Around The Bay 30k

 

This is a must-do race if you have never ran it before! All the cool kids run it! Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race is the oldest on the continent, first run in 1894, three years before the Boston Marathon. I feel like it’s a huge run party since I always see so many familiar faces. It’s a great kick-off race for the 2015 season. One of the great things about this race is that the finish is inside Copps Coliseum (now renamed to First Ontario Centre – but I will always call it Copps).

I had planned to run this race as an easy training run. With my first marathon scheduled two weeks after, I could not risk getting injured. I started off at an easy pace and enjoyed the scenery and crowd along the way. If you’ve ever ran this race before, you would know that there isn’t much to see in Hamilton¬†and the first 20k of the race was pretty boring. Things got a bit more exciting and challenging as we ran through the rolling hills of North Shore Blvd. The finish inside the Copps Coliseum is the best part as people are cheering you on and you can look up and see all the spectators. I had a goal time of finishing before 3 hours and 30 minutes and my official time was 3:16:26! Woo-hoo! Not bad for a long easy pace run. ūüôā

Race Registration:

I had registered for this race back in the Fall. This race always sells out so I like to sign up early. I paid $85.32 CAD after taxes for this race.

*Interesting Fact: this was the first year in several years that the ATB 30k race was not sold out. This is possibly due to an extremely cold Winter we had; or that the famous Valley Inn Hill of the ATB route was closed due to construction.

Race Expo:

One of the best race expos in terms of logistics. The Copps Coliseum is a big stadium. If you’ve ever been to any stadiums before, you would know that it is a big circle. You enter at the main entrance and walk in a big circle to all the vendors before you get to the race kit pick up area. I love this idea because all the vendors are in a circle [not various isles], therefore you don’t miss any of them.

Race Kit:ATB1

We were¬†given a bib with timing chip and a race specific long sleeve shirt. I did this race last year and also received a bonus cap since it was the race’s 120th anniversary. Unfortunately, there was no cap this year. ūüė¶ I like the idea of your bib and timing chip and shirt instead of a bag filled with race flyers that you eventually throw out anyway.

Parking:

There was no traffic driving into Hamilton and there were plenty of parking lots and parking on the side streets. I ended up parking at a small park about a 15-20 min walk to the starting line. The weather was nice so I didn’t mind walking to the start. It provided a nice warm up run too.

Pre-Race:

I love¬†race venues with buildings or some sort of shelter you can stay in before the race. The Coliseum is a perfect example as lots of people were meeting up with friends or just staying inside to keep warm. You can use real¬†toilets instead of using the porta potties. It’s also a great place because spectators can sit and wait for their family/friends to finish without having to stand around for hours.

Race Course:

The first 20km of the race is a fairly flat scenic route through Hamilton. The last 10k had rolling hills through North Shore Blvd. The change to the course this year was the removal of Valley Inn Hill due to construction.  Instead, we continued on Plains Rd.  and turned on York Blvd. The finish inside Copps Coliseum is the best part of the race. It feels nice to finish in a stadium with your friends, family and other spectators cheering you on.

Water/Aid Stations:

There were water/Gatorade stations approximately every 5km along the course. I wore my CamelBak filled with water for this race so I only had to stop at a few stations along the way to replenish my electrolytes with Gatorade.

Volunteers:

There were a lot of volunteers at the water stations along the course and a few paramedics along the route. They were all very friendly and was cheering everyone on.

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The areas with the biggest spectator viewing is at the start/finish line and whenever the relay runners change over (10km, 15km, 20km). Other than that, the first 20km is actually quite boring with not a lot of spectator support. When you start heading back towards Copps on York Blvd (after you encounter the Grim Reaper), is where the amount of spectators increase. I was so happy to see my Tribe Fitness family cheering me on and telling me to “catch the pace bunny” in front of me. I did catch her and even PASSED her! It was also nice to see other Toronto run crews out supporting the runners as well – Night Terrors Run Crew and Parkdale Road Runners were all in attendance. Parkdale had a HUGE cheer squad and they definitely pushed me to speed up during that last 500 meters or so. So much support – I love the Toronto running community. #crewlove

Post-Race:

As soon as I finished inside the Coliseum, I could see some of my friends sitting in the bleachers. I headed to the finish area where we were given bananas, water, pita bread, etc. and a bag to put it all in. I think every race should give you bags at the end to put all your goodies in; so much easier to carry than carrying everything in your hand. I lined up to take a photo post race and started my way up to the bleachers to meet my friends and the rest of the Tribe. It was nice to finish a race and be inside instead of in the cold and get to sit down. We sat in the bleachers cheering on the rest of the Tribe until everyone finished.

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Would I Run It Again:

Absolutely! I would love to come back next year and try for a PB. Hopefully I won’t have a marathon to get ready for so that I can really push myself. I don’t even mind training throughout the winter to get ready. We had a really cold winter, but having a race such as Around the Bay and a marathon in the early Spring is a really good motivator to get out and train in the freezing cold.¬†I am not looking forward to running in extreme cold weather alerts or running with frozen eyelashes again; but I know I will have to if I want to PB this race next year.

