Blue Nose Marathon 2021

On November 8, I completed my sixth marathon; the Blue Nose. I won’t recap the race route in too much detail (as I already wrote about it in Mary 2017). But rather; will focus on preparation, a few in-race moments, and afterwards.

One day after the Fredericton Marathon, I reached out to Erin Poirier of Love Training More. I asked her for two main reasons. First, she reached out to me last year to present on some Mi’kmaw education for her running group (so that trust was already established for me). Secondly, I’ve been directly/indirectly asking/inquiring to numerous folks about a running coach, and while many were suggested, almost all of them mentioned Erin, and had only great things to say. I was happy that she agreed to coach me.

While I was registered for both the Valley Harvest and Blue Nose as a full, one of her first directives was to do the former as a half and focus on the latter as my goal. She noted both recovery times from Fredericton and the Valley Harvest, and we only had about two months for this. Blue Nose is a challenging and tough marathon; it has many hills, both sharp and gradual, and I injured myself the last time I did it. But I wanted do a sub 3:00:00, and I placed my trust in Erin. So I made the switch, and albeit knowing the challenge, I was up for it.

So I shifted up a lot of things for my training. The first major change was leaving the FitBit world. I had mine since March 2015. I was a bit sad but I had new dreams to achieve. However, after earning my 100,000 Steps in a Day badge in May 2016, there really wasn’t much else to accomplish with it. So I swapped to a Garmin. I briefly explored an Apple Watch but was informed that a Garmin was better for runners. Garmin also has more badges to that I can earn. With that, I created a Strava account and left RunKeeper, which served me well since September 2016. But like parting ways with FitBit, I was working towards something else, and could no longer stick with old routines.

Speaking of old routines, probably the biggest transformation I underwent was ditching my old running schedule and style. Initially I thought I would just be modifying what I did in August for Fredericton. Instead, we had a weekly agenda for days dedicated for easy runs, BODYPUMP and or GRIT, intervals (which I never did), speed work,  recovery and rest, thresholds runs, shake-outs, tapering, yoga, and or long distances (and none of them were 42.2 kilometres). While this was different than what I was doing (which I thought was great at the time), I trusted Erin, and would follow her coaching on this. Furthermore, for fueling and nutrition advice, she recommended a registered dietitian – Jennie Orr – who was also a marathoner herself.

The Valley Harvest as a half was the halfway point between the fulls for Fredericton and Blue Nose. To sum it up, albeit its hills, it was a new half marathon personal best at 1:27:28. It was the first time I realized the great advantage of using a Garmin. With a focus on a 4:15 pace, rather that waiting for my RunKeeper to update me on it (which also forced me to make educated guesses), I was able to simply look at my Garmin to see my pace. That’s it – anytime, and with no interruptions to my music. For the last three kilometres, at Erin’s pre-approval, I dashed for the finish.

With a week before Blue Nose, Erin said to do no BODYPUMP nor GRIT. It was my taper week and carb-loading. One of the biggest things that really took a mental adjusting to was not warm-up at all prior to the marathon. This took some extra explaining from both Erin and Jennie. I’ve always warmed-up before every marathon (in fact, before any race), and have seen others do it. But again, I trusted Erin (and Jennie) on this. Mainly, I needed to save all my energy for the 42.2K race. So I wouldn’t be doing a warm-up. The carb-loading was interesting and educational. Jennie explained quite a bit of it, the science and reasoning behind it, sodium and hydration, and how to eat days leading up to the full. With the emphasis on carbs, I invented Skittle Pizza (it’s just Skittles on a pizza).

The Skittle Pizza.

Mi’kmaw Marathoner Patti Catalano Dillon gave me some extra advice (some of which crossed-over with what Erin and Jennie told me). One that stood out was to relax the evening before. My initial plan to was watch something with great action to “psyche me up” for Blue Nose. Instead, Patti suggested to watch something that would clam and relax me to ensure I get a good sleep that night. So I watched a few older “feel good” episodes of The Simpsons. With daylight savings, I got even a bit more sleep albeit still somewhat “wired” an hour ahead.

