It’s been a few months since writing any sort of update. In fact, it’s been about that long since regularly posting on social media. I haven’t retired nor am I injured. I just needed another solid break over the summer to enjoy time with family, and completely rest and recover from another full school year that included coaching hockey and running three marathons: October 2018 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM), April 2019 Boston Marathon, and May 2019 Ottawa Marathon.
If there is one thing I have done well over the last few years, it has been to slow down to allow for a thorough recovery. Not just from one race or difficult workout, but from a season of them. With the increased amount of time and energy we invest in our screens and the busyness of life, we can easily waste opportunities to enjoy silence, absorb the downtime, be mentally and physically motionless, and just pause. Of course this is much easier now that our children are older (13, 11, 8 years old) and we have a simple cabin we retreat to for much of the summer. I look at the other marathon moms out there and wonder how I did it.
Once the school year was over we spent a week in Mexico with my husband’s family to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It was an incredible week with eighteen of us and I was quite happy to run, swim, sit, read, and rest with wonderful people, food and housekeeping services. It was very generous of my in-laws and I can only hope for the same with our family someday. Prior to the trip, I had prepared for and raced in the heat and humidity at the Ottawa Marathon, but still found it very intense in Mexico. Morning runs were easy and outside with afternoon runs indoors on the treadmill. Upon our return, we had a week at our cabin, which is around the time I resumed workouts. It was important that I ease back into training after my second chance in Ottawa.
Throughout the summer I continued to routinely complete runs in the heat chamber because there was a slight chance I might run at the World Championships in Doha, which would include temperatures in the high 30’s to low 40’s. The team wouldn’t be named until late August so I wanted to be prepared again. I believe World Champs in Doha and the Olympics in Tokyo will be very similar races — they will be about survival. Because I was lowest on the list of those with the standard, I chose Berlin as my other marathon possibility. Both would be the last weekend of September and an early fall marathon was better for me because of my commitment to coaching my daughter’s rep hockey team. I found that I was pretty tired out last year after training in the morning and leading practices in the evenings. World Champs in Doha and Berlin were great marathon possibilities and if given the choice, I wasn’t sure which I would choose. Eventually, I knew my chances of World Champs remained slim. I’m thrilled that we have so many fast Canadian women in the marathon. And because I didn’t want to leave the logistics of Berlin so close to the race date, I decided on Germany over Qatar. I continued to run in the heat chamber for the other physiological benefits it would provide, but decreased the frequency as Berlin would be more about speed and not about hills or heat. For years I’ve know that if I ever did that race, speed would be my focus. Earlier this year when I was logging higher kilometres, including my first 200 km week in six days, I noticed an occasional slight shuffle. That was something I’d have to focus on, which I have in this build. I believe that more time on the track, and telling myself, “High knees, low arms, smile,” at the end of long runs has been beneficial.
At the end of July I tested my fitness at the Beaches Jazz 10 km in Toronto. I really enjoy the Beaches events with race director Dave Emilio. The date fit well with my calendar and I wouldn’t have far to travel. My goal was to run somewhere around 35 minutes, so I was quite pleased with 35:02. I continued with my training, which included a lot of rest with our relaxed summer schedule. And while at our cabin I found a good spot for workouts on a paved road with some slightly rolling hills.
Closer to the end of August I travelled to race the Edmonton Half Marathon. This was my third time travelling for this race and I was hoping for a much better outcome. In 2015, I did not start due to a stress fracture in my foot and in 2018 it was a grinder as I worked toward building fitness. Similar to my Ottawa Marathon experience earlier this spring, I was sandwiched between Dayna and Rachel during the race. One to chase. One chasing. We finished in the same order as Canadians with Dayna first, me second and Rachel third. It certainly helps to have good competition. During the race I remember thinking how much better it felt than the year before. My 1:15 proved I was in much better shape than my 1:18 in 2018.
Different than other marathon builds, I didn’t write much down this time. Normally I record workouts, mileage, fuelling and hydration. I enjoy comparing marathon training builds and seeing the progress from week to week. Often it’s fairly specific in terms of how I want to reach certain paces for certain distances. But this time, I went more by feel. The numbers could come to me. I approached it as more of an art, leaving the science to Coach DST as we continued to correspond each week. Over the course of my three years with him I’ve increased my mileage, trained in heat/humidity/altitude, slowed down my easy runs, and deepened my marathon paced workouts. But not all at once. In this build I think we’ve done well to bring it all together. Peak mileage weeks were 170-190 km (190, 190, 170, 180, 170 km), which seemed just right after a spring with higher than ever mileage. And I successfully built to a solid and best-ever workout of 90 minutes at marathon pace within a 42.3 km long run. I likely averaged 7 or 8 runs in 6 days, sticking to my one complete rest day each week.
I haven’t looked into the elite field for the Berlin Marathon. There will definitely be some strong runners and I would presume a group aiming for the Olympic Standard of 2:29:30. There has been much conversation about the new selection process for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but I haven’t spent excessive time thinking about or analyzing it. When I’m asked if I’m “going for another Olympics,” I basically say I’ll give it a shot and then explain that it’s much different than when I made the team four years ago. There are nearly a dozen capable women. In 2016, it was just Lanni Marchant and I. Dates and times of our incredible women’s marathon field can be found here: Athletics Canada Rankings and Marathon Canada. Additionally, I explain that the selection process has changed. It’s no longer simply running your country’s standard within the qualifying period. If you are interested in learning the specifics about the new Olympic qualifying standards, here are some links: Run the North, “There are new Olympic qualifying standards for track & field”. Athletics Canada’s Nomination Criteria and 2019 Canadian Marathon Championships. You can read two-time Olympian Reid Coolsaet’s perspective here. Lastly, Canada Running Series, “2019 Canadian Marathon Championships” explains their role as host for Athletics Canada’s Marathon Trials for the 2020 Olympic Games. While I’m sure I will miss racing this favourite marathon of mine, I am happy to once again be involved in the broadcast. There will certainly be much to discuss about our talented Canadians aiming to earn a spot for Tokyo.
Two weeks from now I’ll be in Berlin, resting in my hotel and getting my fill of carbs in preparation for my 19th marathon. And onward I go. Again.
Photograph by Edison Yao.