Run Brag: March was also the highest mileage month I’ve ever ran. I finished with 207.85 km! I’m surprised at how much I ran and pretty impressed that I was able to get those mileage in and still feel great¬†and not injured. I am definitely thankful to be living a life in which I am able to do things that I love. ‚̧

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Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way

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This was my 8th year participating in the Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way. Every year I create a team and climb on the Corporate Challenge Day Sunday. I encourage my friends and coworkers to join and I enjoy seeing and hearing about everyone’s experience, especially the first time climbers. Due to the¬†Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon being on the same day as the Sunday Corporate climb, I changed our team¬†climb date to Thursday. I had a team of five, and three were first time climbers.

Registration: There is no fee to register for the climb, however you had to raise a minimum of $100 for the United Way Committee. The deadline to raise the minimum was two weeks before the climb (as per email communications from United Way), but they allow you to raise funds up until the climb date.

Expo: N/A

Registration Kit: Being a part of a team, the team captain had to pick up the wristbands and chip card for the rest of the team. The CN Tower is still open to the public during the climb, therefore the wristband allows the climbers access to enter the CN Tower.

Parking: There is paid underground parking at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre or along the city streets. Public transportation would be the easiest so you don’t have to deal with looking and paying for parking. I took the subway to Union Station and walked to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Pre-Climb: Sign in and registration was at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. There was a free coat and bag check for your belongings. The CN Tower Climb is a hands free¬†climb, therefore no purses, water bottles or electronic devices (phones, iPod’s, etc.) are allowed in the stairwell. Before the climb, there was an area for a warm-up as well as water and KIND¬†snack¬†bars were being handed out. There were tents for the various Financial Institutions and Corporations to meet up and hang out before and after the climb. Since Enbridge was a major sponsor, they had their own coat check and booth too. There was a massage area where climbers can get a massage pre or post climb. The centre area of the Convention hall was a table where you can check your time and¬†pick up your finisher t-shirt and volunteers will write your climb time on it.

CN Tower Climb: The climb started at 7:00 pm and there was a lineup of anxious climbers. Climbers leave the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and walk through the back corridor to the CN Tower. Once you arrive at the base of the Tower, there is a lineup for security check. Security guards will search all climbers and ensure there are no bags or electronic devices and that all climbers have a wristband. After the first security check, you enter into the Tower and head to the second¬†security check point. The second checkpoint has three machines known as a “Puffer Machine”. A puffer machine is a security device that seeks to detect explosives and illegal drugs at airports and other sensitive facilities; as per Wiki.

Once all the security check stations were completed, volunteers directed you to the stairwell where there was a table to scan your chip card before the climb. The CN Tower Climb consists¬†of 1,776 steps or 145 floors. The stairwell is just big enough for two people, therefore slower climbers stick to the right and faster climbers pass on the left. There are Paramedics at every few floors to keep an eye on the climbers. I’ve seen the Medics give out juice boxes to those requiring sugar. During one year of my climb, I witnessed a Medic take a climber to a small doorway on the right side of the wall (they had one every few floors) and from there, you can choose to quit climbing and take the elevator back down. So the question is Yes, you can quit and take the elevator back down if you can no longer continue climbing. Although I think the Medics try to help climbers as much as possible by letting them rest and providing sugar if needed before they take you to the escape route.

Once you get to the top, climbers than scan their chip card again to stop their time. A good thing to know is that once you scan your chip card, there are about 4-5 more floors you have to climb to actually get to the Observation Deck area of the CN Tower. Climbers can go outside and stand on the Observation Deck and take in the view of the city. I have always climbed on a Sunday, so this was my first time climbing in the evening. The view of the city is breathtaking from the CN Tower at night. I wish I had a camera or phone to capture it. That’s the only bad part of the climb – the hands free.

Water/Aid Stations: There are no water stations along the climb but there are Paramedics every few floors. Water is provided before and as soon as you get to the top.

Volunteers: This event is always fully staffed with volunteers. There are lots of volunteers from when you first enter the Metro Toronto Convention Centre guiding you where to go, there were volunteers at the registration, bag check, along the corridor to the CN Tower cheering everyone on, at the base of the Tower and at the top of the Tower both cheering and providing water. There was also a big group of volunteers at the t-shirt pick up area handing out shirts and writing the times on them.

Spectators: Security issues and overcrowding in stairwells prevent spectators from spectating during the climb, but there are lots of seats at the cafe and general store area of the CN Tower to wait for the climbers.

Post-Climb: Once you get to the top of the Tower, you can go outside to the Observation Deck and hang out a bit or wait inside. There is a always a lineup to get back down via the elevators. Climbers make their way back to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where you can check your time and receive a t-shirt with your finishing time on the back.

The CN Tower Climb has come a long way since when I first started climbing back in 2007. There were no chip cards and climbers were given a paper card that you had to get the time stamped at the beginning of the climb and then stamped again at the end of the climb. Holding onto the card during the climb makes for a sweaty card after. This card would then be given to the volunteer who would then manually calculate your climb time and record it on your t-shirt. I love the new process with the chip card and just having to scan it at the beginning and end. This also helps because your results are published right away from Chip Time Results, so you can view it on the screen after you scan your card. The time is then written down by a volunteer and you would hand in the card to another volunteer who would record it on the back of your finisher t-shirt. The only  recommendation I would make is instead of holding onto a chip card the whole climb, perhaps have the chip on the wristband as well or even have a similar process to road races and have a chip that can be attached to your shoe and a timing mat to record your start and finish time when you step over it.