Sunday morning, I had oatmeal, natural peanut butter with a tad bit of salt added, orange juice, and Gatorade. As I was up early, well-rested, and had the extra hour, I took my time getting ready at the house. In what was a first and big decision, I decided to not wear my heart rate monitor (my MyZone) for a few reasons. The prime one being that it can become awfully distracting. I’ve had races where the chest strap can loosen at any time. I end up trying to adjust or tightening it, and this wastes some time as I need to slow down to get it right. Secondly, I know on average how many calories and MyZone Experience Points (MEPs) I earn on an average marathon. MEPs are fun to track and all, but my marathon time was the focus. Finally, sometimes the MyZone can cause chafing. While I do use Polysporin for this, I didn’t want to deal with any additional recover times.

Arriving decently early, I parked on Summer Street just a block away from the start line. Once ready, I made my way over and went to the restroom for one last time before things got underway. While I normally see a ton of friends before my race starts, for whatever reason, I barely saw anyone that I knew (a friend from law school, one from GoodLife, and one of Kerri’s dance friends). I was a bit worried that it would have been chilly (as it was November, and I did the Blue Nose in May when it was quite cold at the start), but the weather was perfect for running. Remembering what Erin said, I didn’t do any warming-up at all. The “warm-up” was pretty much just me walking over, and then doing one big crouch to pop my knees (not bad/dangerous at all despite how it sounds). Soon, the horn went off and the marathon began.

Blue Nose Start Line.
Crowd Shot.

The first and immediate thing was reminding and telling myself to absolutely stay with a 4:15 pace. No matter who passes me, who I pass, or what I was feeling at any time, the target was 4:15. I had a few periods where I was going a little too fast and would pull back a bit, and other times, I was a little slower than my pace aim and picked things up only to ensure that I was back on 4:15. As well, Erin said do not attempt to “bank time,” as that never works (and I knew this from doing five other marathons). As well as with Jennie’s advice, I would take my energy gels every five kilometres. Because of COVID-19, rather than handing out cups, volunteers handed out bottled water and Gatorade. So to preserve what I had in my belt, I grabbed bottled Gatorade along the way on occasion.

The course had slight alterations from the last time I did it. The two main ones were running up Cornwallis Street (can’t wait till they change the name of it) and then running down onto Duke Street. Basically, I viewed this as my “give and take” re time. Going up was going to slow me down, and going down was going to speed things up. Without an actual calculation on this, I presumed that this would even out.

On my first lap going up Inglis Street and nearing the turn towards Young Avenue, I saw my coach, which was a great moral booster. She ran with me for a brief period, encouraging me to simply keep up the good work, which is all that I needed at the time. She would do the same again when I ran up Hollis Street later on the second lap.

Speaking of which, at the second lap, I noticed that my time was slower than my personal best from Valley Harvest but still under 1:30:00. I was mindful though that with Valley Harvest, I did dash for the finish. Obviously I wasn’t going to dash now. The focus was simply 4:15.

Running through Point Pleasant Park. Photo credit: http://www.marathon-photos.com

While overall things were going good/steady for me on the race, something did mess up. Just after 37 kilometres, I got out of Point Pleasant Park and turned left and down a short steep Point Pleasant Drive. As soon as I turned onto Francklyn Street, my left hamstring badly pulled on me. I stopped and had to make a fast decision; either limp and run slowly for next five kilometres, or give it a good stretch and then try and get back on pace. I opted for the latter, and did it for about 30 or so seconds. I didn’t want to do less than that because I worried it would’ve acted up again, with me repeating the process, and this would be more time wasted. It’s better to stop and repair the vehicle than to drive a damaged one that could further break down. Plain and simple; good stretch now, and then try to get back into the race. It worked, because I was able to resume things.

Running up Young Avenue and onto South Park Street was a gradual climb. I knew it was going to be tougher than the last time I did this with just having a pulled hamstring. Unlike Valley Harvest, there would be no dash for the finish (maybe another time). A bit more on South Park Street, Erin and I saw each other again. She paced me up, and like before, encouraging and motiving me along the way, and I badly needed it. I was feeling uneasy with my left hamstring, but at least I was stable. Her pacing was a great and necessary mental boost that helped me out so much. I wanted to inform her of my muscle pulling and that I had to briefly stop, but decided against it, opting instead to concentrate my energies on finishing the race. I would explain everything afterwards and during our weekly updates. Going past Spring Garden Road, we ran by Kerri, Holly, and Looloo, who cheered me on. Then headed onto Bell Road, Erin said she’d meet me at the finish. 

