the Calgary Marathon 2017

The Calgary Marathon, eh. I’m going to be honest in this review, and I’ll start off by saying it wasn’t the best race experience I’ve had, but overall my weekend was very fun!

First off, how did I come to register for this race? Well, I wanted to run a spring marathon, already ran BMO Vancouver in 2016, it’s in Canada, and there was a big theme around Canada’s 150th birthday, which sounded fun. I looked at the course map and profile and it looked alright, so I went ahead and registered…more on that to come. LOL. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t seek out marathons to run simply based on the course profile. However, I am still new to the 42.2 km distance. I’m working on getting familiar with the beast that is the marathon, and trying to improve at it. So yeah, I don’t look for difficult courses at this point in my marathoning!

After I registered, my friend Jeph told me about a flag bearer contest that the Calgary Marathon was holding. Represent your province or territory plus receive complimentary travel, accommodation and registration! We both entered, but since Jeph lived in Quebec at the time, he didn’t actually plan to run Calgary unless he won the contest, understandably. Pretty far! I wanted him to win soooo badly! They were vague about what they were looking for, and how and when they’d select winners, and then after Tweeting at them repeatedly, they stated that the winners would be announced at the end of November. But then it was next week, then in a few days, etc. Then after saying that, they put out a last call for applicants! They finally revealed the winners in mid-January, if I remember right. The site for entering was terrible and you could see who else had entered and it was barely anyone, so our hopes were high! I kind of got a bad taste in my mouth cause it seemed like Calgary was out to lunch on their organization. Lol. Neither of us won, if you were wondering hahaha.

The other thing before race weekend that had me a little skeptical was when I emailed to have my predicted finish time updated slightly, (I was registered over 6 months in advance) and the reply informed me that the start chute is self-seeding so I’d be lining up wherever I wanted. Um, then why did they need a predicted finish time? The half marathoners, full marathoners AND the 50k ultra runners all start at the same time in this race. No corrals? Hmm…it’s not a huge race by any means, but it’s not tiny! I think this year they said there were twelve thousand participants over the course of the weekend.

Anyways, my travel to Calgary was painless (thank you, West Jet!) and I arrived at the host hotel, the Westin, to find it was FANTASTIC. Great hotel, a Starbucks and The Keg attached, plus another hotel restaurant and bar area, super clean and even kinda fancy. Most importantly, they had a race shuttle that got us right to the start area with no waits or stress.

The Westin is in a great location and my 3 mile run on Saturday morning was around the  Prince’s Island Park area and so beautiful!

Later in the afternoon I took a nice slow walk to the expo at the Big 4 Building at Stampede Park, but it was  further than I thought and I’d definitely Uber next time. As for the expo, it was pretty basic but very quick and easy to get bibs and shirts.

I am not a fan of the race shirt, as many other people I talked to weren’t. There is gorgeous artwork on it, it just looks dumb on a shirt!

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Also, the shirts are identical for all six different events (5k, 10k, half, full, 50k ultra and 150k relay/solo) with the only difference being the distance on the back. It’s too bad, because it’s fun when you’re super proud of the distance you tackled and get to wear your race top with your chest puffed out haha. A complaint I have about the expo was there was nowhere at all within or nearby (that I could find) to get anything to eat or drink! Obviously I brought a bottle of Nuun with me but when I ran out I couldn’t believe there was no water. Didn’t even see a drinking fountain to refill my bottle, though I’m a bit blind. Being hungry/thirsty isn’t something I’m into ever, especially not the day before a marathon. I know a race expo isn’t a food fair, but they can be fun to hang out at for a while and people spend a fair amount of time at them in some cases!

Crystal joined me at the Big Four to grab her package, and then we met the #werunsocial crew out front at the fountain for a visit and some pics.

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small crew, but good times.

 

From there we easily took the C-Train back to the downtown core and walked the two or three blocks back to the Westin.

Come race morning, Crystal and I arrived at the start around six via our hotel’s school bus shuttle, very easily checked our gear bags, and had no long waits for toilets inside the building or for porto-potties either. At this point, the porto-potties were still super clean and non-stinky. Bonus.

