Race report: Road2Hope 1/2 Marathon 2016

I will remember this year’s Road2Hope 1/2 marathon not for my finishing time, but for the runner I met around the 15k mark. He told me that his butt was hurting, and that he was in the middle of radiation treatment. And that he ran a 1/2 marathon last weekend. And that he does it to get through it all. It’s all about perspective.

As in previous years, I spent Saturday morning volunteering at race kit pick-up at Confederation Park. This year, I was assigned to “same day registration”, which was a fun spot to be. It was amazing how many people arrived at the very last minute wanting to register and pay for the 5K race starting at 10 AM. Some people arrived just 5 minutes before the race was to start. Seriously. Ditto for the 10K. And the number of people who registered to run a marathon the next day?! Who decides the day before a marathon to sign up? Apparently the beautiful weather brought the last minute runners out in droves. I also had the pleasure of volunteering alongside my friend John, not knowing that he was going to be there helping out too.

Before heading straight home to put my feet up in preparation for the next day’s race leaving, I chatted with my friend Kristi who came from Ottawa to run the marathon. Then I stopped at MEC to buy a backpack for my broken-footed son, picked up my daughter and went clothes shopping with her, got groceries (forgot that I drove there and walked home with my bags), made dinner for everyone, and then put my feet up! Life as a mom! I was still debating whether I should even run the 1/2 marathon, because my butt/hip had been bothering me for about 1 1/2 weeks (out of the blue). Worst case scenario I could make it to the 10K mark and get on a bus for relay runners taking them to the finish line.

Before going to bed, I turned my clock back an hour, set my alarm for 5 AM, and went to sleep. Sunday morning I woke up at what I thought was 4:45 AM. My husband asked me when I was getting up. I said “in 15 minutes” and tried to fall asleep again. Ten minutes later I got up, turned the alarm off, put my contacts in, brushed my teeth etc., went back into my bedroom and saw that my clock said 6 AM. What?! I was supposed to be at Confederation Park at 6 AM! Alasdair’s clock said 7 AM. I asked him if he changed it, and he said he changed it to match mine. How did I mess up the clock change 2 years in a row? Maybe it was fate, telling me that I shouldn’t run because of my butt/hip. I said to Alasdair, “I’m not going.” I wasn’t dressed, hadn’t eaten breakfast, and the last shuttle bus from Confederation Park to the start line at Dofasco Park was in less than 40 minutes. It takes 25 minutes to drive to the shuttle bus. Then Alasdair said, “Would you be any worse off if you went and missed the bus?” So, I decided to go. I quickly dressed, grabbed my breakfast to go, and took off. I drove about 200m before realizing I had forgotten my phone. Drove back. Then headed for the bus. Once I got close to Confederation Park, I hit the stop and go traffic of everyone else also running late trying to get to the bus, so I ate my breakfast in the van, and took everything out of my backpack that I would need for the race, scrapping the need for baggage check for the first time at this race. I figured I might not have time to make it to the baggage check at Dofasco Park. It was 6:45 AM when I parked, but thankfully there were still buses leaving and I even had time for a quick pee before walking to the bus. Phew. I would get to race after all. Alasdair texted me to say that in the night, I reached over and did something to my alarm clock. If that’s the case, I did it while asleep!

Pre-race at Dofasco Park.

When we arrived at Dofasco Park around 7:15 AM, I headed straight for the portapotty lineup, and chatted with other runners while waiting for my turn. Unfortunately, there was no time to look for my friend Kristi, with the marathon starting at 7:30 AM (and the 1/2 just 15 minutes later). I left the portapotty, and headed straight back to the end of the line, knowing that I would need to go again! While in the line the announcer said “5 minutes to the start of the 1/2 marathon”, but he was 5 minutes early. People started panicking, wondering if they would make it through the line. I did. And then I arrived at the race start and he said, “5 minutes to the start of the 1/2 marathon”. The runner beside me said that the earlier announcement was the 5 minutes to the 5 minutes warning! Race conditions were perfect, with a forecasted high of 10 degrees Celsius (in the afternoon) and winds of just 5 km/h.

At 7:45 AM, the race began! I had lined up just behind the 2:00 pacer, knowing that with my butt/hip issues, running a sub 2 hour 1/2 marathon would be a stretch (I’ve only done it once before, in May of this year), and that doing it on my own was unlikely. But as the race started, I quickly lost the pacer (because of the sheer number of runners) and had to run quickly to catch him and the group. For the first couple of km’s, things were rather congested, and running in a pack with a pacer didn’t help, but things eventually spread out. I spotted a few police officers running ahead of me in full gear, and knew that one of them must be Josh Turner, with the Hamilton Police, running to raise aware for mental health and the Canadian Mental Health Association. I heard a couple of runners behind me wonder why they were in uniform, so I turned and quickly told them. I had hoped to catch up and introduce myself (he’s also a triathlete and we follow each other on twitter), but he was called into action for a fallen runner and I never did see him again.