The final kilometre towards the finish was tough but nothing too grueling. It wasn’t the route itself that bothered me; it was knowing that I had to keep a set pace till the finish – no dashing. If my hamstring pulled again, it would just be more time delayed. So stability was key, although I think having one last downhill run on Rainnie Drive, especially with the larger and louder supportive crowds, helped get my final kilometre pace under 4:15.

Running down Rainnie Drive. Photo credit: http://www.marathon-photos.com

On Brunswick Street, Erin cheered me on towards the finish line. Crossing it, I immediately stopped my Garmin and took a concentrated slow walk. I was congratulated, and said thank you, but had to keep moving. A part of me kind of wondered if I was going to get sick (fortunately I didn’t). Erin met me on the other side of the guardrail, congratulated me, and I thanked her for everything. I was on an extreme emotional high, but also had an aching lower body, especially on both hamstrings and feet. Soon we came up to Kerri, Holly, and Looloo for more congrats. I headed towards the post-race site to grab some juice, all with a weakened walk. I was sore. In fact, I’d say that it was the most sore that I have ever been right after a marathon. But thankfully, I was not in pain. Unlike my 2017 Blue Nose Marathon, I was fortunate enough to have done this one without incurring an injury. I saw a few other runners and we all congratulated each other. It was a tough course. I got some congratulatory text messages from others who saw my results before I did. I went home to recovery, stretch, and shower. I struggled to simply get up the stairs. After some waiting, I viewed my official results; 3:02:14 – a new personal best, and a Boston Qualifier with more time than my last one.

Coming up to the finish. Photo credit: http://www.marathon-photos.com
Just crossed the finish line. Photo credit: Erin Poirier.
Celebrating with Coach Erin. Photo credit: Erin Poirier.
Celebrating with Kerri and Looloo. Photo credit: Erin Poirier.
Marathon finisher selfie.

One observation about Sunday that was a first was a good physical recovery. While I was severely aching right after the race, by the early evening, I was feeling much better. This is in especial contrast to the Nova Scotia Marathon back in July, where the most serious soreness stayed with me for the whole day and even into the next few. That night, I had my weekly check-in chat with Erin. I mentioned the hamstring pull. She thought that the downhills may have had something to do with it. I wondered if it was me taking an epsom salt bath on Thursday night and not stretching enough prior to the marathon were additional factors. I shared that I had some more future goals that I would like her to help me with. She agreed, and the next order was recovery; take the next two weeks off from running, and for the next week, just rest.

Days after the Blue Nose Marathon, there was another recovery that I was undergoing; an emotional one. While I was beyond grateful that I got to do two other marathons (along with two other races) in 2021 during the pandemic, I think the combination of being coached by an amazing woman for a new personal best on a very challenging course (one I didn’t think that I could do but she did), the race being right in Kjipuktuk, being greeted by Looloo at her first marathon, perfect fall running weather, the big crowd energy of Blue Nose, and just having the feeling of what racing and life was like before the pandemic, all left me with an emotional high. I’ve had a few moments in the last week were I would simply start crying thinking about how wonderful things were during the Blue Nose Marathon, and our gradual return towards this. With Fredericton, I went in with high expectations for myself and felt as if I fell short. Even with earning a Boston Qualifier, I wanted more out of my performance – more out of me – and I think this is why I had a hard time feeling good about how I did. With Blue Nose, albeit having a goal of sub 3:00:00, with 3:02:14 as my new personal best, I was happy/proud of this. I went into this marathon feeling like I had a rematch with a tough opponent that I held a grudge against (the last Blue Nose left me with an injury), but instead, walked away with a mutual admiration and respect, and a deeper appreciation. Sometimes a tough opponent brings out the [personal] best [time] in you, and this year’s Blue Nose did just that.

Fredericton Marathon 2021

On September 5, I did my fifth 42.2K race; the Fredericton Marathon. I won’t recap my actual journey within it in too much detail (as it was the same route in 2019, which I already wrote about). Instead I’ll share more about how I trained, a bit of my time in Fredericton, some race highlights, and my thoughts afterwards.

This one felt like a friendly rematch from 2019. Back then, I missed my Boston Qualifier by five minutes and 14 seconds, and it really didn’t bother me a whole lot. I think it was because I improved on my time by 38 minutes and 41 seconds and was so close to qualifying. I also had fond memories as this one didn’t leave me injured nor seriously sore. Like so many events, I was registered for this in 2020 but it was obviously delayed until this year.

