Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Race Report: BMO Okanagan Marathon 2011

This one is going to be loooong.

It's taken me a couple of days to process and wrap my head around the experience that was my marathon.  I don't need to call it my first or my last marathon any more.  It simply is.  My. Marathon.

We drove out to Kelowna on the Friday night, arriving at around 11.  That meant that the first stop Saturday morning was going to be the Expo.   It became so real when I picked up my bib and confirmed my chip.   It was really happening.

 The shirts were the same mesh ones as Edmonton.  Meh.

The expo wasn't terribly busy and had very few vendors.  I must say that the Bondi Band lady in Alberta is WAAAAAY more accommodating.  The young girls running the booth at this expo were idiots. I had one band I wanted.   The Marathon Mom band.  I asked if they had it and they said no.  Then, I saw them replenish the bands and I looked again and found one…in pink.  Not my colour, as we all know.   So I held it up and asked if they had a different colour and they said…guess…yep - you got it.  NO. "That's all we have" I was told (of course, I was told 5 mins earlier they didn't have it at all).  So - they lost a sale.   CEP was happy to take my money for some recovery socks. :)

The rest of the expo was kind of blah.  There was no merchandise for the race itself so I was bummed about that.  I'd hoped to snag a hoodie or a 3/4 zip.  Instead, we wandered over to Lululemon and I got something there (an early b-day gift from my MIL).

Before we left City Park - I got a totally dorky pic with the start line:

We tried to keep the walking to a minimum on Saturday so my legs would be fine for Sunday, and I think we succeeded.  On the advice of the CEP lady, I wore my new socks for the rest of the evening and headed to bed nice and early.  I even managed to sleep.

When I left the condo at just after 6am on Sunday, my nerves had dissipated.  I was doing this thing.  I walked past the lit white sculptures on the way to City Park and watched the road crews set up the first kilometre of the race.   I was actually really calm.   Sure - nervous was there too, but I wasn't freaking out anymore.

Walking through the gates to the park, I was greeted by a sign welcoming me to the marathon.  My Marathon.

The park was quiet.  So quiet for being less than an hour to gun time.   I sent BBMs and text messages to my runner friends and they sent words of support and encouragement.   I took a picture of the start line and captioned it "The start line to that ridiculous idea I had this spring" and sent that too.

My in person support crew had dwindled.  My friend from Seattle had an emergency and couldn't make it at the last minute and the overcast skies and the light rain was threatening to keep most of those I brought with me indoors.  It was good to know I had a support crew who would be with me for this race and could be accessed from my pocket.

The crowds didn't start to really gather until 20 minutes to gun time.  I lined myself up in between the signs that said 5:00 and 5:30 - figuring that was where I would come in.   As I was standing there, a girl came up to me and said "Are you Cori from Calgary?"   I smiled and said "you bet"  Turned out it was Amy - a runner I'd met on Daily Mile.   Then, I looked up and saw one of my favourite Running Room employees from Calgary line up in the same area.   I knew I would be running this alone, but it was good to see familiar faces.
 10 mins later:
 Me and Amy:

They played the national anthem and then it was gun time.   I'd lost satellite signal on my Garmin, but it luckily picked up again by the time I crossed the start line and pressed Start.   The race was on and I was off.

As I came out of the chute, hubby was waiting at the end to take my picture and cheer me on as I headed out on this journey.

love the old school sweats on the lady beside me

Just after the first kilometre, the race course took me right past the condo we were renting.   then the course veered off into an industrial area.  Not very scenic.  It passed by a little march area and there was a rustle in the rushes…and the distinctive red and yellow flashes under black wings.  Red-winged blackbirds.  Fitting that they should attend the race since they tortured me so during training.  Luckily, they weren't swooping runners.  I think that might have made me quit right then and there. 

It was raining - light but steady and I looked up and saw a rainbow.  I thought it was a good sign.

I was running strong…around a 6:30/k pace.   I was holding steady with the 4:45 pace group.   We came out of the industrial area and headed back to the waterfront.   At close to 8K, we were on the boardwalk and hubby was there with his ginormous camera.   I flashed a big smile and kept going.

The crowds along the waterfront were AMAZING!   So much cheering and support.  I barely noticed when I passed the finish line that time.   The crowd was carrying me with their voices.

By this point, the half marathoners had caught up to us and the crowd was thick.   Seeing the number of half bibs that were surrounding me, I started to get the sense of how isolated I would be once they parted ways and I carried on to the second loop. I had done the first half in about my average half marathon time.

As I hit the 20K mark, I texted hubby to let him know how long it would be before I passed the condo again - figuring that with the light, intermittent rain - it was my best bet to see my daughters during the run.   Then, a course marshall steered me toward the waterfront again…I WASN'T GOING TO PASS THE CONDO.  The race course deviated for the second loop and I completely didn't expect that.  I hurriedly texted hubby to tell him I was on the other side, but it wasn't fast enough.  I missed my family.  Worst of all - I NEEDED the Nuun and Fig Newtons that they had for me.   I was running dangerously low.   As I left the waterfront to do the northern loop for a second time - I was starting to feel down.   I turned up my iPod to drown out my depression and carried on…and then I realized that someone was running up the sidewalk.