*I think there may have been one year that the timing chip was a separate wristband,¬†but I can’t be positive. If it was, I’m not sure why the process was switched from it. I vaguely remember scanning my wrist at the end of the climb.*

Would I Climb¬†It Again: Yes! I love the CN Tower Climb and enjoy it every ¬†year. I enjoy getting a team of both colleagues and friends to participate. I just wish that the date would change and that it would not always be on the same weekend as the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. It’s kinda hard to run a marathon after climbing 1,776 flights of stairs. I managed to do both this year only because I did the half marathon instead.

BRAG: I did the climb with a dislocated shoulder and had my sling on!! It wasn’t my fastest climb time (PB 19:12), but I think it’s still a pretty good time and within my goal of 30 minutes! ūüôā

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Color Me Rad 5k

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It always hurts me just a little when I write about this run. I am Canadian and we spell ‘colour’ instead of ‘color. I want to write our Canadian spelling but then that wouldn’t be the correct name of the event. So I just want to make it clear that I am not conforming to American grammar, I am just writing the name as per the race¬†title.¬†¬†

This was my second time participating in¬†Color Me Rad.¬†It’s not timed and more of a ‘fun run’ as opposed to a race. It’s one of those races you just want to do once for fun with friends and say you’ve done it. Well, that was originally¬†my plan, but then Color Me Rad had a huge promotional sale (which included free knee high socks) early in the year and registration price was cheap. Who could resist such an offer!? So I obviously convinced a few friends to do it with me. The good thing was most of them that signed up were first timers and they really enjoyed it.

Race Registration:

I registered early in the year with the promotional price. The total came up to roughly $43.00 CAD after fees and taxes. It also came with some RAD knee high socks.

Race Expo:

The day before the race, I picked up the race kits for my Team after work. I got there one hour before it closed so there was a bit of a line up. The race kit pick up site was smaller this year than last year. There were also RAD merchandise for sale and extra colour bombs to purchase.

Race Kit:

I first picked up everyone’s bibs from my Team. On the back of the bib, the volunteers would write if your kit included socks or not. The socks were only a limited quantity and was included with early registration. Once I got the bibs, I moved over to the merchandise table to pick up the free socks. We actually had the choice of the socks or a free headband but I stuck to the socks. I have way too many headbands and socks are good to reuse for obstacle races! I then proceeded to pick up the t-shirts and sunglasses that were included as part of all registration. The shirts were cotton so I wouldn’t wear it again but I love wearing the sunglasses during my training runs/races.

Parking:

Luckily, the race location was Downsview Park and that is pretty close to where I live. I could have walked there but I had a friend who was nice enough to drop us all off and pick us up after the race. This year they didn’t charge for parking but I believe last year the parking fee was $5.00 per car. ¬†

Pre-Race:

As soon as we got to the race site, I met up with some of my Tribe Fitness friends. We hung out for a bit, had some free juice, and then decided to join the waves. It was the scene of an all white themed party. Lots of people of all ages were participating. There were some wearing their old white shirts from the previous year. You could tell because of the colour stains. The DJ was playing music on a stage that was closer to the finish area.

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Race Course:

The 5k course was the exact same as it was the year before. It was a nice route through Downsview Park and the man made lake. There were colour stations every kilometer. I went with some non-runner friends so we walked the entire course, took our time walking through the colour stations and took pictures along the way.

New this year: they had a station that volunteers had water guns filled with blue colour instead of the usual corn starch powder colour. This was actually harder to clean off after the race.

Water/Aid Stations:

There was one water station. Water bottles were handed out mid race and I walked the rest of the course with mine.  

 

Volunteers:

There were quite a few volunteers at every colour station. They got to throw the colour at runners passing. It was mostly high school students, but it would have been fun to volunteer to throw things at people, even if it was just corn starch. There were volunteers at the water station and more at the finish line. They handed every finisher a colour packet to be used for the ‘big throw’ near the stage.

Spectators:

This was a family friendly race so there were lots of spectators and families in the post race party site. A few of them did not want to get dirty from the colour bombs but most did not seem to mind.

Post-Race:

Instead of gathering near the stage and waiting for the big colour throw, my friends and I decided to line up to take a professional photo and use our colour packets there. There were three lines of professional photographers to take photos of your group in front of the Color Me Rad backdrop. After taking the photo, we drank some free coconut water and took some more photos by the Color Me Rad signs. We did not stay long after the race and photos.

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Would I Run It Again:

Having participated in this race twice now ; I don’t think I would do this race again. I would rather spend my money on a race where it is timed and I can get a medal for my achievements. You don’t get a medal at Color Me Rad. You get a cotton shirt (which I will not¬†wear again), sunglasses and if there is a promotion, you may get additional freebies such as socks. Not bad, but I’m a medal collector. If you’re looking for a fun race to do with the family or a group of friends, and don’t mind getting colour corn starch all over you; then you should¬†definitely try¬†this race. In fact, I think everyone should try a fun run¬†or colour run at least once. I’ve done it twice now¬†and both times I¬†had a lot of fun with my friends. Runs like these are perfect for bonding and creating memories. Don’t forget the camera!

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Mississauga Half Marathon

AmbitiousGoals

I love challenging and continuously pushing myself. Before 2014 came around, I knew I already had quite ambitious goals to attain. My first fitness goal was to run two back to back half marathons. With only one half marathon under my belt, I knew this goal would not come easy.

