Posts Tagged ‘race report’

Boston Marathon 2022 Race Report

I’ve often said, half the battle of marathons, is getting to the start line. Boston 2022 was a stark reminder of that reality!

The training…

  • Go me! I did real hill training for this cycle +10 points (thanks for the company Judy)
  • Not only did I buy kettle bells but I used them to get in some regular strength work +10 points (listen to your Physiotherapist, right Richelle?)
  • Made sure to have fun running by going to Chicago to run Shamrock Shuffle +5 points (thanks Molly & Christopher)
  • Cut my long run short the day after the Shamrock Shuffle, because I was just feeling lazy -5 point
  • Realize all that good food in Chicago + pandemic, I am a full 10 lbs heavier than I was just before COVID. – 5 points
  • Hard to believe I did 3 long runs on the treadmill (the weather was that bad) +10 points
  • Uh-oh ran out of musicals and concerts on Youtube to motivate me when running on the treadmill, weather sucks, skip at least one long run completely -10 points
  • Yikes! Sidewalks were so icy I had to walk for an entire km -10 points (+20 points to Terry and Harold for waiting for me, so I didn’t just go straight back to the car and bail on the run completely)
  • Post-Chicago, managed to drop 2 lbs before race day +1 point

Getting to Boston…

  • Sorry Air Canada, we are allowed to drive across the US border now +10 points and save $$$$
  • Sweet! No COVID tests required if you are fully vaccinated +20 points and save $$$
  • Ottawa is in a 6th wave of COVID, with a record number of COVID cases, turn into a hermit for 14 days before we leave -10 points
  • Whoah, that’s a serious line! Easter weekend Boston means everyone is cross-border shopping, and the NEXUS lane isn’t open -10 points
  • Why are we stopped on the highway? A truck caught fire and they had to close a lane of the highway in Vermont – 10 points for us, -100 points for the poor truck driver
  • Why are we stopped again? Three more lane closures in Vermont because they are picking up litter -30 points
  • What can I say, depending on my mood I pick different beverages, so yay! the New Hampshire liquor outlet gives me a chance to buy my go-to non-alcoholic gin, a four pack of canned bubbles, and some great scotch +10 points
  • Despite all the delays, we made it to the expo before it closed Friday night +10 points
  • Oooh! Boston marathon running tights +10 points -$50
  • That’s cool, after the expo closes, the fan fair is still open and there is no line to get a free custom badge on your Boston jacket + 20 points
  • Oooh they also have a really nice hoodie at the fan fair +10 points -$50
  • The hotel reception has awesome “welcome runners” signage and super friendly staff, and unlike the downtown hotel rooms, our room is spacious, has a view of the water and it’s sunset +10 points
  • Hotel bar has decent food +10 points
  • My husband hid Easter candy in my luggage +5 points

Marathon weekend…

  • Thanks to my awesome sister Judy we snag an invite to the 261 get-together, maybe we can meet Katherine Schwitzer, lots of cool, passionate women at the event, free smoothie and oooh nice bracelet, singlet and arm warmers +10 points -$75
  • Fun, but no sign of Katherine Schwitzer, so can’t get our jackets signed -2 points
  • Find this guy in the Boston Commons, +10 points
  • We make a donation and he asks if we’d like to request a song which results in me accompanying him to Sweet Caroline +5 points
  • Find Yvonne and Pat immediately afterwards and convince them to come back so we can all sing Sweet Caroline +20 points
  • Desperately need new jeans and there is no Lucky jeans in Ottawa, but there is one in Boston, oooh and a nice jean jacket too, I’ve been looking for a jean jacket +10 points -$90
  • Hotel is cheap but too far away to have time to go back before supper -5 points save $$$$
  • Need something to do until supper. Stand in line to visit secret store hidden behind a Snapple machine (no really it’s a thing, not a very well kept secret though) +10 points for being cool enough to find this store
  • Still got time before supper so visit the Christian Science library which has a 30 foot high stained glass globe of the world you can walk inside +10 points for finding new weird things to do in Boston!
  • After trying a Unitarian, Baptist, and United church realize dinner is in the Italian district and there must be a Catholic church here where we can light a candle for a friend’s mom who recently passed. We did leave a prayer request for a few friends and family who are either dealing with loss or dealing with other challenges at the big church on Boylston as well (worth going inside, quite beautiful). Take a moment to appreciate being healthy. Can’t score points for that, just take a moment and appreciate it and say a little prayer for someone.
  • Dinner with Run K2J members and friends, the dish that fell on the floor was not Judy’s supper, Pat has big balls, the owner has big Italian hair, and they were nice enough to do separate checks +10 points
  • Amazing location for a shakeout run Sunday morning along the beach, 2.5 km of shoreline +5 points
  • Stop to write Run K2J in seashells +5 points
  • What the F****? Turnaround and start running back to the car, 300 meters in my upper back start to spasm causing considerable pain and preventing me from running at all -50 points
  • Oh SH****! Walk all the way back to the car, and have Yvonne and Judy do the shoulder checks because I can’t turn my head without considerable pain -20 points
  • Panic! Spend the next hour freaking out and asking Yvonne (who is a PT), and Christopher (who has had back spasms) what the heck I can about my back +10 points
  • Fortunately I packed Advil +20 points
  • Fortunately our hotel room is big enough I can lay out my yoga mat and go through a 60 minute gentle yoga class +20 points
  • Fortunately the guy at the hotel bar is great company, and it’s just me there for lunch, and he tops up my wine for free, +10 points
  • Stoned on Advil and free wine I feel up to going into town for the team photos at the finish line +10 points???
  • Confusing my family, I spend the family zoom call from lying on my yoga mat using my yoga tune up balls to roll out everything connected to the back muscle that is messed up +10 points
  • Controlling what I can, I go to bed carefully positioning pillows to be kind to my back +5 points
  • Lie in bed thinking, damn I can’t return the jacket because it has a custom patch on it. If I can’t run, how far can I actually walk before they kick me off the course? How long do I have to walk to feel I earned the right to wear the jacket?

Marathon Monday…

  • Well my back is no worse now than it was when I went to bed, so time to break out the stylish zebra bathrobe and head to the start with Judy and Yvonne +10 points
  • Wow, dropping off bags at gear check and getting back to the buses was crazy slow -10 points
  • Holy cow our bus driver is cruising, we passed at least 10 other buses +10 points
  • Whoah! we are at the back of the bus and at this speed really feeling those bumps -10 points
  • Bwahahaha! That last bump triggered my Garmin to say I reached my step count for today +1 point
  • Yikes! they are calling Wave 3 to the start and we haven’t even got to a port-a-potty yet -5 points
  • Score! I still remember where the shortest port-a-potty lines are located +20 points
  • I forgot my sunscreen, and the sunscreen dispensers are all empty -10 points
  • Found one dispenser with sunscreen and a huge crowd of people around it but manage to get a tiny bit for my face and Judy’s shoulders +5 points
  • I guess I’ll find out soon if my back is better, hello corral 5
  • Pretty happy with the name bib I made so people can say “Go Susan” +5 points
  • Cross the start line, start running, every km I manage to run is one less km to walk

The race

  • Wheeee I do love the downhill at the start
  • Maybe I’ll start counting the uphills as a way to distract myself
  • That’s one hill
  • “Go Susan” – excellent, the name bib is working
  • That’s two hills
  • “Go Susan you’ve got this”
  • That’s three hills
  • Wait that’s the 5 km mat, I ran 5 km, my back is okay, I think I’m running a marathon today, woot!
  • High five all the people!
  • “Not far now, Susan” – dude I’ve barely started that’s cruel
  • Oh how I wish I was on the other side of the road where they have a giant Will Smith carboard face for runners to slap
  • “You can do this Susan!” – from a little 8 year old girl I was giving a high five, okay THAT was awesome
  • I have totally lost track of the number of hills
  • At this point I think the back will be okay!
  • Oh wow, there was so much news about Spencer the dog that you can’t even see him so many runners stopped and surrounded him to take pictures
  • “Looking good Susan” – so sweet when spectators lie and tell us that
  • Santa Claus!
  • Diane hi! great to see you, you are running faster than me have a great race!
  • “Susan! Susan! Susan”
  • Oooh there’s Karen ahead of me, she’s having a good race, I won’t catch her she’s pulling away
  • Big Bird! Was Big Bird there last year? I feel like he was but I can’t remember
  • 20 km mat which means must be time for yes, Wellesley college and the scream tunnel
  • I miss having Jonathan on the right hand side in his CBC shirt after Wellesley cheering us on
  • “Oh my god there she is we found her, Susan, Go Susan, you’ve got this Susan!!!” – from a total stranger, okay that made me laugh
  • Yvonne? shouldn’t you have passed me a while ago? oh stomach issues, yikes! Go Yvonne Go! Bye Yvonne
  • Hi Diane good to see you again, just in time for… ‘dramatic sound effect’ the Newton hills.
  • Okay the first hill is a long one, I know this, I got this
  • It really is long!
  • I’m going to keep running beside Diane, hope that works for her but it’s helping me on these hills
  • “Go Susan”
  • Second hill, this one is nice and short, is this actually one of the Newton hills or just a bonus hill
  • “Go Susan you’ve got this”
  • Okay now this one is definitely a Newton hill, there are three right?
  • “Susan, Go Susan!
  • Well this is another hill so at that’s definitely three solid hills in Newtown, but is this heartbreak hill or is there another?
  • “Woo Hoo go Susan!”
  • I’m thinking all this Go Susan stuff might be getting irritating for Diane
  • I Hate Newton! Seriously how many hills are there?
  • Okay THIS one has a banner at the top saying heartbreak is over, so that MUST have been heartbreak
  • Diane – look a photographer let’s get a pic!
  • Boston College has great cheering, but having a guy in a Boston college t-shirt in front of me is causing next level screaming!
  • Ha! As soon as we got past Boston College the guy in the Boston college shirt started walking
  • Hey that’s a Run K2J shirt up ahead. That’s Chris!
  • Who is that tapping Chris on the shoulder, it’s Vincent, Diane’s husband!
  • That big downhill after heartbreak helped me a lot I’m feeling pretty good for 35 km in I’ve got enough in me to pick it up and catch Vincent
  • Hi Chris! (who apparently when realizing he would not have a great race decided to get his money back by collecting extra Maurten gels at all the gel stops)
  • Vincent! Diane is about 20 meters behind you
  • Diane says run with Vincent, okay.
  • “Go Susan” wait a sec that’s JR not just a random stranger!
  • Vincent points out “all the times I’ve run this race this is only the second time I’ve noticed the Citgo sign”
  • I realize this is the first time I’ve noticed the Citgo sign up close, and I would have missed it if Vincent hadn’t pointed it out
  • I feel good, I’m going for it
  • “Go Susan”
  • I kid you not, my arm is actually getting a little sore from waving back to all the people calling my name.
  • Hey there’s Karen, Hi Karen!
  • One mile to go I know this stretch, follow the blue line, go, go
  • Right on Hereford
  • Left on Boyleston
  • That Boyleston stretch is always longer than you think

Cross the finish line of the Boston marathon!

  • Feel light headed, trying not to pass out -10 points
  • Wow long walk to the heat sheets -5 points
  • Oooh cookies in the goodie bag + 20 points
  • Gyu Kaku complete with smores with my run buds to celebrate +20 points

Thanks to everyone who got me through the training and the race! 21 km into the race all I could think was I never want to run another marathon, but now that it’s over, I’m hoping my 2021 run at California International Marathon will get me a bib for 2023 (1 minute 39 seconds faster than my required BQ ). If not, I’ll be there to cheer!

If you enjoyed this post, check out my other Boston related posts and race reports

Shamrock Shuffle (8km) 2022 race report

The Shamrock Shuffle is a very popular 8km race in Chicago. This post will give you an idea of what to expect if you choose to run the race. The key takeaway: It’s a fun race, I highly recommend it.

shamrock shuffle t shirt and hat

There’s something to be said for going out to run big races that are NOT marathons. If you fly or drive to a town to run a marathon the 24-36 hours leading up to the race you find yourself constantly wondering did I walk to much? am I drinking enough water? too much water? meals are carefully selected to provide the calories you need without upsetting your digestive system. You lay out all your gear ahead of time to be sure you haven’t forgotten the tiniest detail and you are usually in bed by 9! The Shamrock Shuffle gives you a lot of that big marathon experience without all that added stress. You can go out and eat deep dish pizza or cannolis the night before along with your beverage of choice and all you need to do is get to the start by 8 ish to get into your corral.

The Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago may only be an 8 km race but with 16,000 runners to organize, the pre-race experience is reminiscent of a major marathon. My friend Christopher was picking up a bib for feelow Seattle Greenlake runner Molly, a Shamrock Shuffle regular. So we walked to the race with her and she summed it up perfectly “All the fun and energy of the Chicago Marathon without the pesky 20 miles in the middle.” Both races you’ll see random reminders of the race around town. Both races have the same sponsor, Bank of America. Both races start beside the fountain in Grant Park, with corrals lining up on the same stretch of road with that stunning view of the Chicago skyline from the start corral.

Shamrock Shuffle start line

The two races also follow the same route for the first mile, and both races finish with the infamous hill on Roosevelt 🙂

Shamrock SHuffle route vs Chicago marathon route

The race is extremely well organized with an impressive number of volunteers taking care of packet pick-up, t-shirt pick-up, t-shirt exchange, info desks, gear check, managing start corrals, and all the other details that go into a great race. They even have a small store beside the t-shirt pick up where you can buy branded race gear.

shamrock shuffle waiting to start

At marathons and half marathons it’s rare to see people wearing their race shirts on race day. But this race is all about green! The majority of runners are sporting their emerald green race shirts. I had not realized what a faux pas I had committed by wearing my usual out of country red Canada t-shirt. Even the race announcers at one point were making jokes about the sea of green and the 5 people wearing red. At least, I was wearing the green race hat and bandana.

I was worried with only two aid stations and not much opportunity for runners to spread out over 8 km that it would be difficult to get hydration. I was happy to see the tables were well spread out and were set up on both sides of the road so it wasn’t difficult to get water or Gatorade at either of the two aid stations located at mile 1.6 and 3.6. Now to be fair, it wasn’t particularly hot today, that may have reduced demand, also it’s 8 km, so not all runners will bother hydrating (I didn’t) .

One other important thing to mention in any race report! The port-a-potty situation! There were port-a-potties at both aid stations and in ample supply at the start/finish area. We actually found port-a-potties with no line up on our way from gear check to our corral

Shamrock Shuffle runners

The race was generally a lot of fun! if you want to go fast, there are plenty of people running fast, but if you want a PB you need to be right at the front of a corral. They pause between corrals, so that provides an opportunity for those trying to go fast to avoid getting caught behind other runners in that first mile before runners start to spread out. You will likely post a faster time at the front of a later corral than at the back of a faster corral. Remember the race is only 5 miles, so if you struggling to find space to pass people for a mile that’s 20% of the race!

Of course, you don’t have to go all out! This is a great race to just jog and enjoy yourself. Regardless of your pace, you will be surrounded by runners the entire race. There are also options for family or friends who aren’t runners to dip a toe in the green water (side note: green water in Chicago around St Patrick’s day is a thing.) There were plenty of people walking the 8 km, and there was a 1 mile race and a 2 mile walk.

Of course there were lots of runners who took green to the next level with costumes and accessories. The most famous among them is “The Green crew.” The Green Crew are such a staple of the race that they have one of those photo ops with cutouts set up in near bib pick up. I took a quick pic after I picked up my race packed and was thrilled to meet two members of the actual Green Crew at the finish line for the live version of the same photo op 🙂

Like any big race you have the option of buying race photos, but like any big race, if you want to get good race photos you will need to keep an eye out for the photographers and make sure you get in front of that lens! I will say the red shirt made it easy to figure out where I was in the group shots! At $24.95 for a single print, I didn’t feel the need to purchase an official download. But maybe I’ll talk to Molly and Christopher and see if they want to split the cost of buying 1-3 prints, since we have several with all three of us in the shot and it passes the Marie Kondo test, the photo will bring me joy.

So if you are looking for a race that’s got big fun without the big miles, get your green on and head out to Chicago! If you’ve run Chicago and are looking for other unique or big destination races where the main event is shorter than a half marathon, you might want to check out Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, the Perth Kilt Run in Ottawa, I can also recommend City2Surf in Sydney Australia (haven’t written a race report for that yet.) If you have suggestions please add to the comments below! I’ve already added Vancouver Sun Run, Atlanta Peach Tree, and Bolder Boulder in Colorado to my wish list.

You don’t need to be a marathon runner to be a runner and you don’t have to run a half or full marathon to justify a trip for an amazing race experience!

If you enjoyed this post, check out the rest of my running related posts with everything from gear reviews, to running disaster stories!

CIM, Susan’s quest to BQ

If you are thinking of running CIM and want the low down on what to expect that’s over here in my serious race report. This race report is Susan’s musings on her own race! Mostly to amuse myself but if it amuses anyone else, enjoy!

The quest for a BQ

It’s not that you aren’t fast enough for Boston, you just aren’t old enough! Fortunately, I am old enough and female enough that I have run Boston. But I need a BQ for 2023! Qualifying for Boston is a mixed blessing, once you’ve been once, you want to go back, over and over! Extra fun for a Squeaker like me! (Squeakers are those of us whose qualifying times are at risk of not making the Boston cut-offs)

In February 2021, my Seattle running buddy, Christopher, and I were living the pandemic race drought, and decided for mental health reasons we needed to register for a race we believed would happen in person. Enter the California International Marathon. It’s in December, surely, please, by then we will be racing in person again, pretty please? As an added bonus, CIM has a reputation as a great place to BQ. Book it!

It just so happens I had my marathon PR at Hamilton in 2019, so I also had almost 14 minutes below my BQ time for Boston 2021 registration (I know, I know, hand in my squeaker card but I promise I’ve slowed back down to squeaker status). Because of the pandemic, Boston was a fall race in 2021, and of course it might be virtual like it was in 2020, and who knows if we will even be able to enter the US to run it, but as it turns out, I had a bib for Boston in person in October 2021, 7 weeks before CIM.

Boston happened

Now as an experienced Squeaker I can tell you, you don’t try to BQ in Boston, are you nuts? Boston is a tough course and it’s also a fun race (if any marathon can be called fun) to just run without stressing out over your time. So I figured run Boston, race CIM! My sister and I navigated the COVID border crossing fun and managed to run Boston in person. I didn’t stress over the time, it was great!

CIM Training

So, now I have 7 weeks. 2 week rest, then start training again? Sadly my body had other ideas. Patellofemoral syndrome, and a wicked hamstring cramp did allow me to check two new running injuries off my bucket list but resulted in my first physio visits in 3 years (Hi Richelle!) I ran maybe 100 km total in the entire 7 weeks between Boston and CIM.

Pre-race rituals

I complete my COVID test (come on negative, come on negative, yes!!!!) and Wednesday Christopher picks me up at SFO (that’s San Francisco Airport in frequent flyer speak). All runners have a few important pre-race rituals and superstitions, especially before a marathon. One of our pre-marathon routines is going out for Gyu-Kaku (Japanese restaurant where you grill your own food). The race is in Sacramento which is sadly a Gyukaku-free zone, so we hit one in San Francisco and binged on beef and rice then the most important part. We sacrificed marshmallows to the running gods with a dessert of smores

CIM Expo

We drive to Sacramento Friday and there is a runner doing As and Bs in the parking lot as we pull in. I think this is the right hotel. The plan was to arrive Friday so we can do all the rushing around now and spend Saturday with our feet up! First stop race expo!

COVID is still a thing so we had to book a time for when we would pick up our bibs. To pick up our bibs we need to show our proof of vaccination, the volunteers are wonderful and within minutes we are trying to find ways to spend our money in the expo.

Clearly I need these two t-shirts, and a new pair of compression socks, Yes Christopher you definitely need another pair of Goodr Sunglasses, and yes I know CIM is one of the best places to BQ but I am *not* buying this shirt that would surely anger the marathon gods!

We continue with the usual pre-marathon rituals, we hand strangers our phones to take our picture (selfies in a race expo anger the marathon gods!), we take pictures of random strangers standing in from of banners, holding up their bibs, while friends yell out take off your mask for the photo (ahhh COVID!)

For the first time I look at the course map and I notice the elevation chart in the corner, ooooh I like that!

Around this point Christopher and I start having *the* talk. “So what pace you thinking of running Sunday? ” Don’t be fooled by the casual tone! Somehow you have to extrapolate a race day goal from your performance through 16 weeks of training with paces and performances that varied dramatically and probably culminated in a long miserable 20 mile run at a pace far slower than you hope to maintain for 26.2 miles on race day. It would be nice to run a BQ, and the weather forecast is good, should I? could I? Will the gods allow it? I need a sign!

Then I see the sign, an actual sign, a sign about a bell!

Well that’s it for me, I’m going to try and run a BQ! I want to ring that bell on Sunday. They have pacers for every BQ time, did you see the hill profile on that map? the weather forecast is perfect, F*K it I’m going for the BQ! Tempted by that hill profile, pacers, and weather Christopher also decides to try for a PB.