After the Nova Scotia Marathon, I was wondering how I should train for Fredericton. After pondering a few options, I decided to do at least two to three half marathons during the week and one full marathon on each weekend. I also stopped drinking three weeks prior to the race. August was incredibly hot and humid. My first three marathon runs were tough. Some days, the weather felt like mid- to high-thirties, and hydration was critical. My times were roughly about four hours and 30 minutes for two of them. A third was three hours and 46 minutes. But my last one (August 28) was three hours, 19 minutes, and 47 seconds. It was my fastest non-race 42.2K run and just roughly nine minutes from my personal best. For my final week before Fredericton, I did easy shakedown runs, some LesMills GRIT, and yoga. Friday before I left, I hydrated a lot.

Spending quality time with my mommy.
Corned beef hash, all the way from Maine.

Saturday morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m., did some yoga, and then left just after 9:00 a.m. The drive up was good and I recognized a few vehicles (e.g., Epic Canadian) and saw a few car magnets with marathon distances on them (I also have a 42.2K one). Arriving in town, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many red dresses and signs/symbols in support of Indian Residential School Students not far from Queen Square. I checked into my room and went off to a nearby Starbucks to visit my mother (who recently moved to Fredericton). It was great catching up, talking about Indian Day Schools, family, travel, and marathon running. I explained how she would be able to see me the next day, and before I left, she gave me two cans of corned beef hash that she picked up in Maine. Back at the hotel, I did LesMills CORE in my room and then had a supper of two bagels and Cracker Barrel (which is a new favourite of mine as of late). Then I drank approximately three litres of water between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and fell asleep just before 10:00 p.m.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 4:30 a.m., drank about a litre of water and orange juice, and had my oatmeal. I geared up and did a light run over to the start. I saw Troy of Atlantic Chip and he jokingly said that I was way too early. Joel arrived before I did too. We all briefly chatted before I went off to do my additional warmup. I did some BODYATTACK and GRIT moves in the tennis court, and lightly ran around Queen Square a few times. I bumped into a few more fellow runners (including a former roommate from undergrad), and then went to lineup. Apparently one of the volunteers recognized me from teaching BODYATTACK at Park Lane (which was nice). My mother then showed up and took a video of the race starting.

One thing that I thought that felt very different was the bridge going over the Gibson Trail bridge. Two years ago, it felt like any other wooden bridge. This time, it sort of seemed weaker, and somewhat gave a bit. I figured it may just have aged since 2019. Another thing was the overall distance. The route didn’t feel different at all (and I obviously trust the measurement), yet my RunKeeper recorded it as a 43K run. I don’t know where the extra 800 metres may have came from.

During my run, I noticed that I was passed a lot (although I could not tell if they were running the full or the half). This did not bother me at all. In fact, I was admiring how great they were doing. I just kept thinking about my August training, what I did, and asking myself if I did something wrong. Was it my last marathon run? Did I do it too fast prior to this one? Should I have been tapering for two weeks instead of one? Was I doing too much yoga or not enough? About halfway though, I knew that I should look into getting a regular running coach. I knew that I was only able train solo for so long. Some guidance and direction would only help.

Moving on to the second half of the marathon. Photo courtesy of Brett Ruskin.

Around the 28K mark, I knew that my average pace was not going to work out to be 4:15, which is what I needed in order to finish in under 3:00:00. A part of me just wanted to slow down. But at the same time, I thought that it would still be good to finish with a Boston Qualifier and under my old personal best. At about 37K, I noticed that I was feeling a bit bloated, as if I drank too much water. I wasn’t really drinking any water nor Gatorade from the stops, so I think the gels that I was using were a bit much (yet they didn’t bother me on my 42.2K practices, although these packages had more). So I stopped taking them. At 38K, my time was running out and knew that if I was going to make my qualifier, I had to pick things up. I remembered from the Nova Scotia Marathon when I tried to speed up a bit for the last few kilometres, my hamstring cramped. So trying to go too fast now would have been foolish, but I found a healthier and safer speed to do. For some extra motivation, I replayed a few of my favourite tracks from Rocky IV (I had my playlist programmed for Rocky IV music towards the 3:00:00 mark).

Celebrating my marathon finish with my mommy.
My Fredericton Marathon medal.

