It feels strange to be writing this because although the marathon was less than two weeks ago, it seems like eons have passed since I ran it. I’ve talked about the training, the fuel, and the gear – now, it’s time to talk about the race itself.
Originally, I planned to spend the night before the race at a hotel in Delta (where the Boundary Bay Marathon takes place), but I changed my mind. I realized I’d rather sleep in my own bed and continue my regular routines at home. Plus, it was daylight savings, so getting up early to drive down didn’t feel quite so bad.
The drive down on Sunday morning was pretty smooth. I picked up my race packet, ate a second piece of peanut butter on toast (I’d had a first piece before we left the house a few hours earlier), and hit up the bathroom, which had a medium-ish line. I spoke to an old lady who was walking the 5k. I should mention that the event includes a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon, a full marathon, and a 4-person relay marathon. She told me she’d run many marathons in her day and advised me not to start off too fast.
The weather was pretty shaping up to be pretty perfect. For the first time in EVER, it wasn’t raining (though it had been raining when we left Squamish). It was a little cool, but seemed to be warming up quickly. The sun was occasionally peeking out from behind the clouds. It was a little windy, but not too bad.
The race benefits the Ronald McDonald House, so Ronald himself led the race warmup. We noticed a guy on the lawn beside us – in jeans, not running in the race – doing a full-on headstand just for kicks. This made me laugh.
Then, it was time to load up in the corrals. Marathoners got to start first, so we crowded to the front. “Crowded” might be the wrong word, because there didn’t seem to be too many of us. NYC marathon, this was not. (And that was perfectly fine by me.)
KM 0 to 16
DO NOT SET OUT TOO FAST.
This was my manta. My dad had instilled it in me (he ran the Montreal marathon in 1983). The lady in the bathroom line had instilled it in me. The Calgarian I met on my West Coast Trail trip had instilled it in me.
Despite my success with my attempts at pacing in my later training runs, I decided to run this race by feel. My goal was to run the entire time, feel healthy, and just see how I would fare without paying too much attention to my watch.
Of course, I did glance at my watch a few times, and I was running slightly faster than my training pace. However, in my past half marathons, I always ran the race faster than my training, and it had worked out fine. I figured I’d be fine, though I was still consciously trying to go really, really slow.
The bulk of the Boundary Bay Marathon takes place on a gravel path along the ocean. It is flat, easy, and mostly beautiful. There is a small detour early in the race into a residential neighbourhood, and at one point, a small portion of the trail is old, worn down pavement.
I’m not sure how much of a head start they gave us marathoners, but shortly after we started, half marathoners/10kers/5kers were running past us at full speed. I reminded myself to stay slow – I had a lot farther to run than they did. The course is an out-and-back for all distances, meaning 5kers were already on the way back when I was just hitting the 2.5k mark.
It was a little distracting to be running out with people already running back, but overall, kilometres 0 to 16 were fine. Fun, even. I remember reminding myself to enjoy this because it wouldn’t all be fun. I decided to bask in the race a little bit here, celebrating the fact that I was running a marathon.
Splits (as you can see, I started off too fast – 6:55 was my goal pace in training)
1 – 6:11 (oops!); 2 – 6:15; 3 – 6:24; 4 – 6:25; 5 – 6:30; 6 – 6:43; 7 – 6:42; 8 – 6:41; 9 – 6:45; 10 – 6:45; 11 – 6:53; 12 – 6:58; 13 – 6:55; 14 – 7:03; 15 – 7:01; 16 – 6:52
KM 16 to 21
The half marathoners had turned around a few miles back, so there was a break from runners going the other direction, back to the start line (for awhile, at least – I knew the fastest marathoners would be there soon).
Around kilometre 16, I realized I was a bit tired. This made me a little nervous because I knew I still had a long way to go. I tried to slow down. Gusts of wind scared me. I started thinking that maybe I should have worn a short sleeve t-shirt instead of a long one, as it was getting a little hot. The gravel on the trail was wearing my feet down a little bit, too. Plus, a girl behind me had her Garmin or whatever giving her verbal cues every 5 minutes – long ones, details about her pace so far and her pace the last five minutes and her distance and the time and her favourite colour and … you get the point. I was motivated to outrun her so I wouldn’t have to hear the stupid thing. (I did end up outrunning her).
At kilometre 18, the fast marathoners were already on their way back. I realized that they were about 6 kilometres ahead of me, which was somewhat disheartening. Also, the course was starting to get a little less scenic. The first part had been beachy with tons of cool birds. This part was feeling more industrial and ran closer to a busy road.
This was a somewhat hard stretch for me. Everything was still okay, but it was hard not to think of how much further I had to go.
Splits (Hey, these look okay – right around the 6:55 point without even trying!)
