish

Because the race is point to point you will likely need transportation. “Muni” passes, in the form of yellow stickers to put in the corner of your bib, are available for purchase when you register online, at the expo, or beside the bus stop at the finish line. Muni passes provide transportation to and from the start by city transit. We had no trouble getting on a city train to the start race morning. They had a continuous line of buses at the finish, as soon as a bus filled up it left and the next one started to load. The bus ride back was slow, but that’s just because it is a city bus so it stops to pick up and drop off passengers at all the city bus stops.

Race Photos

Most of the race photographers I saw were on the left side of the road. Photos are free, this year sponsored by Strava. It’s a busy race so if you want race photos seek out the photographers and make sure they see you.

Should I wear a costume?

Absolutely. Even if it’s just a grass skirt, and hawaiian shirt, or a Forrest Gump costume. If you want to race, you can come up with something that is comfortable to run in. I recommend asking yourself a few key questions when choosing your outfit

  • Is it breathable?
  • Will it survive if it rains?
  • Will it survive when I sweat?
  • Will it chafe?

Should I run naked?

Hey that’s up to you, but if you do, you won’t be the only one.

If you enjoyed this post, check out other running related posts

The runners practical guide to Boston marathon weekend

You have a bib for Boston? Congratulations you made it! In this post I’ll share some practical information on how to prepare for and enjoy marathon weekend.

ImInBoston

I was fortunate enough to have experienced Boston marathon runners as travel companions to help me navigate my first Boston. Their simple tips and tricks helped reduce my stress and allowed me to get the most of my Boston marathon weekend. Hopefully I can help you do the same!

What to pack

Rule #1 of Boston has become, NEVER believe the long term forecast. Pack for everything from freezing cold wet conditions to hot and humid. This will save you rushing around on Sunday trying to find suitable race gear at the last minute that you probably have sitting at home. You won’t know what you really need to wear until you see the hourly forecast the day before the race. In 2015, the forecast called for sun, race day was rainy and windy. No-one expected the frigid, pouring rain and strong winds of 2018 (2-10C/35-50F with a 14 MPH headwind). In 2019, they sent out emails Friday warning us to prepare for conditions similar to 2018. By the time we entered the start corrals it was sunny and humid  with peak temperatures of 20C/68F hitting right around the Newton hills.PackingForMarathon

Pack for running in any possible weather and pack for hanging out at the start line in any possible weather. Consider picking up a throwaway pair of rubber boots for the athlete’s village. There are tents , but you have to walk through a field to get to the tents, and to get to the all important port-a-potties. If it rains the night before the race, or the day of the race the field can get very muddy.  Your running shoes don’t fit in the official “bag for the start village” but as long as you carry them in a clear plastic bag, they will let you bring them with you on the bus and into the village. So add clear plastic garbage bags to your packing list as well!  Have a plan to keep your feet and running shoes dry in the event the field is wet and/or muddy.

When to arrive

Boston marathon hotels are crazy expensive. But, if it’s an option, its really great to arrive as early as you can. This allows you to explore the city, soak up the race atmosphere, and visit the race expo before it gets crazy busy!  One option is to change hotels. Stay further out of town when you first arrive, and move to a hotel more convenient for the race on Sunday.

Why arrive early?

Quieter expo hall

If you visit the expo on Saturday you will line up just to get inside, whereas Friday you can just walk in.

5 km race

Saturday morning is the Boston 5 km race, a great opportunity for friends and family who are coming to cheer you on to feel a part of marathon weekend. They get a Boston t-shirt and the 5 km course takes them across the finish line of the marathon. They get to run down Boyleston! (if you stop to take a selfie at the marathon finish line (about the 4km mark, during the 5 km please move to the side first so other runners do not crash into you).  Join friends and family for the 5 km or just cheer them on.  The 5 km race will sell out, so register early.

Cannolis, Clam chowdah & Boston Cream pie

CannoliAll famous local foods you should try, but not food you generally want to eat the day before you run a marathon.

Time to explore the city

Downtown Boston is very pedestrian friendly. You can just follow the Freedom trail and check out the Granary burying ground famous graveyards, the Faneuil Hall marketplace, Paul Revere’s house, and so much more. It’s easy to accidentally spend too much time on your feet. If you arrive early you can explore on Saturday and put your feet up Sunday. The New England Aquarium is also a fun stop and runner’s of a certain age may want to visit Cheers for a photo op on the edge of Boston Common ( you will get to know Boston Common well on race weekend!)