Crossing the finish line, I saw that I was under 3:10:00, which was a qualifier. But the first thing on my mind was to keep walking and to hydrate. I saw my mother and she congratulated me. A woman from one of my The Facebook running groups recognized me, congratulated me as well, and asked for a photo together (which was quite flattering). I also did an interview with Global New Brunswick re the marathon. Afterwards, I walked with my mother for a bit because I did not want to stand still for too long. Then I headed back to my hotel (by foot) and got a text from Jennifer (my BODYATTACK mentor), who congratulated me on qualifying. Strangers also congratulated me on the run along the way. Back at the hotel, I tried to get a later check-out (as I wanted to do some yoga in my room), but was unable to do so. I shared an elevator ride with a few of the Road Hammers’ runners and we congratulated each other. At the room, I quickly stretched, showered and packed, and then checked-out. Outside the hotel, I bumped into Val and Kim, who I volunteered with at Sole Sisters with in 2018 (and were the ones who shared the advice of walking post-marathon). Before I got into my car, I saw Stacy (Sole Sisters Race Director) who also congratulated me. She shared some more advice, and again strongly encouraged me to find a running coach. I phoned Kerri to tell her how I did before I got on the road. In Sackville, I pulled over into a parking lot to take a nap (I was tired and needed some rest).

On the drive back (four plus hours), I had time to reflect. While I was glad that I did finally qualify for the Boston Marathon, it was not as strong/fast as a qualifier that I wanted. I had my goal set for sub 3:00:00 and I didn’t make it. I was basically beating myself up over it. It kind of felt like earning a great silver medal but I still wanted a gold one. I kept going back to my August training and wondered where I went wrong. I kept thinking about my next two marathons in the fall, and wondered if I should try something slightly or drastically different. Both will be a bit hillier, but I know folks have finished them in fast times. I knew I needed help, and a coach would be an excellent start.

Nova Scotia Marathon 2021

It was over 800 days since my last marathon. While I did run 42.2 kilometres a few times since the pandemic began, it obviously wasn’t a competitive race, and I’ve only done three 5Ks since March 2020. I’ve also done a ton of regular running, mainly around the block. But I missed racing. Once I saw that the Nova Scotia Marathon was tentatively going ahead, I signed up.

On July 26, I did my fourth marathon. I almost did this one in 2019, but we had to pick up our Looloo the day before the race in New Brunswick. Given it would have been a six hour drive to Barrington Passage with a new puppy, I chose not to do it and instead wait until 2020. Obviously that got moved to 2021.

This was probably the first marathon I did where I wasn’t mentally “psyched up” leading up to it. I think it may have been because I just wasn’t unable to do many races. Furthermore, I developed a bit of a tight piriformis issue in the last few weeks. Knowing that my training wasn’t the greatest, I figured that I wasn’t going to hit my 3:00:00 goal. But I wanted to do another marathon, so I went ahead with it anyway.

A week before, I tapered a bit (with a 21.1K on July 17) and did more yoga to help stretch myself out, especially for the piriformis issue. Friday I drank a ton of water, mowed the lawn, and did some light yard work. This was my first July marathon, so to play it safe, I got a new water belt that held more from from Aerobics First. Saturday was the pre-day rest (and final water-up) and drive on over.

Saturday morning we went to Eastside Mario’s (my first time there since the pandemic began) for a good pasta lunch. Arriving at Barrington Passage, I went to pick-up my race kit at the Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena and then we checked-in to the Starboard Inn. I was fortunate to have gotten this spot because it was only two kilometres from the start line. As I didn’t know the area at all, Kerri and I went for a drive along the race route (with a few beach stops). The race description read that it had some rolling hills and was basically a flat course. I would say that it probably has more rolling hills than I had anticipated, but it does have some good flatness. Driving along the ways, I cringed a bit looking at the steeper hills and occasional sharp turns because I knew that I wouldn’t like these while running.

A beach stop.

That evening, we returned to our accommodations and I spotted several fellow Run Nova Scotia Management Board members. I chatted with one for a good while about Sunday morning. She gave me some advice which I decided to do. She said not to dash/sprint at the start. Basically, that I’m a powerful runner with a lot of potential, but I shouldn’t be spending the first few kilometres trying to get by everyone right away. This was something I commonly do and figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it for the next morning. After the chat, Kerri and I went to Pizza Delight for one last meal for the night. She read up on some marathon tips while we waited for our food, and suggested I consume my energy gels every five kilometres (normally I wait longer). Before calling it a night, I prepared my running clothes and gear on the table so I wouldn’t be scrambling the next morning to get ready.

