Races

Road2Hope Marathon 2016 Race Report (Part II)

Read Part I of my Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon recap here. (22-27K) After the half, I knew the famous Road2Hope downhill was just around the corner. I took my second gel and some water. Found my favourite song and knew that there was time to be won on this portion of the race. I momentarily thought about time goals, as I was so afraid of getting excited about a time too early on. Experience is the best teacher I know in the marathon. My head was surprisingly clear. I was on a mission. I will never complain about a downhill, but I will say there is some strategy required. The grade of the road, for example, is incredibly slanted. This meant that with every curve in the road, it was best to run down to the flat shoulder surface of the road. (5:06, 5:00, 5:19, 5:10, 5:16, 5:24)

(28-34K) Coming off the ramp at Barton St. I knew I was two-thirds of the way there and would soon be seeing my parents again along Beach Boulevard. I took my third gel and noticed how many people I was passing, many walking. I briefly thought about how many times I let myself give up and quickly told myself to STOP. We are NOT having that conversation today. Again, I briefly indulged myself in a time goal and decided it would be great if I could go sub-3:45, to give me the Chicago option. I would allow myself to revisit the goal around 34K. For now, keep your head. (5:38, 5:38, 5:26, 5:22, 5:21, 5:16, 5:34)

Now for one of my favourite moments of the race. As I was coming off one of the pedestrian bridges, I wished I had an extra gel. I had four on board, but realized I could use a fifth. Jeeze, Mom even offered to bring an extra one, I thought. Just then, I saw an unopened Espresso Love GU on the ground in front of me. No freakin’ way. God, is that you? I bent down and scooped that gel up so quick, only briefly thinking of the poor soul who dropped it. I held onto it for dear life, while taking my fourth gel early, knowing I now had an extra one.

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(35K) Around 35K the pesky 3:45 bunny snuck back up on me. I knew I had a buffer for the last 8K, to still come sub-3:45, but I would have to hang on. The difference between a decent or noteworthy marathon time is determined in the last 6-8K. I decided then and there that this would be a BREAKTHROUGH marathon for me. I was sooooo sick of knocking 1-2 minutes off, knowing that I had at least 20 minutes to go before my BQ was in reach. Pull it together, Jayme. You can rest later. (5:22)

(36-39K) I hung onto the 3:45 bunny for as long as I could. My legs were trying to quit, as if they had a say, but my mind was yelling louder. NO REGRETS, I chanted. I had built such a thick wall up in my mind that I barely heard the doubt demons knock. I knew they were there and would take advantage of any sign of weakness. Knowing that my average pace needed to stay under 5:20, I kept looking at my watch. My average pace was 5:15 and ticked up to 5:16 then 5:17. Crap. I saw my Mom at 39K. Oh my goodness I was grateful for her words of encouragement. YOU GOT THIS GIRL. (5:29, 5:47, 5:31, 5:45)

(40-42.2K) 2,000 meters and you’re there. I had nothing left in my head. It was a race between me and the clock. As I ran around the bend and up the finisher chute I knew I had given it my all. But was it enough? 3:45:10 on the clock. I was delirious. (5:37, 5:35, 4:57)

After crossing the finish line I saw my Dad and told him there was a strong possibility that I came in under 3:45, but I’ll need to see my chip time. We anxiously waited for the sheets on the wall to be updated. 3:44:55. all. the. feelings. I couldn’t help but cry. This 11 minute PB was breakthrough I needed.

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Road2Hope Marathon 2016 Race Report (Part I)

In the lead up to the Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon, I didn’t think much about my time goal. I’ve been there too many times. Overthinking things is not productive, for me at least. Despite my Achilles injury this summer, and the two weeks off-ish during our wedding and honeymoon, I knew that I was more than ready for a breakthrough PB. By how much was the question. To understand where I was mentally, it’s worthwhile telling you where I’ve been at these past few months. I was fed up (and fired up) after finishing the Ottawa Marathon. Finishing in 3:55 did not represent my training. It was hot, I know, but its hard to convince a determined marathoner that the race was “out of my control”. In training for Hamilton, I knew I had a 3:45 in me. Heck, I think there’s a BQ in there too.

I arrived at my parents place in Niagara on Friday evening. I stayed there for the weekend, as Hamilton is close by. Saturday morning I went for a 4K shakeout run, as I normally do. I didn’t realize how much I wanted this race to go well until I started tearing up while I was out there. So many things raced through my mind. The people who have played a role and supported me in getting here, the work I have put in this past year (and the years leading up to this), and how FED UP I was with having another “it wasn’t the race I wanted” marathon. I made a pact with myself that Sunday would be a No Regrets race. Let’s go.

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The rest of Saturday was low-key, filled with lots of carbs, water and Nuun. In previous races I’ve shyed away from *too many* carbs in fear of feeling bloated and gross, and then only to feel empty by 25K. This time I kicked my carbs way up and limited the fat and protein in my diet. Glycogen depletion, I got your number. I was in bed by 8:00pm. My mind had started to race and I knew I would be up early, despite the clocks falling back an hour. I set my alarm for 4:40am and let myself picture a few kilometres of the race before falling asleep. Others count sheep, I guess.

Sunday morning I got up, had my coffee and Picky Bar. I was anxious, but in a good way. It was a perfect day outside, with a low of 4ºC with a high of 11ºC; sunny, with a bit of cloud cover. Frig, I thought. This is the race day I’ve been chasing. We left the house around 6:15am and arrived at the Road2Hope Marathon start around 7:10am. Just enough time for me to wait in line for the port-o-potty (ick) and get to the start. My parents and I had agreed on the spots they’d cheer.

(1-5K) Go-time. Given my last minute jump into the corral (re: toilet), I started the race behind the 3:55 bunny. I didn’t plan to run with a bunny, but would use them as markers along the way. My plan was to race a conservative first half. I managed to pass the 3:55 bunny and caught up with the 3:45 around 5K. (5:11, 5:05, 5:13, 5:10, 5:08)

(6-12K) I settled into my pace and militantly told myself to stay there. I talk to myself a lot on runs and races. I could tell early on that I was in a good place at how calm and confident I was. These paces didn’t scare me. In fact, they felt very easy. More times than I’d like to admit, I allow my mind to get anxious and I start to doubt myself way too early on. This was not going to be that day. I saw my parents around 12K and handed off my gloves.  (5:11, 5:03, 5:20, 5:05, 5:21, 5:11, 5:14)

(13-21K) Around 15K I decided I would not even think about making a move re: pace until after the half. Sit tight and remain calm. Just another day running around the Rideau Canal.  I mentally pictured myself at 16K starting my second loop around the Canal. I know that 30K route like the back of my hand and know I can cover the distance comfortably. And, after all, the real race doesn’t begin until 30K. I crossed the half in 1:50-ish. Keep your head, Jayme. We’re still getting warmed up. (5:15, 5:15, 5:13, 5:16, 5:12, 5:15, 5:12, 5:08, 5:10)

Check back Friday for Part II of my Road2Hope Marathon Race Report!

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Ottawa Marathon 2016 Race Report

I ran my 13th marathon on Sunday. That seems a tiny crazy to type. Each marathon has provided me with different experiences. There was no question that the Ottawa Marathon was for a PR. With a solid half marathon recently on the books, and multiple successful long runs, I knew that my goal of "3:45 or better" was doable. In fact, I had little doubt in my mind that I would finally see a 3:4x. I was at peace with the training I had put into this race and knew that I was truly ready. Thursday was the start of a very exciting weekend. I left work early and went to Rogers TV to film an Ottawa Race Weekend segment with Mark Sutcliffe. Talking with Mark and the other runners about the race got me excited for what would unfold in the coming days. I knew that more than 45 thousand runners and their families were coming to the city to experience the best race weekend in Canada - how awesome to be a part of this, I thought.

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From Rogers TV, I made a beeline to the Shaw Centre where the Expo was being held. As a Run Ottawa member, I was stationed in the Run Ottawa booth and spoke to many runners coming to pick up their race kit. While I had been watching the weather all week, this is where I started to hear whispers that Sunday could turn out to be hotter than planned. Keep your head, I thought. You can run in heat.

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That evening I had the honour of picking up our Canadian Record Holders Lanni Marchant and Natasha Wodak at the airport. My two favourite Rio contenders in my car? Pinch me. They were coming in on a 1:00 am flight from Vancouver, after training there that day. We chatted on the car ride home and I dropped them off at their downtown hotel. They were ready to rock the 10k (which they eventually did).

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Friday was low-key. My parents got into town in the afternoon. We moseyed over to the expo for a perusal, and then met G for dinner. I continued to drink lots of water and nuun. These pesky whispers of heat on race day continued. So much so, there started to be concern of runners safety in the heat. Wait a second, I'm ok to run in some heat, but where did this 33ºC come from? This was not part of my plan.

The day before the race I was really committed to hydrating and eating on regular intervals. I didn't leave the house much that day. The more I've run, the more I realize how important days before the race really are. Feet up. Water and nuun in hand. I glanced at the weather every so often, but I didn't obsess. I knew that the plans for the day had already been set in motion. My coach and I had planned that I would run a conservative race, listening to my body every step in the way. Whatever was in the cards, I was ready to run 42.2.

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Race morning, I woke up around 4:15 am, before my alarm. The race started at 7:00 am, and as you can imagine, I had a few pre-race routines to tend to. Coffee, banana, nuun, picky bar, glide, and so on. My Mom, who was also running the marathon, and I were out the door by 6:10 am. As we were walking I was giddy looking at the sky. Could this really be? The sky was overcast and the scorching heat was far from our midst. My prayers have been answered. We met Ashley and walked to the start together. We said our goodbyes and just like that I was at the START of the Ottawa Marathon.

This is the moment I've pictured since January. The gun goes off.

Kilometres 1-5 flew by, as you would expect. I kept my headphones off and was focused on taking in the moment and keeping my pace. For the first 5K, the plan was to hover around 5:30 for the start then bring it down gradually to 5:25. I've become a much better pacer this past year and knew that this would be doable. There were a lot of people around me; I tried to keep weaving to a minimum.

1) 5:25 2) 5:33 3) 5:29 4) 5:26 5) 5:24

By 6K, I would work it down to 5:20 and 5:15 by 7K. I would plan to hold it at 5:15 until 30K. I truly did have the best laid plans! By 10K I had warmed right up. Due to the heat, I had decided to bring a frozen hand held along with me. The ice was long gone. I could tell it was getting hotter out, but I was comfortable and felt confident in my hydration and fuelling strategy. First gel at 8.5K.

6) 5:20 7) 5:14 8) 5:16 9) 5:22 10) 5:18

Running through Westboro and Island park was a blast. There were so many people out cheering, spraying water and handing out water. There were a few moments where I thought I was going to cry. This was everything I had been picturing for the past five months. I've done the work and I'm confident this is going to be my day. Keep it together, Jayme. You can't cry during a marathon. 

11) 5:15 12) 5:10 13) 5:15 14) 5:16 15) 5:15

Legs were still feeling very strong in the lead up the half. As I approached 15K, I flashed back to the 2013 Ottawa Marathon where I fell a part early on in the race. Normally I would quash that thought quickly, but I spent a bit of time thinking about how far I've come since 2013. I put my music on for a bit. At 19k I saw one of my sweetest friends at the War Museum. We both live nearby; she's come out to most, if not all, of my races to cheer. Second gel at 19K. I repeated to myself: Lock it in at 5:15. I would visually picture myself buckling a seat belt around this pace. The things I think when I am running.

16) 5:11 17) 5:13 18) 5:11 19) 5:18 20) 5:10

I crossed the half mark in 1:52:49. A tiny bit slower than planned, but I wasn't worried. I reminded myself this was my day. My legs were still feeling strong. As I ran through Gatineau I reflected a lot on my runs with Ashley in these parts. I knew Ashley was up ahead and spent a moment thinking about her. I knew she  had done the work and was going to have a strong race. Selfishly, I wished I spotted her in the crowd so I could run with her!

The crowds in Gatineau were phenomenal. So many residents had come out with hoses to cool down the runners. Throughout the race there were heat notification flags (as pictured above) along the route. They were green up until this point, indicating LOW RISK. I agreed with their assessment (obviously when you are running a marathon you are exercising the best judgement). I continued to hang onto 5:15. Legs still in the game.

21) 5:14 22) 5:13 23) 5:16 24) 5:09 25) 5:15

I crossed the Alexandria Bridge and made my way back into Ottawa. Is it just me, or is it getting hot out here? Let's not dwell on the heat. Let's just run. For the next 5k I am giving you permission to mentally box up the watch and put it aside. Legs are still very much in the game. I used a sponge at 25K and was hydrating like a champ. Third gel at 26K. Just get it down.

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26) 5:15 27) 5:18 28) 5:21 29) 5:33 30) 5:28

I could feel the heat and the sun by this point. It felt warmer than the start (captain obvious statement of the day), but I really wasn't ready to accept the heat. By 30K the plan was to start working my paces down. Instead, I could feel my paces slowing down. Ugh. I hit a few tough moments between 31-37K. Understanding we are running a marathon here, I expected that, but I was fighting hard to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. STAY IN THIS. I was hearing crickets from the bottom half of my body.

31) 5:30 32) 5:28 33) 5:42 34) 5:53 35) 5:38

At 36K I passed a young gal handing out freezies. This was quite seriously one of the best moments in the race. The cold felt so good in my mouth and on my hands. I held onto the freezie until 37K. By this point I noticed the heat notification flags had turned red and indicated HIGH RISK. As I approached the stretch along the canal (a portion of the race that I have used repeatedly for mental training), I remembered that we would be merging with the half-marathoners. The course was thick with people, with lots of crowds lining the sides. Even though I was feeling burnt out, I was filled with so much joy in this moment. This is why I run marathons.