Laying out the flat runner

Saturday involves a lot of time in my room with my feet up, sipping Nuun, eating chips, watching whatever will pass the time on the hotel TV. Oooh back to back episodes of Christmas bake-off! Then it’s time to lay out all the running gear for race day. I don’t want to be making decisions about which socks to wear at 4:30 AM! a couple of months ago I ordered a shirt and tank from Athletics Canada so random strangers could yell “Go Canada” at me as I run by in US races. I also have my favorite pre-race throwaway bathrobe and some styling zebra pyjama pants from the thrift shop to keep me warm until the race starts.

The start line

The race starts in Folsom, in fact it’s right next to Folsom Prison of Johnny Cash fame. You can see the barbed wire of the prison yard when you get off the bus. After drinking copious amounts of Nuun Saturday all I can think of after we arrive is where are the port-a-potties!!! Fortunately, they literally have port-a-potties as far as the eye can see. Now, I can take a minute to look around the start, don’t trip over the rope between corals…and hey we can actually get back on the bus to sit down and stay warm… what was that crashing noise? Oh that was a runner who did trip over the rope between corals and pulled the fencing down with him. That would be a sucky way to get injured just before starting your marathon. Hmmm, not that this affects me at all but just wondering where do the 3-3:30 hour marathoners corral?

The race

With the limited mileage and injuries, I honestly have no clue how my body will hold out for 42.2 km! I remind myself of Christopher’s rule: Dead Last Finish > Did not Finish > Did not Start. Time to shift the mindset from I don’t “have” to run this marathon, I “get” to run this marathon!

I line up with the 3:55 pace team, make polite nervous conversation with the other runners in the coral, duck under the clothes being thrown over my head towards the fence and we are off! The weather is perfect, let’s do this.

The kms go by, and of course at various points I feel my knee injury is acting up, no wait my hamstring is acting up, but wait it was my right hamstring I injured not my left. So basically I had a pretty normal race experience thinking some random injury was going to sideline my race but each twinge faded away with the mileage.

There are some crowds along the way but instead of hearing “Go Canada” all I hear is “Go Karen!”, endless shouts of “Go Karen Go!”, “Way to go Karen!” “Yay Karen!” Apparently our pacer has a LOT of friends.

Karen starts giving advice on how to run up the hill, and the next hill, and the next hill, wait a second!!! Where did all these hills come from did they not see the hill profile on the map? Fortunately, I had trained for and run Boston so each hill I just kept thinking okay well not as steep or as long as Boston’s hills but wow what a LOT of hills! Anyone who expected this race to be downhill or flat could be in big trouble! (side note Strava says I ran 292 m of elevation in this race, Boston is only 340m of elevation so yeah that was not my imagination it WAS hilly).

Water stops magically appeared at distances like 4.2 miles and 6.7 miles. I crossed a couple of timing mats and called out hello to family members and my physiotherapist letting them know I was still on pace for a BQ. At the half way point I put on my metal playlist to give me an extra boost ( Iron Maiden Run to the Hills wasn’t the first song I heard, but I did get to hear it before the end of the race 🙂 Here are some of the random thoughts that went through my head as I ran:

  • I wonder what a random passer by would make of the volunteers constantly yelling out “WATER” “CAFFEINATED” “NO CAFFEINE” “BANANA” for hours on end.
  • Okay this new Endurance Tap packaging is hard to open, let’s try ripping the corner with my teeth
  • Seriously does everyone know Karen? Why did I even bother with the Canada shirt?
  • Oooh Banana!
  • 21.1 km to go, I ran 21.1 km last weekend with Terry and it felt okay, I can do this
  • “Run like your mother just called you by your first name” okay that’s a good one
  • Yay I get to see Karin and Stephane at mile 16!
  • got a tiny hole in the top of the Endurance tap gel packet, maybe if I squeeze it like a tube of toothpaste rolling it up from the bottom?
  • Yay I get to see Karin and Stephane at mile 20!
  • Oh no, missed the banana!
  • another hill? wow! they just keep going
  • blister on my toe, blister on my toe, oh better now, probably burst and I’ll have a nice bloody sock at the finish
  • How miserable was I when I ran my PB in Hamilton.. I’m not that miserable yet keep going
  • Oooh banana, not missing it this time!
  • I am going to ring that Bell
  • New York marathon hurt a lot, I can take this
  • I am going to ring that F*** Bell
  • I hate the new endurance tap packaging!
  • I am going to ring that F*** Bell

We crossed a bridge around 21.5 miles. At this point the pace pack was starting to catch up to runners who had gone out too fast or who weren’t expecting all those hills. It gets flatter after the bridge, but oh my foot is trying to cramp, relax breathe, settle in, 3 miles to go still with the pace group calf is starting to cramp nooooooo not now… 3 miles, I’m so close, but no, I can’t keep up with the pacer I’m going to have to slow down or walk, I slow down the pace group starts to pull away, the change in pace settles my calf and I am able to pick it up and rejoin the pack. 2 km from the finish, I’m tired, I’m sore, but I’m not dying. Time to use up anything I have left and go! That runner I can catch that runner, now that runner, now that runner, “Go Canada!” Hey finally one spectator noticed my shirt. Extra 10 points for passing that runner in the Vaporfly shoes, that runner, that runner, 800 meters to go, Christopher and I walked the last 800 meters, every second I gain here is a better chance of making the BQ cutoff, every second counts, go, go, and then a song comes on my playlist with a wicked fast beat and includes the following lyrics:

Time, got the time tick tick tickin’ in my head
Time, got the time tick tick tickin’ in my head
Time, got the time tick tick tickin’ in my head
Tickin’ in my head, tickin’ in my head, tickin’ in my head
If I, tell ya what I’m doing today
Will you, shut up and get out of my way
Someone ask me what the time is, I don’t know
Only know I gotta go now

Anthrax – Got the Time

That’s exactly the song I needed right now! Straight down the chute fist in the air, I even attempted to do a jump as I crossed the finish. (I got about 2 cm vertical and almost fell over when I landed 🙂

Just keep moving…Medal yes thank you.. just keep moving…Finisher jacket, yes thank you… keep walking… water bottle thank you…. keep walking.. goodie bag thank you… okay now get to the gear check… If any of you have ever seen me after a marathon I am a complete and utter wreck, I hyperventilate, I can barely stand or walk, I cry, seriously the medics always watch me carefully as I go by wheelchair at the ready. I get to the gear check bracing myself to walk past all the tents to the 4000-4500 gear check tent. The volunteer takes one look at me and says “Would you like me to go get your bag for you” YES GOD YES PLEASE! I stop moving. I force myself to try and swing my legs a bit. She comes back with my bag. My angel!

The Bell I must find the bell. I hear it ringing, I slowly stumble towards the bell, past runners, single minded, the bell, I ran a BQ I must ring the bell. Oh crap! all these runners I am walking past are in line to ring the bell! Yeah I cannot spend 30 minutes standing in a line right now. Grass lawn, gear check bag, sweatpants, mylar blanket spread eagle on grass. I’m done. I am so so done.

At some point in the future I did find the energy to get in line 🙂 Totally worth it. Thanks to all my running buddies and my Ottawa running group Run K2J for the helping make it happen

If you enjoyed this race report, check out the rest of my running posts everything from a fun quiz, to running disaster stories, gear reviews, and race reviews.

California International Marathon 2021 Race Report

This post will give you details on what to expect if you run C.I.M. the California International Marathon. This a popular fall race for runners hoping to achieve a Boston Qualifying time. So let’s see how it holds up!   If you want to know how my race went, that’s in a my personal race report.

Where and When is it?

The California International Marathon (CIM) is held in Sacramento, California. If you are not familiar with Sacramento, it’s the state capital and is located about a 2 hour drive inland from San Francisco (depending on traffic). The race is usually held the first Sunday in December and the race starts at 7 AM.

What’s the race route?

The course is point to point so you have to get to the start line. To reach the start you have two options. Option one take a bus. Most buses leave at 5 AM so it’s an early start to the day. Option two, have someone drop you off at a shuttle stop. A shuttle will bring you to the start. One very important advantage to taking the bus is that after you get to the start line you can stay on the bus (and yes you are allowed to get off the bus, go to the port-a-potty and return to the bus). Shuttles go back and forth continuously so you don’t have that option of hanging out on the bus if you choose the shuttle option.

You start in Folsom and basically follow the river to the Capitol Building in downtown Sacramento. The start line is right next to Folsom Prison, yes *that* Folsom Prison, made famous by Johnny Cash. You run through Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, then into Sacramento. You cross a bridge around the 22 mile mark bringing you into Sacramento. You are not running along a river path, you are running on the streets so it’s basically a run through suburbia.

Do take a close look at the last mile. See the little hook at the end? I recommend walking that last half mile before the race so you know what to expect. You will be running along L street, you will pass 10th street where the runners exit from the finish area, you keep going and turn left on 8th street. Then you will see two finisher chutes on your left, the first chute is for the women, the second is for the men. The women’s finish line is a touch further down the chute since you make the turn sooner so they can even out the mileage.

Is it hilly?

Great question! It is a net downhill of 366 feet as you can see from this little picture in the corner of the race map. Doesn’t that look like a great downhill course? Yeah… so let’s dig a little deeper into that.

The Boston marathon is also a net downhill course, in fact Boston has a net drop of 447 feet. I have never heard anyone say Boston is a great downhill race! Net downhill does not necessarily translate to easy downhill race!

What you cannot see in that elevation map are all the tiny ups and downs all along the route. Take a look at the hill profile below that shows up for my race in Strava. See all those tiny ups and downs along the way? This race is not flat! This race does not have long downhill stretches! Don’t be fooled by that smoothed out hill profile on the map. According to Strava I ran 292 m (958 feet) in elevation. Based on my Strava for Boston, the Boston marathon is 340 m (1115 feet) Boston is known as a tough hilly course! Let’s be clear, CIM is easier than Boston. None of the hills in CIM are as long or steep as the Newton hills and you don’t get those big nasty hills in the second half like you do in Boston. At CIM you are constantly running light rolling hills. But, if you go in expecting downhill and flat you are in for a shock. Do your hill training and you will be fine. I actually liked the rolling hills because it allowed me to use different muscles (full disclosure: I ran Boston 7 weeks earlier so I just kept thinking oh well these hills are easier than Boston)

If it’s hilly why is it known for Boston qualifiers?

That’s a great question! First of all lets dig into their Boston qualifier reputation.

According to the race program they have a higher number of BQs than the Erie marathon, or Tunnel marathon both of which I know are popular for BQ attempts. Erie has the advantage of being one of the last races before Boston registration opens and had 1302 finishers in 2019, and the Tunnel marathon is famous for it’s downhill but is generally less than 1000 finishers. CIM 2019 had closer to 7500 runners so bragging you have a higher number of BQs isn’t really an indication that an individual runner has a better chance of qualifying at CIM.

