Well, hello there! Welcome. I’ve been on such a blogging hiatus, I sincerely apologize. I’m really going to make it point to blog more frequently. Are you on Twitter or Instagram? If so, I’m active on there and would love to connect. Twitter @sarahchan and Instagram @sarahchan215.
So, where do I begin? There are good races, amazing races filled with PRs galore. Then there are the not-so-good races or, in this case, downright terrible and painful ones on many levels.
A couple of weeks ago, I had really high hopes for the BMO Vancouver Marathon to put it all on the line for another full marathon PR after spending the past several months training so hard for it. Alas, despite hardcore serious training, I endured injuries here and there and race day had multiple bouts of pain.
I’ll start off by saying that it’s been an absolute pleasure training with my coach Kevin Granato of Granato Racing! The entire #GranatoRacing crew is comprised of badass speedies and they’ve inspired me to be at my best.
I’ve been training with Coach Granato since December 2013 after a couple of months running hiatus after the Chicago Marathon in October (marathon recap here). December was spent building back up a base and the training got more serious from January/February onward. My training plans are always planned for me on a weekly basis comprising of tempo runs, easy runs, intervals/speedwork, and a long run. Having a running coach has really made me more accountable and the level of training this time around has been much higher than before.
With the combination of hard training and some unfortunate circumstances, I had to battle some injuries in the past few months. In late January, I was diagnosed with calf tendinitis in my left calf — I attribute this to one of my poor decisions to do speedwork in never-before-worn shoes. Twice in a week. Luckily, a round of Graston and ART with my sports doc along with a week of total rest helped me get better. Then, of course, through March and April, I had bad tendinitis in my right calf coupled with shin pain which continued up towards race day. This resulted in every other workout being either extremely good or really painful in the last two months or training. Just couldn’t catch a break.
Despite all of these nagging pains, I nailed many of the workouts and felt prepared for Vancouver. Coach built me a rock solid weekly training plan which I executed and I felt good going into the marathon. So, what happened at Vancouver?
I had hopes to PR in Vancouver following an amazing race in Chicago. Chicago was just one of those race days that resulted in perfect race conditions and then there are ones that will go wrong in every way.
The road to Vancouver is recapped below…
This was me during one of my last runs during the taper week. Beautiful weather and cheery!
On the Friday before the race, I made sure to hydrate and hydrate more with Nuun electrolyte tabs. Watermelon is my jam.
I had taken the Friday off and spent the day relaxing, packing, and did some playlist updating. The BMO Vancouver Marathon discourages music/headphones, but it’s not banned. I’m definitely a music person when it comes to racing, so I needed some fresh tunes. If you’re interested, here’s my marathon playlist on Spotify.
Sarah’s 2014 Marathon Playlist (59 songs, 3 hr 39 min)
Whenever I pack for trips, whether it be running-related or not, I’m always notorious for overpacking. I like having options. Case in point below — the various Oiselle team race singlet and Lesko shimmel and shorts. This bird can never go wrong with any of those options.
We arrived in Vancouver fairly late on Friday evening and checked into the L’Hermitage Hotel in downtown Vancouver. We’re frequently in Vancouver, my favorite city, but it was the first time staying at this particular hotel. It didn’t disappoint. Loved it!
Saturday morning, I did a quick 20 minute shakeout run and ran from the hotel over to the waterfront and Canada Place, location of the race expo. This was the view from Canada Place directly across from Stanley Park which is where Joe and I had gotten engaged and where the marathon course would take me.
After the quick shakeout run, we headed over to brunch at the Twisted Fork which is one of my favorite places to brunch at in this city. Check out my huge spread. Three of those four plates were mine. Can you guess which one they were?
After brunch, we made our way back to Canada Place to hit up the expo to pick up my race package and bib. Over the years, I’ve accumulated my favorite running toys, I’m 100% a Oiselle gal, and have my favorite fuel an electrolytes. I no longer spend much time at race expos, but it’s always still exciting to be there surrounded by the excitement exuding from others. I thrive off of other runners’ energy!
Here I am with my marathon bib and sporting the Oiselle tabloid marathon raglan tee in indigo. I basically love this shirt. They have a half marathon and 5K version, too! Get yours.
After expo’ing, we drove over to the Fairview Slopes neighborhood to hit up some cool surf shops that we’ve been to before. Was trying to look for some new summer/warm weather clothes for our trip to Florida a few days later. While in the neighborhood, we paid a visit to a pet store where they had THE most adorable little pup, Gilligan. Gilly is up for adoption. Hope he found a good home!
By the time we got to the hotel room, we were already tired and ready to nap a little and then eat. We ended up going to a make-your-own-pasta-combo place called Basil Pasta Bar. Yelp had great reviews and it turned out to hit the spot – quick, fresh, and super cheap! I couldn’t believe how affordable it was.
After digesting a bit, I went and met my teammate and friend, Julie! She was staying at the same hotel as me and she was ready to rock her first full marathon ever. So proud of you, Julie!
We had a great time chatting, talking about race and fueling strategy, and figured out how to get to the start line. We’d be heading out the next morning together and taking the Canada Line rapid transit to the start. Good ol’ Google Maps gave us our options.
The next morning came and here was my schedule:
- 4:30 AM: Wake up and eat breakfast
- 6:20 AM: Get up, shower, get dressed
- 7:10 AM: Meet up with Julie in the lobby
- 7:27 AM: Canada Line tram to Oakridge-41st Ave stop
Things went well and we got out the door just fine. The problem came when we couldn’t figure out how to get to the Canada Line transit stop! We went to where Google Maps told us to go and there were locked gates. We walked into a couple of businesses and I started to internally panic — what if we couldn’t get to the stop? Would we be late? Would we miss the race? All these crazy ideas started swirling around my mind. In the end, we got there just fine and felt silly that we were only across a street from the tram entrance.