I registered for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in D.C. and the Mississauga Half Marathon. These two races were exactly seven days and two countries apart. A few people questioned what my strategy was and what race I was going to run faster in. My strategy was easy and simple. Enjoy the slow, scenic run in D.C. and a slow, steady run in Mississauga. I just wanted to be able to finish them both and not try to PR either.

Race Registration:

I registered for the Mississauga Half Marathon back in December and the cost was $80 CAD. I like to plan my full race calendar for the following year in December because not only are the prices significantly cheaper, but it holds me accountable and forces me to train for the races.

The same weekend as the Mississauga Marathon is the Toronto Marathon. Although I live in Toronto, I chose Mississauga because I have heard more positive feedback regarding the Mississauga race than the Toronto race. Most races tend to improve from the constructive criticism provided, but I did not want to take chances and decided to sign up for the Mississauga race.

Race Expo:

I did not attend the race expo, as my friend had picked up my kit for me. Our training group was originally scheduled to head to Mississauga to do a shake out run and then pick up our race kits. However, that did not happen as a friend told us that there was no point driving all the way there. The parking took forever and the expo was small with minimal vendors.

Race Kit:

The kit was a drawstring bag and included a chip timed race bib and a technical T-Shirt. It also came with other goodies including two race magazines, some race flyers, a bag of kettle chips, a small bottle of chocolate milk, a creme filled Easter egg, two packs of Starbucks coffee beans, some samples of Cetaphil face wash and hand cream, sample size bottle of Cold FX, and a few other random goodies. I failed to take a picture of the kit and only remembered after I had used/dispersed the contents. ūüė¶

Parking:

Parking was free and located at a Community Centre. There were free shuttle buses that would take us to the starting line of the race and back to the Community Centre from the finish line.

Pre-Race:

It was actually quite cold on race day. Not expected for a race at the beginning of May. We waited inside the Community Centre for the shuttle buses and once the shuttle buses dropped us off, my friends and I headed to the nearby Running Room to stay warm. It was packed inside the store. There was hardly any room to move as everyone wanted to seek some warm shelter before the race.

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Race Course:

The course was nice and fairly flat with a few minor hills. We ran through the streets of Mississauga and along Mississauga Road to the Lakeshore. If you’ve ever heard of Mississauga Road, you would know that this is THE posh area of Mississauga. I enjoyed running through there and just admiring all the huge mansions along the way and hoping that one day I could live in a mansion of that capacity. We ran to the Lakeshore and through the waterfront and park. It got much colder as we got to the waterfront but it was still a nice breeze.

Water/Aid Stations:

What I really liked about this race was that there was a water station every 2 kms. It actually almost got overwhelming because there were so many of them. I skipped the first two and started to stop by every water station after that. I had learned my lesson from my first half marathon experience, and did not want to run out of my own fuel at the end. I also wanted to test if I could run a half marathon distance without a water belt and just using the water stations. I’ve seen lots of people without belts and always wondered how they were able to do so. I tend to sweat a lot and get thirsty so I like to keep hydrated to make sure I don’t cramp up too.

Volunteers:

There were a few volunteers throughout the course. Not an overwhelming abundance of them, but just enough at each water stations and at the finish line.

Spectators:

The only negative to this race was that there were hardly any spectators along the route. Other than the runners and the cars going by, the streets were pretty quiet. There were some along Mississauga Road; but for a residential area, the residents were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were still sleeping or it was too cold to stand outside and cheer on random strangers.

Post-Race:

The finish line was small but it was nice along the waterfront. It got so cold that they were giving out heated sheets to all the runners. There were some bananas and yummy bagels to choose from. There was a booth that you could win little prizes for answering some facts about chocolate milk. I chose a skipping rope. There were not many vendors there and because it was so cold and windy, most people left right after the race. I didn’t stay around for too long either. My friends and I headed back to the shuttle bus to get a¬†ride back to our cars. What a different experience this race was compared to a week earlier when I was in Washington D.C. The weather, the people and the atmosphere was definitely more lively in D.C.

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Would I Run It Again:

If I had some friends interested in running this race, then I would run it again. I would not want to run it by myself as it got¬†pretty boring along the route with hardly many spectators. If I run this again, it would be the half or even the full since the course was fairly flat. When comparing this race to the Toronto Marathon, which I had a few friends running in, this race was more organized overall. They didn’t get any heat sheets in Toronto! They didn’t get a packed race kit bag, had to find their own parking at the start or finish (no free shuttle), and it was overly crowded. I enjoyed my time at the Mississauga Half Marthon. Overall, it was a well executed event. Perhaps if the weather was warmer, the post race party site would have been great as well; but sometimes¬†you have to expect the unexpected from Mother Nature.

So I completed two back to back half marathons!! Yay! ūüôā The feeling having crossed the finish line of my second half was indescribable. I¬†felt proud of my achievements. The finshing times for both races were not a PB for me, but it didn’t matter. My only goal was to be able to finish both of them and that I did. I was hungry, tired, overwhelmed and proud. I went for a big brunch after the race and came home to nap. I ‘napped’¬† until dinner time.¬†Lol. I deserved it. ūüôā

One fitness goal checked off and many more to go. I may not know what they all¬†are yet;¬†but I know that I will continually set goals for myself. Each goal will be bigger than the previous, until I can become the best that I can be. ‚̧ Xo

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That’s me holding wearing and holding my Mississauga Half Marathon finisher’s medal in my right hand and my Nike Women’s Half Marathon Tiffany finisher’s necklace in my left hand.

