Race Season Begins!
It's quite literally been a fast and furious few weeks into the spring season with all the spring races happening. It has also been transition time for me to adjust the running training schedule earlier so I can avoid training in the summer heat. Fast and furious, mainly because of the key races such as setting a new benchmark for the marathon time in Pittsburgh and also a new PR for 10K for the (plentiful of downhills) Sporting Life 10K. I'm proud to say that I'm still basking on that extended runner's high even it's been a few weeks time. But like all things, can't dwell on past achievements and have to plan actionable training plans to keep pushing the PR envelope even further!
May 6: Pittsburgh Marathon
This full marathon at Pittsburgh is my first out of country run outside of Ontario. I was equally as excited as I was with the travelling and the unknown jitters. However, I felt pretty confident going in with the winter training finally coming to fruition with a few side race PRs from Burlington and Hamilton sedimenting that state of mind.
During taper week, I actually did not really minimize my weekly mileage but rather running at a significantly reduced pace - at least just so I mentally don't feel that I forgot how to run lol. I was increasingly carbing up at the second half of the week to reduce the over bingeing the very last minute. In terms of travelling, left Toronto at around 6:30 pm and headed straight for Pittsburgh with the intention of going straight to their convention centre for baggage and bib pickup. That was a relatively manageable 7 hour drive with a pitstop by Grove City as I made it down by around 1:30 pm... quite honestly not too bad in my opinion. That very day, I had a late lunch (not by choice) followed by yet another carb rich dinner a couple hours later so that there are enough time for digestion and be deep sleeping by 10 pm before race day. By the time I'm back to the hotel, I had roughly an hour to pack the next day's baggage prep and bib belt essentials.
Pre-Race Rituals: Hotel Kuerig coffee pod, banana, Starbucks muffin that I got one the night before / anti-chaffing balm applications / Google Mapping the designated parking area again before leaving
I find it nerve-wrecking especially if you have to blindly drive off to a set designated parking that's not your home turf with the addition of public roads gradually being closed off bit by bit as time winds down. Once the parking was done and over with, the first line of business was to do baggage check and then finding my set start line corral. Also in the meantime, it was just as important looking for nearby porta-potty and do my constant cycle from using the stall to lining up again to keep the bowels and the bladders at bay.
0 - 10 Miles
New: I started at the first corral for this marathon. Unlike previous runs, I made a deliberate choice to space out at the very far end so I can manoeuvre around passerby without all too much additional effort. It was also quite new to me to get accustomed to mile markers as I'm so used to seeing kilometres over miles. Throughout the very first kilometre (based from my GPS watch), it was busy hunting for that sweet spot pace where it can dictate the overall tone of the entire duration of the run. Once the pace was attained, I started to push that benchmark pace a bit more and test if it is sustainable enough without any extra discomfort early into the run. The elevation for this part was manageable but the humidity that very day made things uncomfortable (although I can't complain about the overcast skies prior to the rain showers...) I recall that after the initial bit of bridge crossings, that's where that gummy worms pickup from some random stranger really came in handy and euphoric. Essentially those sugar bombs carried me through into the next sequence of the run.
10 - 20 Miles
Still chugging along until the upcoming bridge crossing and leading into miles 12 - 13. From there at around near half-marathon distance, a very un-welcoming 43 metres of elevation awaited to be grind through. Essentially, the surface of those roads are highway exit on ramps which gradually merges into a residential road. You know how I mentioned about those gummy worms? They REALLY came in handy as I chewed down on them some more to extract as much sugar as I can to push on through ?. However after that initial uphill, it was not completely done and over with where the next sequence was nothing but small rolling hills around various sub-divisions within Pittsburgh. Although speed made everything seem like a blur, I managed to observe my surroundings and be able to pickup on generic impressions of the city overall and the community that keeps the place operational. Select areas remind me of Hamilton, Ontario when I did the Around The Bay and also the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon.
20 Miles - Finish
This last segment was mostly downhills as the course makes a returning route back into the downtown core of Pittsburgh. I recall the overall pace then was at around roughly 4:10 min/km and the time advantage really had me thinking that qualifying for BQ was no longer just a pipe dream but rather something that I can actually attain with even more serious training from where I'm at now. At around mile 24, I literally tried picking up the pace and flirted with the idea of actually gunning for that elusive qualifying 3:05:00 finishing time. However by the time the mile was done and onto mile 25, it was mathematically no longer feasible. I was not discouraged... very content as a matter of fact. So I consciously slightly dialled back the pace so that I can still finish at a respectable time frame. To my absolute surprise, the final time was at 3:08:48 based on my watch. I can't get any more ecstatic than that!
Takeaways: YES - the qualifying times can be attainable, but the million dollar question is - "how badly do you want it and exactly what will you do to attain it?" In addition to those self-questioning statements, I need to hold myself accountable with an actual timeline to what I plan to do in order to measure progress and self-evaluations. After all, momma didn't raise no quitter!
May 13: Sporting Life 10K 2018
June 2018: Toronto Lululemon 10K
I have been running with my local Lululemon chapter in preparation for the upcoming 10K in June. You see, I love running in groups even more so than just running solo during my own training. I feel even more empowered when I know that I can help somebody make a positive difference, albeit a new PB, feeling good about themselves, moral boost, etc.
Returning to the trails! Now that the Endurance Challenge in Blue Mountains for July is no longer happening, I can finally turn my attention to do trail running at other locations within Southern Ontario and tap into my inner adventure bug. But, I have been even more wary of nature's hazards such as blazing sun damage and disease carrying insects such as ticks and mosquitoes. Aside from that, let's keep adventuring on!
Cheers and until next time - M.W.