ING Edmonton Marathon Race Report (Marathon #20!)
Mere days after the Flying Pig marathon in May, I was talking to my Mom about coming home for a visit. I suggested being home around mid-August, and she immediately guessed my agenda, stating that the Edmonton ING Marathon was August 17th, and she’d run the half if I wanted to do the full. Decision made!
I ran an ultra mid-July, and then was quite busy in the few weeks leading up to the race. I had done well on my resolution to run daily, until August. In the two weeks leading up to the race, I twice took three days in a row off. I was busy and also feeling a bit under the weather. As a result, I hit all-time lows in weekly mileage for 2008. I tried to convince myself this was tapering, but I knew it wasn’t really intentional.
I really didn’t have a goal in mind for this race. The forecast was for record highs (in the high 80s or 90s) and I didn’t want to overexert myself. Two days before the race I was visiting with a friend who was also planning to run the marathon. He said his goal was 4 hours, so I offered to run with him. After I offered, however, he stated that he really hadn’t trained, so that was perhaps a stretch goal.. I told myself I’d start with him, and see how things went.
There were plenty of events associated with the race weekend: a non-competitive friendship run, as well as races of various distances. My Mom trains with the local running group (The Running Room) so she was a little social butterfly and kept seeing people she knew. We ran the friendship run Saturday morning. It was an opportunity for the pace bunnies for the next day to be introduced. Rather than carrying signs or balloons, the pace bunnies had on caps that had (bunny) ears with their target times on them. It seemed to me that this was probably much easier than trying to carry signs!
I will admit I was disappointed in the friendship run. We ran through downtown (stopping at stoplights, etc), including by some shady establishments. Naturally, I was comparing this event with the Freedom Run at Boston, but I couldn’t help but think that dodging pedestrians downtown and running in front of graffiti and peep shows wasn’t the best introduction to running or the city…
The day before Boston, I watched the sUS Women’s Olympic Trials. It was incredibly motivating and exciting. The night before the Edmonton marathon, I was prepared to watch Deena and other world class athletes battle it out on TV. I was actually out of the room when it was announced that Deena dropped out, naturally a shock for her fans. I loved watching the coverage, and was really excited to see Constantina pull ahead and put in a fabulous performance. I was excited and ready to run the next day!
My parents and brother all headed downtown to the race site nice and early. I was meeting G at 6:30, a half hour before our race was to begin. The half marathon did not start until 8. I was happy to see that city hall was open with adequate restroom facilities.
Soon enough, we were heading out. G had a 4 hr pace band and a Garmin 201, and I had my Garmin 305. We were ready!
This was my first Canadian marathon, so I wasn’t used to the km markers. I hadn’t bothered changing my watch, however, as I knew the mile pace for a 4 hr marathon, and I wasn’t too concerned with checking at each km marker. This would have worked fine if the downtown buildings hadn’t wreaked havoc with the gps in the first mile or so. Despite wanting to mimic the performance of the Olympic athletes, there is no way I hit the sub-5 minute mile that the Garmin claims I did at one point!
The course was absolutely gorgeous! Edmonton has a beautiful river valley, and the course ran through the valley and around several parks. Much more of the course was in residential areas than commercial, which was fine with me. There was not a to of crowd support, but that was just fine. I didn’t need crowds urging me along on this day: I was just out to enjoy the experience. Well, as much as someone can enjoy pounding pavement in the heat…
For yes, although there was a fair amount of shade (some of the neighbourhoods we ran through had mature trees whose shade covered the entire street), it was definitely a warm day. At one water station late in the race, I heard some volunteers mention they were out of cups- and there were plenty more runners to come behind!
Because 4 hrs was G’s plan, I was there to accompany him and let him set the pace to start. I really must learn to “encourage” my friends to stick to their plans, because like running with Jen in May, I felt I was struggling in the first miles as my friends went our faster than their plan would warrant:
As I said, I hadn’t been looking at my Garmin while running, relying on G to dictate the pace. At this point I looked at our speed, and chided him that this wasn’t a 4hr marathon pace. He said that he had been planning to walk up the upcoming hill, which I agreed to. My left knee was actually a tiny bit sore initially, although it didn’t bother me for most of the run.
The Running Room in Canada offers running clinics, and follow a run/walk model. Run for 10, walk for 1. The pace bunnies do this as well. I mentioned to G that I felt so many walk breaks would throw me off. He told me that he generally takes about a 1-1.5 minute walk break per half hour, which I thought would be a good compromise. It just so happened that his first walk break co-incided with a hill!