How to get around

You do NOT want to be driving around downtown Boston. If you are driving, find a parking lot, park the car, and don’t drive it again until it’s time to leave town. I strongly recommend you research prices and locations ahead of time, because you can pay crazy amounts for parking in downtown Boston!  Monday is a holiday, but our parking garage still charged us the weekday rate on Monday which was 3X the weekend rate. If you are flying into Logan airport, you can take public transit into downtown from the airport, or take a taxi, Lyft or Uber. I do not recommend renting a car. You will pay more for parking than the rental and downtown Boston is a maze!

Public transit

The easiest way to get around is to use the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority).  I recommend picking up a 1 day or 7 day pass. You can buy these at the fare stations ticket machines. having a pass is a good way to cut down on your walking. Save your energy for race day. If you have a pass, it’s easier to just hop on the train, even if it’s just 1 or 2 stops.

  • The stop closest to the race expo is the Hynes Convention Centre on the Green line.
  • Copley station on the Green line is closest to the finish line but is closed on race day. It’s also a bit confusing because on race weekend with various events going on sometimes you can’t easily cross Boyleston and once you exit Copley station you are committed to one side of the street or the other (i.e. you can’t just go underground to cross the street).
  • Arlington station is the closest station to the finish line on race day.

Walking

As I mentioned above, downtown Boston is very pedestrian friendly.  You can just follow the Freedom trail and see all sorts of cool sights!

Blue Bikes

They have rental bikes in Boston as well. I would NOT want to drive these around downtown, but, wonderful for a cycle along the Charlestown river if you want to head towards MIT and Harvard to watch the rowers and sailboats.

What can I do Sunday when I want to explore without walking too much?

Boat tours

Harbour tours are a great way to explore while staying off your feet.

Free ferry ride

USSConstitutionThe Charlestown Ferry is part of the public transit system. That means if you have a transit pass, you can ride the ferry for free. It will take you from the dock next to the aquarium over the long wharf where you can visit the Charlestown navy yard. Free admission, but, remember to bring government issued ID, and you have to go through airport-style security, so don’t bring a backpack with anything like a pocket knife.  Liquids are okay, but otherwise just assume anything they would not allow as carry-on for a flight is not allowed, and there are no lockers to store your bags while you tour. You can check out the USS Constitution, (first set sail in 1797!) and the World War II destroyer the USS Cassin Young. Then you can walk back to the ferry and ride back to downtown. Just keep an eye on the ferry schedule, the last ferry leaves around 5:30 PM or so.

Bus tours

I know a lot of runners do Hop On/Hop Off bus tours the day before a race to explore. We have never bothered to do this in Boston because walking and Public transit can so easily get you to so many sites.

Segway tours

I haven’t done any Segway tours, but might be a fun way to explore downtown.

Where should I stay?

Near the finish

It is pretty awesome to stay walking distance from the finish line, or should I say staggering distance from the finish line. But you will pay for the privilege! You also need to book early. The finish area hotels start booking rooms for race weekend in May, and may be sold out by June!  Many of them have reasonable cancellation policies so you may just want to book one of the pricy hotels and cancel later if you change your mind (but make sure you read the cancellation policies!). The other advantage to staying in this area is walking distance from the finish equals walking distance from the shuttle buses to Hopkinton Monday morning. But since Boston starts relatively late as marathons go, it’s not that much hassle to take transit to Boston Commons race day to catch the shuttle. Just make sure to give yourself extra time if you are checking a bag. Bag check is in the finish area, the shuttle buses are in the middle of Boston Common.

If you are sharing a room with another runner, read all the small print, and consider calling the hotel if you are hoping to have two beds.  My sister and I have had to share a Queen bed two years in a row. Manageable for two sisters, but maybe a little awkward if you are just sharing a room with someone else from your running club. This year we tried changing hotels to get two beds, but, when we arrived we were told that was “based on availability” and ended up once again in a room with only one Queen sized bed.  We managed to jam a cot into the room, but next year we will continue our hunt for a finish area hotel where we can guarantee a room with two beds.

Further away but on the public transit route

Public transit is free after the race. My hotel was at the far end of Boston Common. It was cold and raining. I was exhausted. So, I just stumbled into Arlington station (tough yes that does mean walking down stairs :)) wrapped in my mylar blanket (I did not check a bag) and got off at Park St station, 50 meters from my hotel. Even though there was a steady stream of runners and their families boarding, it did not take too long to get on a train.  So if you can handle the ride you could stay further away from the finish line. This will save you money, and get you a bigger room. The year my family came to cheer me on, we stayed near the 22 mile mark close to the Chestnut Hill reservoir, a short walk from the Green line. We were able to book it for a reasonable price only a month before the race.

