On May 14, 2023, I completed my ninth marathon – Fredericton. The Fredericton Marathon takes place on the traditional and unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik.
After a great race at the Marine Corps Marathon, I was split re my Spring 2023 marathon; Toronto, Ottawa, or Fredericton. As I was being talked into the California International Marathon by Meaghan Strum, on December 6, I registered for that one as well as Fredericton.
Winter training felt sharper than from last year. For one, I obviously have gotten stronger since then, but as well, I ran with an incredible team that kept me accountable and motivated. I also made a point to continue to focus on even more healthy eating.
In early-January, I learned about one major bad thing about the winter Saturday team runs; Point Pleasant Park slush. While no Saturday runs that month were cancelled, a few left me with cold feet (literally), and I started some research into indoor tracks for these types of days. On the first day of the next month, the Wednesday Workout loop of the Halifax Common was too icy, so we did it around the Public Gardens. Aside from sharp turns, it was a good (as I had my running spikes on). Throughout January and February, in addition to yoga, I picked up more LesMills BODYPUMP and CORE into my training.
In February, Kerri and I went to Mexico, where I keep up with my running training. The mid-winter break from the cold was wonderful morale booster. I felt rejuvenated and recharged for the return home. I did catch COVID-19 for a second time while on vacation, and amazingly, I wouldn’t have even known had I not gotten tested. My symptoms were very mild. Fortunately, my first week back (and then off) was quite the timing as we were on a reduced block from training. So I kept up with the strength-training but held off running. By March 11, I was virtually 100% back to pre-COVID strength and had a great run.
Early in March I met and spoke with Jennie. I’m very open about not liking gel packages while racing. She suggested using Tailwind in my hydration bottles. I gave these several practices and it seemed to go very well. I also bought two 750 millilitre crushable water bottles (as I find 500 millilitres just barely does it for me on a marathon).
March 14 may have been the worst day all winter for a practice. Coach Lee was also a part of the run. A Nor’easter joined us that afternoon and it was so brutal, Coach Lee called things off. Safety first. The next day, I made up for the Workout Run in the afternoon solo around the neighbourhood. I honestly thought it was going to be meh but it turned out better than what I could have imagined. That Saturday (March 17) was also a blast, as it really just felt like things picked up as we were so close to spring. Later that month, I added more push-ups and protein into my mix of things.
April 1 was not fun (nearly on par with March 14). It was a very slow, cold, and wet one. I did share this with a few fellow Road Hammers, and I received some words of encouragement and wisdom on it; some workouts are going to be awful, some will be okay, and some will be good. It was a great reminder to remember that not every run is meant to be a great one.
While I loved my old FlipBelt, I had lost so much body-fat since January that my current one was no longer useful. While running, my iPhone would bounce to the point that it made things very distracting. So I ordered a sized medium that was a nice bright orange. In fact, from about late-March and into April, a lot of folks were commenting on my how much body-fat I shedded away (one of my neighbours was very kind and even said that I looked like an Olympian).
While training was good, I made a major mistake (which I’m sure contributed to my performance at the Fredericton Marathon). On April 17, I was doing BODYPUMP, and for some foolish reason, I placed all my heavy weight onto the bar for the Squat track. By the second round, I had to reduce the plates, but the damage was already done. My right knee was very tender. While this didn’t affect my running per se, this would factor into the rest of my training. I promptly made a physiotherapy appointment and informed Coach Lee. He said to skip the Wednesday Workout that week, only do an easy 10K, and no more weight-lifting that could affect my knee. My physiotherapist did say that it wasn’t a serious issue and only needed some attention. I left the clinic with some daily exercises to do and was feeling better, but I had to now factor and account for my knee. That Saturday, I was able to do a strong Long Run with the team, being on pace and all, but then the knee felt tender for the rest of the day and going into Sunday. The next week, the Wednesday Workout was good, but noticed the tenderness returned when I wasn’t using Kt Tape. Several women on the Road Hammers team suggested/encouraged to hold off all strength-training until after the marathon.
