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.