17 – 6:49; 18 – 6:51; 19 – 6:53; 20 – 6:53; 21 – 6:43
KM 21 – 33
As I turned in to the turnaround point approaching kilometre 21, I saw Cedric and I was SO happy. He told me to give him my flask so that he would fill it, and I could grab it from him on my way out. I kept running until the turnaround, contemplated using the washroom (this was the only one on the course!), and decided I didn’t need to. Side note – I had to stop to use the bathroom on every long training run, so this was a miracle.
As promised, Cedric handed me my Gatorade-filled flask as I passed by him. I told him “This is going to be a really long race. This second half is going to be really hard.” He told me to just focus on getting into the zone.
And that’s exactly what I tried to do – zone out into a meditative state and just keep moving. There was a group of three people doing a walk-run, running for 10 minutes and then walking for one. I kept leapfrogging with them, but eventually they got ahead of me. I was running the entire time – how the heck were they faster than me when they were WALKING part of the time?!?
Things got quiet for awhile. The KM markers only went to 21 – so on the way back, it was like counting down. In other words, I would see the 16K marker, which on the way out, meant I had gone 16K, but on the way back, meant I had 16K to go.
At one point, this really smiley guy ran past me. Most of the people I was seeing on the course (and there weren’t many – we were quite spaced out) looked tired, in pain, or both, so this guy was an anomaly. He chatted with me and told me he’d run 50 marathons. He told me smile, fuel, enjoy myself through the pain, and above all, to not stop running. Then he bounced off ahead of me.
Splits (aaaaand we’re slowing down):
22 – 7:04; 23 – 7:11; 24 – 7:10; 25 – 7:11; 26 – 7:17; 27 – 7:17; 28 – 7:28; 29 – 7:29; 30 – 7:40; 31 – 7:38; 32 – 7:57; 33 – 7:59; 34 – 8:00
KM 34 – 42.2
Passing the 9km mark (which meant I had run 34K and had 9K to go) was a really wonderful feeling. I’d heard KM 33 was when most people hit the wall – 32.5K is the longest I’d run in any of my training runs. So far, I hadn’t hit any walls. I was drinking TONS – I was so thirsty – and tossing back Honey Stinger fruit snacks.
There was a water station at the 5K-left mark (the original turnaround for the 10kers), and I stopped here to refill my water flask. It was not easy to start running again, and I realized that I probably looked like I was shuffling. It felt like I was running – fast.
When I re-entered the residential part, I knew I was getting close. A few volunteers cheered me on – one had a nice camping chair, and I told her I’d love to trade places with her. As hard as this was, I was feeling tired but like I knew I’d make it in one piece. I was starting to get excited about the prospect of crossing the finish line.
I hadn’t let myself peek at my watch since KM 10 or so. I had NO idea how fast (or slow) I’d gone, but I figured I had most likely made it under the 5 hour cutoff. The finish line came into sight, and I was so so so happy. I saw Cedric and the happy guy who’d passed me earlier in the race.
I crossed the line and looked down at my watch. 5:05?!??! I felt a pang of disappointment. Even though I hadn’t had a real goal in terms of time, I really thought I would finish under 5 — maybe even somewhere around 4:45.
I got over it pretty quickly. I’d completed the marathon distance, I’d ran the entire way, and I felt pretty good – albeit my legs were super tired. I guzzled a chocolate milk, got changed, and hopped in the car.
I celebrated by indulging in a Coke and sharing a massive plate of nachos with Cedric from the Shady Tree Pub by our house. I’d never been here before, but it was PERFECT. The nachos were huge (we couldn’t finish them), expertly layered, and the #1 best thing to eat after having run 42.2 km.
Splits (Good rally, good rally!):
35 – 7:55; 36 – 7:55; 37 – 7:43; 38 – 8:08; 39 – 7:50; 40 – 8:04; 41 – 7:37; 42 – 7:45
So what next? Is there another marathon in my future?
No. Not in the short term, at least. This was a great challenge and I’m really proud of myself for having done it, but I’m ready to throw myself into trail running (and other forms of physical exercise). I’ve been joining some of the Capra Running groups and hitting the trails for about 2 hours a couple times per week. I’m also going to the gym and I’m going to start going to hot yoga as soon as the new Moksha studio near my house opens. I’ve REALLY been enjoying having a little variety in my exercise routine – I even went to the climbing gym the other day.
My goal for 2017 is to participate in a half dozen or so trail races. The distances will be shorter (I think the longest will be 25k), but the terrain is much more challenging. Again, my goal won’t be to be the fastest runner out there. It will be to have fun, stay healthy, and enjoy the awesome trails in my backyard.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled non-marathon blogging.