I was amazed that as I ran, my butt/hip weren’t bothering me. I was hopeful that I could actually run the entire race. The course changed slightly this year, so that runners did an additional 1-2 km before reaching the Red Hill Valley Expressway and running about 6k downhill, meaning that once you reach the bottom, there is slightly less running to do along the waterfront trail. I kind of liked the new route.

Things were going well and I was staying with the 2:00 pacer. He had mentioned that we would make up some time on the downhill, but as we ran down it, he didn’t seem to be going too fast. It’s always tricky with the downhill, because you want to go faster, but don’t want to burn your legs out. Just before we left the Red Hill, I started to fall back from the pacer – even while still running downhill. At that point I realized that I just didn’t have a sub 2 hour race in me. The cardio wasn’t there. I had a gel, and continued to run as fast as I could manage. Eventually I lost sight of the pacer.

And then I met that runner at 15k, the one who was in the middle of radiation treatment. I told him that he must be in phenomenal shape, to have run a 1/2 marathon the weekend before, and then the Road2Hope. And that’s when he said that he does it to get through. What an inspiration.

Once I reached the waterfront trail, I knew that I wouldn’t have to run too long before I reached the turnaround, which was just past the 18k mark. I wasn’t really paying attention to my watch and my pace times by this point, just trying to keep moving forward as fast as I could. The last couple of km’s are always tough, but in the last 3, my calves started to tighten up. I noticed this year that there was a lot of first aid coverage in the last km of the race, including lots of paramedic students.

As I ran I tried to figure out exactly how many minutes over the 2 hour mark I would finish. In the end, I crossed the finish line in 2:06:06, which was a little disappointing, but satisfying nevertheless. It’s just a race.

Volunteers at the finish line gave me a bottle of water, a race medal, and an emergency blanket to stay warm. I went through the food tent, picking up a piece of Roma pizza, a cup of soup, a banana and an apple, and after eating the hot stuff, walked to the van to change into warm dry clothes. I was planning to stay to wait for Kristi to finish her marathon.

Post-race at Confederation Park.

I decided that a hot chocolate would be just the thing, and asked someone if they took credit or just cash, and was told that it was free!  The Tim Hortons van was giving out free coffee and hot chocolate to anyone who wanted it. And amazingly, there were only about 5 people in line ahead of me. That drink warmed me up and I actually had to take my winter hat off for a bit!

Enjoying my FREE cup of hot chocolate from the Tim Hortons truck.

I headed for the finish line, and chatted with Emma for a while as she waited for her husband to finish his marathon. She ran a speedy 5K on Saturday!


After spotting Kristi coming down the finishing chute, I left the finish line area and found her just coming out of the food tent.

With Kristi after she finished her marathon.

One day, I will break 2 hours on this course!

Race statistics:

Time: 2:06:06 (5:55 min/km)

Women aged 40-44: 52/96

All women: 398/749

All runners: 854/1343

Race report: K-Town Long Course Triathlon (“The Legend”)

Overheard in our Kingston hotel: (father to 4 or 5 year old son) “You know what, Lucas? Tomorrow some people are doing a TRI-ATH-A-LON! They are going to do a MARATHON, and then CYCLE, and then you know what?” I have no idea what, since the elevator doors closed, but that was enough to make us smile! No wonder some people think we are crazy!!

Sunday morning we arrived at Confederation Park at 6 AM for the 8 AM start of the 33th K-Town Long Course Triathlon (“The Legend”). It was to be the 3rd year that Alasdair and I took part in this race, a 2k swim, 56.2k bike, and 15k run. Since we picked up our race kits the day before (swim cap, race bib, t-shirt), all we had to do was pick up our timing chips and get body marking done. I had my spot in transition set up pretty quickly, so I spent the rest of the time sitting on a bench, laying on the ground, or chatting with people. With less than 5 hours of sleep the night before, I was pretty tired.

Very scenic transition area!

The sun rising in the sky over the Royal Military College made for some pretty pictures.

Sunrise at Confederation Park, Kingston.