AirBnB

As of 2019, Airbnb is still allowed in Boston, the city has not had any sort of crackdown.  I am always a little nervous about Airbnb for marathons, ever since I booked one for the Chicago marathon and it was cancelled on me 2 months before the race leaving me to scramble and find a new place to stay. But, I have had many excellent stays at Airbnb.

The Race Expo

There are a lot of good booths and vendors at the Boston race expo. But! It is crazy crowded on the weekend, especially on Saturday.  You will see a line around the block just to get into the building. Here’s a tip, there is a second entrance to the expo area inside the mall. It will also have a line-up but the wait is usually closer to 5 minutes instead of up to an hour at the outside entrance. I am always nervous that some year they will close the mall entrance, but so far, so good.

Bring your credit card, there are a lot of opportunities to spend money at the expo and I always seem to spend more than I had planned.

The poster

After you have your bib and make your way into the expo area, keep an eye out for people handing out rolled up posters. They print posters with the names of all the marathon runners and give them out free at the expo. A great souvenir of your first Boston to mount on the wall.

Shoe shopping

I usually do some serious shoe shopping at the race expo because there is no state tax on running shoes in Massachusetts and vendors you usually have 10-15% off shoes at the expo.  Many shoe vendors produce a special Boston marathon edition shoe, but sadly those are never right for my feet. But it’s a great chance to try on different brands of shoes with product representatives on hand who know the product. This is much easier to do on Friday when it is less busy and they still have all the sizes in stock.

Buying the “Boston Jacket”

Boston marathon jackets

Boston marathon jackets

The longest line up at the race expo is the line for the store where you purchase official race gear including the famous celebration jacket. If you hate line ups, you might want to bypass it here and go buy the celebration jacket and some of the other official race merchandise at Marathon Sports stores as well. There is a Marathon sports in the mall, and another on Boyleston.  My biggest problem is that I often like the other jackets they have for sale and end up buying two jackets! Because of course you have to buy the celebration jacket. FYI, everyone wears their jacket after they finish the race and the next day. If you have the pleasure of running another Boston marathon in the future, make sure you bring your old jacket to wear around on race weekend. I love playing spot the oldest Boston jacket.

Where do I find pasta Sunday night?

The North End of Boston is the Italian district. Make reservations if you want to eat there Sunday. You won’t be the only marathon runner looking for pasta. You may want to find an Italian restaurant outside the North End instead.

Another option is the race pasta dinner. Free with your race registration, but you have to RSVP when you get the email for the pasta dinner and post-race party. It used to have some pretty bad line ups, but a friend who went in 2019 said it has improved a lot since they started assigning time slots to the tickets.

If you like beer, of course you have to have a pint of the 26.2 Sam Adams with your dinner Sunday or Monday. (If it comes in a 26.2 glass, ask the staff if you can keep the glass :))

Shakeout run

ChartestonRiverRunIf you flew or drove to Boston, you may want to go for a run to loosen up.  There are two popular routes downtown:  Boston Commons, and the Charlestown river paths.  This year I am 90% sure we passed Shalane Flanagan running the other way along the Charlestown, and in 2016 we met Meb walking down Boyleston after our morning run.  If you run along the Charlestown river, do keep an eye out for wheelchair racers, they move a LOT faster than the runners and can come up quickly behind you.

Photo ops

FinishlineIf you are running your first Boston you probably want some pictures to commemorate the occasion. There are lots of backdrops in the expo. I also recommend taking a picture at the finish line. Boyleston is closed around the finish line Sunday afternoon so you can go get a picture.  You will not be alone, but all the runners are very courteous and take turns posing next to the big Boston logo painted on the ground or with the finish line sign in the background.

 

#BostonStrong

BostonStrongThere will be many tributes to the 2013 Boston bombing. They used to have crocheted blue and yellow flowers on the lamp posts where the two bombs exploded. They are now building permanent memorials. You will see pots of daffodils and signs with the phrase #BostonStrong. These are all in tribute to 2013 Boston.

Enjoy yourself!

Take a step back and soak it all in. Boston is a special race. It’s hard to have *fun* running a marathon, but hopefully this post will help you relax and have fun marathon weekend.

If you are super stoked about Boston and want more Boston marathon related posts, check out

This is your Brain, This is your brain on Boston

Boston marathon treadmill settings

Other running related posts including comparisons of Boston vs the Chicago and New York marathons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diefenbooker race report

Today was 23rd annual Diefenbooker race day. It’s hard to believe it took me this long to get out and do it!