It wasn’t actually that bad getting into the start chute where I wanted to be, but I was in there by 6:45 and wouldn’t have wanted to try to squeeze in closer to the 7 am start. There was a massive line of runners shuffling in through one of the chute gate openings around the 3:45 marathon indicator flag a ways up in front of me, and they all just slowly merged in as the race began. I don’t actually know how anyone but the full marathoners were supposed to know where to go, unless they could find a pace bunny for their distance. I only saw big red flags for certain marathon times. Not much order, but I didn’t encounter any problems with it at all. Like YogiCrystal told me, just get there early and get into the chute where you want to be before it becomes a sardine can. This would have been a big problem if I’d needed one more bathroom visit before starting…

This race course has so many turns, but I managed to run the tangents much better than at Disney! I thought it was a nice course, pretty decent scenery-wise and less residential than Victoria, if I’m remembering correctly. There were lots of excellent aid stations with water, Ultima, some with Honey Stinger gels (not my jam, but still awesome) and cold sponges! The course description said thirteen aid stations I believe but I felt like there were more. Maybe both sides of the out-and-back portion counted as one. It was very well-aided! Okay. But now let me show you this. HAHAHAH

If I had know the course was this difficult, I think I would have have still registered, but I most definitely would not have come with a huge goal! I have to say I think it’s lame that Calgary uses this depiction of their marathon’s profile. Extremely misleading! Here’s another version of it on findmymarathon.com that I came across as well.

Combining this course with late-May hot weather (at least for me, coming from the mild north coast of BC) and my race plan was out the window. I’m very proud that I accepted this without becoming completely heartbroken or miserable. The fun of the Canada 150 theme, the spectator support (especially Lululemon YYC!) and my newfound love for the city of Calgary, and I managed to let go of the fact that this was nothing at all what I was expecting. I’m so happy I was able to finish the race with a good attitude, aside from a few hiccups. It was a serious struggle in the sun and knowing that a PR was out of reach, but I didn’t go to the dark place. Even though I fueled like a boss with Huma Gel, Clif Shots and Salt Stick Chews, my stomach still felt like it was eating itself and my legs felt like complete jello, but I made it.

Crystal had caught up to me by kilometer 39 and we took on the end of the run together. As we were running down the final hundred meters to the finish, I grabbed her hand and we finished together and it reminded me that running a marathon is running a marathon. It’s hard AF and a huge accomplishment to cross the finish line! Love my training buddies!

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I’ll buy the pics, they just aren’t all up yet on Marathonfoto!

The post-finish line area was great! There were some outside showers to wash off the salt all over us, lots of photographers to take our pics with the SWEET gigantic toonie-like medals that are also BELT BUCKLES hahaha, and there were lots of bananas, water and Ultima. I honestly don’t remember if I was given any other snacks because of post-marathon brain, but I know there was a tear-off strip on the bibs that could get you food somewhere after exiting the immediate finish area. It was also really nice that everyone got a cloth shopping bag from one of the sponsors, made it easier than trying to carry water, banana, possibly headphones for some people or a handheld water bottle like myself.

I have a bad habit of going home the day of the marathon. I like to go home! So I went back to the Westin to clean myself up and eventually make my way to the airport in an Uber. Sigh. I am never doing that again. Next time I’m planning a longer trip around the race. Thankfully both flights were just over an hour and I did a lot of stretching (and eating and drinking) at the airports.

During this marathon I discovered that I’ve become a much more mature athlete. Am I really sad that I didn’t run the sub-4 marathon that I’ve been training towards for months, or even come remotely close? Of course I am. But like I’ve said before, I’m a person not a robot, and on Sunday I was too hot, feeling weak and delirious and was getting my ass kicked too badly by the incline to execute my plan. I also was running a course nothing like what I expected! So I’m good! I have a 14.2 km race to run next weekend in leg 10 of the Skeena River Relay, and then it’s time to rest! Next marathon is in December and will be my only main focus of the fall, and I know Coach Andrew will help me be really ready for it.