Around Hawrelak park, and we were coming up on another walk break (just as we approached another hill)! Around the 7 km mark, G mentioned that we were something like 2.5minutes ahead. I warned him that every 30 seconds ahead in the first half of a marathon would cost you 2 minutes on the second half. He told me that that was ok, because he wasn’t sure he could keep up the pace anyway. He struggles with arch trouble and wasn’t sure how he’d hold up. He told me a few times that I was to go on ahead if I wanted.
I was a bit dismayed as our pace slowed as aggressively as it did. I stopped for a bathroom break and told G to go on ahead, that I would catch up. When I hit the road again, I saw him walking on ahead, and I was worried that he was struggling already. Generally in a marathon I don’t even notice the miles ticking off until mile 8, and I was worried how things were going. I decided to keep with G until the half and then gauge how things were going.
There were a few places in the course where you could see the leaders. At mile 4 or so, there were a few people bunched together. When we saw them coming back at this point, there was one guy (the one who had been in 2nd earlier) way out in front, leading by probably 4 or 5 minutes. I heard some other runners talking, he was going for the unofficial “triple crown” of winning Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton. He had a well-established lead and I don’t think the outcome was in doubt.
Half split: 1:56:45
We had been playing cat and mouse with the 4 hr pace group, but they too were well ahead of their target pace. I think that’s a real shame and doesn’t do any favour to the runners. Runners may feel discouraged if they can’t keep up with their pace leader, without realizing that their pace leaders are well ahead of the goal. The half way marker was on an out-and-back stretch of road, and we estimated that the 4 hr pace group (which was still ahead of us), covered the half in about 1:52.
I told G I was going to see what I could pull off, and left him. I considered this akin to what I did in my first running of Steamtown: the first half of the marathon is the warm-up, and I am comfortable running with others. The second half is where I need to start to run my race. It felt good to push a bit more, and I flew past several people over the next few miles.
Again as a call-back to my fantastic run in Steamtown 05, I remember thinking that the real race starts at 16. I like to feel strong here, with only 10 miles to go. I will admit that by this time the heat was starting to kick in, and I didn’t feel as good as I would have liked.
So whoever wrote up the course description and said there were only 2 hills, lied. The course was beautiful, as I’ve said, but it’s not easy. It was also tough to stay motivated to keep running with people all around me taking walk breaks.
Wow, wall much? Actually I did have to stop and take a stone out of my shoe at this point, and a volunteer asked if I was ok. I also saw G walking the other way, a few miles behind me. Wow, if I was struggling, I couldn’t imagine how he was doing.
At this point I remember thinking that the race wasn’t exactly a death march, but it wasn’t really all that much fun 🙂 I didn’t take it all too seriously, however, as I knew it was just a race and there would be plenty more. I actually ran by a few guys who were struggling, and in my mind said, “I’ve done enough of these, I KNOW it’s not supposed to feel good!”
At mile 23 I looked at my watch and saw 3:28. Ugh.. naturally a dark cloud ascended as I realized that at my best, I’d be done by now. I grumbled about that for a bit before I pulled it together ad just decided to get this thing done.
In the last few miles, I’d realized that I wasn’t going to break 4 hours, so I decided sub 4:05 was a good goal. As I closed in on the finish line, I set my eyes on the target (a girl some yards ahead) and let ‘er rip. The crowd cheered as I cruised past her moments before I hit the mat in 4:04:37. My Garmin claims I hit a max speed of 5:09min/mile, but I’m not entirely sure about that.
The great thing about a small race like Edmonton is that my Mom was standing there right in the chute to congratulate me. I met up with my Dad and brother, and then hit the mist tent. I was almost antsy, shifting from foot to foot. I can’t remember ever feeling quite like that at the end of a race. I was careful to stretch and grabbed some water. I felt more sore than I have in a long time.
We went into City Hall, where they had a huge brunch set out for runners: pancakes and eggs and sausages and bagels and fruit. I stayed away from the eggs (I’m not big on strong-smelling food after working out), but enjoyed the rest of the spread. On my second trip to the buffet table, one of the waitstaff said “I looked hungry”. I guess I did!
Feeling better with a full belly, we headed out to leave and I waded into the City Hall fountains. In the hot Alberta sun, my legs and feet dried quickly. Later that day, my family embarked on a scavenger hunt, so I was jumping in and out of the car and rushing about. It wasn’t until several hours later that my legs started to ache anew. It’s possible the wedge heels I wore for the scavenger hunt weren’t the smartest decision..
A few days later, my legs are STILL sore (rather unusual for me), but I’m already trying to figure out my next race. I know I want to focus on speed, so I’m looking at some different programs to try to get an idea of the type of workouts I want to incorporate. Naturally, these legs have to get in good shape first!