IMG_20190504_085201

It takes a village of volunteers!

This is a community race. I was immediately impressed by their team of volunteers. As we arrived, volunteers directed us to a parking spot. When we walked into the building, a volunteer asked if we needed race day registration. We said yes, so she  provided us with forms to fill out, asked what races we were doing along with our shirt sizes then proceeded to fetch our t-shirts and bibs. Once we had completed our forms she directed us to another volunteer who took down our information and payment (cash only by the way). Additional volunteers were ready to hand out bibs and t-shirts to those who had pre-registered. There were also plenty of volunteers along the route managing traffic, making sure we did not miss turns, and cheering us on.

IMG_20190504_165733Race day registration runs from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM. We arrived just before 8 AM. The line for race day registration was a bit of a bottleneck by 8:15, but they kept it open late so everyone could be processed. But, if you decide to race, it would be a kindness to the volunteers and organizers to pre-register or arrive early on race day to register. Pre-registration also helps you get your preferred t-shirt size. The smallest women’s shirt they had by the time I arrived was a women’s large. The shirts are cotton by the way, not technical shirts. Fairly common for community races.

 

A race for the whole family

This is a great family event, with races for everyone! There was a 5 km, 18km, and 33 km cycle. There was a 5km, and 10 km run for those who want to race. There was also a 5 km walk for those who prefer a more gentle pace. There are also shorter races for the youngest family members. A 1 km race for 12 and under, and the loonie loop for 2 to 6 year olds. The 2 yr olds do not race against the 6 year olds. They do one race for each age 🙂 Such fun to watch a line of 2 year olds race about 30 m across a field as fast as their legs will carry them. Parents, siblings, grandparents and total strangers stand on the sidelines cheering them on. Of course there are always one or two confused toddlers who stop and look around bewildered not entirely sure what is going on, but family are only a few feet away to rescue them if needed.

Running through the Diefenbunker

blasttunnelOne of the really cool things about the 5 km and 10 km races is that you get to run through the Diefenbunker blast tunnel.  The blast tunnel was designed and constructed to allow the pressure wave from a nuclear blast to enter and then be diverted away from the actual bunker itself where key members of the Canadian government would be relocated in the event of nuclear attack.

I did the bike ride instead of the run so I did not get to run through the tunnel. Clearly, I need to return next year to do the run so I can run through the tunnel!

The bike ride

The 33 km bike route took us along country roads. There was very little traffic and only a few hills. All the turns were clearly marked. You did need to keep an eye out for cracks and potholes. Not surprising for a spring race in Ottawa. I did the ride on a good road bike and would use the same bike if I return. I guess I should specify, what I mean by a “good” bike, since that definition can vary widely! My bike is is a Trek Lexa SLX :aluminum frame, carbon forks, Bontrager components and Bontrager alloy wheels, Shimano 105 drivetrain. Another cyclist who rode with us for a good part of the race did comment that he was glad he brought his “B” bike and not his racing bike given the road conditions.  Save that bike for riding in the Gatineau hills.

The 33 km cyclists started just ahead of the 18 km cyclists, and the 5 km cyclists started last. This worked out well since the faster cyclists tended to be doing the longer distances. By breaking up the starts, you don’t have an 8 year old on their mountain bike jockeying for position with my cycling commuter husband clipped into his pedals riding his Marinoni.

A community race with community sponsors

The cycling races are cycle tours which means, unlike the running races, they are not timed. As a result, I was surprised when they asked me to pull over at the finish line. Apparently I was the 2nd female overall in the 33km bike. I was presented with gift certificates for Kin Vineyards and The Cheshire Cat Pub (make sure you read their road sign when you are in the area). local businesses can be such great supporters of community races!)

Even if you don’t get a top three finish, the 2019 bibs included $20 off any purchase of $100 at Bushtukah. It is far too easy for me to spend  over $100 at Bushtukah, and it just so happens I need to buy a pair of trail running shoes. You also got a coupon for a free Kichesippi beer at the Cheshire Cat Pub (valid on race weekend). I also heard a rumour kids who did the Loonie Loop got a coupon for a free ice cream (but I have no way of fact checking that, so don’t make any promises of free ice cream to your kids, just in case I am wrong)

img_20190504_165718.jpgThank you to all the sponsors who contributed to this community event! Giving away gift certificates is smart, because now my husband and I are planning a return trip to Carp for dinner at the pub and a stop at the vineyard. Maybe we can combine it with an attempt on the Diefenbunker Escape room.