Overall, I am glad that I went to the 2017 Calgary Marathon Weekend. I enjoyed the city, the event theme and the spectator support, and the host hotel was great. Personally, I think they should update the scale of their race course profile, and re-think the organization of the starting chute, and I think they should consider making the race shirts unique to the various distances.  I had a great weekend, but not outstanding enough to return since it was a ways for me to go. If I lived in Alberta and it was closer to me, I would likely participate again, but not with any goal aside from possibly a course-PR.

@jammiekomadina

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Day 5: WDW Marathon!!

When you hear “Florida” what do you think of? I think of heat, humidity, palm trees, Miami by Will Smith and Dexter. 

After the lightning and rain storm yesterday, cold weather came in fast and I’m still in shock! It was close to zero degrees Celsius and the wind chill was crazy. I knew it had seriously cooled off so I added a thermal layer on top of my throwaway shirt and brought a garbage bag for a wind breaker but I was not even close to adequately prepared (and neither were 75% of the other eighteen thousand runners.) Who knew freezing in Florida was a thing.

Serious Tip: ANYTHING can happen on race day. I thought I understood this but was proven wrong. For real, to have been comfortable this morning from exiting my Uber (3:45 am) to actually starting the race from corral H (6 am), I would have needed an additional throwaway toque, gloves, jacket or thick blanket and sweats or jammie pants. It was FREEZING. It was colder than the Historic Half in Vancouver on November 28th! Mind: blown. On a positive note, the gear-bag check was super fast and easy, which was my first task after arriving to Epcot for the fourth and final race. Huge compliments to runDisney on the organization. I don’t think it was necessary for me to go quite as early as they suggest, but personally the idea of being late is too stressful for me.

To avoid freezing, after a quick pic with Dopey himself I joined in at the pump-up stage where the DJ was directing a massive Macarena HAHAHA! I also hid in a couple Porto Potties for a few minutes here and there to escape the wind. Then I joined the crowds huddled by some patio heat lamps that weren’t even on (LOL) and met a dude from Edmonton who’s teeth were chattering as much as mine. It was honestly brutal.

It was a long wait til corral walk-out and when it was time to head out I was grateful to be moving and jogged pretty much on the spot, shuffling along with the massive crowd for the 15 minutes it took to get there. Thankfully the race started efficiently (sent of by Mickey with fireworks for each corral!) at 5:30 and I was across the start mat by 6.

I didn’t ditch my outer layer for at least the first 6km which is unheard of for me as I am a notorious over-heater. A headwind that felt below zero wasn’t helping anyone warm up and unfortunately this headwind was a factor in other parts of the race, not just the beginning. I did eventually warm up of course, tossing my second layer as we entered Magic Kingdom. Your bib number needs to be showing to get race pics and I was warm by this time but still thankful I wore my arm warmers. At around 8km when I saw this I cried (not my pic, but this is what the castle looks like at this time of year.)

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The castle was so pretty I really did actually cry. It’s hard to explain the emotions in your body during a huge run like this but it’s REALLY overwhelming. For example, in the corral there was a woman running her very first marathon and when our starting fireworks went off she started happy-crying and hugging me and we had met 30 seconds prior. Or during my first marathon, BMO Vancouver, I started crying in the first 500 meters running down Cambie Street just realizing that I trained for this and was going to accomplish something huge.

The sun was just barely up and Magic Kingdom was lit up with frosty lights from the holiday season and the most beautiful thing of the entire weekend FOR SURE. This was the first place with massive spectator crowds and it was so overwhelming. People who go out to marathons to cheer should be recognized because it is one of the most inspiring parts of running one!

At all different sections of the course there were characters, gospel choirs, varsity teams cheering and marching bands and cheerleaders, stilt performers, acrobats on trampolines and thousands of spectators. The course starts at Epcot, goes through Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, ESPN Sports Complex, Hollywood Studios and ends back at Epcot.