The marathon started at 7:00 a.m. I didn’t get the best sleep. I woke up twice to use the bathroom, and at 3:30 a.m. or so, I couldn’t fall back asleep; I just tossed and turned. My alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., and I pretty much chugged over a litre of water, along with a large glass of orange juice. I thought the near-two hour window would be enough of a span to use the bathroom a few times before the marathon got under way. At about 5:50 a.m., I began a light run over to the starting area. Once there, I continued with it. While I normally do some LesMills GRIT and or BODYATTACK moves as part of my warm-up, I chose not to really do any this time around. I don’t know if this factored my performance that day. I used the bathroom a couple more times, and at about 6:50 a.m., I headed for the lineup. I briefly chatted with some friends around me before things got underway.

With the buzzer going off, we started. I remembered trying to not pass everyone in front of me. I kept a steady pace for a bit. At about five or so kilometres, I knew all those liquids I had at 5:00 a.m. were coming back to haunt me. I needed to make a rest stop, which delayed me for about maybe 30 or so seconds. With Fredericton, I has a bit more time between waking up and the race, and even had less to drink.

Coming across the causeway. Photo courtesy of Ken Chetwynd Photography.
A foggy morning run. Photo courtesy of East Coast Running Photos.

The route was foggy, which I understood was common at that time of day in Barrington Passage. There were waves of spectators cheering us on from their homes, which was always a great morale booster. Speaking of which, at around Penny Road (maybe just after the halfway point), I did see a house with a large Mi’kmaw flag. I had no idea if the residents were Mi’kmaq, if it was a flag of solidarity and support for Mi’kmaw fishers, and or if it was done in commemoration for the recently located bodies of Indian Residential School students. But in any event, it felt great to see.

At about 28 kilometres, I knew that I wasn’t going to catch up with the pace that I needed to qualify for Boston. This did bother me a tad bit, but I did tell myself that I still wanted to make this my second fastest marathon. As well, there was the principle of finishing the race. I think I felt as if I was “hitting the wall” at about 30 kilometres.

One thing I noticed was that the marathon reminded me of my first one. In addition to the ocean scenic route, I was often alone, especially for the second half. The other marathon reminder was the Bluenose. This was because at about 38 kilometres, I felt my left hamstring pull on me. I had to stop and give it a good stretch. This took about 30 seconds. Another runner who I passed earlier (while he was stretching his hamstring ) shared some motivation with me, and I returned it when I passed him again later. This hamstring issue was, fortunately, the only time that I had to really stop in the race.

At 40 kilometres, I managed to pick up some speed and figured I could make the last 2,200 metres with better time. Nearing the causeway, I saw one last cheering station, which was inspiring. Once on the causeway itself, I trekked along and then saw Kerri waiting for me. She yelled encouragement as she filmed me running. Feeling motivated, I picked up the pace and made my way towards the race’s end. As I heard my name being congratulated by the Masters of Ceremonies, my left hamstring acted up again just as I was right on top of the finish line. What timing.

Headed towards the finish line. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

The first person to congratulate me right after the race was Joel, whom I’ve raced with several times. We took a quick photo and spoke about the next marathon that we’d be dong together. Two friends handed me a bottle of water. I thanked them for it and headed towards Kerri, who also then congratulated me. I said that I wanted to walk a bit before going to the car. We went up the causeway, coming across some fellow Run Nova Scotia Board members, both as spectators and fellow marathon participants. I took one more photo by the 42.2K banner and then we returned to the chalet. I jokingly asked Kerri to piggyback me up the stairs, and she did. Inside, I briefly stretched, packed, showered, and then we checked-out.

Celebrating with Joel.
My medal.
Fourth marathon completed.

Returning home, our first stop was Sandy Hills beach. One elderly man who saw me slowly walking asked if I just did the marathon, which I answered in the affirmative. The stairs were short, but it felt a bit brutal to go down them and then onto the rocks. But once we made it to the ocean, it felt relieving to walk on the soft sand and in the salt water.

After the beach, we stopped in Shelburne to visit a friend of mine, Seth, from Saint Mary’s University, whom I haven’t seen since maybe 2003-2004. He’s a teacher now, and we caught up on many things. It meant a lot to learn that he was teaching his students about colonialism, Indian Residential Schools, and Mi’kmaw history. I thanked him for the work that he was doing. Afterwards, Kerri and I had a late lunch at the Boxing Rock, where I finally had something to eat. For whatever reason, I’m usually not hungry after a big run. But I was still quite dehydrated even though I consumed a lot of water all afternoon. I had an ibuprofen to help me deal with my headache.

