Sunday, 1 June 2014

Calgary Marathon

The build-up
The event weekend of the 50th Calgary Marathon started on Friday evening with the Marathon Society cocktail party in the Calgary Tower. I was invited due to being one of the ForeRunners. One celebrity I missed a photo with was the phenomenal Ed Whitlock, someone whom I think almost everyone aspires to emulating. 
I did get myself into a photo with Lanni Marchant, Canadian marathon record holder and phenomenal athlete. Thanks to Crystal Rhyno who took me over to her to set up and take the photo above. 
One guy who seemed to enjoy being in photos was Bart Yasso. 
I got talking to Nelson Ndereva, one of the elites who was being introduced to many people by Running Room founder John Stanton, also there. Quizzing him on his training and vice versa, I learned quite a lot from him. 
My favourite photo from the evening. Sharen enjoyed this aspect of the weekend most, somewhat more than getting up at 4am on a Sunday. She is always my biggest supporter, and while I loved the event as a runner, it was as much for her enjoyment as mine that we went. Running makes me a better person, and it's more for her than me that I want to keep on improving myself.

Saturday was the usual wait for race day, day. I eyed the hourly forecast warily. It would be 8 degrees at 7am, and 16 degrees by 10 in the morning.

Race day! 
I sprang out of bed at 4am. By now, I'm something of a race day veteran, and had everything prepared the day before. 
No clouds in the sky, so it was likely to be quite warm later on. Racing with me was Rich, and Scott who is far quicker than the pair of us. He was doing the 50k. The plan was to stick to 3:10 pace, so 4:30 per kilometre and if anyone dropped off the pace the others needn't wait. I had printed pace bands and would keep a keen eye on my garmin to avoid going too fast. 

The start
I've often found that nerves from the occasion are kept in check by the friendliness of the atmosphere. One reason to love race day anywhere. 
Underway, I set a kind of PB for not overdoing it in the first k.
First aid station: "Water. Gatorade." "Got beer?" "No". I had added an extra bottle to my belt. I sweat and dehydrate heavily, and my plan was to take a sip every 2k, and take a cup of gatorade every alternate drink station - at 6k, 12, etc. 
At the 6k station, one runner overtook me on the wrong side just as I was reaching out to grab a cup. Bad race management by him and I have him on video, mwa-ha-ha. Knowing what it's like for the first part of the race before the full and half courses separate, I moved to the inside way in advance of each corner. This ensured the best line for me and helped others by stopping them going for a half or non-existent gap. 

Marathon loop
Turned off at 17th avenue for the marathon loop to a less crowded road at around 9k. The worst hill at around 10.5k. 
By 8am I thought "this is getting really warm." We had gained 40 seconds on the first 11k. It was still going to be mildly uphill until about the 20k mark, so I tried to give away the time "gained". 
Through MRU, where I've taken a class or two and past a guy on fast run/ walk routine. When starting up again, he'd do an unusual skipping motion then break into what for me was half marathon pace. I wonder how he finished up.
I took my camera off at the 20k for mid-race selfie filming. The top one shows how much it had already warmed up by this point at around 8:30. Rich and Scott seemed to be going a little fast for me by this point, and I let them get ahead. 
I started taking a gel here, washing down with aid station water. Felt good, next time I should take 2 perhaps or even gel all the way? One to think about. 

Back in town
The course was back downtown sooner than 2012's layout, much better. Back onto 17th avenue to rejoin the half course, I started passing walkers. Right on 14th street, half of which is being resurfaced. Here, around the 25k mark, I came across a bank of 5 walkers blocking the road. Bad manners. "Coming through!" I roared. 

A block further on at an intersection, as there was a gap in front of me, a traffic policeman let one car go. They gave priority to runners at all times, so when he stopped the next car, the one behind making a poor assumption nearly hit him. The guy lost his temper, honked and ranted about being held up. A grin spread across my face. "Look my way. Go on. I want to blow you a kiss." This driver was the only unhappy person I saw all day. Race days are usually full of happy faces, but this day even more than most. Even the quiet marathon loop had more noise and colour than years past. 

The grind
Through Kensington, then Memorial Drive out west. At around 30 k, a guy in front dropped a couple of either salt tablets or pain killers and stopped to pick them up. 
I felt warning signs from my hamstrings at around this point. I dropped my pace to 4:40/k. Rich ran past the other way just before the turnaround, I gave a thumbs up, although the 3:10 was gone by this point. 