Washrooms and bag check

Yes there is a bag check inside the building

There are washrooms inside the building and they also had 5 port-a-potties in the parking lot.  I appreciated the indoor washrooms when I realized I had absent mindedly put my bib bike shorts on backwards when I got up in the morning and needed to remedy the situation before the race start. Glad I didn’t have to do that in a port-a-potty!

The Diefenchunk

img_20190504_165353.jpgAnother unique aspect of this race is the medals. In addition to receiving gift certificates for my top 3 finish, they also presented me with a very original medal. The middle of the medal has a small piece of concrete glued to it. Apparently I received a “Diefenchunk” 🙂  Presumably meant to be taken from the Diefenbunker, though my husband and I wondered if perhaps they were taken from some of the more impressive potholes on the course!

Diefenchunk medals are awarded to top three men and women overall in each cycling race, in the 5km and 10 km running races, the 5 km walk and to the first place age group winners in the 5 km and 10 km running races.

Summary

The Diefenbooker is a well organized, fun spring race for runners and cyclists of any age and ability. The funds raised support organizations in West Carleton that promote literacy, encourage physical activity or personal wellness. Little touches like the Diefenchunk and running through the tunnel make it one of the more original races in the Ottawa area. I’ll be back. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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If you are interested, I have other running related posts and race reports

Emile’s Run Race Report

EMiliesRunFriendsThere are more and more all female races out there, last week I ran my first: Emilie’s run. The race was established in 2007, in memory of Émilie Mondor. Emilie competed for Canada in the 2004 Olympics and died at the age of 25 in a car accident. She was the first Canadian woman to complete a 5,000 m in under 15 minutes. (14:59.68 at the world championships in Paris 2003).

Emilie Mondor

Emilie Mondor

The race appealed because in addition to being a welcoming race for female runners of all levels, it’s a race that celebrates competitive female runners.  The event aims to give competitive women a chance to lead a race, set the pace, and be the overall winners. (The prize money helps attract some strong runners)

Emilie’s run is a 5 km spring race in Ottawa. The route is a simple loop on the experimental farm.

A couple of useful things to know if you are thinking of running (as of 2019):

You can pick up your race kit on race day at the start or Thursday at Bushtukah

  • Parking – There was free parking,  but the posted race lot was full when we arrived. There were some other lots around but the signs seemed to indicate 90 minute parking. We decided to keep it simple and just paid for parking at the agriculture museum which was a nice short walk to the start, and I have no objection to supporting the agriculture museum with a few $.
  • There are two hills, not very steep, but fairly long
  • You get a necklace instead of a medal at the finish line
  • They have bag check and there are bagels and bananas at the finish
  • There is a 1 km Fun run as well
  • Wheelchair friendly route
  • Port-a-potties are located at the start area, and a short walk away are the heated indoor toilets.

For the casual runner looking for a fun run:

  • There is a water stop around half way
  • When I ran (2019), the last pair crossed the finish line at 1:25, the previous 9 runners all came in between 45 minutes and 55 minutes

If you are a tad competitive (like me)

  • There is prize money (unusual for a 5 km) so this race attracts some fast women! $750 for first place, $500 for 2nd, $350 for 3rd, $200 for 4th, $100 for 5th.
  • It’s interesting to compete in a race that is all women and has some serious competition for the top spots.
  • The overall winner in 2019 finished in 16:52.9, fifth place 18:35.5 (that’s how fast you had to be in 2019 to take home $)
  • First place in the masters finished in 18:59.2 and won $250
  • There were 14 women who finished in under 20 minutes
  • They have timing mats and clocks at every km, so you can keep an eye on your splits.
  • It’s a fairly fast course, but it does have a long hill at km 2-3 and km 4-5 and if it’s windy you are guaranteed to have a stretch with a headwind because it’s a loop and there is not much shelter from the wind.
  • The road isn’t closed before the race starts, but you can do a nice warm up running out to the 1 km flag and back.

EMiliesRunSusanHow was my race? I am a runner who occasionally sneaks in a top 3 in her age group. I finished in 22:10 which is within a minute of my 5 km Personal Best. I finished 23rd overall, 2nd in my age group.  I enjoyed racing with such a strong pack of women runners.  I think I would have been at least 10 seconds slower if not for Kailey (that’s her in front of me in edge of the photo) for being just close enough and tall enough for me to draft behind on the windy sections. Thank you Kailey!