Late lunch at Boxing Rock.

After leaving Shelburne, we stopped along Carter’s Beach. As I didn’t have much of a sleep and I was awake for almost 12 hours, I lightly dozed off on the beach with a power nap. It was pretty much what I needed. As Kerri went for a quick swim, I stayed on the sand to stretch out a bit more. Once back on the road, we made our way to the city, picked up Looloo, returned home, and ordered some Little Caesar’s pizza. I opted to not have an epsom salt bath that night. I usually do one the same day I complete a marathon. Given my earlier headache, I figured it would further dehydrate me. The next morning, I did yoga for over an hour and had the bath that night.

Relaxing at Carter’s Beach.

With four in-person marathons to date, I’ve learned some new lessons from this round. One, anything more than a litre of water two hours before a marathon isn’t a good idea. Two, don’t shower then do a marathon. It’ll increase your chances of chafing. Finally, consume your energy gels every five kilometres. I felt this helped me a bit more than if I waited longer to take them.

The next one is the Fredericton Marathon on September 5. I’m also registered for the Valley Harvest Marathon on October 10.

Gorilla Mat – Review

While we moved into our new house on January 2018, I didn’t start utilizing our large basement room (the exercise room) until July 2019. It has laminate flooring, which isn’t safe nor great to work-out on. But I was able to practice BODYATTACK™ and BODYPUMP™ on it with either modifications and or lower intensity. Then in October 2019, LesMills On Demand launched in Canada. Obviously and right away, I was doing LesMills GRIT™. I tried some of it at home, but mainly went to the gym (with the video downloaded to my iPhone®) to get the most out of it with its flooring, space, and equipment.

When the province went into a declared state of emergency, the gyms (and many other things) had to close. So I did a lot more running (and even earned a Personal Best of 328.83 kilometres in April). I still used the exercise room but not all that much. In May, I was starting to really miss strength training, and in particular, BODYPUMP™. I purchased an entire SMARTBAR™ and SMARTSTEP™ set (along with an additional pair of extra-large plates). A bit pricy (as I had to import it from France), but worth it. While I was happy to get back into BODYPUMP™ and LesMills GRIT™ Strength, there was another major issue I’ve had for a year; the floor. I was still capping my efforts with LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic and Cardio and BODYATTACK™, not because of fitness nor ability, but for safety and slipping. Doing burpees, tuck jumps, push-ups, donkey kicks, etc… were always challenging because either my hands or feet would be at risk of quickly sliding on the sweaty floor. The foam tiles I bought several months back were useless and unsafe. While I did have a yoga mat and an MBX MAT™, I was still limited on spacing and hand and feet placement. I had to adjust them (along with the SMARTSTEP™) when the workouts changed. I even had a tumble doing a BODYPUMP™ Lunge track. Frustrated, I began researching floor options.

Right away, I knew that I didn’t need to replace the floor. It was unnecessary and expensive. I just needed the right mat or proper tiles. I posted on several social media fitness spots/groups, asking others what they used and or recommended. Then eventually, one common thing kept recurring; the Gorilla Mat. A friend in the city also had one and I asked her for more information/details on how she liked it. Reading only wonderful reviews and loving how Gorilla Mats were made with eco-friendly and non-toxic materials, I decided that this is what I would go with. It also came with a life-time guarantee.

As I’m 6’2 and wanted to max-out my efforts, I went with the largest mat (at 6’ x 12’). I also workout with Kerri on occasion, so the more floor that we got covered, the better.

I picked up my Gorilla Mat on a Saturday afternoon. It was pretty large, but I managed to fit it into my car. Once home, I removed it from the box it was shipped in and saw some nice notices on how the Gorilla Mat was made from eco-friendly and non-toxic materials (which I already knew) and that it was manufactured by a small family-owned business (which I didn’t know). It also came with a free wiping towel designed for it. I unrolled it and placed weight plates at one end to ensure that it flattened out. I returned a few hours later to “break-in” the Gorilla Mat with a workout that I wasn’t really ever able to do at home; LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic.

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Gorilla Mat features.

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A great thank you note.