What I find more interesting is according to the race program they have a higher percentage of BQs than Grandma’s marathon, Philadelphia, OR Chicago. Conveniently I have run all those races so I can compare them to CIM based on my personal experience. All of them are great races! Chicago is flatter than CIM and Chicago has better crowds (it is one of the world Abbott majors after all!) but Chicago has a lot of twists and turns and forget using your Garmin to pace in Chicago, the skyscrapers really mess up your Garmin. Philadelphia I remember as being similar difficulty in terms of hills but has this out and back on the second half with very few crowds to cheer you on and is very exposed so you can get strong headwind for a solid 6 miles. I think Grandma’s was flatter than CIM, and has good crowds near the finish, but the first part of the race the crowds are a pretty thin.

Would a few twists and turns or a few less crowds really make the difference? On their own probably not, I think one of the biggest reasons CIM rocks the BQ is the weather! How many times do you obsessively check the forecast pre-marathon praying that rain will end before the race starts, or that the heat won’t arrive until later in the day? I had the bad luck to run Grandma’s in 2016. The high that day was 84F (29C) suffice to say I did NOT run a personal best that day. I had a friend who ran Chicago 2007, the year they ran out of water because it was so hot the early runners used it all up trying to keep cool. The year I ran Philly, the temperature was good, it was a little windier than I would have liked, about 14 mph as a headwind uphill from mile 14-20 (still got a PR and BQ, as I said, those are all great races and you could BQ at any of them on the right day).

Take a look at the weather conditions the last 5 years for CIM

  • 2021 Low 38F/3C High 60F/16C partly cloudy winds 5 mph
  • 2019 Low 51F/11C High 62F/17C partly cloudy with drizzle winds 8 mph
  • 2018 Low 39F/4C High 53F/12 C partly cloudy winds 4 mph
  • 2017 Low 44F/7C High 58F/14C clear winds 2 mph
  • 2016 Low 38F/3C High 59F/15C clear winds 2 mph

Yeah! Seriously I had to go back to 2012 to find a day which could be considered even vaguely bad weather (It rained and the winds reached 20 mph, but temperatures were low 55F/13C high 62F/17C). I couldn’t find a race with highs over 70F! According to researchers the perfect temperature to run a marathon is between 50F/10C and 62F/17.5C. Go back and look at those race day conditions for CIM again. When you are running 26.2 miles the weather plays a huge factor and CIM is the Vegas odds on favorite for perfect race day weather.

Okay this sounds intriguing is it a lottery to get a bib?

CIM usually sells out but it is not a lottery and at least this year (2021) it did not sell out the same day registration opened. That means with a little up front planning it’s a race  you can  do with friends and running buddies.

How was bib pick up and the expo?

Let’s cover the essentials here. Bib pick up was efficient and easy. The race expo wasn’t huge but had all the basics you would want and expect: last minute running supplies like gels and Nuun, CIM shirts, backdrops for photo ops, they do have panels and seating to listen to the panelists. There was also a poster display with details on all the past CIM races.

Did they have enough port-a-potties at the start?

Yes! I am not exaggerating when I say there was a line of port-a-potties as far as the eye could see. So if the lines at the first ones are too long, just keep going until the lines get shorter

Bag check?

As of 2021, bag check is at the finish line, you cannot check a bag at the start. So you need to check your bag Saturday during the day or before you board your bus at the finish line on race day.

Aid stations?

The race had 17 aid stations. All the stations were well supported in terms of amenities. Each had medical, toilets, electrolytes (Nuun) and water. 4 stops had Gu Gels, Gu Chews, and bananas. The last 6 stops had Hylands Anti cramping. They always had the Nuun tables before the water tables. At most stations the Nuun was served in the white & blue Nuun cups, and the water was in white cups which made it easy to spot where the Nuun ended and the water began. At a couple of aid stations they served Nuun in white cups but the volunteers at all the stops did a great job yelling out “Electrolytes” “Nuun” and they were always the first tables so even my running addled mind was quickly able to determine which volunteer had what I needed.

The spacing between water stops was inconsistent and not always on a particular mile or km marker. In a personally prefer having water stops at specific mile markers so that was a small minus for me. But the race absolutely has enough aid stations, and they do get closer together as the race progresses which I also appreciate. You will find aid stations approximately every 2 miles for the first half of the race , approximately every 1.5 miles from 13-19 miles, then approximately every mile from 19 miles to the finish.  In 2021, aid stations were located at miles 2.2, 4.2, 6.4, 8.5, 10.0, 12, 13.6, 15.1, 16.5, 17.9, 19.4, 20.4, 21.4, 22.3, 23.5, 24.5, 25.3 

If you are a runner who wants to be sure you take your gel just before a water stop, watch for the Elite fueling station signs those come just before the water stop and can be a good visual cue for when to take your gel.
One other small complaint, almost all the water stations were only on the right side of the road. I was running with the 3:55 pace group which was a pretty big pack of runners and it was a bit chaotic trying to reach a volunteer to get a cup.  Ideally they would stretch those tables out a bit more or have water stations on both sides of the road.  I did find myself having to mentally “prepare to go in” at every aid station. (Side note the last marathon I ran was  Boston which has aid stations on both sides of the road and has lots of tables stretched out, so that’s the bar I compare all races to). 

So if you are a runner who gets really nervous about hydration timing, you might want to consider wearing your hydration backpack. Unlike many of the big marathons you are allowed to wear hydration backpacks at CIM (at least I assume you were since I saw a good number of runners wearing them).

Volunteers?

Yes they had volunteers and they were amazing and wonderful! THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!

Spectator friendly?

If you have a car it’s relatively easy to cheer on your runner at multiple locations and relatively easy to stand somewhere your runner will see you (as always, I recommend making sure your runner knows what side of the road you will cheer from, and at what mile markers you will be cheering). There were thin crowds the entire way and a few spots with some great loud cheering. It’s not New York marathon crowds (let’s be clear I’ve yet to run a race in North America with better crowds than New York), but for a race this size, there are decent crowds cheering you on.

Pacers?

In keeping with their theme of come to CIM being the best place to BQ, they have pacers for the BQ time for every gender and age group. I ran with the 3:55 pace group. 3:55 translates to a 5:34/km pace. Staying around the pacers my slowest km was 5:38 and my fastest km was 5:17 (remember there were hills so that variation is an indication of consistent effort throughout the race). I don’t know about the other pacers, but my pacers were great. Not only did they run a steady pace but they did a good job talking everyone through the race, the hills, even suggesting when you might want to take off if you still have something left approaching the finish (for the curious, they suggested stay with the pace team at least until you cross the bridge entering Sacramento which is just past the 21 mile mark).

The finish

Once across the finish line you get your medal and instead of the usual mylar blanket they give you a lightweight jacket with sleeves and a hood which helps you warn up and keeps your hands free. Then once again they go above and beyond. Instead of handing you a disposable plastic water bottle they give you a re-usable CIM Finishers water bottle pre-filled with water. They also hand you a re-usable shopping bag with some nibbles. There was a hot food tent and beer tent, and they also had a race shirt size exchange.

It wasn’t too difficult to find friends as there is open field on the lawn on the capital building.

For those who stayed at race hotels further from the start line there are also shuttle buses to take you back to your hotels.

Race Hotel options

There are three popular areas to stay. You likely want to pick a hotel that is near a bus pick up location.  There are hotels near the finish line (convenient for dropping off your bag check  on race day) and there are several hotels near Calexpo .  One word of warning, if you are hoping to get a late checkout so you can shower post-race before driving home, you may have to pay additional fees and there may be a limited number of late checkouts are available. Clearly the hotels are used to race weekend and the massive influx of runners requesting late checkouts. My hotel charged $50 for late checkout on race day.

Fun ways to celebrate if you do BQ!

This race is so well know for BQs they actually had shirts for sale at the expo that say ” California International Marathon Boston Qualified”. It takes serious confidence to buy that before the race (They do have a place to buy shirts in the finish area as well, I’m guessing that’s when most of those shirts are purchased)

I didn’t buy a shirt (and I did BQ) but…they have a fabulous photo op/ celebration moment at the finish line for runners who BQ. You get to ring the BQ bell. They have the bell on display at the race expo, but of course no-one rings the bell in the expo because they haven’t run a BQ yet. The thought of ringing that bell was actually one of my mantras when I started to get tired in the race. I found myself thinking “I am not giving up, I am going to ring that bell” (full disclosure there may have been a few expletives inserted depending on how I felt at that point in the race).

I was clearly not the only one who became obsessed with ringing the bell, because when I did finish there was a line of 50+ runners waiting to ring the bell. But despite my tired legs it was worth standing in line for 30+ minutes with all the other exhausted but very happy runners waiting their turn to ring that bell. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate a successful CIM!

If you enjoyed this race report check out my other running posts and race reports. Leave a comment if there is additional information I could have shared to help you evaluate this race as a potential destination!

Boston marathon 2021 the Role Playing Game Race Report

Welcome to Boston Marathon 2021  – the newest role playing adventure game.

Due to COVID, Boston 2020 was entirely virtual and just about every other in person race was cancelled. Many of us couldn’t even train with our run buds any more. When they announced registration for in-person Boston 2021, I really wasn’t sure I would ever reach the start line. Only 20,000 runners means tougher qualifying times, the in person race could be cancelled, and I didn’t know if I would be able to enter the United States. Getting to Boston this year has been like a complicated adventure game filled with puzzles, obstacles and setbacks, so that’s how I’ll approach this race report.. as an RPG (role playing game)… will you get to the start of the Boston marathon?

Stage 1 Getting a BQ

Begin your adventure with a wisdom check. Any wise person would realize going to Boston this year is not worth the hassle, so many hurdles to overcome, but if you are thinking of registering then you must have run at least one marathon already so therefore your wisdom score is probably low enough that you may register. If you are in the hospital with COVID when you register subtract 5 from your wisdom*

*We met a runner from India who was in the hospital with COVID when registration opened for Boston, but she had a BQ and she told her husband to bring her credit card to the hospital so she could register.

Roll 3d10 (that means roll a 10 sided dice 3 times), the first roll is the number of minutes, the next two rolls determine the number of seconds for the cut-off. 7, 4, and 7. If you ran your marathon 7 minutes and 47 seconds faster than the qualifying time for your age group proceed to Stage 2 Planning the trip. If you did not, you may register for the virtual Boston marathon or you can end your Boston adventure and choose an alternate marathon adventure.

Stage 2 Planning the trip

You met the cut-off time congratulations!

Book yourself a hotel. Make a wisdom check, if you pass your wisdom check you book a refundable hotel room, if not, do a wealth check to ensure you can afford to risk losing $600-$2500 for those outrageously priced marathon weekend hotel rooms if something goes wrong. Roll a d4 (four sided dice) to determine the number of nights you book. Subtract one from your roll if you failed the wisdom check (people who fly or drive home the day of the marathon are definitely a little crazy*). 