Race weather was very dreadfull – raining the entire time getting us thoroughly soaked, a cold chill in the air. We got to the start line and I was grateful to be there ready to go. Julie and I lined up at the front of corral 2 and ran into a Vancouver-based Twitter running friend Erin. We had never met before but I approached her as she and I were Oiselle hat twinsies! So awesome. What a small world.
Okay, so here are just a few tidbits about the race that I’m recapping for future reference. I’m not great with directions so can’t offer and turn-by-turns, only what’s etched in my memory.
- Link to BMO Vancouver Marathon 2014 course map in PDF format is downloadable here: 2014 M Events Marathon Maps v184.108.40.206.
- The first half of the race felt pretty good, albeit rainy and cold. I got to the 13.1 mile point at 1:53 and felt that I was a little off target, but still relatively fine.
- Miles 5-8 were significantly brutal for me with the hill. I feel incredibly silly for mis-reading the elevation chart before the race. I thought that the y-axis was in feet, not meters, so this resulted in surprise, shock, and dismay when encountering the many hills of this race.
- Miles 15 and 18 were incredibly tough for me. As you’ll be able to see by my mile splits, those miles were the beginning of the end for me. My legs started to cramp up and my calves were killing me.
- By mile 18, I was serious thoughts of my first DNF (did not finish). Fighting through tears and pain, I thought to myself about the hard work I’d gone through during this training cycle and how I couldn’t quit. I thought about my husband waiting for me at mile 25 at the location of our engagement. I thought about how if I quit, I wouldn’t get the pleasure of finishing my 4th full. With that, I kept on going.
- During the course of the marathon, based on my Garmin data, I stopped completely or walked over 30 times. Yes, this is not a typo. Over 30 times. What? This honestly was one of my worst race experiences and the data proved it.
- My Garmin data showed a total of 7:02 (7 minutes and 2 seconds) of non-moving time. This is not walking, it’s actual non-movement. Again, what? What is this? I normally wouldn’t fathom this, but I can clearly recall the many times I stopped dead in my tracks clutching my legs in pain, breathing, regrouping.
- I experienced the most leg cramps I have ever had in the 13 half marathons and 4 marathons that I have run. Some contributing factors, I believe, included the rain and cold which impacted my muscles, the unprepared hilliness of the course, and overall my body just failing when my heart persevered.
- My last cramp came in the last 100m till the finish line. The end of the race is uphill and I was ready to truck it all the way through. I was in the middle of the road when I suddenly stopped in my tracks and experienced a soft ball-sized cramp in my right calf. I had to hobble over to the side as a guy cheered me on saying, “come on! Only 100m left!” I was throwing f-bombs left and right, cursing, crying, and trying to beat the cramp out of my leg. Took a couple more jogging steps and another debilitating cramp. Okay, gather my thoughts, damnit. Go, get the F to the finish line. It’s so close. All these thoughts ran through my mind.
Don’t mis-read race elevation charts when you run an international race. I had even used an online calculator and estimated a 0.5% elevation grade for the miles 8-13. Oh no, it was more like 300+ ft.
In reality, here’s what the elevation looked like from my Garmin stats.
I DID IT, guys. What I’m SO incredibly proud of was my ability to persevere and to push through difficult, painful times to the finish. It’s incredibly difficult to run a marathon even on a good day, so running one on the worst is even more incredibly to me. As my coach told me, these types of days can happen and that he’s proud of me. That’s what I wanted to hear. I’ll be looking back at this race proudly as it’ll be the one I had to fight hard to the finish.
Official Time: 4:03:52 (Pace: 9:18) — 18 minutes slower than my previous marathon and 3rd on the list of 4th in times – the slowest time is when I fell at my first marathon (recap here)
Unofficial Garmin Distance: 26.43 miles — I need to get better at running the tangents!
Elevation Gain: 1,807 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,768 ft
Mile Splits, Moving Time, Elevation: Check out the significant change in mile splits and the moving times beginning at mile 15 and beyond. Definitely the data shows my painful decline.
Ya know what? I’m so proud, I’m glad I ran my 4th full. I’m so thankful for you all, my friends, teammates, and supporters for cheering me through. Also big thanks to my husband, Joe, for being my #1 race cheerleader!
Here I am at the Winter Olympics torch proudly sporting my Oiselle race gear and my new BMO Vancouver Marathon bling.
Love my hubby!
So proud of Julie for rocking her first full marathon and kicking ass!
Don’t mind us. We just ran a marathon and showered. There is no getting dressed up after an event like this.
And, as always, no marathon can be without delicious food. We hit up one of our favorites in Vancouver, Peaceful Restaurant, as featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, for their hand-pulled Shanghai noodles and dumplings. YUM!
Rockin’ my new bling!
Proud new addition to the race bling wall.
Final moral of the story: Don’t ever, ever, ever give up no matter how hard or painful it is at the time. Just think about how good you’ll feel to finish it through. And who doesn’t want awkward race photos like the one below? This one was within the last 100m after I cramped up and hobbled like a crazy person to the finish line.
Question: What’s next on your 2014 race plans? Any 5Ks, 10Ks, halves, fulls, ultras, trails? Give me some ideas. I’m always interested in researching new races to consider.