36) 5:51 37) 7:27 38) 5:57 39) 6:04 40) 5:57

I stopped to fill up my water bottle at 39-40K. The sun was beaming down on my face and my commitment to my watch had all but disappeared. Thankfully, mind over matter prevailed and I picked it up at tiny by 42K. I am PR'ing today, I told myself. I was doing the math in my head and knew I would shave a few minutes off from my 3:57 from Hamilton.

41) 6:45 42) 6:03

As I ran the last 200 metres, I wish I could say I had more emotion in me. I was empty by that point and just focused on the finishing line. Once I crossed the mat, I smiled. Despite that race getting hard, I ran a marathon today. 3:55:08.

.2) 6:03

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Congratulations to everyone who ran this weekend!! A huge thank you to the Ottawa Marathon race organizers, volunteers, and to the communities of Ottawa and Gatineau!

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Race recap: Run for Reach 2016

I planned to use the Run for Reach Half Marathon as a training race for Ottawa Marathon. The annual race is put on by Reach Canada, a national charity that supports people with disabilities. I ran it in 2013, six weeks before the Ottawa Marathon that year, and got my half marathon PB. It’s a fairly flat course and is an out and back loop along the Rideau Canal, a portion of the Ottawa Marathon route. It also happens to be a route I run quite frequently. With the race on Sunday morning, Saturday was a pretty low key day. I completed a 20 minute shakeout run on Saturday morning, then ran some errands (including picking up my race kit at the Bank Street Running Room). G entertained my appetite for Whole Foods for lunch. Salad bar, grilled salmon and ginger GT’s Kombucha FTW. We had a chill evening, as I was going to be up early in order to get to the start before 8:00.

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The morning of the race I woke up around 5:45 am. I couldn’t sleep any longer. I wasn’t nervous, but there’s something about race mornings that just wake you up. I drank my coffee and sat on my computer for a bit. By 6:45 am I started nibbling on my Picky Bar and sipped on some Nuun. I left the house by 7:20 am and ran to the race start (about 2.5 km).

As I stood at the start line, I really wasn’t nervous. I looked around and overheard many comments about how cold it wast (-9ºC). Interesting, I thought to myself, after running outside for the past three months, this was what I consider to be a beautiful day.

Ultimately, I just wanted to get the show on the road. There were about 115 participants in the half marathon and another 100 or so in the 5 and 10km. The 10km started with the half marathon, which meant I knew the course would thin after they finished.

My race plan was to run a negative split (faster second half of the race). I’ll be honest with you, this has been a unicorn I’ve been chasing for a while. While everyone knows that in theory running a strong negative split  is ideal, it’s a hard task to execute. It means you have to really reign it in those first few kilometres, when you’re feeling fresh and could easily run fast.

Kilometre 1-5 I repeated to myself 4:55-5:00. I hung with a group of guys and let them do the pacing work. The guy who seemed to be leading the pack was running a consistent 5:00. I told myself that this was my warm up. YOU WILL STAY HERE.

By 6km, I told myself that we could start working the pace down. Reminding myself constantly that I am running my OWN RACE and not to get spooked by the people passing me (as I suspected, they were finishing at 10km). I reminded myself that I would be in a STRONG position for the second half of the race. That would be where the fun began. I took a Hammer Espresso Gel between kilometre 8-9 (good practice for Ottawa Marathon, I’m planning to take them in 45 minute intervals).

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I made it to the turnaround (the 10km finish) and let myself push it a bit more. My coach had told me that the half marathon is supposed to hurt, but it doesn’t hurt forever. You should be in control by the second half of the race. I was. The pace felt good.  My legs were responding and I knew I had more left in the tank.

At 15km, the last turnaround of the race, I told myself GO TIME.  The plan was to run a negative split and this was the part of the plan where the race would be won. The last 6km is where you reap the benefits of your controlled race plan. My legs were feeling great. I had a great soundtrack in my ears and the sun was shining.

With 3km left I was doing the math in my head. I knew I was going to PR that day. My coach had told me 1:41 was a challenging but very realistic goal. That would put me over two minutes faster than my PB of 1:43. I can’t emphasize how badly I wanted to PR on Sunday. Reflecting more on the race, there was a big difference between my PB there three years ago and this year. Three years ago, my 1:43:57 felt like a fluke. Although it was GREAT, I legitimately surprised myself back in 2013. Back then, I just started being able to run what I considered to be fast.

Sunday’s PB meant even more to me. It wasn’t a fluke at all. I had no doubt in my mind what I was capable of (even on tired legs). I knew I had put in the work. While the half marathon really was a training race for Ottawa, I’m so freaking happy with Sunday’s result.

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DOUBT KILLS MORE DREAMS THAN FAIILURE EVER WILL.

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Has doubt held you back from something lately?

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or find me on TwitterInstagram and Strava. Check out my running story in Canadian Running Magazine.