Wednesday, April 2, 2014

You Can't Always Get What You Want: The ATB Race Report

But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need...so the song says.  Those Rolling Stones fellas really hit the nail on the head with that one.

Brace yourself folks, this is a long one.

I said over and over again that this race was going to be practice for Boston.  I said I wasn't aiming for a particular colour of medal, I just wanted to race smartly, practice my pacing and get used to running without a fuel belt.  

Bulls**t.  I was just kidding myself.  Deep down, I still wanted that gold medal.  I figured with the right pacing I'd get it.  It might be close but I'd get it.   But I didn't.  I missed it by 6 bloody seconds.  Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Those of you that follow me on Instagram know how it all ended.  I've re-hashed the race in my head on and off for the last 48 hours.  I've talked to G about it.  I've talked to Ming about it.  Realistically, I did what I set out to do but somehow that wasn't good enough for me.  Somehow it still ended up being about that damn medal. 

I am far too competitive and much too hard on myself for my own good.  I let a "bad" day / race throw me for a loop.  After Sunday's race I had serious doubts about my ability to be able to run 3:10 at Boston.  And who knows, maybe that is a pipe dream.  But what are dreams if they aren't BIG?


I am thankful for G and Ming who both helped talk me off the ledge.  This was Ming's response to me on Monday:  "Yeah, trust the work you've done and don't doubt yourself. You've analyzed what happened and what needs to be done so flip the page on that and move on... don't get suckered in mentally and over-analyze too much.  Believe me, your body will respond very quickly to hilly stimulus. The first 1-2 hilly runs, you'll feel strained a little... but 2.5 weeks is a lot of time for your body to adapt to a new stimulus. So I have confidence you will rock it at Boston!"

Sometimes I just need a good kick in the pants and a new game plan.

I'm making Sunday's race sound like it was a total disaster.  It wasn't.  It was just a lot harder than I had anticipated it would be.  But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger right?   On to the nitty gritty of the day...

G had been away all week and hadn't gotten any workouts in and as much as I love having him at my races, I didn't think it was fair to drag him all the way out to Hamilton to sit around for 3 hours.  Luckily I still had company.  Thanks to the wonderful world of the Interwebz, a few weeks ago I met up with one of my blog readers / twitter followers to discuss Boston.  It will be Jo-Anne's first Boston and she wanted to pick my brain so of course I more than happy to oblige.  To say we hit it off would be an understatement.  We chatted away for over 2.5 hours.  She was also doing Around the Bay so I offered to carpool out.  She picked up our race kits on the Saturday and then she arrived at my house at 7:30 am on Sunday and we were off.  Due to my lead foot, we made it to Hamilton by shortly after 8:00 am.  Needless to say, we didn't have an issue with finding parking or waiting too long in the porta potty line.  We did our warm up together, went back to the car and dropped our stuff off and then jogged over to the corrals.  She was in Corral C and I was in Corral A so we wished each other luck and parted ways.  I had to pee once again so I ducked into the Quiznos right by my corral and got in a small line up.  There was less than 10 minutes to the start.  Thankfully the amazing store manager went and unlocked the staff washrooms so the line up moved along nicely.  I was in and out and into my corral with about 3 minutes to spare! 

While I was standing in the Corral, I heard someone call my name.  I looked over to see a woman smiling at me. She looked kind of familiar but I couldn't place where I knew her from.  This is the problem with social media sometimes, especially if you're on a few different channels.  She introduced herself and I thought I heard her say Katrina - the music was loud, the announcer was talking and I have a hard time hearing at the best of times.  We chatted for a bit and she mentioned that her husband was also shooting for 2:15 so she had told him to keep me in his sights.  Not hard I suppose, given that I had let the 'fro fly free. It was only after the race when I was on Instagram that I realized this woman was Irina - a fellow Daily Miler and IG follower. 