I kind of like the growth coming out of Alasdair’s head! [Thanks Irina for the photo!]
This race features an in-water start, with athletes jumping or diving off a floating dock and swimming to the start line. I didn’t want to get in too soon, knowing that I’d have to tread water until the race started. With about 10 minutes to go, Alasdair and I wished each other luck and I jumped into the water. I was in the 3rd wave (with all women), and Alasdair in the 2nd. There was one wave of swimmers after me.

2k Swim

The horn sounded, I started my watch, and off I went! I swam very straight to the first turning buoy, and shortly after turning had to stop to fix my goggles when I saw one of the straps dangling in front of my face. I swam fairly straight to the next turning buoy, but had to adjust my goggles – again – when they were really fogging up and I had trouble seeing the buoys. I was a bit surprised (and disappointed!) to see how quickly the wave behind me caught up to me (their blue swim caps became visible around me). I noticed a bit of chop in the water in this section too, and was having a little more difficulty swimming straight. The last long section before turning to the dock was likely my most crooked, as it seemed that I had to keep correcting my course. Just before the very last turn, I started to feel sick to my stomach when I saw the weeds below the surface moving one way with me moving another. It was awful! I tried to swim with my eyes closed but that didn’t help. Motion sickness is no fun. As I approached the dock, where volunteers were waiting to pull us out of the water, I hoped to see less than 48 on my watch (last year’s time) but would have been satisfied with 50 given the goggle-fixing and course-correcting. I was horrified to see almost 54 minutes!! At that moment I gave up on beating last year’s race time (4:22 and change).

2016-07-31 | 2016 MultiSport Kingston Triathlon
At least I didn’t get stung on the lip by an unknown creature on the swim like Alasdair did!

After a very short run to transition, a quick pee, and a change into cycling gear, I headed out of the transition zone for the bike segment of the race.

56.2k Bike

Given that I was one of the last swimmers out of the water, there wasn’t any congestion at the bike mount line! For the first 27 or 28k of the ride, we were riding into the wind, and my speed was slower than I would have liked. I played leapfrog with an athlete named Caroline from 10k to the turnaround at 27 or 28k, at which point the wind was behind us and I took off! She was pretty excited at the turnaround and yelled to the police officer there, “Are you having FUN!?” I had such a slow swim that not a single person passed me on the bike! However, I did pass 6-10 people (who later all passed me on the run!). On the ride I noticed interesting things for sale:  a dozen worms for $3.50, and antique wooden tables for $25.  I also spotted some cool wooden carvings (an eagle, a witch, and I’m not sure what else), and I saw some sort of bird of prey way up in a nest at the top of a hydro pole. I think Alasdair was about 5k ahead of me when we passed each other. The second half of the bike was way more fun, and my speed rose to around 30km/h or so. Near the end of the ride, I caught the slower of the sprint triathlon athletes still out on the course. The most congestion I encountered was down the last hill, across the lift bridge, and where I had to cross into the “middle” lane of the road where we ended at the dismount line.  I drank a bottle of gatorade, half a bottle of water, and managed to force down 2 gels and a mini granola bar during the ride.

15k Run

I quickly changed into my running gear, made a pitstop at a portapotty, and headed out on the run course. I knew right away that I had no speed in my legs. I had hoped to try to run at a pace of 6 min/km, to avoid going out to fast and then fading as the km’s passed. But my first km was at a pace of 6:12, and for once, my legs were the limiting factor rather than my cardio. Only a few km’s in, I threw out any time goals for the run, and it became a game of “one foot in front of the other” and “just finish”! I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do. I had a great run in Gravenhurst on a hot, hilly 10k course just a few weeks ago, so this time it just wasn’t my day! I do wonder whether the aerial ropes course we did 5 days before the race took more out of my legs than I thought (so much fun!!). It might have been around the 5k mark that I spotted Alasdair. Or maybe sooner. It was after I spotted Irina finishing her sprint run (thanks for the cheers Irina – sorry I had nothing to return!).

I have to say that the volunteers on the run course were FANTASTIC! There were frequent aid stations, with volunteers asking whether we wanted water, ice, heed, pretzels, fruit or gels. I drank heed a few times, water other times, and every time poured water on my head. It was far hotter than I thought it was going to be. I also poured ice in my tri top and ate it as I ran. Some of the volunteers were super enthusiastic. I loved the sign that one volunteer was holding around 11 or 12k that said, “Justin Timberlake is at the finish line with puppies!” (Or maybe it was Ryan Gosling!) It was just after this point that there was an aid station with a kid holding a hose – I got a total soaking and declared it “my favourite part of the whole race!”