*Mike

We passed the wisdom check and rolled a 3. My sister booked an airport hotel ($150/night cheaper than downtown) for Saturday, Sunday & Monday.

Roll a d6 (six sided dice) to determine travel restrictions to Boston at the time you found out you got a bib.

  • 6 you may travel freely to Boston
  • 5 you may fly to Boston
  • 4 you may drive to Boston
  • 3 you may fly to Boston with a two week quarantine
  • 2 you may fly to Boston with a two week quarantine in another country before you arrive
  • 1 forget it they aren’t letting you in right now, better hope things improve by the October!

We rolled a 5. But it’s April and the race is in October, no doubt the Canadian/US border will be open by then, I’m not flying, that would be expensive and a hassle. Move on to stage 3 Training

Stage 3 Training

Roll a d6 to determine how many workouts you will complete this week. Do a wisdom check. Add 1 hill workout to your schedule if you passed your wisdom check. Do a motivation check, add 1 to your workout schedule if this is your first Boston, or if you are planning to PB at the marathon. Subtract one from your number of weekly workouts if you are just happy to run a race in person again, and don’t really care what your time is.

At the end of each week, complete a training check. Roll a d20.

  • 20 critical hit, you had a fantastic training week, you are rocking it increase motivation by two.
  • 15-19 training went well, your workouts went well, your motivation increases by one.
  • 10-14 you got your workouts done, feeling a bit tired but basically okay continue training as usual.
  • 6-9 that one workout did not go well, reduce motivation by one.
  • 2-5 something went wrong roll a d10 and check the injury table to determine which body part feels off. 1 Critical miss! You have an injury that prevents you from running next week roll d10 and check the injury table to determine the injury, roll another d10 to determine the number of weeks training lost.

Injury Table

  • 1 Toe*
  • 2 Foot
  • 3 Ankle
  • 4 Achilles/calf
  • 5 Knee
  • 6 IT Band
  • 7 Hip
  • 8 Back
  • 9 Shoulder
  • 10 Gash in the head**

*Randy **Judy

If you had an injury, do a wisdom check, if you fail the wisdom check, you are ignoring your injury subtract one from next week’s training check. If you pass the wisdom check you add some stretching, yoga, physio, to your workout routine and continue to train as usual.

Repeat for 10 weeks then advance to stage 4 It’s getting real

Stage 4 It’s getting real

Roll a d6 (six sided dice) to determine travel restrictions to Boston six weeks from race day.

  • 6 you may travel freely to Boston
  • 5 you may fly to Boston
  • 4 you may drive to Boston
  • 3 you may fly to Boston with a two week quarantine
  • 2 you may fly to Boston with a two week quarantine in another country before you arrive*
  • 1 forget it they aren’t letting you in right now, okay now might be the time to start panicking

*We met a runner from South Africa who had to complete a two week quarantine in Namibia to get to Boston.

I rolled a 5. Well that sucks! We were planning to drive, time to look up flights. Roll a d2 to determine flight options.

  • 15+ you find a flight that is fully refundable at a decent price
  • 10-14 you find a flight that will provide you with travel credits or a reasonable price
  • 5-9 you find a decent priced flight but non-refundable
  • 2-4 ouch that’s expensive but no real alternative.
  • 1 forget it! I’m switching to the virtual race

Next perform a hotel check to ensure your hotel nights line up with your flights.

We rolled a 13 and got flights on Air Canada which can be traded for full travel credit if we have to cancel, but we failed our hotel check because we land Friday night and don’t have hotel for Friday. We pass a luck check and are able to book Friday night at the same hotel we have for the rest of our stay but lose an additional $100 over what we would have paid if we had booked Friday initially.

Once you have your travel and hotel sorted advance to stage 5 COVID testing

Stage 5 COVID testing

You have a flight and you have hotel booked, now it’s time to research the current rules for entering the US. You require a COVID Rapid Antigen test within 72 hours of your flight entering the US. If you are travelling through another country to arrive in the US, do a luck check to determine if you require a different test to enter the country in-transit.

For each COVID test roll a d10 to determine the degree of Q-tip penetration into your nasal passage required to take a sample.

Roll a d20 to determine if your COVID test is negative, add 10 to your score if you are fully vaccinated, add 5 to your score if you wear a mask in public locations, subtract one for every meal indoors at a restaurant, movie, or large public event attended in the past 14 days. If you fail this throw your adventure ends here. If you pass this throw advance to stage 6 fly to Boston.

Stage 6 Fly to Boston

Complete your online check in, roll 2d10 to determine how many minutes you spend figuring out all the documentation you must submit to check in for your flight.

It’s time to fly, but airports as we know are fraught with complications, so for each flight roll 2d10 for wild magic and hope you make your connections and arrive successfully in Boston in time to get your bib**

**Each and every scenario below is based on actual incidents that happened to myself, friends, or family. You know who you are 😊

  • 99-00 Everything goes fine
  • 97-98 You read all the dire warnings about arriving early during COVID and arrive at the airport before the check-in counters are open, subtract 2 from endurance due to unnecessary lost sleep.
  • 95-96 Rain (d10 minutes flight delay)
  • 93-94 Fog at arrival airport (d20 minutes delay circling and 50% chance of aborted landing adding additional d20 minutes delay)
  • 91-92 Flight crew has worked too many hours (2d10 minutes delay waiting for new crew to arrive)
  • 89-90 Mechanical issues with the plane (2d10 minutes delay waiting for repair and sign off)
  • 87-88 Small overhead bins (d20 minutes delay as they keep begging everyone to check bags at the gate and everyone ignores them and they have to check all the bags when they board and discover their bags don’t fit)
  • 85-86 The seat beside you on the plane is occupied by a 4 year old who spends the entire flight telling you all about his favorite Pokemon in great detail
  • 83-84 You have a middle seat between two squabbling siblings, half way through the flight one throws up in the air sickness bag and shows it to his brother  
  • 81-82 You get an upgrade to first class
  • 79-80 You are in first class but end up sitting next to a bratty 5 year old and have to cut his meat for him
  • 77-78 You accidentally board using the boarding pass for the wrong flight causing mayhem because your boarding pass did not scan properly when you boarded and now number of passengers on the plane does not match the number of scanned boarding passes.
  • 75-76 You carefully packed your race gear in carry on but your carry on does not fit in the overhead and they check your bag after you board the plane. Roll a d20 if you roll 5 or higher your bag shows up on the luggage carousel.
  • 73-74 They lose your checked bags
  • 71-72 You open the bag of pretzels and they fly open showering pretzels on your seat mates
  • 69-70 You have a 7 year sitting behind you who keeps kicking your seat
  • 67-68 You get an exit row seat with extra leg space
  • 65-66 You get a seat that does not recline
  • 63-64 Flight is overbooked you are bumped to the next flight.
  • 61-62 They changed planes, your exit row seat is now a middle seat in the back of the plane
  • 59-60 Thunderstorm at arrival airport (roll d20, if you roll a 1 they turn your plane around and fly back to your place of departure and you have to rebook on another flight, otherwise 2d10minutes delay)
  • 57-58 You flew Southwest Airlines and they cancelled your flight due to staffing shortages during COVID
  • 55-56 Bumpy flight
  • 53-54 Smooth flight
  • 51-52 Person in front of you reclines their seat so far back their head is in your lap
  • 49-50 Short line at security, get an extra drink pre-flight
  • 47-48 Long line at security, subtract one from endurance for sprinting to the gate
  • 45-46 TSA Pre-check for security, get two extra drinks pre-flight
  • 43-44 You have TSA pre-check but TSA pre-check is not open, subtract one from endurance for sprinting to the gate
  • 41-42 Long customs line, subtract one from endurance from stress thinking you will miss your flight
  • 39-40 Short customs line, get one extra drink pre-flight
  • 37-38 Nexus or other express customs clearance, get two extra drinks pre-flight
  • 35-36 You have Nexus or other express customs clearance, but the kiosks are not working, subtract one from endurance for sprinting to the gate
  • 33-34 The paperback book in your carry on triggers a manual search of your bag at security
  • 31-32 You get a pat down because you set off the metal detector
  • 29-30 You forgot you had a bottle of sunscreen in your carry on, throw out your sunscreen because it’s a liquid over 50 ml
  • 27-28 You get pulled aside for the explosive test on your hands and laptop
  • 25-26 You spot another Boston runner at the gate, compare notes on marathons
  • 23-24 Strong headwinds (d20 minutes flight delay)
  • 21-22 Strong tailwinds (d20 minutes early)
  • 19-20 In flight entertainment system has a movie you haven’t seen before and want to watch
  • 17-18 You have in flight entertainment system but you only have Bluetooth headphones and can’t bring yourself to purchase in flight ear buds
  • 15-16 Gate crew is not ready when you land (d20 minutes delay deplaning)
  • 13-14 Dust in the door handle of the emergency exit in the exit row causes the door to emit a high pitched squealing noise, roll d20 to determine if sound stops after you reach cruising altitude
  • 11-12 Plane is struck by lightning, no flight delay but add 10 to stress level
  • 9-10 Propeller plane and you got the seat beside the propeller lose 5 decibel of hearing unless  you have noise reducing headphones, in which case lose 2 decibels of hearing
  • 7-8 A fleet of antique airplanes is landing at your airport (d20 minutes delay)
  • 5-6 Spot a celebrity on your flight
  • 3-4 Your boarding pass says SSSS roll a d20, if you roll 11-20 you make your flight, roll 1-10 you miss your flight and have to catch the next one
  • 1-2 Your name matches someone on the watch list – miss your flight into the US and catch the next one

If you survived the airport wild magic and arrived in Boston in time to pick up your bib advanced to Stage 7 Bib pick up

Stage 7 Bib pick up

Congratulations you have arrived in Boston and hopefully you arrived with your running gear. Proceed to Boylston Street and enter the Proof of Vaccination tent. Roll a d20 to determine if your vaccination is approved by the WHO and you get your runner’s bracelet. If you fail your throw, advance to the COVID test tent and roll a d20 to determine if your COVID test is negative, add 10 to your score if you are fully vaccinated, add 5 to your score if you wear a mask in public locations, subtract one for every meal indoors at a restaurant, movie, or large public event attended in the past 14 days. If you fail this throw your adventure ends here. If you make the throw accept your runner’s bracelet and proceed to the Bib pick up.

Look up your bib number. Roll a d4 to determine the number of people in line in front of you. Take a moment to appreciate how incredibly efficient the vaccination check and bib pick up were this year and don’t forget to thank the amazing volunteers.  Then look down in your hands and realize you are holding your race bib. Let it hit you, get a little emotional, it’s okay. Enter the expo. Roll 3d10 to determine the total amount of money you spend  on official Boston race gear and souvenirs. If you wear a Women’s size Small or Extra Small roll a d20 to determine if they have what you want in your size. Subtract 2 from your roll for every 6 hours the race expo was open because all the other women already bought the smaller sizes. Do a wisdom check to see if you can restrain yourself from buying the Medium because it is too big for you, but you really like that blue windbreaker with the dark blue sleeves.*

*My sister passed the wisdom check and did not purchase the size Medium windbreaker and I was relatively restrained this year only purchasing the Celebration jacket, a long sleeved shirt, two pint glasses, a pin, and a badge.