Nike Women’s Half Marathon – Washington D.C.

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In November 2013, I entered the lottery to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon with some of my friends. I was ecstatic when we were selected in December to run the race. It would be my second half marathon and my first big race outside of Canada. This was also a week after my big milestone birthday; so what better way to celebrate, than running a half marathon and getting a Tiffany necklace at the end! This was¬†my main reason¬†to register. A¬†finisher medal in the form of a Tiffany necklace. What girl does not like Tiffany!? ūüôā

Race Registration:

In November, you had to enter into a lottery as¬†either an individual, with a team (max 10/team) or as a college student. I started a team and sent the team¬†link to my friends to join.¬†Although the¬†race name is Nike Women’s Half Marathon, guys could enter as well. I had two guys on my team who¬†I ran the race with. A credit card was required during the registration process but would only be charged if you were one of the 15,000 runners selected. We received our¬†acceptance email in early December. It was an¬†awesome early¬†Holiday gift!

The cost was $175 USD to enter. After conversion, it was almost $200 CAD. I guess that would be an accurate price for some Tiffany bling.

Race Expo:

The flight to D.C. was full of women who were participating in the Half Marathon. I didn’t realize there were some many from Toronto going to the race. I travelled with a friend and as soon as we landed and dropped our luggage off at the hotel, we made our way to the expo. At the ‘Expotique’, we picked up our bib and T-shirt. We met up with two of my friends and team members and took a group photo by the ‘We Run’ sign. The expo wasn’t the same as the expos we have in Toronto. For Toronto race expos, we have various vendors¬†in which you can purchase running related items, sample some fuel or protein/energy bars or learn about other races being offered. In D.C, the expo had no vendors. It was in a tent. You can get your gait analyzed and check out the Nike shoes. There was a¬†station where you can sample stuff like Luna bars and a Nuun station for electrolytes.¬†You can¬†wait in¬†line to get¬†your hair done by one of the hair stylists there. The only line¬†I waited in was to get a custom¬†cheer sign made. You¬†select one of the templates/phrases and can customize the wording at top.¬†After a¬†quick walk around of the expo, we headed to the Nike Georgetown store. This was where you would be able to purchase¬†exclusive Nike merchandise designed for the D.C. Half Marathon. The women’s had a selection of items to choose from while the men’s only had an exclusive T-shirt. On the way to the Nike store, we passed by the famous¬†wall displaying all the participants name. I eventually found my name and took a picture beside it. It was cool that Nike Women’s Runs have this wall at all their races.

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Race Kit:

The kit included a chip timed bib, a technical T-shirt and a wrist band of your corral colour. They had women’s shirts or unisex shirts. No men’s specific.

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Parking:

Our hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the start/finish area. So it was a nice and short walk. Although, the morning walk was pretty cold.

Pre-Race:

This was my first big American race, and boy was it big. The corrals were very spaced out with the break being a whole intersection wide. I wasn’t used to seeing such a huge gap between corrals, but it was nice because you had more room to walk. Upon entering, there was someone there to check your wristbands and make sure you were wearing one and were in the correct corral. The corrals were very spaced out and I did not feel cramped like most races here in Toronto. Washington streets are also very wide. For the pre-race, there was a DJ and speakers along the sides so you could hear the music all the way in the last corral. I actually heard the music before I even got to the start area. I really enjoyed the pre-race because not only was the music so loud at 6am in the morning, but it got you pumped up for the race. Most races here, I can barely hear the announcer if I am in the later corrals. There were some Nike Training Club members leading stretches and you could hear them over the speakers. This is one of my favourite pre-race so far.

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Race Course:

The 13.1 mile race course ran along most of the Washington monuments. From The White House, to the Monument and various Memorials, to the University and along the waterfront. It was such a scenic and beautiful course. My friends and I decided to run the race slow and enjoy the views. There were many school bands and cheerleaders along the course as well. There was even an announcer and a photographer at the ‘finish line’ arc around the 10th mile or so announcing your name and taking your picture as you ran through. I thought this was really neat because I’ve only heard them announce names at the finish line, not during a race. It was fun and gives you that little push of motivation. What was different and fun about this race was that they actually had DJ stations – there was a pole that said DJ and all! With the bands and DJ’s along the route, it was basically a big party that stretched 13.1 miles.

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Water/Aid Stations:

What I really loved about this race was that there was a water station and porta-potty every 2 miles. Since I knew I was going to be running slow and taking advantage of all the water stations, I did not even run with my water belt. This was my first long run ever without a water belt. It honestly felt great and light. Maybe it even made me run faster..? ūüôā We stopped at all the water stations. There was also an orange station with buckets of sliced oranges, and my favourite – towards the end of the race (maybe 12th or 13th mile), there was a chocolate truffle station!! OMG! #mindblown. The chocolates were similar to the Lindors chocolates but these were from Whole Foods. It tasted so good and provided a nice final push. After the chocolate station, there were a few employees with handfuls of chocolates so I grabbed another one. Who can resist chocolate?! Especially at a race where you need some energy in your system. They should have a chocolate station at every race!

Volunteers:

There were plenty of volunteers at the race start/finish area and along the course. It was a well organized event. There were volunteers at the water stations and along the course handing out chocolate truffles and Oreos. Although, I’m not sure if they were volunteers or spectators.

Spectators:

There were lots of spectators throughout the entire course. I don’t think there was any point that I did not hear cheers or people screaming in the crowds. Even along the waterfront, there were spectators. One thing that was common and different than a race I’ve participated in locally, was that spectators were holding blown up faces of their family/friends who were running the race. I thought it was strange to see an oversized picture of someone’s head shot in the crowd. Then I noticed a lot more faces and figured it must be an American thing. ūüôā

Team in Training had a big presence at the race as well. What I noticed was that the coaches would all run back to run with their runners. I passed a few of them running towards me and motivating their team. It was a nice sight to see and not only did it motivate their team members, but it also gave us a push as motivation as well.

Post-Race:

Now this was my favourite part! The part I was looking forward to most – getting my Tiffany finisher’s necklace. Crossing the finish line of this race felt amazing. I felt like I was in a stadium and everyone watching and cheering me on. The roads are so wide in D.C. and they had two finishing arches side by side. Spectators were behind the fences on either side of the road but they were so far away. Comparing this race to one of our local big race – the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon – the atmosphere was the same, but you didn’t have spectators so close to you that you could touch them. At this race, you can hear them but because they were so far away, the cheers echoed through the streets and it really felt like entering a stadium. Once we crossed the finish line, there was a table with a Whole Foods paper bag that consisted of crackers and snacks; we were also given a reusable water bottle, exclusive for the event. I really liked the reusable water bottle idea because it saves them from using excess cups (I’m guilty of sometimes taking more than one cup of water at the finish line), but it was also a nice bottle that I can reuse and work out in and show off my accomplishment because it said Nike Women’s Half Marathon Washington D.C on it. We then had to get in a lineup to receive our Tiffany necklace. There were various lineups and men in suits and gloves handing you the little blue box. You could take a picture with them as well, which I did. Once passed this line, there were optional lines to get some more photos taken with more men in suits – some carrying a tray of little blue boxes. I didn’t wait in this line because it was too long and I already had my photo op with them.

The post-race tent was also my favourite!! I had never seen such a tent that included many post race activities. Upon entering, volunteers handed out Neutrogena wipes (this was an amazing idea!). There were sections with mirrors where you can freshen up and check yourself out. There was another section that had yoga mats and foam rollers where you can do some foam rolling and stretching! There were trainers to assist you as well if needed. I thought this was wonderful because it’s definitely good to foam roll after a race and I didn’t have to wait to get back to my hotel to foam roll. I would probably forget to as well. There was a line for this, but it wasn’t long so I did some post race stretching and foam rolling. It felt so amazing! Another fave is that they had charging stations! Lots of charging docks for all types of phones. Such a neat idea because my phone had minimal battery life after the run due to my Nike Running app being on and all the picture/video taking during the run. I didn’t want to wait for the charging stations though so we left the tent after the stretching.

There was another lineup after the tent and this one was for the merchandise. I decided to wait in this lineup because I wanted to purchase the exclusive finisher’s merchandise. They also had the exclusive D.C. collection in case you didn’t purchase it from the Nike Georgetown store. Once I got to a cash register, they had no more finisher’s sweaters left so I settled on a finisher’s shirt. The prices were the same as what you would pay for a Nike technical shirt. There were no finishers merchandise for guys, just the one D.C. collection shirt.

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Would I Run It Again:

I would ABSOLUTELY run this race again! It’s one of my favourites so far. I had so much fun and the experience was phenomenal. Everything from start to finish was amazing and well executed. It definitely felt like a party than a race. I had such a great time with my friends during the race and touring Washington as well. There are so many sights and monuments to see that we didn’t even fit it all in. I need to go back to see everything I missed. Perhaps for the race again or even just to visit. All the staff, volunteers, spectators and the locals were very friendly and welcoming. The streets were very wide and surprisingly clean too; something I did not expect for a city. I would run this race again but also register for the Nike San Francisco race. I can only imagine how awesome that experience would be as well since Nike Women’s Runs events are so well executed and fun to participate in. It didn’t even feel like I ran a half marathon; and those are the best kind of races. No injuries, no pain, no soreness; just having fun and enjoying the experience.

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My First Blog, My First Post and My Disappointing First Half Marathon

Bingham

I completed my first half marathon on October 20th, 2013 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon #STWM. What started off as a great run ended in a series of cramps and injuries that led to my first ever disappointing race. Although the last 3k of the race was a struggle for me and I rather not reflect on my poor performance; I would like to share my experience, my thoughts, my feedback and my love and gratitude for the running community.   

Three days before the race, I pulled my right hamstring. I think it happened during my last training run on Wednesday night. I’ve never pulled a hamstring before. I posted to Twitter and immediately had some Twitter Followers (I like to call them Friends), give me great advice and provide reassurance that I would be still be able to run on Sunday. ¬†¬†


The weather was a bit chilly the morning of the run, but it was expected for October and especially in Toronto. I thought it was the perfect running weather. There was no rain predicted and although it was cool; once you start running, you warm up quickly. I had packed some warm clothes and a jacket for after the race. I packed my Vega Recovery Accelerator mix. I filled my water belt with water and some Vega Electrolyte Hydrators. I had my Honey Stinger Waffle and Chews and a Powerbar Gel as well. I was ready to give it my all. This was the fuel I used during the 25k RBC Run for the Kids race that I ran a month earlier. It worked really well and I felt great after the race and even the next day. I decided to stick to what worked well for me in the 25k race and was hoping for the same results for the half. 


