Race Report: GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon – 10 October 2010

Before you read my report do you: have a drink? have a snack? need to go to the bathroom?

Make sure you’re prepared before you settle in to read a really long race report! It’s my first marathon; what do you expect?

Our race preparations began on Saturday 9 October early in the morning. My parents were coming to stay with Spudsy at our house. Since we needed to be at the ferry terminal no later than 8:30am for our 9am sailing – always reserve your trip! Being stuck in the line on a holiday weekend is no fun – they were coming over at about 7am. That meant we had to be up by 6am to eat, finish packing the car, and get Spudsy up to say goodbye. Thankfully our departure didn’t mean too many tears, but that could have been because we left
presents for him to open each day we were gone. Once we were on the road it was a quick 45 minute drive to Tsawwassen to catch the boat.

Ferry Terminal – we’re on our way!

It’s amazing how busy travel is on a long weekend. The line up at Starbucks in the terminal was at least 20 people long. Of course we waited, but we were only getting coffee and tea so the wait was okay. I saw a friend from elementary school while in line and had a bit of a chat and then in was time to board. Being that it was (Canadian) Thanksgiving there were too many people with too little seats. We ended up spending 80% of our trip in the car reading those free tourist magazines as we really weren’t willing to sit as singles and it was too cold and windy to be on deck.

View from the parking deck – the trip goes through the Gulf Islands

After about an hour and a half we made it to Vancouver Island and drove the 40 minutes into Victoria. We headed straight to the convention centre to pick up our bibs/race packages and shirts. Honestly, it was nothing to write home about like most of the expos here. You guys in the States really know how to put on a fair (hello, Rock ‘N’ Roll). However, we got the best New Balance race shirts (see picture near the end)! I don’t think I’ll ever run in mine since it’s so nice. We didn’t try them on before the race since we figured it would be some sort of bad luck…
The rest of our Saturday was fairly normal. Colin’s got extended family in Victoria so we visited with his grandmas and then headed to his aunt and uncle’s place where we were staying. We just hung out in the evening and had a great spaghetti/garlic bread/salad dinner (with home-made lemon meringue pie!). Colin watched a movie while I watched the Canucks home opener (NHL hockey) and then we started to get our stuff ready for Sunday.

Race day outfit

Colin’s race stuff

My race stuff

Our shoes!
Now, if you go back up and look at my race day outfit you will see how close to perfect the bib is pinned on. That took me half an hour and most of my sanity. I really hadn’t worried about the marathon all week (by way of ignoring it) and for some reason that bib was my trigger. I just could not get that stupid thing straight! And it killed me. I totally had a mental breakdown and lost it at Colin.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “I can’t get my bib straight.”
Colin: “Well, try again.”
Colin: (frustrated) “What am I supposed to do about it?!?”
Me: “Nothing! I don’t know! I haven’t worried about this f-ing race this whole d**m week and I think that I’m f-ing entitled to FREAK OUT ABOUT IT NOW!!!”
It really wasn’t funny when it happened, but, man, is it hysterical now!
We went to bed at 11:30pm since we’re so smart. It’s not that we were too excited to sleep, but rather too lazy to crawl in to bed any earlier.