I found the 2:15 pace bunny and got in with the group.  Kathleen Wynne did the countdown and messed it up (!?!) and then we were off.  My legs felt pretty good out of the gate.  I thought I might be a bit overdressed but knew that we were pretty sheltered at that point and figured it would change once we got out in the open.  Of course my first km was too fast (4:15) but that's the pace that the bunny was running as well so that's where I stayed.  At about 3km in I heard someone say Hi Phaedra and I turned to see Zindine, a fellow Daily Miler (and Irina's husband).  I chat with him for a bit and then move along.  Shortly after that I hear someone else yell my name and I turn around to see my sister's friend Tracy.  I totally flip out and she runs up to run with me. We chat for a bit, but she is super speedy so she pulls away after a while.  That little pack of us was filled with people that I knew (or knew of).  Shortly after I saw Tracy, I ran into Dave Emilio, another Daily Mile pal, fellow Boston runner and Race Director for the Tannenbaum 10km.  I also spot Kenny Yum just ahead of me, yet another Daily Miler.  I ran with Dave and his friend for a little.  That made the time pass nicely.

They changed the beginning of the route this year and I have to say, I don't like it.  The old route was flatter and had a bit more shelter.  This route had virtually no shelter and I think we climbed no less than 3 bridges.  Not fun.  There were some points on these bridges where the wind was gusting so much it was blowing me sideways.  It was a very windy day on Sunday and I think that really made things so much harder for me.  I was never really sheltered from it, despite the fact that I was running in a pack.  And of course, it never seemed to be at my back.  That would be too easy.

My plan to get fluid at every aid station worked like a charm, although it did slow me down a fair bit.  There were 2 aid stations in particular that were horrible in terms of organization & volunteers and I'm chalking it up to the fact that they weren't fully manned.    The one that really stuck out was the 11km aid station.  I had to stop and back track to grab fluid.  It just seemed like everyone wanted fluid and there weren't enough folks doling it out.  I felt kind of bad for the volunteers.  I made a point of grabbing both water and gatorade at each aid station with the exception of the last one at 28km.
My fueling plan was as follows:
Prior to start:  30 Energy Bits + GU Roctane drink (1/4 of a bottle), 45 minutes in: 1 GU Roctane, 30 minutes after that, 1/2 a GU Roctane, 15 minutes after that, the other half of said Roctane.  That took me to 90 minutes in.  At that point I was well into the hills in the back half of the course.  My plan was to take my last full Roctane at 1:45 in, figuring that would be enough to get me up the big hill and to the finish line.  I missed the 1:45 mark and ended up taking it at 1:48.  No biggie.  

I was doing fairly well until the 11km mark.  Then I noticed that my right leg was feeling really sore (IT band area) and then my left glute really started to hurt.  I made a mental note to myself to get a gait analysis done at some point in the near future.  I am clearly favouring one side over the other and I need to figure out how to fix that.  Anyway....back to the race.  I'm chugging along ducking behind some taller runners trying to block the wind but feeling pretty crappy.  At this point, I can't fathom that I still have 19 km to go.  I pass the 14km mark and I look up to see Ming running along the road in the opposite direction.  I was totally surprised to see him, I didn't think he'd be there.  He must have been looking for me with the 2:15 pace bunny but I was a fair bit ahead of him.  A minute later he runs up beside me and asks me how I'm doing.  I say I feel like crap and that I'm just going to hope that I can hold on to this pace through the hills.  I'm not convinced that will be possible but I'm damn sure going to try.   He tells me not to worry that it's tough out there today because of the wind.  That made me feel a bit better.  He ran with me for a bit more and then peeled off just before the relay hand off.

I was starting to get a little fed up with the wind.  It was constantly in my face (I had windburn by the end of the race).  The wind has to be one of the most demoralizing things to race or train in.  You have to work THAT much harder to move forward at the pace you want, therefore you tire out more easily.  It's so frustrating.  On the plus side, it does make you stronger, eventually.  But I wasn't thinking about that at that point in time.  I was cursing under my breath.  Once I got into the rollers, the wind seemed to die down but now I was faced with nothing but hills.  I did what I could to get up them but my winter on the treadmill translated into a serious lack of strength on the hills.  I lost a lot of speed through here, although I did make sure that I hammered the downhills to make up for something.

