Monday, May 31, 2010

Ottawa Marathon: A Learning Experience

For the Ottawa Marathon I had set very high expectations for myself. My goal was to run sub 2:35. I was very excited for the race and had worked extremely hard to achieve this goal. On the start line I was very nervous but also ready to race hard and compete with the top runners. I knew before the race that the three Ethiopian runners were looking to run under 2:30. My strategy for the race was to start out with the lead pack and stay on 3:30 pace for the first 10km and then see from there where I was placed and how my body was feeling. The weather was perfect for running and I could not wait for the gun to go off. As we crossed the start line I got right in with the three Ethiopians and the pace maker for the group Rejean. I felt very comfortable for the first 3km until the first hill. I had no power and could not push over the hill. At the top of the hill I decided to back off the pace but keep the leaders in sight. However I had no energy and my hamstring was starting to hurt but I still kept trying to push the pace. I crossed the half way point in 1:16:57. Much slower than what I had anticipated. I had hoped to go through the half in 1:15. I was really trying to take in water and my electrolyte chews but my stomach could not handle it. I had cramps and I was scared of the consequences if I tried to take on more. In my head however I was determined to keep going and keep trying to push the pace. I kept in my mind that if I could just keep the pace I could still run 2:35. My body had other ideas: My legs were heavy and sore and my breathing was very labored unlike the other two marathons I have run. My pace from the half got slower and slower every kilometer. It was very discouraging and hard to stay positive at this point. I crossed the 30km mark in 1:51 where I was supposed to be running 1:45. The last 12km were very painful and I could not wait for the finish line to come closer - a horrible feeling knowing I had put so much work in and was so excited for this day.

I crossed the line in 2:39:29 well off my goal time and very frustrated at myself! After the race I was full of negativity and just wanted to go home. In hindsight I should have stayed positive and stayed with the other athletes longer and taken in the wonderful atmosphere around. I was thinking of myself too much and feeling sorry for myself and did not see everything else going on. The crowds were great and the people crossing the finish line were very inspiring - the race itself was great with all the money raised for different charities. The course even though not my strength as it was very hilly and challenging was very beautiful. I spent the whole afternoon and evening talking with husband trying to work out what went wrong. Here are my ideas.

First I think I may have peaked too early. I was feeling so amazing 2 weeks ago in the half marathon and ever since then I have had a feeling that my body was hanging on and an injury was starting . I was starting to have pains in my hamstring and glutes. I was trying to stay positive and block it out last week as I really wanted to perform well but looking back I should have paid more attention to these signs.

Second, I was not able to take in adequate nutrition during the race. My stomach was pretty bad with cramps and I did not want to risk even worse cramps by taking anything. At the half I was under 1:17 and still should have been able to manage 2:35 but I had no energy. I was 4th at half way and by the end was 7th. When a anyone ran past I had nothing in me to pick up the pace - it was an awful feeling as I am normally very competitive.

Third the course was hilly - I underestimated the course when we drove it. I found it very challenging. I think these three things in combination were the reason for the very slow time. I definitely learned a lot about my body in this race and that I really need to listen to my body more. Well, I have to look forward to the next race and correct the mistakes I made in this race.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mississauga Half Marathon and Visit to South March Public School

Mississauga Half Marathon May 16th

Two weeks after the sporting life 10km I decided to run a half marathon for training to prepare for the Ottawa Marathon on 30 May. The Mississauga half was only 2 weeks before Ottawa and I was not sure if it was too close to the marathon however I wanted to run this half marathon for two reasons. The first was to have my last long tempo run and get pushed by other people. The second reason was to practice my fluid and nutrition intake during the race and also make sure what food the day before and morning of the race digests well and also gave me enough energy. I wanted to change from using GU as I found in the Montreal half marathon that my stomach was not comfortable during the race. I needed to take in some more nutrition but did not want another GU as I was worried what might happen to my stomach. In the Montreal half I really lacked energy near the finish. For the Mississauga half I decided to try using the jellybeans and energy chews as I had heard these were easier for the stomach to digest.

It was a beautiful morning for the race. The conditions were perfect for running: Overcast, no wind and cool. 15 minutes before the start I had the jellybeans. It felt strange to be eating jellybeans while warming up but much easier to eat that GU. On the start line I saw some familiar faces from previous races here in Canada and was hoping to get out to a good start. I was aiming for a pace 3:30 per km like for my other tempo runs. I have been having trouble in training to keep the pace at 3:30 so I was hoping in a race situation that this pace would feel easier.

