RnR Montreal Half Recap

This was supposed to be a recap of my fifth marathon, but the story ended up a little differently. Instead, the delayed review of my 14th half marathon (and second Canadian race–I ran SeaWheeze in 2015):  RnR Montreal Half Marathon.

Expo:  Smaller than most RnR Expos, and I was disappointed that neither of my favorite brands (Honey Stinger and Nuun) made an appearance. While the site itself was easy to find, navigating within the convention center took awhile. I don’t like expos that make you walk so much just to get to the entrance. Shirt distribution also seemed a little disorganized.

Weather:  Unseasonably warm for Canada, which led to the cancellation of the full marathon. The race stayed in the 70s all morning with high humidity and the temperatures continued to creep up throughout the day. It felt exactly like running in Texas; I checked, race day temperatures were the exact same in Montreal and Dallas!

Support:  Canadians were very scared of the unseasonably warm temperatures, so they added extra water stops and support. Every fire hydrant along the way was open, which seemed a little bit overkill but were fun to run through like a child in the sprinklers. Local run clubs and Lululemon staffed cheering stations near one of the final hills. I ran the free Lululemon Shakeout Run the day before, so it was nice to look forward to seeing new “friends” along the course. They even invited us out for drinks and poutine after the race, which we declined in favor of recovery naps. The city showed up to support this race, which made it one of the most fun I’ve ever run.

Course:  I’d been planning to run this race for a couple years because of how much I love Montreal. The views did not disappoint. We began* on an island, circled around to another and then crossed into the main city (technically also an island)–running along the old port most of the way. One of my favorite parts was through the art installation over Saint Catherine Street in Gay Village. We finished in the park with a large beer garden and plenty of entertainment. *Take note that this is a point-to-point course, and the start line is accessible only by metro then walking about 20 minutes. Neither the start nor finish is close to the old port, but the finish does have a metro station nearby. The race provided every participant with a free one-day metro pass.

I would run Montreal again and again, especially if the temperatures lived up to a true Canadian fall next time. My only complaint is the distance from Dallas makes it unfeasible as an annual tradition. Marathon finishers (in this case, half finishers who had originally registered for the cancelled marathon) received a finishers jacket written in French, unique to other Rock’N’Roll race events.

The Wurst Race Recap

The half marathon is a strange beast:  just long enough to challenge any runner but a cakewalk compared to the full marathon distance. I ran my 15th half marathon over the weekend, and I’m still chasing my next PR.

The Wurst Race is an Oktoberfest-themed 5K and Half Marathon in the tiny German town of Muenster, Texas. This year marked only the second annual running and my second time as well. I won second female overall and came in faster this year, but the competition field was slim.

Expo:  None; bib pickup the day before or race day morning. However, the race includes free entry to Oktoberfest after the run and a coupon for two free beers or sodas. Enjoy German food and dancing and expect to see plenty of lederhosen!

Weather:  Low 30s all morning and chilly winds some of the miles but nice amount of sunshine. “Texas” may be misleading to those travelling from out of town. I wore a short sleeve tech shirt and kept on my arm warmers the whole race.

Support:  Water every few miles seemed to be the right placement for me. Powerade also available. Pickles and bananas at some of the stops, but I stuck to water. Expect a few families cheering along the way. The race is a fundraiser for a local school, so there’s a decent amount of community support but the chilly temperatures kept most people inside. Many of the miles felt lonely.

Course:  Beautiful rolling hills, fields of wind turbines and many animals! Cows, ponies, goats and more are plentiful. I also got chased by dogs twice (not for very long). If you had any doubt, this is definitely a countryside race. Watch out for gravel on the farm roads. There’s one tricky turn at the last mile, so it’s worth looking at a course map ahead of time. It’s not a closed course, which makes for a different experience.