By about 24km I was totally dying.  I wanted to quit.  I really really did.  I thought to myself there is no way in hell I can run a marathon at this pace.  No.  Freaking.  Way.   But, I didn't stop.  I didn't even slow down to walk.  I knew that if I did that I'd be done.  Surely I could suffer through the next 6km.  And if I stopped there, I wouldn't get to see my favourite dude - the little guy in the wheelchair playing We Will Rock You.  You can't do Around the Bay without high fiving the little guy.  So, I kept going.   Soon enough I could hear Queen blaring and I ran up to him, thanked him and gave him a high five.  I let myself really fly on that downhill, as I figured I'd have to fight my way up the Beast.   That was exactly the case.  It was ugly.  My legs and lungs were completely on fire.  I got passed by a tiny wisp of a woman and I vowed to keep her in my sights so I picked up the pace as best I could.  She was always just in front of me....until we got to the top.  Shortly after I crested the hill and my heart rate started to settle down and I proceeded to try to reel people in, she being my first target.  I caught her.  I had just under 4km left.  I started to push the pace.  Just before I got to the Grim Reaper my legs were saying they'd had enough. My mind had other plans.  And so the conversation began:

Mind: "Uh, hell NO.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  You got a race to finish now suck it up and get yo ass moving." 

Legs:  "I. Just.  Want. To. Stop.  I'm hurting.  I can't do this anymore."

Mind:  "Shut up legs"

I manage to pass a kilometer focusing only on the pain I was feeling, nothing else.  Once I saw the 29km sign, it was all systems go.  A green light went on somewhere and the pain no longer became so relevant because all I could smell was the finish line.  I really started to push the pace.  I caught a girl who had passed me on the Beast.  She tried to stay with me for a bit.  She asked if we'd make 2:15 and I said I thought so.  I told her to keep it up, that she had it and that she was doing great.  I pulled away from her and really started hammering.  My finish line blinders came on.  I turned down the ramp into Copps Coliseum and saw the clock counting down.  I wasn't even thinking about whether or not I'd make it in time to get a gold medal.  I watched the guy in front of me cross the line and then all of a sudden two people came out with a rope and ushered him inThe volunteer handing out medals turned to me and said I'm sorry as she handed me a silver medal.


I was pissed.  Then I was upset.  I was so close.  I didn't want to get my picture taken by the photographers that were milling about, I just wanted to sit down and sulk in a corner.  Which I did for about 5 minutes until I realized that my legs didn't really hurt that much.  I walked around for a bit more and noticed that I was walking fairly normally.  Bonus.  So, I sat down, stretched and waited for Jo-Anne.  I ended up chatting with a lovely guy from Ottawa and then Jo-Anne showed up.  She had a great race - she ran a 2:37!  Shortly after she arrived, I saw Christina and ran over to say hi.  I also met Britt, who follows me on IG - it was nice to put a face to the handle.  I chatted with them for a bit then went back to Jo-Anne.  We gathered our things and headed outside.  On our way out I spotted Jodi, another IG friend / blog reader that I'd yet to meet IRL.  I ran over, tapped her on the arm and she threw her arms around me and give me a big hug.  The three of us chatted for a while and then Jo-Anne and I went back to the car.   Seeing / meeting those folks really put a smile on my face and made me forget about how I was feeling.  

G said he knew I wouldn't be happy unless I beat my previous year's time but I knew going in this race wasn't about beating last years time.  For me it was more about the medal.  Of course the ultimate goal was to race smartly and practice my strategy for Boston.  The more I think about my day, the less important the colour of the medal is.  Despite feeling crappy by 11km in and having less than ideal hill fitness, I still managed to hang on to my goal pace in very windy conditions.  I honestly can't be disappointed in that.  I may not have gotten what I wanted, but I think I definitely got what I needed.

Look out Beantown, here I come.   





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