I am so impressed with the number and quality of aid stations. There were 19 in total I believe and all had Powerade and water, and some also had bananas, Clif shot gels and even candy!! I think I ate a total of 2 bananas and a package of M&Ms during my run which was extremely helpful. As well as my own gels and Honey Stinger Gummies, I tried the raspberry Clif Shot and it was like getting Lucky Charms as a kid when you have Shreddies parents. YUM. I’ll be buying a case of those.

There were also certain stations where the volunteers were handing out little popsicle sticks with blobs of Vaseline and for this I am extremely grateful because my inner arms were chafing like a b!+*# and it was getting hard to ignore. Again, anything can happen on race day. I don’t usually use Body Glide on my inner arms. Suprise.

Towards the last quarter of the race we ran through ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and through a stadium with a big screen showing all the runners and there were lots of people in the stands cheering and supporting. This was around the infamous 32km (20 mile) mark of any marathon. I was struggling at this point and the spectators are one of the biggest things that helped me keep going.

As was the case in the last full marathon I ran in October (Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon) the last 10km were very difficult for me. I took lots of 15-30 second walk breaks and told myself that running slow is faster than walking, and that I could break 4:10 if I pushed. Turns out if I had done a better job running the tangents I definitely could have made that goal. Dammit. At the finish line my Garmin clocked 42.76km, so I ran an extra half-kilometer due to the twisting of the course and the weaving around runners at a slower pace than mine. Regardless, I am overjoyed with a time of 4:11:27 and 103/1523 runners in the Women’s 30-34 division, and in the top 12% of all 17,729 runners! Wooooo!!!

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It does not get old haha, my throat closed up after crossing the finish line and I started to ugly-cry a bit while feeling pretty much the happiest and most proud feelings that exist. Volunteers presented us with the Mickey marathon medals right away and after the sports drinks and water section the Goofy and Dopey Challengers got to receive the 1/2 marathon medal from the cancelled race on Saturday (yahoo for every person who ran their own unofficial half!) and the Goofy and Dopey medals! Because I am a nerd I brought the 5km and 10km medals in my gear bag so I had all six with me!! Gear pickup was even easier than check-in and I think knowing this now I might have even checked a bag for the 10km race on Friday. Impressive.

A note about your gear bag, pack more than you think you might need. I was pretty good with my long-sleeve technical Dopey shirt, a thick new Gryffindor sweatshirt (LOL,) my favourite Oiselle toque and the space blankets they hand out, but the way the body cools down after running for that amount of time, I could have used a parka and snowboard pants considering the Florida temperature that I didn’t know existed.

I didn’t allow myself to get distracted and forget about recovery, and chugged a sports drink and a water and ate a protein bar and a banana. I stretched in the reunion area, and then again at home and warmed up thoroughly and put on a super warm outfit. All day long I made sure to hydrate and snack, and on the plane (omg. Do not fly home the day of the marathon. Why do I always do this??) I got up to stretch my legs as many times as possible without being an A-hole to the guy sitting in the aisle seat.

Over 24 hours after getting up on marathon morning I got to the the Fairmont YVR at 2am after a delayed flight from SEA-TAC to Vancouver and had the most glorious birthday sleep in a king bed. GLORIOUS.

To wrap it all up, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is INCREDIBLE! True, a lot of the running isn’t right in a magical park, but it isn’t possible to map out courses of that length all within the parks because they aren’t big enough!The courses are mostly flat with just a few small hills going up overpasses or over bridges in the parks. The energy of all the events is unexplainable and the expo, official race gear, organization, volunteers, aid stations, cast-members, medals and finish-line support is absolutely amazing and all very well organized. The time change was a bigger issue for me than expected. I slept a lot after each race and I didn’t do nearly as many activities as I thought I might while visiting the Orlando area, but I came here to do my favourite thing which is RUN and I got everything out of this trip that I wanted, and more. If you are planning a runDisney event in Orlando, let me know!

OH, and my friend Lindsay always wants to know what the post-race meal consists of, so let me tell you, the lobster eggs benny at SoCo in Orlando was possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten.