Sunday, June 5, 2016

Race Report: Calgary Marathon 2016

Finally home and more or less recovered from my trip west. I had a terrific time participating in the marathon and visiting friends and family in Calgary and Vancouver, but I don't recover from jet lag quickly so it took a couple of days to get my feet under me when I got back. I'm happy to report that, after a couple of nights sleeping in my own bed, this morning's 8k run up the river felt great, so it seems the rest paid off.

Now, to the important stuff - the race!

Race day started well. Keith and I traveled together and his wife Linda generously offered to ferry us to the train at 6:00 a.m. so we had an easy trip to the start line at Stampede Park. The sun was already shining brightly and it was warmer that we'd expected so we immediately checked our extra clothes and went looking for a friend of Keith who was an announcer for the race. As we chatted with her, I noticed Calgary's rockstar mayor, Naheed Nenshi, waiting nearby to make a few remarks. When he saw me raise my phone to take a picture, he suggested I take a selfie with him, which - being a big fan - I was happy to do.

Next up, Keith and I nabbed a fellow runner to take the requisite pre-race shot. 

Note the long-sleeved shirt under my singlet. I wore it because I expected the early part of the day to be cool, which it wasn't, as it turned out. The shirt came off less than 5k into the race. 

Keith's race started a half hour after mine, so I lined up on my own near the back of the pack to be sure I'd start slowly. In my excitement (aka terror), I struggled to run slowly enough at first but settled into a reasonable pace after a km or two and felt good as I hit the 11k mark and the first of the hills. 

That's right. I said hills. It turns out I was mistaken about the nature of the course. Somehow, I missed the memo that said the course included a series of long climbs between 11k and 21k. At the highest point, I was approximately 100 metres (300 feet) above the start line. If I'd done more hill training, I could have completed the climbs easily since none of them was particularly steep but, since I hadn't, I focused on maintaining a moderate pace in hopes I'd have enough in the tank to take advantage of the descent between 24k and 26k and the last 16k along Memorial Drive, a relatively flat road that hugs the northern shoreline of the Bow River. 

In fact, as I began the descent, I felt reasonably good and looked forward to the remainder of the race. I knew a PB was out of reach but I thought I'd finish strong in something like 4:45. 

Unfortunately, the wheels fell off the truck soon after. The descent was much steeper than I expected and, by the time I reached level ground again, my right knee and foot were giving me grief. My knee got very sore and threatened to lock up as it did in Fredericton a few years ago and a pinched nerve between my second and third toes began sending painful shocks up my right foot. I'm not sure what triggered those issues since they hadn't arisen in training but I suppose it was the combination of old shoes, the steep descent, dehydration, and oxygen levels that were lower than I'm used to. In any case, I wasn't able to make up time in the second half - despite having plenty of energy - and was forced to stop several times to adjust my laces and stretch in order to keep going.

In the end, I crossed the finish line with a chip time of just under 5:06 - my slowest marathon time ever - which was disappointing to say the least. Keith snapped this photo as I crossed. Not very flattering but it accurately captures my condition - hurting and gasping for breath. 

On the upside, Keith, my sister Robin and her husband Allan were there to welcome me, which was very much appreciated! And I was thrilled to learn that Keith finished his own race (the 10k) is a terrific time!

Also at the finish line was "Wendy from Winnipeg", who I met at the expo Friday afternoon. She'd helped calm my nerves, which were a bit jangled after Keith toured me around the course earlier in the day, by telling me she'd successfully completed the 50k twice and was certain I was going to enjoy the marathon course. Since Wendy looked to be a middle of the pack runner about my own age, her reassurance was appreciated and I told her I wanted a snapshot of the two of us together if I made it across the finish line. She was happy to oblige.

The rest of the day went by in a happy blur. That afternoon, Keith and Linda joined us for drinks and snacks on the deck at Robin and Allan's house, where Keith and I celebrated our races and we all ate and laughed a good deal.

A little later, my brother Blake, who lives in Halifax but was in Calgary for a conference, arrived for the evening and we had a terrific family supper together.

All in all, I had a great time and would certainly recommend the Calgary Marathon to anyone interested in tackling a challenging course. The race was well-organized and supported, and the city has heaps to offer. On Monday morning, I grabbed the train back downtown to explore some of the riverside trails I'd spotted during the marathon. Though Calgary has many more skyscrapers than it did the last time I was there, someone's had the foresight to protect plenty of green space and lay down miles of bike trails along various waterways. From what I could tell, it looks like a terrific place to bike, walk and run. I look forward to exploring more of the area the next time I'm in Calgary.

In closing, big thank yous to Keith and Linda, who toured me around the course, introduced me to local runners and ensured I got to the start line on time, and to my sister and her family, who took excellent care of me and made me feel so welcome. Also, to Grizom, their "puppy", who, at a sprightly 15 years of age, is the loveliest companion you can imagine.  It was tough to say goodbye to the little fella when it came time to head for the airport.

Finally, to Robin who was my inspiration throughout the race. Whenever things got tough, I thought of her and was reminded to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with it - just as she does. You rock, little sister!

I'll write again soon about the short stop I made in Vancouver on my way home and future race plans. Until then, happy running and writing, friends!


  1. It was super to have you here! Next time you come out I'll take you through Fish Creek, and along the Bow River, and the Elbow, and through the Weaselhead, and a bike ride down Road to Nepal...

    1. I'd love that, Keith. Look forward to running together soon!

  2. Hi Janice! It was so nice to meet you at the start line. I'm Keith's friend, Amy :) You were so lucky to get a mayor selfie. It's too bad you're race day wasn't what you expected, but I hope that you recovered well and have a great next race.

    1. Great meeting you, Amy. I have indeed recovered well, and am making plans for another in a few months. Hopefully, I won't make all of the same mistakes! Hope you enjoyed your day too!