Race Day!!!
Race day dawned dark and early. Thankfully it was only because we had to get up to have breakfast, get dressed and drive to find parking. As marathoners we got to start at 9am – a luxury – the early marathoners started at 6:30am and the half marathoners at 7:30am. Once we got out the door we stopped to get change for parking, but ended up finding a free street parking spot. We only drove into downtown once and then turned around to go back to the open space we’d seen. It was a good thing that we didn’t show up any later as they were starting to blockade the route for the half. After we parked we decided that we’d jog down to the start line to get warmed up (even though it was an hour and a half until start time). Nothing like an almost 2km run before a 42.2km race! It was chilly, but we had on our old toss-away jackets so it wasn’t too bad. We had to wait to cross over to the parliament buildings where we were meeting friends since the half had started and there were 6800ish runners in the way.
We killed a little time stretching and chatting with friends and then moved over to the start area. There weren’t corrals, just signs with 15 minute increments, so Colin and I hugged, said good luck and then went to our respective times (4 hours and 4:15). I chatted with a couple of other runners – both of whom seemed more nervous than me even though they’d run marathons in the past. Before I knew it they were singing the national anthem, counting down the time and starting the race. I tossed my jacket (which I was only holding onto for sentimental reasons since the zipper was broken) and plodded along with the rest of the runners. Coming out of the first turn it kind of hit me that I was running in my first marathon!
There were lots of people cheering out along the start of the race since we doubled back around the parliament buildings. It was nice that there were so many even if there wasn’t anyone specifically looking for me. I ran through my first planned 10 + 1 since we weren’t really going all that fast. Once we came off of the main street we hit a long, slow uphill. It wasn’t that bad, but it was definitely noticeable. I have to say that the group of people from lululemon cheering made it a lot easier! They were loud and very enthusiastic. Near the top of the hill I saw maybe one of the best spectators – he was handing out kleenex! For a rainy, windy morning it was genius!
At this point I was around the 3km mark. I started taking my 10 + 1s just to make sure that I was on plan. Pacing was going well, if a little fast, but I was feeling fine. It was downhill and there was a water stop up ahead (I had my pack though so didn’t need to rely on them). Somewhere around here I was running along the centre line trying to keep to the outside in case I was going to stop and walk – a little unnerving since traffic was still oncoming – and I saw a guy on a bike go by. Turned out it was Darren, my half marathon clinic instructor, who was over to cheer on the half runners. I yelled at him and waved and then continued running. It was totally random, but nice to see someone I knew since all the other marathoners from our clinic were well ahead of me.
The next part of the race went through Beacon Hill Park. It’s a lovely area, but also hilly. Usually when we’re in town we only go to the petting zoo so it was nice to see the rest of it. This is when I first saw the Elite runners. They were on their way out as I was entering (about 3km ahead of me) and it was nice to be able to clap for them. I can’t believe the pace they keep up! I obviously run marathons while they race them!
We exited the park and headed out onto Dallas Road. At this point there were quite a few half marathoners on their way back. I’ve got to say that some of them looked miserable! I think that they would have been the 2-1/2+ hour finishers and they’d been out in the rain and wind for a while already. I’m pretty sure that I was wearing the same expressions on my face when I came back that way too (and I had sun by then). The road is right on the water so it was all headwind for them. This was the only time that I had the wind to my back. I was feeling good as I hit the 10km mark at 1:03:17. Since I haven’t actually raced a 10km in 10 years so I think it was pretty decent. I had my only wildlife sighting just after 10km. There was a river otter that popped out of someone’s driveway and ran across the road. I’m not sure who was more confused to see whom!
At about 11-1/2km the race route turned into residential Oak Bay. This is to avoid a really steep hill, but having done the area around the hill I think that I’d almost prefer straight up! I previously called this area residential hilly hell and I’m not kidding. They aren’t huge hills by any means, but they are long and slow and gradual and they just totally take a toll on your legs. Nothing too much to note about this area – it was residential. However, the people who lived there were awesome. So many people were out on their yards cheering. It was nice that most of that part of the city really got into it even though the race turned their traffic into a gong show. There was one house that was supporting the Harriers Run Club runners. They had the usual water, etc., but also were offering beer! Not sure how many non-club members took them up on that offer… The only other exciting (and depressing) thing that happened in this part of the race was that the Elites came by again. I was at about 16km and the leader came running the other way with the pace vehicle. The clock on top said 1:43:00. Pretty good for me at 16km, but he was at the 31km mark! Holy fast!!!
After leaving the “fun” of the neighbourhoods we came back down to the water. There was a nice stretch through the Royal Victoria Golf Club’s course. It was really pretty, but it was also probably the steepest hill. I ran up most of it, but wasn’t prepared for the extra little bump at the top! I didn’t feel too badly about walking that little bit as I had to take a gel anyways. We made our way along Beach Avenue, past the Oak Bay Marina with it’s killer whale sign (used to be Sea World). I saw a guy with an early marathon bib walking on his way back – he was military and wearing his boots, fatigues and full pack. That’s guts and determination! There was another group of people cheering around here – they all had Halloween costumes on and they guy carrying his daughter on his shoulders was running after the Elites and telling them to go faster! It was hilarious! We went up another hill to the halfway mark. My split was 2:15:20 – not an unofficial PR – but, as with the 10km split, pretty happy with it. It seemed like I was on track to do my marathon in about 4-1/2 hours.
I saw Colin just after we hit halfway. He was running with a friend and almost didn’t see me. I was waving frantically and had to yell, “hey, hey, nice of you to say hi!” to get his attention. He was about 4km ahead of me which I expected since he was hoping to go sub-4 hours.