The race is a pretty easy drive from the DFW Metroplex. Overall, I would recommend it to those looking for something different–and the thrill of winning! It’s still in its infancy, so my hope is that it will continue to grow and attract more runners as the organizers get the rest of the kinks out.

Running Emojis

Officially dressing up as the running emoji has been a desire of mine since the long-awaited release of the female runner emoji. It’s probably my most used emoji, and the costume is still subtle enough to run comfortably.

We joined one of our favorite social runs tonight, “Pint Striders,” for a costume-themed evening. The weather was nice, but I took it easy with 4 miles at recovery pace. Then we enjoyed cupcakes and drink specials at the pub.

I’m looking forward to a rest day tomorrow before racing a half marathon Saturday. I won my age division last year in the race’s inaugural year. The field may be larger this year, but I’m still hoping to reclaim my spot and maybe even move up in overall results.

Raising My Race

Marathon training is a bit like raising a child, pet or even plant. Every training decision–from nutrition and hydration* to specific running choices like long runs or speed-work, cross-training or rest–directs how I want my race to go.

The latest debate is if the long run, especially the infamous 20-miler, is necessary: Should I train hard every day instead of prepping my week around a big weekend long run? Should I race fast instead of training long and slow? Should I go for an easy run or hit the gym? For the record: I would rather run another marathon than run a 20-mile training run.

I’m constantly reading the research and have talked to coaches and other runners with various opinions. My conclusion is to train more and worry less. Sure, try it all and see what works best, adapting with each cycle. Making running fun is about remembering it’s worth enjoying along the way–and there’s always next season.

One rule I do live by is hydrating throughout the day, making deliberate choices about what and when I have certain beverages. Mostly I stick to water and try to avoid caffeine in the evenings. An exception is when I have an evening run like tonight. I add a nuun energy electrolyte tablet* to my water for a slight boost. The rest of the time, I stick to a pattern of adding a nuun vitamins tablet to every third or fourth bottle of water.

*Now through October 31, 2017, use discount code myfriendslovenuun to take 25% off Nuun. My favorite flavors are ginger lemonade (vitamins energy), blueberry pomegranate (vitamins) and fresh lime (electrolytes energy).

Confidence Lap

We ran a ladder workout (400, 800, 1200, 1200, 800, 400 with 400 recoveries) for our last track night of the fall training season. The weather was perfect, and I struggled to resist pushing our group faster than our training paces. We stayed perfectly in pace (7:23-7:55) until the very last 400 where we flew ahead (6:58) into what I call a “confidence lap.”

Once you’ve properly trained, racing becomes mostly a mental exercise. Being able to look back on the season and find moments where you pushed yourself harder than you imagined helps you get through tough races. Even more so, it’s important to see where you pushed yourself after struggling.

Two 1200s in a row can be tough and the last 400 of a ladder isn’t exactly a walk in the park. A ladder workout is a mental game in itself, savoring how each rep gets “easier” (shorter) once you’ve peaked out. Of course, short and easy are actually very different, but it’s a solid lesson in perspective.

The race is what you make it.

Trying Again

The Montreal marathon did not go as planned, mostly because it did not go. I ran the half distance after the full got cancelled. I spent a few hours feeling very angry before reaching a shameful sense of relief.

Missed training runs? No worries. Sore legs on the flight home? Not a chance. The pressure to PR? Off my shoulders. After enjoying the shorter distance on a beautiful (but warmer than usual) day in Montreal, I celebrated with my Canadian beer and French marathoner jacket. I didn’t run a marathon that day, but I am still a proud 4x marathoner.

By about the fifth time of explaining why I ran the half instead of the full, I realized I wouldn’t feel satisfied until I completed my fifth marathon. Rock’n’Roll San Antonio had been on my mind so I pulled the trigger and parted with more of my money.

Sometimes you don’t reach your original goals only because there’s other goals out there to chase instead. I’m realigning, reorganizing and ramping up my training for a race day that will probably be just as warm as Montreal–except Texans can handle the heat!