My peripheral vision on my right side is mostly gone (a result of a car accident at 17) so I didn't see him until he was in front of me…hubby had raced from where they were to find me and bring me my fuel.   Giving me a quick hug of encouragement, he helped me swap out my bottles and then sent me on my way.   That northern loop was pretty isolated by that point.  I could only see one lady ahead of me and the course marshals were starting to lose interest.  I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I'd be back at the waterfront soon.

As I neared 30K, I hoped my family would be waiting where Hubby had been for that photo op.  When I came around the corner and no one was there - it was close to being too much for me to handle.   I was so devastated.  I was alone and I felt it.   I started to cry.     I texted Hubby to see where they were waiting and found out that they were on the wrong side of the park.  I missed them.  All I could do was carry on.

me at 30K exactly - on the waterfront

The thing is that they didn't realize I was gone.   It took until close to 32K for the to realize that I was going on to the last 10K alone.   I could feel the anguish in the text messages I got in response.
That southern loop was so long…empty roads with endless rows of orange pylons.  This was when my toenail made an appearance.

In the later days of my training, I had been plagued by foot pain.  Sharp pains in my left heel that hobbled me for days after a run.  I also had this throbbing shin pain that came and went.  I was dreading the actual marathon, despite my taking extra rest time to heal during taper.  In a fit of inspiration, I made the decision to tighten the hell out of my shoes and see if it made a difference.  It did…I had no nagging pains at all.  My heels and shins felt awesome.  But my toenails, despite carefully cutting them in the days before the race, were going to be my bug bear this race.   I felt like I had an ingrown toenail on each foot.   If you've ever had one, you know it's not pleasant.

And so, with 10K to go - the walking began.  I had run the first half VERY strong.  Walking for a minute every 2 kilometres - like I'd planned.  After that - the walk breaks were a bit closer together, but I was still running.   When I entered the residential area in that last 10K, I was reduced to walking.  I tried to pick up the pace and was walking at around a 9 minute kilometre.   Not bad, I thought, since my running pace was hovering around 8:30/K at that point.

For endless stretches of orange pylons, I kept going.  Perhaps the most alarming thing, I realized after, was that none of my mental weariness had found me on the race course.  Even as I power walked to keep the pain at bay - never did the thought of quitting enter my mind.  I JUST WANTED IT OVER WITH.  and the only way that could happen was if I crossed the finish line.

Whenever I could, I ran for a block here and there - always being halted by the toe pain.   It was just as I entered the last kilometre that I saw hubby at the end of the block with his camera.

He had been upset that he missed me so he ran out to run me in the last little bit.   Snapping goofy shots of me as I went - he let me be silent inside my own head and just git 'er done. 

At last,we were out of residential and beach on the waterfront.   I could see the finish chute and my mother in law and the twinners waiting for me and cheering me so hard.  

I turned into the chute and could almost hear "Chariots of Fire" in my head as I ran in seeming slow motion.  A thumbs up for the official photog…and then I went crazy for hubby's camera - arms in the air and a triumphant smile on my face.

I did it.  I finished.  I became a marathoner.

My official time was 5:44:05.

It was a solemn moment when I approached the volunteer for my medal.  He smiled and told me it was over now.  I finished.   He placed the medal over my head and handed me a bottle of water.

And then I went through to celebrate. and to get my Starbucks.  Man, did I ever need to quit coffee before the marathon because the caffeine headache was not fun to run with…

and some Garmin geekery for you all:

Official photos will be in the next post. Blogger has already booted me once for trying to upload too many so I'd better not push my luck...


  1. Congratulations on becoming a marathoner!! I didn't realize how lonely it would be out there (. Get job at pushing through it!!

  2. I LOVED reading this-we had such similar experiences from the expo right through to the finish line. I wish i had known how close we were i would have had the motivation to hurry up to have some company for those last 10km. Congratulations again :)

  3. Congrats! I loooooove the garmin geekery part! lol I'm all about reading the breakdown.

  4. I am seriously considering doing this in October to chase after that 4:30 goal I barely missed in Vancouver last weekend. By the looks of the photos you put up the course is pretty lonely though! Would you recommend this race??

  5. I JUST registered for the marathon! This will be my 4th, however I did the other three all in Ontario. Would you consider this course flat? Fast?

  6. I JUST registered for the marathon tonight! This will be my 4th marathon. The other three were all run in Ontario. This will be my first out West! Would you consder this course to be flat? Fast? Any insight would be awesome!

    1. Definitely flat. They say it's fast...but I wasn't :P The only tip I'd have is to bring a friend or arrange for people to run parts of the second loop with you. It is a pretty small field and gets quiet on that second loop unless you are a 3hr marathoner.


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