The route had a turn-around between kilometres 23 and 24. It was a little odd since they ran us up a residential side street for about 1/2km and then turned us around. It kind of turned too so you couldn’t quite tell when you got to go back. I made sure to have a pit stop here just in case. I looked at the girl behind me in line and she looked like hell. When I asked if she was okay she said she just needed to throw up so I let her go ahead of me. I wasn’t so bad off that I couldn’t wait the extra couple of minutes.
Once out of the turn-around it was time to go back the way I came. This is where my race fell apart. My mind was willing, but my body was weak. It’s not that I hadn’t run that far before. I was only at 24km and my longest long run was 34km. I wanted to run. But it hurt. I’m no physician so I don’t know what was actually hurt, just where it hurt. It was the upper middle of my quad, like if you drew a straight line up from the middle of my kneecap, sort of where the thigh and pelvis meet. I’d run for a couple of minutes and then walk for a few. I knew I was going fairly slow (for this race – it was a ridiculously fast field) when I ran past the runner with the police escort and he was only a few kilometres behind me. He also had to be over 80 years old, but he had a Marathon Maniacs shirt which I thought was awesome. I started walking the uphills going back into the golf course. I always felt so bad for the spectators because you could tell that they wanted to cheer, but didn’t really know what to say. Thankfully no one ever told me just to start running again – there were a lot of “good job”s and “you can do it”s.
Prior to the turnaround the sun decided to come out for the day. It was so nice. Unfortunately it also played havoc with me. I had on shorts, but also a long-sleeved shirt. I got hot. Not ridiculously overheated, but enough that my stomach wanted to revolt. I spent much of the last 10km trying to decide where in people’s yards I could discretely throw up if I had to (and I really wanted to!). Residential Victoria doesn’t have a lot of street sewer grates. At least it helped pass the time. Once my legs and stomach started giving me hell I was in survival mode. I knew I would finish the race, but I had given up on any kind time goal a long time past.
When I got back to Dallas Road I was on the home stretch. There were only a couple of challenging hills left and I tried my hardest to run up them just so they wouldn’t defeat me. The bonus to being slower was that there were no crowds around to run in. I have quite a few nice pictures because I wasn’t running in a group. The last 10km was hard. Not just for the regular reasons, but because I had a headwind for 9 of them. It felt like running in soup. It was a little demoralizing when some of the water stations were closed (again, I wasn’t using them, but still).
When I got to about the 40km mark I got to have a good laugh. For those of you who don’t know Victoria it’s full of retirees and seniors. I was running along (if you could call it that at that point) and all of a sudden I heard music. I figured it was a band or something. However, when I looked up it was a whole bunch of seniors from the care home. They were out in 50s costumes (think poodle skirts) and were dancing up a storm on the sidewalk and road. I had been so focused on finishing for the last 5km that it was nice to have something to smile about!
I was ecstatic when I saw the marker for 41km. It meant that I was almost done! Unfortunately it also meant that there was one more hill and it had a turn in it. Whoever designed this course was pretty mean! I was walking up the second half of the hill as my knee had started to hurt around 41km when I heard a guy ask if I was okay. I looked over and it was a paramedic on a bike. I told him that it was just my knee. He asked if I’d had trouble before, but I told him that my only problem was that I’d been running for 5 hours. He laughed and we chatted a bit about first marathons. Now, that would have been fine, but his 3 buddies that had been taking a break decided to join him. So with about 600 metres to go I had 4 (!) paramedics riding with me. Colin’s sure that they were taking bets as to when I’d drop. It’s nice to know they were there making sure everyone was okay, but I’m pretty sure I looked like a total charity case! After a bit they went on ahead and I knew I was close. A woman cheering at about 400 metres left told me to take my sunglasses off so my pictures would look good – and she was right!
As I rounded the last corner I could see the top of the finish line arch. I knew I was so close and there was no way that I was walking through the finish! I didn’t speed up or anything (like that was possible), but just kept going straight down the road. I couldn’t believe how many people were still at the finish line. It was so nice to come into the finish chute and not have it be totally abandoned which had been my fear. I asked a girl who was walking if she wanted to run in with me. She looked at me like I was insane and that it took all of her energy to say no. I felt kind of bad, but left her to finish my race.
I crossed the line of my first marathon with 5:09:05 on the clock (5:07:18 chip time). It was amazing! I had my hands up and then totally clapped for myself. After that long on the road I had no idea I could smile so much. I’m pretty sure I heard people laughing (nicely) as I crossed – I don’t think they were seeing many happy runners at that point. It didn’t matter that any time expectations I had (which I’d been told again and again not to make) weren’t fulfilled. I got my medal and totally earned it! Once I was on my way through to the food – because that’s what’s important – I heard someone calling and saying, “I can’t walk that fast!”. I turned around and it was Colin. He’d been waiting near the guy with blankets for almost an hour so he wouldn’t miss me. He finished his first marathon in 4:13:38 (4:12:13 chip time). I’m so proud of him!!!
We grabbed some food and drink for me: 1/2 cup of Gatorade, 1/2 banana (of which I only had 2 bites), and yogurt. It’s amazing how not hungry I was after running for that far and that long. We sat on the curb in the sun to warm up and tell our marathon stories to each other. It was amazing. We did the same activity, but had such different experiences. Once we were done we decided to hobble back to the car. What seemed like a manageable couple of kilometres in the morning was so long. It was uphill and the only reason I didn’t feel pathetic was because I was wrapped in my plastic blanket and people understood. The best part of the walk back was that we each got a free calf massage at Lush. They were promoting some sort of massage bar with beans in it, but since the woman getting up said it was well worth it we took the time. It was great. I’m not usually one for massages – this one was painful at times – but I figured that if I’d run that far I could at least try to do something to help. It sure beat an ice bath!