As it was a new mat, I knew that I had to give it a few workouts before truly evaluating what I bought. While it did have an initial tad tiny bit of fresh slipperiness to it, I knew that this was simply because it was new. The Gorilla Mat is amazing and awesome. I was able to go all-out with tuck jumps, lunges, quick/fast movements with sudden stops/changes. I was never able to do this with tiles/mats because they would either break-up or skid underneath me. The Gorilla Mat was really almost no different than what I would do on a gym floor. That is, if a spot got a bit too sweaty, it becomes slicker, and I would adjust/wipe accordingly. But with a laminate floor, I would have to stop. It was too dangerous. I would need to put a mat underneath me or use a towel to wipe up the sweat. Even then, it was still hazardous. However, with the Gorilla Mat, those worries were gone. I did very minimal sweat wiping. I was able to focus entirely on the work-out.

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Breaking-in the new Gorilla Mat with LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic.

As for the SMARTSTEP™ (which we use in LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic and other LesMills™ programs), before I would’ve needed to place it on top of the yoga mat or MBX MAT™. Or snuggly between both mats so I could do moves requiring me to go on and off the side of the SMARTSTEP™. This became a non-issue with the Gorilla Mat. I was able to place the SMARTSTEP™ on it and it firmly stayed in place; no shifting when I jumped on and off of the SMARTSTEP™.

Furthermore, the Gorilla Mat is very shock-absorbent (which I wasn’t necessarily even looking for), which is a beautiful bonus. Landing felt fantastic compared to the flooring beneath it. At the end of the workout, I didn’t even need my other mats/tiles for Core; the Gorilla Mat was perfectly fine. In addition, while I did purchase some flooring tape to ensure that the Gorilla Mat would stay put on the floor (a problem with tiles/mats), the size, weight, and grip of it were so good that I didn’t need to apply any.

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Feeling happy with my first all-out LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic in months on the Gorilla Mat.

The next day, I tested it with LesMills GRIT™ Cardio, another workout that was difficult to do on laminate flooring. Given LesMills GRIT™ Cardio (I find) tends to have more room running/movement along with bear crawls, I found this workout even more difficult to do at home than LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic. On the Gorilla Mat, once again, virtually no issues at all. After doing LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic the day before, I think the new/fresh slipperiness was lessened a bit. Various workouts/moves on it were excellent and safe to do. The next morning, I woke up and did LesMills GRIT™ Strength. Same story as above; essentially flawless. Another added bonus (which again I wasn’t necessarily looking for) with the Gorilla Mat was how soundproof it was. Either when working-out or placing weights on the laminate floor, it made noise. With the Gorilla Mat, when running on the spot, landing hard, or placing weight plates and or SMARTBAR™ down, the sound was very muffled.

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LesMills GRIT™ Cardio.

Finally, I got to try BODYATTACK™ on it. Since I started using our exercise room, it was really a place to practice BODYATTACK™ and BODYPUMP™; I never actually used it as a “workout” per se (although a practice is still a workout). Now was the time to test the Gorilla Mat with BODYATTACK™, and it absolutely passed with flying colours. I did release 63 (which sold out in Canada years ago but I managed to buy it when visiting the United States in August 2012 at a LesMills™ Mega Quarterly). Doing step touches, supers, jumping jacks, and other BODYATTACK™ moves were stress-free. For the first time since the declared state of emergency, I had a lot of fun doing BODYATTACK™, and in particular, doing it in the exercise room without worry if I was going to fall on the floor.

The Gorilla Mat was also great for yoga. I felt no pain when I rested on body parts that would otherwise hurt (e.g., a lot of bodyweight on the knee, even on a yoga mat). But given some moves require a bit of holding on the hands and or feet (e.g., downward dog), I would still place my regular yoga mat or MBX MAT™ (which does have a yoga option) on top of the Gorilla Mat for a bit of extra security. I know that there are yoga Gorilla Mats, but my focus/purchase was the exercise mat.

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Yoga with Looloo. The yoga mat isn’t really necessary, but I use it for extra security.

Overall, the Gorilla Mat (like the SMARTBAR™ and SMARTSTEP™ set) is one of the best purchases that I have ever made for working-out at home. Given I paid $339.95 at Amazon (and free shipping with Prime), being made from eco-friendly and non-toxic materials, being a small family-owned business, the size I bought, coming with a lifetime guarantee, being excellent for high-intensity and fast work-outs (including with equipment) with its firm grip, yoga comfort, and being shock- and noise-absorbent (two extras that I wasn’t looking for but will gladly take), it was practically a steal. I love it.