Roll a d6 to determine the number of hours you spend going to sporting goods shops across Boston because the reduced size race expo does not have ANY running shoes, gels, nip guards, socks, etc… anything you needed for race day will have to be purchased elsewhere, but, if you want a Sam Adams beer they’ve got you covered*

*Did you know there is a Marathon Sports store out by Harvard Square? They didn’t have my size at the Marathon Sports on Boylston.

Advance to Stage 8

Stage 8 Take it all in!

You’ve done all your running around, it’s time to take in the sights, maybe go find a cannoli or some clam chowder. Do a wisdom check, if you fail the wisdom check you eat the cannoli* or clam chowder the night before the race and make a port-a-potty stop mid-race. If you arrived Saturday, go for an easy run Sunday morning along the river or if you are staying by the airport, along the ocean at Revere Beach.

*James

Take a photo at the finish line, then get back to your room and lay out all your race gear. Tomorrow you run the Boston marathon! Advance to Stage 9 Get to the start line

Stage 9 Get to the start line

Get up early, dress up in your best throw away pre-race outfit and make your way to the school bus to drop off your gear check if you don’t have a convenient hotel or generous friend or family member to lug your stuff around. Then begin the walk to the bus, board the bus at the scheduled time for your bib colour. Roll a d20, if you roll a 1 the bus driver gets lost and you arrive at the start an hour later than planned*

*Yeah one of the bus drivers got completely lost on the way to the start, and took an extra hour to get to the start line

Once you arrive in Hopkinton, start walking to the Start line. Stop at the port-a-potties, roll a d10 to determine the number of people in front of you in line. Gain 10 minutes if you are a guy and use the open urinal zone.

Begin to discard your throwaway gear into the clear bags, garbage in the black bags. Do a wisdom check to determine if you do any stretches or warm up. Continue walking to the start line. Take one last photo if you have your phone because with the rolling start, as soon as you reach the start line your Boston marathon is underway! Advance to Stage 10 Run the marathon

Stage 10 Run the marathon

Oh my god, I’m here, I’m running the Boston marathon, there are runners all around me, there are fans cheering, try not to run too fast on that initial downhill. Hey look there’s the Ashland Biker bar. Oh wait, uphill now, but look at that cute Labrador holding the Boston Strong flags. Natick… more hills and there’s Santa Claus at the top of the hill. Framingham, more cheering crowds, more hills. Wellesley another hill and the famous Wellesley college girls scream tunnel but no kisses from the girls this year, I guess COVID has changed some aspects of the race itself. Water stops are soooo well organized, amazing volunteers, and here we are in Newton for even more hills! Lots of crowds to cheer you up the hills, good thing because that first Newton hill goes on and on and on. Boston college has a great cheering section too! Brookline and wait I’m confused is this section flat??? Haven’t seen much of that today, I really should have done more hill training.  Now entering Boston, one mile to go, Right on Hereford, left on Boyleston and it’s time to smile for the camera, you are about to finish the 125th Boston marathon! The weather was not as hot as forecast you might even PB*

*Stephanie, Rachel

Stage 11 You did it

My feet hurt, my legs hurt, I just ran 42.2 km / 26.2 miles but as soon as I hit that finish line, the 400 m walk to the gear check feels like another marathon. I make it to the exit, my sister Judy is waiting for me, I greet her briefly and inform her when she wants to find me I’ll be collapsed on the grass in Boston commons. This picture was taken at least 20 minutes later because I found the strength to sit upright again 🙂 Congratulations you have completed the 125th Boston marathon!

For more of my race reports, including comparisons of Boston and New York marathons, the practical guide to Boston marathon weekend (pre-COVID), or Boston marathon treadmill settings visit my page of running related posts.

Army run 2019 – I love you BUT …

I am deviating a bit from my usual race report format, because this year the Army run made some big changes, and I wanted to touch on a few of them specifically while they are fresh in my mind.

This post is broken in two – WHAT I LOVED and WHAT YOU NEED TO FIX for next year.

What I loved

Partnering with OC Transpo

Having the ability to take OC Transpo to the start, instead of driving downtown and trying to figure out parking. I left my car at the Park N Ride in Fallowfield, hopped on a 95, got off at Pimisi and it worked great. On the way back, I took the O-Train to TUnneys Pasture (just so I could ride the O-Train), there were volunteers when I got on the O-train giving directions on where to baord, and volunteers when I got off the O-train letting us know which way to go to catch a bus or exit the station.

I ran the half marathon, so not having the LRT running until 8 AM really wasn’t a factor for me, and I just took the 95 all the way to the start. So it really didn’t bother me that OC transpo wasn’t in a position to open the LRT early. It was the first week of operations for the LRT after all.

The atmosphere of the race

Army run has a great atmosphere. Starting at the war museum and running through Beechwood cemetery all fit in well with that atmosphere. Personally, I don’t mind the extra hills on the route. This is not a good course to try and set a personal best (hilly, crowded, lots of turns), it’s a race to run and soak in the atmosphere. I still love the shirts. Cool hoodie style shirts for the Commanders challenge. Was nice to have the cannon back at the start line again this year. I adore the dog tag medals and all those touches that make the Army Run special.

The pacers

The pacers I met did a great job! Staying solidly on track for their predicted times. They even had their planned per km pace written on the signs, which was helpful for the 1:45 since the two pacers took different approaches, one did a 4:59/km pace, the other did a 4:55/km pace. So depending on whether you wanted to be aggressive or conservative you could pick your pacer.  Thank you, I met my race goal, and the pace bunnies helped with that.

Port-a-potty lines

For a race this size, I was impressed with how short the lines were! I just kept walking towards the back of the corrals until I found a shorter line. And my stops pre and psot race they still had toilet paper. Thank you.

WHAT YOU NEED TO FIX for next year

Okay, that’s all the good stuff, now I have to bring up some of the problems. There were some issues with the new location and route, that if not addressed will affect whether or not I recommend this race to others in the future.

Signage at the race expo and start area

I know that Friday noon is a madhouse to pick up bibs, so I specifically went at 2:30 PM Friday. It was nice and quiet. Due to construction traffic was a mess, but that’s not something the Army run can control. I found a parking spot on the street near the war museum and grabbed it, so I cannot comment on how parking worked if you drove into the actual museum grounds.

What I can say is once I got out fo the car, I had no idea where to go. There were tents and fences and people all over the place. But There were no signs outside saying Bib pick up this way – T-shirt pick up this way – Race Expo this way. Given that the bib expo was inside the museum, down the hallway, aroudn the corner, that would have been helpful. Then I was tol pick up your tshirt at the expo. Okay… so I figured out how to get to the expo and walked a loop around the expo but still could not find the t-shirt pick up, oh apparently I missed the little turn off 2/3rds of the way down the second tent which is a little tunnel that takes you to the t-shirt pickup. Again SIGNAGE PLEASE! Honestly, it took so long to figure out where everything was that I spent absolutely no time in the expo itself. I have been known to spend money in race expos buying shoes, sunglasses, shirts, gels, I didn’t even look around, I was so focused on trying to figure out where the heck to get my shirt. When I did get my shirt, I just wanted to get out of there before rush hour traffic set in.

Bag check

Signage on where to find bag check would have been nice as well. Once again I arrived with a bag, and no idea where to go. I did find a volunteer who told me it was where I picked up my t-shirt. So the volunteer was helpful, but really some basic signage would go such a long way!

It was a bit confusing when I dropped off the bag, do I ahve to drop it off a the booth with my race distance? OR can I drop it off with any of the volunteers?  It felt like you were supposed to go to the booth for your distance, but of course all the half marathon runners were dropping off bags aroudn the same time and the other volunteers had no-one coming up to them… you know what would be helpful? signage or a volunteer at the entrance letting you know the scoop.

I did not have a very long line for bag pick up or drop off, and the volunteers were great, but I did have friends doing Commanders Challenge and some of them were unable to get their bag between races. That’s not good! If you set the expectation that I can get my bag between races, and then I can’t get it… that’s a bigger problem than just telling me hey don’t expect to get your bag between races.

Hand cycles mid-race

I am 100% supportive of hand cycles and wheelchair racers! I also think it’s great to have people of all different levels of ability running the race, slow fast, doesn’t matter, you did it! good for you! You rock!

I don’t remember this problem before, but maybe it just happened to be around me, but I caught up to a couple of hand cycles around Beechwood cemetery. They were slower than me going up the hill. They were faster than me going down the hill. Faster than me and everyone else around me. This meant cries of “cycle on your left, cycle on your left” were a regular occurrence for about 8 km as we would pass him on the uphill, and he would pass us on the downhill. Of course the hand cycle was near the curb and lots of runners were running along the edge of the road (it’s a popular place to run for cutting corners, or just to find space on the road). Some runners heard us when we yelled out cycle on the left, some did not. We would yell over and over, and sometimes we had to jog over and tap a runner on the shoulder because they were in the zone, or just wearing headphones. Frustrating as it was for us, it must have been even worse for the hand cyclist who must have been constantly adjusting speed to avoid hitting someone.

The 5 km finish

A friend of mine had 2 kids running the 5km, he went to the finish to watch them run in and what he saw was a solid wall of people. You could not actually run to the finish line. I quickly did the math and wondered what happens when the fast 10 km runners start coming in to that mess? I gather things cleared up engouh or they made a path to the side for the 10 km finsihers zooming in which is good, but wow that 5 km finish was a mess!

The water stops

Okay I’m torn about mentioning this one. The volunteers at the water stops were great! They made sure you knew if they had Nuun or water. There were a good number of water stops on the course, and there was a sponge station and misters. ALL OF THIS I APPRECIATED THANK YOU! It was hot, and it all helped.

It was a little tricky to get water at some of the stops, and I wasn’t in the thickest pack of runners. There were a few water stations that were only on one side of the road, and the number of tables and how spread out they were seemed to vary. SO if it’s possiblew to have water stops on both sides of the road for all water stops and spread the tables out a bit more so we have a little mroe space to grab a cup that woudl be great. But this isn’t a MUST fix, this is a “if you want suggestions on how to improve this is somethign that could be even better.” I’ve seen WAY worse at other races.

Summary

So hey Army Run – I am sure you are getting feedback from other runners. There were some issues with the new location, but I think you can fix a lot of it with a little planning. These types of issues can really discourage someone who was doing their first race, or will make them look to other races instead. I hope we hear in the news about ‘improvements’ for 2020.

Sincerely – a 5 time Army run 1 time Commanders Challenge runner who has frequently convinced others they should run the race and wants to continue doing that in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beat Beethoven Race Report

Race bib and medalThe Beat Beethoven Race is a theme race in Kingston, Ontario. Runners are challenged to complete 8 km before the Kingston Symphony orchestra finishes playing 50 minutes of Beethoven’s best. I love a well organized community race, and this one was a lot of fun.

If you don’t keep an eye on the time, you could find yourself sprinting to beat the finish unnecessarily. I remember my mum telling me Beethoven pieces always sound like they are about to finish but then keep going.

Here’s the scoop on what to expect if you decide to take on the challenge.

The races

They had a kids 1 km race, a 4 km fun run, and the 8 km ‘main event’. Only the 8 km race has timing chips. The distance was a bit short this year for the 4 km, but since it’s not timed and the prizes are given out ot top 3 male and female based on gun time, it wasn’t that big a deal. The race organizer offered to add extra distance to the race next year so it averages out to 4 km both years 🙂  There are no finisher medals, only age group winners receive medals, so if you bring the kids you might have to go for ice cream post race as reward (or stick around for the draw prizes)

Logistics

With a race start time of 10:30 AM, and the option of race day registration and race day pick-up, this race is quite do-able from nearby towns like Ottawa, Cornwall, Brockville, and Belleville. Street parking is free in Kingston on Sundays, and it was not difficult to find parking an easy walk from the start line. This proved especially helpful as I could not find any sort of bag check. My car trunk made a convenient bag check.

Port-a-potties

There are no port-a-potties, but there are washrooms in the back of the tourist information building. I did the standard 20 minutes pre-race stop and was only in line behind 3 women waiting. The gentlemen did not have a line at all.

The shirts

I registered late so did not get a t-shirt. They had some wonderfully bright orange shirts, which the race organized blatantly admitted make for great advertising when you wear them around town. I have plenty of t-shirts, and I have no issues with races not printing a bunch of extra shirts for late registrations just in case. Like I said, most runners have plenty of t-shirts anyway.

The competition

I initially thought this might be a good race to place in my age group or maybe sneak in a podium finish. At smaller races I have placed in my age group, and at *really*small races I have managed a top 3 women overall (by really small I mean < 50 runners in the whole race). The website had a link to the 2018 results.

The top male runners in 2018 finished in 24, 25 and 26 minutes. The top women finished in 30, 31, and 32 minutes. Okay zero chance of a podium finish, how about the 40–49 age group? 32, 32, and 34 minutes! It appears this race brings out some very fast runners. I did not expect times that fast in a race with under 400 people unless they had prize money like Emilie’s Run (https://hockeygeekgirl.com/2019/05/01/emiles-run-race-report/).

The Kingston Symphony Orchestra

Unfortunately it was raining and the orchestra was hidden away inside a tent. We could hear but not see the orchestra as the tent walls had to be kept up to protect the musicians and their instruments.

The 8 km race

The town crier with a fine rainbow umbrella welcomed us all to the race, the gun went off, and off we went. The light rain was actually perfect for running. The route has a few odd little turns, no doubt to ensure you do the correct mileage, and it had a few decent uphill climbs. Since the race is a loop, all the uphill is rewarded with downhill later in the race. There were two water stops along the route, I think the first was around 4 km and the second was around 6.5 km.

The volunteers as always were much appreciated and cheered us on. Thank you volunteers!

I finished well under 50 minutes, but like many other runners I stayed around, intrigued to see how close to 50 minutes the orchestra would finish playing. There is only one pace bunny on this course: the 50 minute pace bunny! We saw him coming toward the finish line and we could hear the closing bars of Beethove emanating from the tent. The pace bunny’s foot hit the timing mat, the last note came from the tent and the clock turned to 50:00 at exactly the same time. I’m impressed!

Race results

Sportstats had results up almost instantly after you crossed the finish line. I was pleasantly surprised to see myself listed in 3rd place in my age group. The website did not mention whether there were age group awards but as I strolled over to the food table to grab a clementine and a roll (no bagels just rolls), I saw them laying out medals and envelopes. There were no finisher medals for the race, but the medals for the age group winners were really nice!

So, I waited around for the award ceremony. It was cold, and it was a bit of a wait. I think they started just after noon. Not unreasonable, I just wish I had known I had time to go put on warmer clothes, all I had done was grab a warm jacket.

Draw prizes and age group awards

Awards were given out for the 4 km first, and then a few draw prizes, then they worked their way through the 8 km awards, interspersing draw prizes in between age groups. draw prizes were awarded by bib number. It took me a couple of rounds to realize they were looking out into the crowd and calling out bibs they could see. He did tell everyone after giving out some draw prizes that everyone with jackets zipped up might want to unzip them 😉 Hey, I think that’s a great way to do it, I don’t want to sit there while they call out bib numbers for people who have left, and that way if there is a kid who ran a race lookign really excited about the draw prizes, or a runner wants to blatantly walk up and stand in front of the stage with their bib prominently displayed to try and win a draw prize, go for it! The prizes were a mix of shirts, water bottles, and race entries. Most of the medal winners had the opportunity to grab one of the prizes as well.

Summary

This is a fun but quite competitive community race. Race registration can be done right up to the day of the race so it’s great for those of us looking for a couple of fun runs to do after our big spring races. There are plenty of little shops and restaurants around the finish area if you want to make it into a day trip. If you stick around until awards I’d say there’s a good chance you can win a ‘draw’ prize just by standing in front of the stage with your bib clearly visible 😉

If you are interested check out my other running related posts and race reports.

Bay 2 Breakers race report – in San Francisco anything goes

I just ran the infamous Bay to Breakers. A 12 km spring race in San Francisco whose notoriety comes from it’s reputation as a clothing optional race.

There’s practical information at the bottom of this blog post in case you plan to run it yourself.

If you run, you probably have the same reaction I did: Male or female wouldn’t that be uncomfortable? Do you really want things bouncing around as you run? We runners happily splurge to purchase supportive undergarments to avoid that sort of thing.

And what do they do with their race bib? Are there race bib temporary tattoos you can apply? Or do they wear nothing but a smile and a race belt?

It does explain the market for the Body glide with built in sunscreen I saw at the Big Sur marathon expo. I was baffled when I saw it there, generally speaking Body Glide is applied where the sun does not shine.

So with these important thoughts occupying my brain, I met my friend Christopher in San Francisco to experience Bay to Breakers first hand.

Sparkly light up tutus anyone?

Since most of us have no intention of running naked, costumes are a popular alternative at Bay to Breakers. I expected the race expo to sell everything from sparkly tutus and tiaras to neon body paint. No neon body paint or tiaras, but we did find Christopher a fabulous rainbow light up LED tutu and I found a sparkly gold headband that would make Axl Rose proud.

Christopher was highly amused when someone working a booth approached me to ask if I would like more information on their anti-aging products. Hey! I’m walking through the expo in my Boston marathon jacket, getting older was the only way I can qualify for Boston!

Watch out for the flying tortillas!

tortillas in corral at bay to breakersWhen we got to the start corrals, there were cows, chickens, superheros, spacejam basketball players, lifeguards, Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, and more.

Suddenly a tortilla flew past Christopher’s head. That was when we noticed an impressive collection of tortillas on the ground. So in addition to keeping your eyes open for beach balls bouncing you need to dodge a steady stream of tortilla frisbees. Pro Tip: When you actually start running, try to avoid stepping on the tortillas they are a bit slippery.

Who are these people in the middle of the road?

After a fine Corral sing along to Don’t Stop Believing we crossed the start line. There were two lines of people in cow costumes in the middle of the road creating a high five tunnel for the runners. On Hayes Hill we met a group of runners dressed as salmon (running the wrong way of course) running down the middle of the road high fiving runners. Later in the course we got another high five from Jesus, I mean how do you turn down a high five from Jesus!High Five from Jesus

Are there really naked people?

About half a mile into the race, I said to Christopher “since this is Bay to Breakers, I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t at least one naked runner”.  I was not disappointed.  Oh and it’s not just runners! Spectators  get into the spirit as well. Our favorite was the guy on the side of the street with a happy face shaved into his chest hair wearing nothing but a carefully placed Crown Royal Bag.

We started playing a little game: Would we see more people trying to save us from our sins, or naked runners. Final score was about 8-5 for the naked runners.

Oh and they wear their bibs on hats or visors, so now you know.

Brought to you by cannabis

The early start of 8 AM did not stop spectators from coming out to cheer. There weren’t as many spectators as I expected, but their enthusiasm, and costumes more than made up for it. The mylar blankets at the finish line were sponsored by a local cannabis store. I suspect both they and the liquor store had a good day.

Thanks for a great time San Francsico, and thank you Christopher for joining me on the adventure. I would run this again. If you are interested in running it yourself, read on for some practical information

Practical information for those planning to run the race

Can you race it?

Bay to Breakers used to be the largest footrace in the world. City 2 Surf in Australia has since taken over that title. But, at it’s peak, Bay to Breakers had 100,000 runners! In 2009 the city officially banned floats, alcohol, drunkenness and nudity because some residents complained the race was getting out of hand. They still get 30,000+ registrations every year, but they can have double that number out on the course any given year as many people run without registering.

That said, we were in corral B, we were never alone, but if I had wanted to run my own race, there was room to run. If you run a sub 7 minute mile and can provide proof of that pace you can enter the seeded corrals which are likely even more spread out.

Corrals are seeded based on your predicted pace, but corrals are not enforced, so if you want to go out fast, move to the front of your corral.

This race is meant to be fun, and if you race it and go home, I think you miss out on a lot. I would recommend you move back a couple of corrals from your usual pace, carry your phone and have fun. If you do race it, then do what I saw several other runners doing. Race to the finish then do a jog/walk back to the start line along the course so you can see all the runners behind you. I think you will enjoy that more than running the optional extra 3 km at the finish for the extra medal. Just remember if you turn around to run back the first 3 miles on the way back is going to be uphill.

How hilly is it?

There are rolling hills for a lot of the course, and one decent climb at Hayes Hill, but honestly if you run half marathons or marathons and have done hill training, it’s not that bad. If you normally run flat 5 to 10 km runs and don’t do hill training, then yes it’s going to seem hilly. It’s a great course to run a negative split, since a lot of the last 3 miles is downhill.

They have timing mats at the bottom and top of Hayes Hill so they can award the fastest Hayes Hill run of the race.

Water stops

There were water stops on the course, all the water stops are on the right hand side and they had enough tables you could run past the first two tables and grab water further down.

Port-a-potties

I was surprised by how few port-a-potties there were in the start area, but each corral had a different section so I only saw the port-a-potties on my street. There were a LOT of port-a-potties along the route.