Colin at the car.

Me at the car.

We went home to get showered, changed and relaxed and then went out to dinner. We had certificates (yay, free dinner) to The Keg Steakhouse. We’d planned to have a later dinner, but it was a holiday Sunday and, not only were the stores closed early, it was freezing so we showed up and had our meal at a normal time. My excuse for the huge plate of food was that I just ran a marathon and needed to have lots of protein!

Sirloin Oscar: mmm, steak with seafood on top!

Colin’s dinner: who doesn’t love half a plate of beef?

I kid you not, the waitress asked what place we finished!
I had to explain that everyone got a medal…

Here are a few closing touristy shots of Victoria:

Horse-drawn carriage rides

The Empress Hotel: hoity-toity fanciest hotel in the city.

Parliament Buildings (Victoria is the provincial capital)

7 responses

  1. Great pics and great race report!
    Sounds the course was so tough. Some of my girlfriends have a picnic at one of their houses in Oak Bay. It's called “Breakfast Marathon” and they do it every year in their front yard and cheer on the people running by. Maybe you saw them?

    October 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm

  2. GREAT report! I totally love it when people come out a cheer. I find us Canucks are kind of reserved when it comes to spectating so good for the seniors!
    CONGRATS! I hope my race is half as good as yours.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm

  3. Rae

    Awesome job! Way to push through and stick with it!

    October 15, 2010 at 2:16 pm

  4. Great report! Loved the seniors out dancing and the waitress asking what place you came in! Awesome job…congrats!

    October 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

  5. Great job!!! I love spectating races, but I am not as creative as dancing seniors.

    October 15, 2010 at 5:14 pm

  6. Awesome race report!!!! You did a wonderful job, you met the goal of being upright and smiling across the finish line for your FIRST marathon, amazing!!! Congrats on being a MARATHONER!

    October 15, 2010 at 7:09 pm

  7. CONGRATS!!! loved your report! Your pictures are great! 🙂

    October 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm

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