Before the hamstring injury, my goal was to complete the half marathon in 2 hrs and 15 mins. The competitive side of me actually wanted to complete it in 2 hrs or less. ūüôā After the injury, my goal changed to 2:15-2:30. I started off strong and running a pace of about 6:05/km. Once the initial traffic of runners dispersed a bit, I started running faster at a pace of 5:53/km. I passed the 10k mark in under 1 hr and figured I could run a negative split and accomplish my competitive goal before the hamstring injury. My right hamstring was starting to hurt a bit but I compensated it by running lighter on it and a bit more heavily on my left foot. My left knee then started hurting but I had such a runner’s high and was ecstatic I could finish in sub 2 hrs, that I ignored the pain.¬†


At the 18k mark was when I started feeling a cramping in my left calf. I had taken my gel and I also took the Gatorade at the water station. I started to drink all my Electrolytes hoping the cramping would go away. I had to slow down and could even feel my left toes starting to curl under. I knew I had to pull over to the side to stretch it out. I had never experienced that cramping before nor have I ever stopped running during a race! I ran the 25k RBC race and the 25k Spartan Beast Race and didn’t stop once during either of those races. It took so much effort and pushing aside my pride to stop because I really wanted to continue despite the cramping. I also knew that once I stopped, the pain would worsen. However, since I’ve never experienced it before, I didn’t want to experience something horrid at the finish line or worse, not even able to finish. I was so close; the thought of not finishing the race scared me. I’ve never DNF before. ¬†


I stopped a little after 18k and found a wall to stretch out my calf. Once I stopped, I began to wobble and could feel the pain immediately; my right calf was starting to hurt as well. I remember looking at my Garmin and saw the time of 1:50. I knew there was no way I could finish in sub 2 hrs now and tears started forming in my eyes when I saw the hundreds of runners pass me as I stood there stretching. This was not a sight I was used to seeing, being on the sidelines watching others run pass me; I felt defeated. My ego was bruised. I felt like I let myself down, I let my Charity down and worst of all, I let my family, friends and colleagues who have sponsored me, down as well. This was not my proudest moment. 

After about 5 minutes of stretching, I started to walk and decided to run lightly. I had this vision of me sprinting the last 3k to the finish and my time would be just over my goal of 2:05. In reality, my legs could barely run. I stopped about 3 other times to stretch. A little past the 19k mark, I walked past a lady that was limping; she looked like she was in so much pain. I asked her if she was okay, she said yes and that she might have pulled something. She stopped on the side and I kept walking. I then had to stop to stretch and I saw her approaching, she saw me and it was her turn to ask if I was okay. I told her my calves were cramping up. She continued on past me as I continued stretching against the fence. Close to the 20k mark, I caught up to her again and she was still limping. There were more spectators along the side now and they were shouting her name, (Joyce), to keep pushing. I was behind her and it felt great to have random strangers shouting out your name and telling you to keep going. I caught up to her, tapped her on the shoulder and told her we were almost there and to hang in there. I saw her struggling and told her I would walk the rest of the way with her. She told me to keep on walking. I remember looking at my watch and noticed it was past 2:10. This would not be one of my best races and I no longer had a goal time. It was no longer about my time. I wanted to motivate Joyce to the finish line. We lightly ran a bit until Joyce said she couldn’t and had to stop. I stopped with her and told her that she could finish and that I was going to cross the line with her. She asked me if this was my first half marathon and when I told her it was, she said I was doing really well and looked great. This wasn’t her first. We started walking and limping again and the cheers, support and motivation from the crowd was phenomenal. It definitely pushed us along to the finish line. As we neared the finish, Joyce had both her hands up and told me to put my hands up as well. I did and she held my hand. It was such an emotional moment. Here was this stranger and I holding hands as we crossed the finish line of what turned out to be my most difficult race ever. I could barely walk and stopped right after the finish, leaning forward to stretch my calves. Joyce turned to me and said “I just wanted to thank you so much. You are so strong and definitely pushed and motivated me to the finish. I couldn’t have done it without you.” This brought tears to my eyes. I thanked her and told her she did really well. Joyce told me to keep walking to get our medals. I had totally forgotten about that finisher’s medal at the end and I also forgot to stop my watch to track my time. This was the point that I realized, it was no longer about my race, but Joyce’s race. I was so happy to have been a part of her accomplishment and special day. I did stop my watch and saw a time of over 2:18. The tears started flowing again. Not because of the pain I was in but because I was still a bit disappointed with myself. Disappointed that I could have ran a better race and beaten my goal of sub 2 hrs for my first half marathon. It was a bittersweet moment; disappointed in my race but glad to have motivated Joyce on hers. ¬†¬†