In early-May, I was on taper time and scaled my speed back. While May 6 went well, my knee was tender at times and my left hamstring was tightening-up a tad bit. The next Wednesday Workout felt good re being on par with the suggested paces Coach Lee gave for Fredericton. I started my carb loading that night. While the thought of eating all and [almost] whatever you want sounds fun on paper, I learned that I am actually not a real fan of carb loading for marathons (at least with Fredericton). I tend to feel bloated, sloth, and lazy. But I think I made another mistake with things. In my big purchase of foods, I picked up a large bag of jellybeans (like 1.13 kilograms or almost two and a half pounds) and finished them in about 36 hours. Normally I calculate and count my calories and carbs (which I think is why my winter trainings were fantastic), but for some reason, I chose to forget to do it this time around, and just thought, “carb carbs and more carbs – eat everything.” I’m wondering if it was an extreme sugar rush/crash, because my Body Battery on my Garmin showed me at a very low number.
May 12 I did an interview with Bob Murphy on CBC Maritime Noon about running (and the upcoming marathon) along with Maureen Peters. It was my first time in the studio since September 2022 (when I read my blog entry about Clint’s death and my healing). The visit was quite the contrast, as back then, the studio was so empty, and this time, it was buzzing. The 12 noon time flew right by.
The next morning, I woke up with an even lower Body Battery. Kerri thought it may have been caffeine withdrawal (as I usually have coffee every day), and I’ve hardly had any on Thursday or Friday. I drove up with another Road Hammer, got my race kit at the Delta (and was fortunate to have been able to check-in so early), bought a throw-away hoodie from Value Village to wear before the race started (which I ended up keeping) as the temperatures were supposed to be cold, and then went to East Side Mario’s for a pasta lunch with Erin and her daughter (who both had great races that morning). I felt a bit better energy-wise, and I wondered if the excessive amounts of jellybeans caused a crash or energy-drain of sorts for the last two days (in addition/on top of my other carbs). When possible, I avoided extra sugars that day for the most part and just stick with pasta, bagels, and bananas. Back at my hotel room, I did some yoga and then a sleeping mediation (which helped as I fell asleep before it was done).
On race day, I did something different. I did wake-up at 3:30 a.m. and had my usual banana, bagel, orange juice, and Gatorade. But as I was very familiar with the area and race, and knowing the logistics, I went back to sleep to rest up a bit more. When I officially woke up, I made a point to not look at my Body Battery (as it was adding to the stress of things), but I did enjoy my near nine hours of sleep. While I planned to take the shuttle, I got a lift over with Marc and a few others.
As it was my third Fredericton Full, I’m not going over it again in detail. But instead, will highlight a few things. Coach Lee’s instructions were to do the first half at between 4:08 to 4:12, then the next 10K would be at about 4:08. The remainder would be a 4:05 or so push till the end. The plan seemed simple, and the for the half of the race, I was at about 4:10. I was on track and things were without issue. Then after the 21.1K mark, I noticed that I wasn’t catching-up with a few of my fellow Road Hammers. This was okay with me as obviously sometimes you don’t stick with the entire team for the whole race, and my pace was still on the plan. But then coming up to 28K, something happened. I started crashing – fast. I never did a marathon where I felt such a sudden drop in energies. It’s like driving a car that seemed great, and while in motion and on the road, it just starts to fall apart and there’s nothing you can do. I wasn’t going to pull over (i.e., stop). You can only drive (i.e., run) with what you got left. I knew my goals (and even a Boston Qualifier) were gone on this one. But like Boston 2022, I vowed to make the most of this, and simply said that finishing 42.2K was still an accomplishment. I had my car (i.e., my body), and said that we’d get to the finish line together. We may have lost a lot of our speed and endurance, but we weren’t driving on empty (definitely on fumes though) nor with an inoperable automobile – we were capable of moving forward and that’s what we did. At about 37K, given I wasn’t hitting my major goals for this one, I figured I may as well use the portable toilet so the rest of the race could be a bit more enjoyable re the circumstance. This did slow me but didn’t stop things.