I took another sponge to cool me down - very grateful for those. For best results, squeeze a little water onto the head, then once it warms up add more, and so on. 

At 34k my hamstrings tightened and I stopped and touched my toes to prevent them seizing fully. I've had that happen before and it can take 2 minutes to get moving again. I walked for 30 seconds, and gradually accelerated to just under 5 minutes per km. 
Just after this, Batman, or a lookalike, made an appearance having seen my camera. 
At about the 35k mark, I was overtaken by the 50k leader doing his extra loop. He overtook me twice in fact. Legs started to stiffen again at 37k. Hamstring seizure seemed likely once more. I  promised myself a 30 second walk break in the shade of the Centre Street bridge lower deck at the 39k sign. I had started to assume that I would get at best a 3:18 right down to missing a PB (3:20:47).
The cool breezy walk turned out to be an excellent investment. Getting going again past dancing dragons by Chinatown, I said "form check" and picked up speed to around 4:50/k. 

The home stretch
I could see Rich way in the distance as I emerged from the underpass at 41k. The atmosphere was great entering Stampede park, I felt I could almost taste it, even as I passed a guy stretching and yelling a word that rhymes with luck. 
Passing the Saddledome with about 500m to go, my watch said 3:12-something. Out loud I said, "I am getting a PB today." My fueling plan had worked well as my bottles were empty at 40k. Just after the 42k sign was the point where I had had to stop and stretch right at the end of 2013's Half. Once that landmark was overcome, my mild grimace relaxed into a smile like I'd been drinking. It's this period just before and up to the finish line that keeps me coming back. 

I felt The Force and pointed in appreciation to Darth Vader & Princess Leia just before the final turn (on the right in the photo). "Go-Pro!" yelled one spectator, quickly followed by "Go Canada" from another and a then a marshall: "well done Peter." 
Though I don't remember hearing it, I'm told that my name was announced and something like "wave to his camera". A few voices (some I recognized and some that I didn't) yelled my name, and I responded by punching the air. I slightly clumsily kissed the Canadian flag on my top just as I crossed the line. 
This might have had me a bit off balance as my right foot landed rather squarely on a mat covering the timing sensors, and both hamstrings locked solid. I let out a loud "ooowww". "I bet ow," replied one of the race officials. 
As a medic lifted a recently finished marathoner who had crumpled to the ground back on his feet, I hobbled to the fence to stretch. A minute of that I was ok to walk. 
I got my medal, the medic asked if I was ok, got my water then Rich found me. He'd been hoping I'd catch up to give him a finishing lift, but no such luck. 
Soon after, Lanni Marchant was announced as having won the half marathon.
I gave the loudest cheer I could to Lanni before cooling off under a sprinkler.
So, 3:15:44, a PB by 5:03. 63rd place out of around 1,600 participants, and 9th in my male age group. Probably a little too hot for me on this day for that 3:10, not that I'm disappointed: far, far from it. 
When things were not working out exactly perfectly, I'm especially proud that I thought clearly and ran smart. 2 years ago, I ran the marathon until my legs fell to pieces, and I ground to halt with painfully tight hamstrings. After stretching for a long time, I did the same thing 3 more times when I tried to run too quickly. This time, I saved my race and finished in better shape than I had feared with 5k to go. 
A nice brunch after enabled me to reflect on a race well run and managed. All on much fresher legs than all marathons gone before.


  1. Great job Peter! Was your GoPro heavy? You made me laugh about the PB for not going out too fast in the first KM. Awesome time. I will never ever run that fast. I'm in awe. :)

    1. Thanks! I think all runners are the same regardless of speed.
      The GoPro is a little heavy for marathons as I have to attach an extra battery.

  2. Love your photos! Great job on the PR (yes I write PR as opposed to PB). Your "owwww" was so funny!

    1. Thanks :) the "ow" almost sounds put-on when I listen to it now.

    2. & thanks once again for the photo with Lanni :)

  3. Solid work. Congrats on the PR.

    1. Thanks Ted! The heat here would've suited you.

  4. Great race Peter!
    Thanks again for setting the early pace, and I too, achieved a PB for the first km - not racing out with the others!!

    1. Glad to help, though I wish I could've kept up.