The Bluenose Marathon in 2016 was my first road race, so it holds a special place in my heart. I had initially registered for the 10K, which was the same race that I did last year, and curious as to how much I have improved in a year. But I switched to a full marathon for three reasons. One, I was going to do the full marathon in Fredericton the week before, but given I couldn’t do a half before then and or get another long run in, I went into the half instead (and earned a new PB of 1:30:34). Two, I wanted to use the Fredericton half to prepare me for a full marathon. Three, I figured that, given it’s my one year anniversary of road racing, I may as well go big and do a full marathon.
A few weeks before I did Bluenose, I watched a video of the full marathon (which was pretty much a half done twice). I counted roughly nine hills (times two laps, for 18). While I knew that it was less (or at least, would or should feel like less) than what I ran through at my first marathon in Eastern Passage last year, I knew that I would still have my work cut out for me.
Bluenose is a very busy and incredible weekend in Halifax. I went to pick up my race kit on Friday, scoping out exhibits and on the lookout for anyone I knew to ask if they were racing over the weekend. Then I went to Park Lane GoodLife to meet up with Michelle, who I was doing the warmup with for Saturday’s 5K run (as per last year). We kept the choreography roughly similar from the 2016 warmup and even used the same song.
Saturday (albeit beautiful, was very windy and thus cold) I volunteered to help with the Run Nova Scotia booth, and had the opportunity to chat with some runners who did a few marathons themselves. When my shift ended, I wandered around for a bit, and went to see Jenny, a registered dietitian that I saw for nutritional advice/guidance last year. She gave me some sound advice on consuming my energy gels before the halfway point of the marathon. Then went to the Epic Canadian booth. I was told that my photo was on one of the promo posters and I thought it would be fun/funny to post in front of it. Afterwards, I went to meet up with Michelle, had a brief lunch, then headed to the warmup stage area to go over things one more time.
Like last year, the Saturday crowd was massive. Once on stage, we started things up. I kept trying to spot anyone I knew but didn’t (although my focus was the warmup choreography). Once done, I headed to Park Lane GoodLife to stretch a bit (as my left hamstring hasn’t been 100% since Fredericton). Afterwards, I picked up some carb food at Pete’s (loaded potato salad, chicken parmesan, and meatballs) for later that evening and stopped by the Halifax Shopping Centre for some chicken pad thai. I took an Epsom salt when I got home to help prepare my muscles and myself. I’m wondering if I may have overloaded myself with salt/sodium that evening, because I didn’t get a good sleep that night. Lesson learned; don’t overdo the sodium when you need good sleep.
The next morning, I drank a litre of water the moment I woke up and had my usual race day breakfast (oatmeal, orange juice, and skim milk). I also wore the same socks and shorts as I had on last year as homage to my first road race. I went early to get a parking spot on Summer Street, where Erica parked last year. I didn’t travel down with her as she was pooling with members of her marathon relay team. Wandering about by the ScotiaBank Centre, I bumped into a former work collogue (who’s an accomplished runner himself). We briefly chatted and caught up a bit, and he told me that he was a pacer for the half marathon for 1:30 (which was very impressive). Then I went to meet with a Global News video journalist, Alexa MacLean, to do a bit re my one year anniversary of running. The interview went well, then I volunteered that I have battles with depression due to Clint’s suicide, and that exercise is a major way I cope with it. She seemed quite impressed and asked me to elaborate more about it, and I think the story shifted to that a bit more (which I was happy with, as I try to share it). She asked to do a follow-up after the race and I was cool with that. I spotted Erica right after the interview and we did our usual Facebook Live video. I left early to use the bathroom again and to get into the lineup. Before the race, I was trying to adjust my new water belt but it wasn’t securing properly. As the race was starting, I figured that it’ll be one of those annoyances I’ll deal with, 42.2K and all. Making my way towards the 3:00:00 to 3:30:00 pacers, my BODYATTACK™ mentor spotted me and we exchanged best wishes prior to the run.
At 8:00 a.m., the gun fired and everyone was off. Like Maritime Race, I honestly thought that, despite the hills, maybe I can qualify for Boston with this one. I had my Runkeeper activated for every two kilometres (instead of every 500 metres, which was an awful decision last year) and to only give me an update on my time.
Doing the first 21.1 kilometres, things were pretty much fine. I took my first energy gels at about the 12 kilometre mark, and I didn’t stop for water/Gatorade. As I said, I felt fine. As for the hills on the first half, I thought that the only real ones that affected me were Inglis Street, Point Pleasant Park, and Pine Hill Drive. The “gradual” hills didn’t bother me (such as South Park Street and Hollis Street).
While Maritime Race had crowds of people at the start, it eventually thinned out as the marathon went on (likely due to the non-urban environment) with occasional pedestrians, runners, and aid stations. What I like about an urban marathon is that there’s pretty much almost always people nearly everywhere. Bluenose had tons of this. I really wasn’t alone a whole lot. Another fun bonus was spotting people I knew (either in the Marathon Relay or coming across those doing shorter races).
However, it was the second half of the marathon where things started going physically wrong. I had to stop for Gatorade at nearly every aid station. Around the Barrington Street and Valour Road area (around below the MacDonald Bridge), my biceps started twitching. It spooked me a bit as this has never happened to me before while running. At first I just rolled down my arm sleeves to my wrist (I had them on in the morning due to the wind chill). But then it still didn’t feel right, so I took them off and stuffed them into my iPhone holder. Running along, things got worse on Hollis Street. Just seconds after grabbing some offered gummies, my right hamstring knotted/pulled on me. I had to slow down right away and do a quick stretch. My immediate thought was, “let’s slow down. Better to finish slow than not at all because of an injury.” So I did just that. Coming to Inglis Street again, the hill felt like it doubled in length. Given it was tough the first time around, the second was obviously worse, especially with the hamstring issue.
The scariest part of the race was on Sailor’s Memorial Way in Point Pleasant Park. Nearing a fork in the road, I thought that I could increase my speed once more. I did for several seconds, and my hamstring acted up again. While I had the cardiovascular strength and energy to go faster, my hamstring absolutely refused to let me do so. I had to completely stop and do a short stretch for 30 to 40 seconds. I repeated to myself, “better to finish slow than not at all because of an injury.” Once well enough (not better), I went back to the slow run. Then I came up to the steepest hill of the race; the Maple and Serpentine roads (which felt like a mountain). I hopped/wobbled my way up and passed others who were walking up instead. By this point, qualifying for Boston was long gone and the only thing that I wanted to do was finish the marathon and in less time than I did at Maritime Race. I wondered why I developed a cramp/knot in my hamstring. Then I thought that it was probably due to all the salt/sodium that I had yesterday, and maybe I was dehydrated despite all the water I had that morning.
Once on Cambridge Drive, I knew there was still Pine Hill Drive, but to me, the worst of it was over. Getting towards the end of Point Pleasant Park, I saw Erica and we exchanged a high-five as I ran by. I also thought/realized that I was probably slightly ahead of her relay team, which was a bit of an ego boost. I knew that she was doing the last leg and I thought it would’ve been awesome if we crossed the finish line together (especially as she was the one who got me into running).
After Young Avenue and getting onto South Park Street, it was the last gradual hill of the race (I really didn’t consider Ahern Avenue a gradual hill). In what was a marathon first for me, I was joined by a “Bluenose Helper” (a runner who runs along by your side to motivate you) named Don. He recognized me from, and congratulated me on, the races in Fredericton the week prior. To say that the Bluenose Helpers were great is an understatement. Having someone run alongside you, especially as you near the end of the race with tons of exhaustion, encouraging and boosting you along the way, is an incredible asset and needed feeling. He reminded me that the last “hill” was Ahern Avenue, and that I could do it. Near the intersection of Spring Garden Road, I told Don that I had to stop for another quick hamstring stretch (to which he understood). Shortly after that, he said that he had to go back down South Park, but that I was fine for the rest of the race. I shook his hand, thanked him for him for his help, and was on my way to the finish.
About halfway down Cogswell Street I saw Meaghan, a running coach who I went to undergrad with. Recognizing bunny ears on her, I figured she was doing some sort of pacing work for the finish line. She recognized me, and while I think she was running with someone else, she cheered me on, encouraged me to pick it up, and keep up with her. While I was still worried about my hamstring, I thought that I could spare a little more speed without things going bad again. So I listened to her and did as she said. Going onto Brunswick, she kept facing back at me to yell praising words and to keep it up. At that point, while I knew I couldn’t go for that sprint ending, I could still cross the line with some speed. As I got closer to the finale, the spectators’ cheering got louder, and what was some sort of even finish, I crossed the finish with Meaghan. I thanked her for what she did for me, then went into a walk around, as I was wondering if Erica was far behind. I went to get some water, and nearly collapsed under my right leg, but caught myself to not fall. I turned to face the end of the race again, and saw Erica (and the rest of the CrossFit folks she was racing with/against) complete the relay.
After getting our medals, we all went into the ScotiaBank Centre. I wanted chocolate milk so badly. I found a booth and helped myself to one. Erica and I got our post-race photo, and before I left, I took a selfie in front of “YES I DID IT” banner. I then text Alexa, as she wanted to do a post-marathon interview with me. She responded with, “Let’s meet at the top of Citadel hill when you’re back in your car.” As my car was parked on Summer Street, I didn’t want to go get it, so I said that I would just walk up to the hill and meet her there (which didn’t sound as bad as it was despite just finishing a marathon). As she couldn’t get up there (I think due to some road closures), we just met where we interviewed that morning. She congratulated me with a hug, did a quick interview, and I thanked her for the opportunity for me to share my story.
Once done, my fiancé Kerri and I met up. She offered to take me out for a brunch celebration, but I wasn’t hungry. I’m not sure if I was just full of water or if I was still running (emphasis on the pun) on endorphins and adrenaline from the race, but I seriously had no appetite and no desire to eat. As I burned over 4,000 calories that morning, she said that it was important to eat, so I listened. I thought about walking to my car to get my gym bag with my change of clothes and then showering at GoodLife Park Lane. But I knew that once at my car, I wouldn’t have the desire to walk back. So we went to Your Father’s Moustache, where I immediately recognized a ton of other racers with their shirts and medals (so I didn’t feel out of place). As it was busy with tons of costumers, we did have a bit of a wait, during which that time my appetite finally showed up. I enjoyed some good carbs and protein with French toast and bacon.
We returned home and I took my usual post-race nap, followed-up with an hour-long Epsom salt bath. That night, I enjoyed some Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake (along with pizza and garlic fingers).
While I didn’t achieve a Boston qualifier, I’m still proud that I earned a better time than my first marathon. Obviously, I will do Bluenose again next year, but it will highly unlikely be a full marathon. However, given Erica did a marathon team relay, I’m thinking that I’d like to put one together for next year.