From 28K to just about the finish, with my forced reduction in speed, it gave me time to think about what went wrong these last few days, weeks, and maybe even month. I thought back to my March 24 Long Run; doing this solo (without the benefit of a team), I ran 32 kilometres with an overall 4:13 pace at a 3:57 run pace, in cold temperatures with fierce winds, and still felt strong afterwards. I said to myself, “if I could switch places with that Jarvis right now, he would be well ahead of me in this one.” Was it eating a bit more unhealthy in leading up to things? Almost every weekend a month before Fredericton, I was consuming more unhealthy fats and carbs than I normally did all winter. I foolishly said, “oh it’s all energy. I can burn this off. It won’t affect me.” I’m certain that it did. I also thought about how I spent the last few weeks focusing on strengthening my right knee rather than giving 100% focus to my trainings. While the training was mainly great, I had to look after a tender knee for a while (fortunately, no knee issues on the race). Maybe I really need to focus on properly relaxing and to do more meditation prior to the marathon, as the lower-than-usually low Body Battery also psyched me out. I have a hunch that the poor diet and improper carb-loading were major adverse factors, but obviously there may be a multitude of things.
With only a few hundred metres left, something special and lovely happened – an entire cheering team of folks that I knew were waiting for me to finish the race. The Halifax Road Hammers were near the end, and when they saw me, I heard them. It was only love and support to the finish. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t getting the time that I aiming for. These were runners and based upon where I was finishing, they obviously figured something must have gone astray, and they totally get that these things happen. Seeing and hearing them lifted my spirts toward the finish line, and I knew that regardless of how I placed, this marathon was worth it – every marathon is worth it. You’re always loved and supported when you do a race. I said it for others, and that day, I needed it.
Like my last two marathons, after crossing the finish line, I wasn’t super sore nor did I feel like getting sick. I’m glad that I do have that strength today. Bruce MacFarlane was very kind to bring me a bottle of water and chocolate milk. After chatting with a few folks, I went over to my Road Hammers to debrief and mix and mingle for a bit. It was nothing but praise and congrats. This felt great, and just what I needed. I mentioned the excessive jellybeans to Coach Lee, who did laugh at the thought of finishing two and a half pounds of them in about two days. Obviously I said lesson learned, and that I was hoping to follow-up with Jennie about this. I stood with the crowd and cheered on other finishers, Road Hammers and non-Road Hammers alike.
When our crowd was about to disperse, I started to make my way back to hotel on foot to help walk things off. After my shower, we went over to Picaroons to meet up with a few other Road Hammers to chat and refuel. Once done, we got on the road and headed home.
The four hour drive was a deeper self-reflection on things (in addition to the aforementioned reasons why things didn’t unfold as planned). However, I wasn’t being hard on myself nor beating myself up for how I did. I took that morning’s race as a learning lesson for the next marathon. I was upbeat and keenly thinking about not making mistakes for the future. I said to myself, “no more foolish heavy weight on the bar in BODYPUMP,” “stick with the regular healthy eating that you’re doing,” “destress, meditate, and rest properly,” “calculate and count the calories and carbs that you actually need,” etc… Erin told me from my September 2021 Fredericton Marathon to be proud of accomplishing what you did, regardless of the actual time. She was right, and this is why despite the 3:16:53 finish, I felt positive. I’ve had practices which didn’t go the greatest, and I know that sometimes you just have a bad practice day. I’ve had races that didn’t turn out as planned (which obviously included the marathon that I just did), and sometimes you just have a bad race day. Both are learning opportunities.
Throughout the rest of the day after the race, I received lots of messages of kind words and encouragement from many fellow Road Hammers. They expressed how proud they were of me, that I should be proud for doing how I did, and to take things away from this one. It meant a lot to have my team looking out for and checking-in on me. I was told to see the race as a stepping stone, not a stumbling one. While I used to say that the comeback was stronger than the setback, a Road Hammer phrased it in another way for me; setbacks do not exists – lessons do. Another Road Hammer had further wisdom; the worst runs teach us the most, and that it’s easy to run when we’re having a great day, but it’s when we have to dig deep that’s when we build the most strength.
Nothing but love and gratitude from the Fredericton Marathon. Looking forward to the rest of the races in 2023, including my next 42.2K; the California International Marathon in Sacramento.
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