The Saskatchewan Marathon

After my fantastic pre-race experience I was really psyched for Sunday’s race! My training for this half (my fourth) had been going very well and I was confident I could run faster than my 1:58:24 PB, set in Vancouver last summer.

After being told no less than three times at the Expo to plan to arrive by 6:30, I planned for just that. There are only two main entrances to Prairieland Park, and the two other back entrances were closed for the marathon. That meant that several thousand vehicles would be accessing the start/finish area through just two gates. It’s only logical to plan to arrive early! (Apparently several hundred runners missed the gun and had a very late start because they were stuck in traffic. They still had an accurate chip time, but of course placing is done by gun time, so the results were a bit off in that regard.)

I do like to get to a race about an hour before the gun anyway, so my friend Morgan and I met at 6:30. Almost immediately I saw two women from my Zumba class, the instructor’s mother and sister. They are both really friendly, fantastic people, so it was a boost to see them there. Faye was walking her second half marathon, and Audra was walking her first.

The start/finish had moved to the other end of the city this year from the previous two years when I had run it. It was farther from my parents’ place, but had great parking and all the support tents were spread out around an actual park as opposed to a parking lot. This made it very scenic, but also meant there were tons of MOSQUITOES! Bug spray was the one thing I forgot. 😦

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After getting the lay of the land, I got out my stretching strap and did my Active Isolated Stretching while Morgan changed into her shorts in the bushes (haha, sorry Morgan, that was too funny to leave out!). By now the staging area was filling up and the lines for the bathrooms were getting longer. We checked our bags and met up with our friend Glenda and her friend Blair at the gear check tent, then went to find our seeding spot at the start line.

The Saskatchewan Marathon is small enough that it doesn’t have official corrals, but rather volunteers with big signs showing a time. You stand in the appropriate area and seed yourself using your own judgement. This was when I saw my sister-in-law’s friend Chelsea, who was running her first half marathon. Chelsea finished right behind me in the Saskatoon Police Run 10K, and had a big time goal of 1:56 for this race. My goal was 1:57, so we were able to chat a bit at the start. I also saw Cathy (a physiotherapist I used to work with) and Iso (my physiotherapist from The Knee Injury Of 2011) at the start line. They had gotten up bright and early to volunteer – thanks ladies!

I love the start of this race. The national anthem is always played, which never fails to make me teary (I am so my mother’s daughter!). This year they also played Sweet Caroline and asked everyone to sing along as a tribute to the Boston Marathon attacks. I loved that idea, it really made me realize once again that the running community is a tight bunch. Running is an individual thing, technically, but everyone is really there for each other. Even though a lot of us didn’t know most of the words we could all join in for “Sweet Caroline, Ba, Ba, Ba,” ha ha!

With that, the gun went and we were off. I hadn’t run the new race route before, but had a general idea of where we would go. The first 8 km or so wove around through residential areas, and a lot of people had gotten up early to cheer on the runners as we passed their houses. My cousin/best friend/maid of honor lives a block off the race route and I had given her an estimated time of when I would pass by. I assured her there was no obligation to get up so early on a Sunday, but there she was. Grinning ear to ear holding a sign that said “I’m so proud of you!” Again, my Mom’s genetics kicked in and I started bawling. I managed to wave and smile through my tears and kept going. What a boost it is to see someone you know on the sidelines!

Soon after this the course met up with the picturesque Saskatoon river bank and we continued north through the city. Northbound we were to run on the road and southbound on the way back we were to stay on the paved Meewasin trail. The trail follows fairly close to the road, so we got to see the leaders on their way back to the start/finish. I love seeing those fast runners, and I always try to applaud as many as I can. The leading female smiled appreciatively when I did, she looked like she was having so much fun! Oh, to run that fast and enjoy every step of it.

Throughout this race I kept looking at my watch and scolding myself for going too fast. I was often down around 10K pace, and several times even at 5K pace when I checked. I decided early on to use my watch as information only, and to run my race based completely on feel. Obviously I knew my 5K pace wasn’t sustainable for a half, but I quit beating myself up for going too fast. By the halfway point I was looking only at mileage and not at pace at all anymore.