At 12k I got a side stitch that I couldn’t shake, and my pace slowed until the end. I had to walk a couple of times too for a few seconds.

2016-07-31 | 2016 MultiSport Kingston Triathlon
On the home stretch!

This was one race that I was very relieved to be done with! At the finish line I received a finisher’s medal and finisher’s hat, had a quick drink of water, then found Alasdair. He beat his time from last year by about 20 seconds, while I was 18 minutes slower (in fact, I was slower on the swim, bike and run segments). Next year!

After downing some chocolate milk and chatting with other finishers, we grabbed our post-race food (pizza, fruit, pretzels) and sat to watch the awards. Alasdair had a secret, which he revealed just before the awards – by being the 90th finisher (90 was randomly selected by the race organizers before the race began) he was the “racer of the day” and received a $310 credit for 2XU compression gear. Awesome!

2016-07-31 | 2016 MultiSport Kingston Triathlon
On the podium (sort of)!

And, according to the announcer Steve Fleck, the compression gear will put him on the podium in the future! If only.

On the way home.

Race stats

Time: 4:40:56.8 -10/12 women age 40-44, 41/49 women, 135/155 athletes

2k swim: 53:58.2 (2:41/100m) – 11/12 women age 40-44, 45/49 women, 145/155 athletes

T1: 2:19

56.2k bike: 1:59.05 (28.32 km/h – last year 29.1 km/h) -9/12 women age 40-44, 38/49 women, 132/155 athletes

T2: 2:22

15k run: 1:43:13 (6:52 min/km – last year 6:14 min/km) -10/12 women age 40-44, 41/49 women, 135/155 athletes

Kingston, we’ll be back!


Race report: MEC Burlington race #3 – 1/2 marathon

It’s amazing what an 8-day, 90k hike can do to your legs!

In 2015, I ran my very first MEC race, the 1/2 marathon at Confederation Park in Hamilton. I was hoping for a PB and my first sub 2-hour 1/2 marathon. Instead, I ran to a disappointing 2:06:04.7. Last fall, I ran the Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope 1/2 marathon, hoping for that elusive sub 2-hour race. Unfortunately, I finished in a time of 2:03:41. I didn’t seem able to get close to my 2:00:31 time from November 2014, also at the Road2Hope.

I was looking for a PB and redemption this spring when I planned to do the MEC race again. I almost decided to do the Mississauga 1/2 marathon on May 1 instead, but couldn’t face getting up at 4 AM to be there in time for a 7 AM start. Plus you can’t beat a $20 MEC race! And then I went and hiked a very hilly 90k over 8 days at Killarney Provincial Park, coming home just 9 days before the race, and with very tired legs. In fact, just a few days ago it seemed a bit ridiculous to be running a 1/2 marathon this weekend! I decided to just turn it into a training run, since I needed to do the distance anyway for Ironman Syracuse 70.3 (1/2 ironman) training, which is in just 4 weeks!

So, with Alasdair also planning to take this race as a training run, we set out for the park and arrived when race kit pick-up started at 7:30 AM.

Well organized race kit pick-up.

We had plenty of time to kill before the 9 AM start, which we alternately spent getting ready in the car/relaxing and joining the ever-growing bathroom lineups (no portapotties – real toilets with running water, soap, and functioning hand dryers!). There was a pretty massive lineup for the women’s bathrooms just before the race – some women resorted to using the men’s bathroom.

At the start line! We split up just after this picture was taken, with Alasdair starting further forward.

With 10 seconds to go I started RunKeeper on my phone (with a 10 second delay) and when the race began, I started my watch. Despite planning not to “race”, I started off quickly and decided to see what my legs could do! Usually, my cardio is the limiting factor, but I figured today it might be my legs. It was a congested start, despite the fact that there were only around 600 runners (the majority in the 5k and 10k races). I had to weave around people and avoid those who were slowing suddenly in front of me or changing directions. Before 1k some people had already stopped running and were walking.

I ran the first couple of kilometres at a pace of about 5 min 18 seconds per km, which is too fast for me. The race starts through the parking lot and along a service road, but joins the waterfront trail before the 2 km marker. When we hit the path, some people on bikes decided to cut in front of several runners (including me) and walk their bikes across in front of us. I remember commenting to the guy beside me, “timing could have been better!” We ended up running together and chatting a bit for the next 4 km, until he reached the turnaround point for the 10k. It helped to pass the time. After we separated, it wasn’t long before I spotted Alasdair just ahead getting water near the 7k marker. I was surprised, given that normally he would be much further ahead of me, but he really was doing this race as a training run, looking like he was out for an easy jog in the park! I, on the other hand, was working hard and wondering how long I would be able to hold the pace. Alasdair had no idea how close I was to him.