The gun went off and my focus was on getting the pace right. For the first 2km I ran with the first group of guys which was good however I knew at some point they would probably speed up. At exactly the 3km mark the guys took off as if the start gun had gone off again. I looked behind hoping to see another group that could push me but to my disappointment I could see nobody. However my body felt really good and was looking forward to running strong. The course was really beautiful winding through neighborhoods, parks, gardens and the water. I passed the 5km mark in 16:50 and the 10km mark in 35:10 and felt very relaxed. I was trying to focus on my breathing, stride length and energy levels. At 15km I took the energy chews and was hoping they would be okay on my stomach and give me energy. They worked really well. By about 16km I was feeling really good and ready to run strong the last 5km. I won the race and crossed the finish in 1:14:04 a new personal best during training, and a new course record :-).

I was hoping to run 1:13 to be on 3.30 pace but I think if I had had people to push me I would have been able to achieve this. I was happy with the training run and my pace was 3.31. I am now comfortable with my nutrition and fluid intake before and during the race. I am very excited for the Ottawa Marathon and to have the chance to run against some very good athletes. A great opportunity to run a personal best :-)

The elite list for the Ottawa Marathon and an article about the top elite contenders is outlined in the links below:

Visit to South March Public School May 20th

On Thursday 20 May I was asked by South March Public School in Ottawa to give a talk to kick off their schools first track and field day. I was happy to have the opportunity to go and encourage the kids about running and get them excited for their day. There were around 250 kids in the school’s gymnasium. It was great to see the kids sing the Canadian national anthem before I gave the talk. My speech to the kids covered a little about my history, what the marathon is, nutrition, benefits of running, importance of encouraging each other and to remember that winning is not the most important thing as long as you try your hardest. After the speech I took the kids on a warm-up run around their school field. The kids then gave me a nice bunch of flowers and 3 cheers for encouragement and good luck for the Ottawa Marathon. It was a great experience and I hope that the kids were encouraged and got excited about running and being active. I hope through running I have many more opportunities to encourage the community to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Below is the link to a video that was posted on the Ottawa Citizens website about the talk to South March Public School:

Video: Elite runner talks about marathon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sporting Life 10km Toronto, May 02, 2010

The Sporting Life 10km in Toronto was my second race on Canadian soil and I was excited to do a 10km. It was good mentally to race a shorter distance after doing the half marathon in Montreal 2 weeks ago and also to get some speed work in for the Ottawa Marathon at the end of May.

We arrived in to Toronto on Saturday afternoon and drove the course. We had been told that it was a downhill course but I did not expect it to be that downhill. There were a few slight uphills but compared to the downhill sections they did not really count.
A good chance to run a really fast 10km. I was told that the times run on this course would be 20-30 seconds faster than on a flat course.

On the start line there were 14,000 runners ready to run down what they say is the longest street in the world ‘Yonge street’ in support of kids with cancer. A really great cause. It was supposed to be raining with thunder storms but luckily it was holding off. Great running weather – overcast, 15 degrees Celsius and minimal winds.

The gun went off and my aim like in Montreal was to get out to a fast start. My body and legs were feeling really good and excited to do this 10km. In the first 2km Lucy Njeri was about 10m ahead and I was content to stay behind for a while but I decided as we were approaching the first little uphill to really push and then run hard down to try and get away and get with a group of guys. This strategy worked well for me. I really focused on the uphill and then stayed with a group of guys for the next 3km. By this time I had a quick look behind and could not see Lucy.

I went through 5km in 16.02 – a personal best however I can’t count this due to the downhill. I was feeling very strong and was hoping to run 32minutes high. At the 7km mark we made a turn and from the 7km until the end it was not downhill but flat. My legs felt a little weird going from running downhill to the flat. It was hard to keep the same momentum going. I lost a lot of time from the 7km to 8km but picked it back up after that. The last 2km I really focused on pushing to the finish. I crossed the line in 33.09. I was a little disappointed as I thought I could have run in the 32minute range however great to be back in the 33 minute range. If it had been on the flat probably equivalent to around 33.30 :-)

This 10km race was a really good confidence booster and good to get some leg speed. Now I only have 3 weeks left until the Ottawa Marathon so only a few more weeks of really pushing hard. I am really excited to race the marathon and I am hoping to run a big pb. This link is to the finish line video from the race and post-race interviews:

(Below is the partial coverage of the race. My post race interview is at about 27 min)
Watch live streaming video from canadarunningseriestv at