Bag check (or lack thereof)

Because of the large number of runners they don’t have bag check unless you pay for VIP registration. Backpacks are not allowed either. You can purchase an approved clear drawstring bag at the expo to carry a change of clothes (or your clothes depending on how you plan to run the race). That does mean you run the race carrying a drawstring bag on your back which is irritating. Next time, I would probably splurge on VIP registration to get bag check.

Race Expo

The race expo is next to Pier 39, a popular destination for tourists seeking food, souvenir socks, and sea lions.

Bib and t-shirt pick up is well organized.

The only clothing on sale at the race expo was official race gear, but they did have a nice selection. The lack of bag check may account for the Flip Belt and Roo Pouch boots at the expo. We expected to find booths selling stuff for costumes, but there was only one booth selling headbands and tutus.

Transportation to start and from Finish

Because the race is point to point you will likely need transportation. “Muni” passes, in the form of yellow stickers to put in the corner of your bib, are available for purchase when you register online, at the expo, or beside the bus stop at the finish line. Muni passes provide transportation to and from the start by city transit. We had no trouble getting on a city train to the start race morning. They had a continuous line of buses at the finish, as soon as a bus filled up it left and the next one started to load. The bus ride back was slow, but that’s just because it is a city bus so it stops to pick up and drop off passengers at all the city bus stops.

Race Photos

Most of the race photographers I saw were on the left side of the road. Photos are free, this year sponsored by Strava. It’s a busy race so if you want race photos seek out the photographers and make sure they see you.

Should I wear a costume?

Absolutely. Even if it’s just a grass skirt, and hawaiian shirt, or a Forrest Gump costume. If you want to race, you can come up with something that is comfortable to run in. I recommend asking yourself a few key questions when choosing your outfit

  • Is it breathable?
  • Will it survive if it rains?
  • Will it survive when I sweat?
  • Will it chafe?

Should I run naked?

Hey that’s up to you, but if you do, you won’t be the only one.

If you enjoyed this post, check out other running related posts

Diefenbooker race report

Today was 23rd annual Diefenbooker race day. It’s hard to believe it took me this long to get out and do it!

IMG_20190504_085201

It takes a village of volunteers!

This is a community race. I was immediately impressed by their team of volunteers. As we arrived, volunteers directed us to a parking spot. When we walked into the building, a volunteer asked if we needed race day registration. We said yes, so she  provided us with forms to fill out, asked what races we were doing along with our shirt sizes then proceeded to fetch our t-shirts and bibs. Once we had completed our forms she directed us to another volunteer who took down our information and payment (cash only by the way). Additional volunteers were ready to hand out bibs and t-shirts to those who had pre-registered. There were also plenty of volunteers along the route managing traffic, making sure we did not miss turns, and cheering us on.

IMG_20190504_165733Race day registration runs from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM. We arrived just before 8 AM. The line for race day registration was a bit of a bottleneck by 8:15, but they kept it open late so everyone could be processed. But, if you decide to race, it would be a kindness to the volunteers and organizers to pre-register or arrive early on race day to register. Pre-registration also helps you get your preferred t-shirt size. The smallest women’s shirt they had by the time I arrived was a women’s large. The shirts are cotton by the way, not technical shirts. Fairly common for community races.

 

A race for the whole family

This is a great family event, with races for everyone! There was a 5 km, 18km, and 33 km cycle. There was a 5km, and 10 km run for those who want to race. There was also a 5 km walk for those who prefer a more gentle pace. There are also shorter races for the youngest family members. A 1 km race for 12 and under, and the loonie loop for 2 to 6 year olds. The 2 yr olds do not race against the 6 year olds. They do one race for each age 🙂 Such fun to watch a line of 2 year olds race about 30 m across a field as fast as their legs will carry them. Parents, siblings, grandparents and total strangers stand on the sidelines cheering them on. Of course there are always one or two confused toddlers who stop and look around bewildered not entirely sure what is going on, but family are only a few feet away to rescue them if needed.

Running through the Diefenbunker

blasttunnelOne of the really cool things about the 5 km and 10 km races is that you get to run through the Diefenbunker blast tunnel.  The blast tunnel was designed and constructed to allow the pressure wave from a nuclear blast to enter and then be diverted away from the actual bunker itself where key members of the Canadian government would be relocated in the event of nuclear attack.

I did the bike ride instead of the run so I did not get to run through the tunnel. Clearly, I need to return next year to do the run so I can run through the tunnel!

The bike ride

The 33 km bike route took us along country roads. There was very little traffic and only a few hills. All the turns were clearly marked. You did need to keep an eye out for cracks and potholes. Not surprising for a spring race in Ottawa. I did the ride on a good road bike and would use the same bike if I return. I guess I should specify, what I mean by a “good” bike, since that definition can vary widely! My bike is is a Trek Lexa SLX :aluminum frame, carbon forks, Bontrager components and Bontrager alloy wheels, Shimano 105 drivetrain. Another cyclist who rode with us for a good part of the race did comment that he was glad he brought his “B” bike and not his racing bike given the road conditions.  Save that bike for riding in the Gatineau hills.

The 33 km cyclists started just ahead of the 18 km cyclists, and the 5 km cyclists started last. This worked out well since the faster cyclists tended to be doing the longer distances. By breaking up the starts, you don’t have an 8 year old on their mountain bike jockeying for position with my cycling commuter husband clipped into his pedals riding his Marinoni.

A community race with community sponsors

The cycling races are cycle tours which means, unlike the running races, they are not timed. As a result, I was surprised when they asked me to pull over at the finish line. Apparently I was the 2nd female overall in the 33km bike. I was presented with gift certificates for Kin Vineyards and The Cheshire Cat Pub (make sure you read their road sign when you are in the area). local businesses can be such great supporters of community races!)

Even if you don’t get a top three finish, the 2019 bibs included $20 off any purchase of $100 at Bushtukah. It is far too easy for me to spend  over $100 at Bushtukah, and it just so happens I need to buy a pair of trail running shoes. You also got a coupon for a free Kichesippi beer at the Cheshire Cat Pub (valid on race weekend). I also heard a rumour kids who did the Loonie Loop got a coupon for a free ice cream (but I have no way of fact checking that, so don’t make any promises of free ice cream to your kids, just in case I am wrong)

img_20190504_165718.jpgThank you to all the sponsors who contributed to this community event! Giving away gift certificates is smart, because now my husband and I are planning a return trip to Carp for dinner at the pub and a stop at the vineyard. Maybe we can combine it with an attempt on the Diefenbunker Escape room.

Washrooms and bag check

Yes there is a bag check inside the building

There are washrooms inside the building and they also had 5 port-a-potties in the parking lot.  I appreciated the indoor washrooms when I realized I had absent mindedly put my bib bike shorts on backwards when I got up in the morning and needed to remedy the situation before the race start. Glad I didn’t have to do that in a port-a-potty!

The Diefenchunk

img_20190504_165353.jpgAnother unique aspect of this race is the medals. In addition to receiving gift certificates for my top 3 finish, they also presented me with a very original medal. The middle of the medal has a small piece of concrete glued to it. Apparently I received a “Diefenchunk” 🙂  Presumably meant to be taken from the Diefenbunker, though my husband and I wondered if perhaps they were taken from some of the more impressive potholes on the course!

Diefenchunk medals are awarded to top three men and women overall in each cycling race, in the 5km and 10 km running races, the 5 km walk and to the first place age group winners in the 5 km and 10 km running races.

Summary

The Diefenbooker is a well organized, fun spring race for runners and cyclists of any age and ability. The funds raised support organizations in West Carleton that promote literacy, encourage physical activity or personal wellness. Little touches like the Diefenchunk and running through the tunnel make it one of the more original races in the Ottawa area. I’ll be back. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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If you are interested, I have other running related posts and race reports

Emile’s Run Race Report

EMiliesRunFriendsThere are more and more all female races out there, last week I ran my first: Emilie’s run. The race was established in 2007, in memory of Émilie Mondor. Emilie competed for Canada in the 2004 Olympics and died at the age of 25 in a car accident. She was the first Canadian woman to complete a 5,000 m in under 15 minutes. (14:59.68 at the world championships in Paris 2003).

Emilie Mondor

Emilie Mondor

The race appealed because in addition to being a welcoming race for female runners of all levels, it’s a race that celebrates competitive female runners.  The event aims to give competitive women a chance to lead a race, set the pace, and be the overall winners. (The prize money helps attract some strong runners)

Emilie’s run is a 5 km spring race in Ottawa. The route is a simple loop on the experimental farm.

A couple of useful things to know if you are thinking of running (as of 2019):

You can pick up your race kit on race day at the start or Thursday at Bushtukah

  • Parking – There was free parking,  but the posted race lot was full when we arrived. There were some other lots around but the signs seemed to indicate 90 minute parking. We decided to keep it simple and just paid for parking at the agriculture museum which was a nice short walk to the start, and I have no objection to supporting the agriculture museum with a few $.
  • There are two hills, not very steep, but fairly long
  • You get a necklace instead of a medal at the finish line
  • They have bag check and there are bagels and bananas at the finish
  • There is a 1 km Fun run as well
  • Wheelchair friendly route
  • Port-a-potties are located at the start area, and a short walk away are the heated indoor toilets.

For the casual runner looking for a fun run:

  • There is a water stop around half way
  • When I ran (2019), the last pair crossed the finish line at 1:25, the previous 9 runners all came in between 45 minutes and 55 minutes

If you are a tad competitive (like me)

  • There is prize money (unusual for a 5 km) so this race attracts some fast women! $750 for first place, $500 for 2nd, $350 for 3rd, $200 for 4th, $100 for 5th.
  • It’s interesting to compete in a race that is all women and has some serious competition for the top spots.
  • The overall winner in 2019 finished in 16:52.9, fifth place 18:35.5 (that’s how fast you had to be in 2019 to take home $)
  • First place in the masters finished in 18:59.2 and won $250
  • There were 14 women who finished in under 20 minutes
  • They have timing mats and clocks at every km, so you can keep an eye on your splits.
  • It’s a fairly fast course, but it does have a long hill at km 2-3 and km 4-5 and if it’s windy you are guaranteed to have a stretch with a headwind because it’s a loop and there is not much shelter from the wind.
  • The road isn’t closed before the race starts, but you can do a nice warm up running out to the 1 km flag and back.

EMiliesRunSusanHow was my race? I am a runner who occasionally sneaks in a top 3 in her age group. I finished in 22:10 which is within a minute of my 5 km Personal Best. I finished 23rd overall, 2nd in my age group.  I enjoyed racing with such a strong pack of women runners.  I think I would have been at least 10 seconds slower if not for Kailey (that’s her in front of me in edge of the photo) for being just close enough and tall enough for me to draft behind on the windy sections. Thank you Kailey!