When we got to the volunteers with the medals, Joyce was in front of me. She stepped aside and told the volunteer to put the medal on me first – that I deserved it more. I was so touched by this. The volunteer saw my tears and asked if I was in pain, I said I was just happy to have finished. Joyce thanked me again and we parted ways after we received our medals; she had to go look for her husband. I took a few cups of Gatorade and stood by the fence to stretch out my calves and drink my water. A former colleague of mine, who also ran the half marathon, saw me and approached me. She asked how I did and then asked if I need a paramedic; I guess you could tell I was in a lot of pain. She had to look for her friend who also ran and told me not to move, that she would be back to check on me.
As I stood there stretching, a volunteer in a Medic bib approached me and asked if I was okay. She gave me water and told me to keep stretching. Then another volunteer Medic saw me and he gave me two bananas. He said he was going to call for someone. At this point, my calves really started cramping up more. Two more Medics came and they said they were going to lay me down on the ground while they stretched me out. One was holding my head up while the other stretched out my calves. I started shivering and my quads and hamstrings started seizing up as well. The Medic girl said I was too cold and I needed to go to the Medic tent to warm up because I was seizing up all over. Some volunteers brought a wheelchair and they lifted me on it while the girl wrapped the heat sheet around my legs.
I spent 45 mins in the Medic tent as a nice gentleman worked on my legs, trying to massage out all the tight spots. I was in so much pain because once my calves were better, my hamstrings would tighten up, then my quads and then my calves would tighten up again; it was an endless circle of cramps. My Medic personnel did an amazing job and was able to put up with my screaming and squirming. He massaged all my cramped parts until I felt better and had no more cramps. Thankfully I ran with my phone and had my phone on me to call my friend who was also running the half marathon. Before the race started, we agreed on a meet-up spot at the Friends and Family Zone once we were finished. He was waiting for me and when I called to tell him I was in the Medic tent, he went to get my bag from bag check to bring it to me. He arrived just as my cramps finally started to all go away and I was lying there covered in blankets. My Medic personnel stayed with me until my friend arrived and to make sure I was okay to get up and walk. Once I had my bag, I immediately put on my extra pants, sweater and jacket. It was a good thing I brought warm clothes to put over, I definitely needed them. I thanked my Medic Savior and we left the tent to walk to the finish area and took our professional post race photos. I normally take a few post race photos; but for some reason I didn’t bother to take any that day. I was sore, exhausted and hungry. Perhaps I also did not want many photos and memories from a race that I felt was my worst race ever. ¬†¬†

You should also know that I had signed up to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in 2012 as well. Two weeks before the race, I fractured my right ankle and had to miss out on it. I showed up to cheer on my friends and watched them finish. Being a part of the crowd was an amazing experience and I knew I wanted to sign up for it again; not just for redemption but also for being a part of a dynamic event filled with so much love and support from people you don’t even know or will ever know. It brought communities together and runners from all over the world.

This motivated me even more to sign up to run the half marathon in 2013. I was able to see how organized the race was from start to finish, from¬†a runners perspective. The race expo was excellent. There were guest speakers and Elite Athletes, plenty of vendors to shop and sample from and there was barely a wait to pick up your race kit. Our race kit included your typical bib number and chip timing, a technical race souvenir shirt, some goodies to sample and other race promotional material, all packaged into a convenient reusable drawstring bag. I love the bag because it was functional to wear instead of holding a plastic bag, which allowed¬†both hands to freely¬†browse and try on merchandise. ūüôā¬†The course¬†was a fairly flat and scenic route equipped with adequate water stations, bands along the way and spectators cheering everywhere, I don’t think there was any point in the race where there were no spectators or that I felt alone. There were spectators with signs and some even dressed in costumes to cheer us on. The route ran through some of Toronto’s diverse and multicultural neighborhoods and along the Lakeshore, which made for some lovely views and photo ops. The volunteers were awesome and provided water, gels and words of encouragement and cheers. I was also impressed at how organized the finish line was. There were spectators lined on both sides of the road towards the last 500 metres of the race. I am so grateful for them. They shouted our names and screamed words of encouragement to myself and Joyce as we wobbled slowly on the¬†left side towards the finish line. Words such as “Keep going Linda, you can do it!” “You’re almost there, give¬†it all you’ve got” “Finish strong” “Congratulations,¬†we’re proud of you and we don’t even know you” Those words will¬†forever be etched in my heart and I would like to thank these spectators, whoever they are. You helped me stay standing and crossed that¬†finish line.

This is one of my favourite races and CRS always does an amazing job making sure logistics are met and that every runner has a safe and fun run. The Medic tent was right at the finish and there were tons of Medics and volunteers on hand to watch out for people like myself. I spent most of my time after the race in the tent so I didn’t get to eat any of the post race food, other than my banana from previous and did score a yogurt on the way back to the car. CRS never fails to deliver, going¬†above and beyond expectations. I have only the deepest gratitude to the race organizers and the Medic staff¬†who were on hand to¬†assist me (and every¬†injured runner) immediately after the race. Thank you! ¬† ¬† ¬†

Race Recap

Pros: 

  • Excellent race expo and race kit.
  • Beautiful scenic¬†flat route.
  • Amazing volunteers and bands along the course.
  • Lots of spectators out for support.
  • Adequate water and gel stations.
  • Medics readily available after the race.
  • Adequate post race food.¬†

Cons: None that I can think of 

Would I run it again: Definitely! In fact, I plan to come back and run my first FULL marathon at STWM! ūüôā

My Charity: Right To Play Canada

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