As we neared the north turn-around I started to look for my kids. I knew they were with my parents (my husband was busy putting his crop in the ground and working 18 hour days, seven days a week), but wasn’t sure if they would be able to get everyone organized and out the door in time to see me pass by. I needn’t have worried, there they were. They were the loudest fans on the entire course and had placed themselves about 100m from the turn around water station. Waving pom poms and scarves (I could imagine the careful deliberation that surely had gone on at Mom’s about what to bring to wave since they hadn’t made a sign this year) and yelling “GO MOMMY GO!” over and over, they were the highlight of the entire race for me. After I passed through the water station and turned around I found they had run across to the trail to see me again. More enthusiastic cheering and yelling and scarf waving ensued. The guy in front of me was appreciative too, and said “that’s pretty good motivation!” 🙂

We headed back and I ran with a guy for a while who apologized for his inconsistent pace. I assured him I was no better at pacing and was able to stay with him for a few kilometers. My fast early pace started to affect me at this point and he pulled away after a while. I snuck a peek at my pace and found I was now on the slower end of my goal pace. My average was still faster than the fast end of my goal pace, so I was still confident I would achieve my 1:57 goal.

As we neared my cousin’s corner again I thought there was no way I’d see her again – but I did! She was back, with another sign! This one said “Sky above, earth below, fire within.” I was thinking “wow, that’s great, I need to remember that,” when she yelled “I stole this from your Pinterest!” Ha ha, I guess I’ve thought that before!

I was feeling great until about 18 km. I’ve said so many times “the last 3 km of any run, any distance, are the hardest,” and that proved true for me once again. The origin tendon of my Rectus Femoris (one of the middle quadriceps) suddenly seized up in both legs. I suddenly realized that although I had stretched my quads before the start, I had forgoteen the oh-so-critical hip flexors (psoas and iliacus). Wow. Pain. I walked for about 100m which did help ease the spasm some, but then another favorite running quote came to mind: “Run the first third with your legs, the second third with your head and the last third with your heart.” In other words, suck it up and get going. 🙂

So I did. I finished strong in a big personal best of 1:56:26. My goal pace was 5:30-5:35/km, and my watch said 5:29 average. I had been laughing about how my PB’s always end in :24, so those extra two seconds ticked me off! This was still very nearly two minutes off my previous best race, so I was pretty thrilled. I got my medal (same as last year but with a different ribbon) and took a plastic sheet off the fence. I looked up and there was my Dad! I hadn’t expected anyone to be at the finish line so it was great to see him.

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Bling!

Bling!

I went to pick up my bag and got some food then was getting out my phone to text Glenda. She had been battling a back injury that was irritated by running and was expecting to have to walk a significant portion of the race. When I had seen her on my way back she was keeping a good pace but was feeling so-so. We had agreed before the start that I would text her when I finished to see where she was and walk back to finish with her if she was having trouble. Now I was the one having trouble – walking was becoming agony as my quad tendon spasmed more and more. I was just starting to text Glenda when I saw her finish. I was so relieved – both for her and myself! She had finished strong and overcome a big hurdle. Morgan had missed a few big training runs leading up to this race and was feeling a little undertrained. She still finished in a very respectable time for her first half marathon and is already planning her second – and third! Chelsea finished eight minutes off her goal, but once again a very good time for a first half marathon!

Glenda and I at the finish

Glenda and I at the finish

Morgan and I

Morgan and I

Dylan Wykes, our Olympian speaker from the previous night, had run the half marathon as well. When I saw him on the double back, he was running with an accomplished local runner and the two were having quite a good conversation. The results show their times as the very same, but with Dylan finishing second. I’ll say it again, what a class act that guy is. He could have so easily kicked it up to his normal race pace and taken the win, but chose instead to pull back a half a stride so a local runner could win his hometown race. There is decent prize money at the Saskatchewan Marathon, so it did cost him some dollars to do that, but he still did. Once again, that just shows what amazing people runners are, and how the running community is so supportive of each other.

Audra’s facebook status that day was “Just finished my first half marathon. I may have finished last, but I’m ahead of everyone on the couch.” I love that, it’s so true. Congrats Audra on your first half!

All in all it was a great day for all of us. This is my favorite race of the year, and my only regret is that it’s over so early in the race season. I have several other races coming up in 2013, and already have the Saskatchewan (half) Marathon on my calendar for next year.

Next up: The Beads of Courage Colour Run with my kids on June 2!

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