I had a gel around 9k, which I grabbed from my water belt as soon as I spotted a water station coming up so I could wash it down! I got water at a few other stations, walking a few steps and having just a couple of sips before continuing on. At one of the water stations I said to the volunteers, “See that guy in blue up there? That’s my husband and you were supposed to trip him!” The man laughed and told me he’d do it when Alasdair returned. I gave him the thumbs up as I passed. “Twice!” he yelled. I laughed and gave him two thumbs up!

At 13.2k, we had to turn back toward the pier to do a “loop back”. At 14.75k, we once again turned back toward the finish line, this time for good! I don’t usually like these out and back sections put in just to add distance, but I didn’t mind this one. It meant that I got to see Alasdair more often!

Soon I passed the “trip him” aid station again, where the volunteer said, “I didn’t see your husband!” But after the race when Alasdair and I were comparing race notes, I mentioned my tripping comment and it suddenly made sense to him why he heard people talking about tripping someone (he was close enough to have heard some of the conversation)!

Unfortunately my phone wasn’t in sync with the km markers, telling me a little bit early that I’d reached the next km. And every time, my pace was slowing by 1 second per kilometre.

I spent the first part of the race wondering whether I could hold the pace, but eventually started wondering if I could hold it long enough to get a PB! This was not at all in the plans for today, but it was becoming a possibility.

When I hit 14km, I knew that if I ran no slower than 6 min per km I would finish in under 2 hours with a 2 minute buffer. It became a mental battle, as I seemed to need to put in the same effort to maintain my ever slowing pace. I could easily have given up on the 2-hour race and slowed down even further. Instead, I decided to push myself and suffer until the end.

With 13k to go, my buffer was shrinking, and continued to do so as I kept running.

Sometimes during races, there’s someone running a similar pace who helps keep me going. Today, a guy in a green shirt would play that role for me.

This is Sureel from Toronto, who I met officially after the race.

I’m not sure when I began relying on the guy in the green shirt to keep the pace up, but I had spotted him near the beginning of the race as we leapfrogged one another a few times. With between 3 and 4k to go, he started taking a few breaks from running – I think he just stopped. At about 3k to go, he stopped and I told him, “You have to keep going, you’re my pace setter!” He was surprised to hear that. I told him there was less than 3k to go, and he said, “Let’s do this!” Unfortunately, I was continuing to slow down and wasn’t able to stay with him.

With 3k to go, I had about 19 minutes to come in under 2-hours. My pace had slowed to more than 6 minutes per km.

With 2k to go, I had about 13 minutes left…

With 1k to go, I still had around 7 minutes, but that last km seemed to take forever. We turned off the waterfront trail, and while I had in my head that we would run straight to the finish line, we actually had to run back up to the road, along the road (where I spotted Alasdair cheering for me, telling me that I could still do it!), into the parking lot, and around the corner to the finish line. I kept looking at my watch and started believing that I wouldn’t meet my goal. With just 3 minutes left it seemed like I’d never reach the end. When I turned into the parking lot, saw the finish line and saw that I still had 1 minute to break the 2-hour barrier, I knew I could do it!

Just before the last turn to the finish, a woman yelled that I could finish under 2 hours. And… I did! My official time was 1:59:29.4, for an official distance (according to the race course maps) of 21.15k, which is actually 50m further than the 1/2 marathon distance). Immediately past the finish line I grabbed a cup of water and kept walking for a bit.


After the race I met Sureel (the green shirt guy) and chatted with him for a few minutes. Through walking and then running (and changing his diet), he lost 120 pounds in the last 2 years. Amazing!

I found Alasdair, tried some Nuun (electrolyte drink) and hated it, grabbed a banana, got a long sleeved shirt, had my shake and stretched.

Despite Alasdair having taken the first half of the race easy, he picked it up and finished in a time of 1:47:49.6, with gas left in the tank!

Last fall when I bought these shoes I wondered if they’d be the ones to run me to a sub 2-hour 1/2 marathon. And they were! It’s time to retire them as they are quite worn.

Had there been age group awards, I would have been on the podium! Instead, there were awards for the top 3 men and top 3 women.

On a day when I set out to do a training run, and on still-tired Killarney legs, I somehow managed to get a PB! Clearly my training is paying off!


Time: 1:59:29.4 (5:39.8 min/km)

Women 40-49: 3/6

Women: 16/50

All runners: 60/111