Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Calgary Marathon - 4 stretches and a bag of salt

Another subtitle could have been "the good, the bad, and the ouchy", though I'm sure someone's thought of that one before. This marathon (my second) for me was overall a success, however it does leave unfinished business, but I will start at the beginning.
The Calgary Marathon was moved this time to the Stampede grounds, had a new course, and certainly had a "bigger" feel. I'd set myself a "dream goal" of 3 hours 10 minutes, doable I thought given my time at other distances. My PB from my till now only marathon was 3:29:56, so a "minimum goal" was to beat that.
I had been careful not to have as much fibre given my experience at my first marathon. Between waking up and startline I had also gone for a CC (confidence c**p) 5 times. Though I'd forgotten to bring tylenol with me, I knew it probably wouldn't help prevent a muscle pull or anything like that.
 Rich was there, doing the 10k this time, coming back from Boston some 5 weeks before. He shouted "Go Peter go!" before the startline like only he can.
 Once again, the Team GB top. Fewer funny looks this time.
Kudos isn't a strong enough word for Neil Zeller and this shot he took of me. It's a true "what I think I look like" photo. For my wife, there were 2 spots between the start/ finish where she would be to take my photo.
As usual I had the headcam on. I knew it would help capture the atmosphere, always great at this race. Just seconds after the horn, I felt a bump to my left, one runner's shoe having come loose.
Many thanks to Kristy for the above shot (worth a 50% GORR on the revenue from this blog!)
2 photos from mainstream media above, play "where's P?" on the bottom one.
No sooner was I past the Saddledome when a voice to my right said "Peter - a touch of the runs?" I didn't catch his name, but he said he'd heard of me through Neil.
I knew Km1 would be quick, and my plan was to dial down the pace after passing the sign. I did, but not enough, I realized, when I saw the half marathon 1:30 pace bunny just edging past me halfway through Inglewood at about km3.
It was a touch irritating to be chopped by a couple of people who didn't think I was on the inside of them on a couple of the early 90 degree bends, though kind of expected perhaps. What I didn't expect was another runner to unclog his nose in front of me twice. The first one was in the bushes to the left, then loosing his bearings he did it again a few seconds later to his right and into the middle of the road. As a precaution I jumped, then loudly said "nearly!" which he pretended not to hear. Below is the least flattering freeze frame I could come up with, this is the "ugly" I refer to at the beginning of this write up. His shirt was white at the start of the race.
On through Bridgeland, I remember quite a few of the lady runners spitting, though safely. Still a novelty to me perhaps. I don't think I spat once in this race, which is unusual, the need usually arises at some point.
Crossing the Bow River for the second time, I caught the eye of an official photographer, who then said "come on Great Britain" in an English accent as I passed him.
Just like my first full marathon in Calgary, I knew it would get quiet after the half marathon turn-off. It was just after this that A-Chang was stationed for the first photo op. I was by this time following the guy in the hula-skirt who was getting all my press and lens time. 
The second quarter of the course was the slightly uphill section, and just when I was contemplating taking my gloves off, it clouded up and stayed that way. I was about a minute and a half ahead of schedule and managed to give up a little time.
Two things that did go right are that my feet felt comfortable throughout as I had adjusted my shoes perfectly according to my different-sized feet. The other was avoiding having to stop for a bio-break, not even needing to hold it during the race. The same can't be said for this guy, who took off from this porta-potty like he'd left a hand grenade in there. Have headcam, will capture evidence.
Through Garrison Woods, and still feeling fairly comfortable.
 40 seconds or so ahead of schedule at the halfway point.
At about 27 km I could feel my legs getting a little heavy.
I got to A-Chang's second photo spot at 31km.
Just 2km later on the 14th street bridge, my right leg which had given me a little trouble in the build-up to the marathon, tightened considerably, so I stopped for a brief stretch.
A second, slightly longer stretch was needed a few minutes later.
Just after 34km, and the above delightfully dressed lady, my right hamstring locked up. Not her fault.
The 2 people I stopped near were well equiped. The lady above gave me a packet of salt, which tasted, well, salty, but I knew I needed it. I hope she knows I'm extremely grateful.  Before that kicked in however, my "reliable" left leg locked up a couple of minutes later. A long stretch, then I walked for about 10 seconds, and with the knowledge that a 3:10 was long gone, said to myself "I'm finishing, no matter what", then broke into a gentle trot.
The salt, along with grabbing 2 cups of gatorade at the next aid station started to have an effect, and the trot turned into a jog.
Also giving me a lift was the fantastically raucous crowd at the east village aid station. By the time I passed the 40km sign and girl on stilts my legs felt fresher, though stiff. Up ahead, the few other runners I could see were looking wobbly. "That must be what I look like" I thought.
Not as fortunate as myself was one runner I saw seized up on the ground about 500 metres from the finish line. Well attended by medics, I hope he recovers well.
It certainly made me happy to be finishing under my own steam, and despite my trials between km33 and 35, a big PB was still coming right up, as I passed a couple of runners who'd already finished and gave me a loud "attaboy!"
A nice moment right at the end with a father carrying his son on his shoulders.
 Finally there in 3:20:47, 84th place out of 972, and a PB by 9 minutes and 9 seconds.
For the record, my pace chart.
There were 3 stairs to negociate to get in under the grandstand where the food was. "Negociate" is an interesting word. Tougher than that was the "staircase to hell" in the c-train station afterwards. Anyone who has had to walk down a flight of stairs right after a marathon will know what I'm talking about. Imagine singing "ow" to the tune of the 1812 overture.
When I got out of bed the next morning, while I could stand, I had to bend at the waist to get myself going. "And we're walking.." I said to myself like some sort of aerobics dvd.

Overall then, I can't complain about slicing 9:09 off my PB. The course was quite good and fun, wouldn't have minded sharing the road with less traffic in places. A 3:10 marathon is unfinished business though. I actually registered for the California International Marathon in Sacramento on December 2 the week before this race. I have a few things to work on for that mission.

Now for the video. I should give the headcam some trial runs to steady the picture for the next races, won't bore readers with those details. Enjoy, and don't sit too close to the screen!


  1. Awesome run and awesome report! Congratulations, super PB there! You are fast and 3:10 is on the cards for sure. Rest well!

  2. 3:20 is a stellar days work! And good blow-by-blow race report.

  3. After our brief conversation during start of the race, I realized that I forgot to introduce myself - it must have been my camera nerves. :) Congratulations on the great time.


    1. If I spot you at a race or on the paths I'll be sure to say hi!