If you’re going to print up t-shirts… Edmonton Marathon race report #runreal

My neighbor, John, and I  both ran the Boston Marathon this spring. He surprised me with some cool t-shirts for me and my family. Of course, I had nothing for him. Sigh. So, when we decided to take one last shot at a BQ before the window closed (with registration opening September 8th) by heading up to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for their marathon, I thought I would return the favor:

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Yep. “Kohler-Kardis International BQ Project.” If you’re going to print up t-shirts, you’d better deliver. It’s not going to make a top ten list of victory guarantees … but for comparison, here’s a few famous ones, both successful and unsuccessful.

  • “We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it.” – Joe Namath (FTW)
  • “One hundred-percent, sterling silver victory. The Lombardi Trophy” – Ryan Kalil (FAIL)
  • “We want the ball, and we’re going to score!” – Matt Hasselbeck (FAIL)
  •  “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round.” – Muhammad Ali (FTW)

So, I wore my shirt on the plane to remind myself what I was going there for. My training had been going well and I felt like I had been progressing as Coach Kyle helped me to push harder during my hard workouts. Knowing someone is looking over your shoulder at your stats after you’re done with a workout is very motivating. Also, props to John and Nelson for doing several of my hard workouts with me – it’s easier to go fast when you have someone else pushing you. It was great having the RHSW along for support (all kinds!) and photography. When we got off the plane in Edmonton and made it through customs (I declared my foodstuffs – energy gel) there were two baggage carousels in the international part of the terminal – one decorated with life-size Edmonton Oilers (NHL, duh) mannequins, the other with an Edmonton Eskimos theme (CFL, a bit more obscure – fun fact, their uniforms are pretty much the same as the Green Bay Packers).

I went for a nice shakeout run through downtown as soon as we got to our hotel, since I’d been up since 4am. Four easy miles, with occasional nice views of the Saskatchewan River. Edmonton reminded both me and the RHSW of Kansas City a bit – river town, similar population and geography. Mosquitos.

We ate at a great restaurant that evening with John & his wife, Katie. “Woodwork.” John and I have similar “tastes” and we had both picked it out independently before travelling up there after reading reviews of Edmonton restaurants. Ok, it was also RIGHT across the street from our hotel. Unfortunately, we neglected to get a shot of us walking out the front door so I could caption it “coming out of the Woodwork.” Use your imagination. Perhaps I was harboring some latent resentment for a little GI distress that I was attributing to my meal there. It happens. Signs point to whatever John and I both ate and the ladies didn’t.

The day before the race I did my carb-loading workout and started loading right after. I felt great on the run. Slight modification to the magic elixir – I purchased sucrose in Edmonton (table sugar) because I didn’t want to put dextrose in my checked bag (it’s more powdery than sucrose, if you know what I mean). I also mixed it with grape juice instead of lime juice. The result was extremely sweet. I felt pretty blah most of the day thanks to the GI distress the night before.

We did have a wonderful breakfast at De Dutch. I was almost tempted to try the Pannekoeken but stuck to my Paleo guns. There was a GF version, but sometimes that stuff bothers me almost as much as wheat. I had a nice omelette with Edam (think swiss) and DeBakon (Dutch bacon, a pork product). Then we took a bus to the West Edmonton Mall – which really gives the Mall of the America a run for its money – if not surpassing it.

Here’s a description from their website:

The Mall’s stores, attractions, and services combine to form the most comprehensive retail, hospitality and entertainment complex on Earth. … West Edmonton Mall’s concept is inspired by the traditional urban bazaars of Persia, where shopping and entertainment were plentiful and operated in tandem, fulfilling a variety of consumer needs all in one place.

Man, I wish I could write copy like that.

A quick snapshot for comparison:

Stores:

  • WEM 800
  • MOA 400

Attractions (all indoor, of course):

  • WEM (amusement park “world’s largest”; water park with wave pool “world’s largest”; bowling; aquarium with amphitheater for sea-lion and penguin performances; full size hockey ice rink (duh, Canada); two 18 hole miniature golf courses; life-size replica of the Santa Maria)
  • MOA (nickelodeon-themed amusement park; aquarium; American Girl; Lego store; flight simulator; miniature golf; mirror maze; Barbie Dreamhouse; Star Trek and Beatles exhibits)

You be the judge. So of course, with all that set out before us, all we actually went there for was the Roots store. Seriously. The only store we walked into. Mission accomplished. From WEM, we decided to check out the “Fringe Festival,” billed as “an 11-day event … showcasing a variety of independent theatre performances from more than 1,200 local, national and international artists.” It was a bit underwhelming. I did see some jugglers, and we didn’t stay long enough for our bus transfer to expire, so there was that.

I was still a bit green and watched everyone else eat dinner. After we got back to the hotel I got my courage up and headed downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant for an omelette and some ice cream. I tolerated it. Our friendly British (!) waiter chatted us up about my race. Like several other people we had talked to around town, when I told them I was in town for the marathon, they all assumed I was in town for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, since teams had started to arrive for that. Apparently several were staying at our hotel – there were posters. It’s a good thing I wasn’t full of hubris. “No, I’m just doing the marathon.” I’ve never been a “just a half” or “just a 5K” guy, and it’s a good thing because I would have been put in my place several times! There are people who excel at some distance or event but not others.

On race morning I awoke feeling MUCH better. Whew. Do I look relieved? New blue/silver Skora FITs are ready to roll!

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The race setup was really convenient. Huge conference center right at the start/finish line, so I ditched my sweats and we waited inside before the start. Here’s John and I right before we headed out:

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At the start line, they asked us to raise our hands if there was anyone from outside of Canada. That’s us! (and 10 more from the US – mostly Texas, for some reason)

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Then they asked, is there anybody that came farther than Bangalore, Indonesia?

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Nope, can’t top that.

 

This was my first race where “O, Canada” was played before the start:

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That lady is not honoring Canada like I am.

 

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Do I look nervous?

 

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And we’re off! Perfect conditions for most of the race. Temp at start was 52F and was supposed to drop before heading up. Nice and cool, overcast skies (good!) for most of the race with only a peek of sun for a few minutes. Virtually no wind at the start, a bit of a breeze by the end.

The course is an out and back and out and back. First we headed northeast out of downtown past some apartment high rises, then into a residential neighborhood with kind of a Brookside feel. I knew I wasn’t going to be keeping pace with John (running about 25s a mile faster than me) so I settled in with several runners who seemed like they were competent enough to keep a steady pace. Mind you, there were no pace groups, and I wasn’t pacing off them in the truest sense of the word. However, after you get several miles into the race you’ve weeded out anyone who has absolutely no idea what they’ve gotten into. Actually, there were two of those guys – one of which I have my doubts as to whether he was a legitimate finisher. *cough* Rosie Ruiz *cough*

The course is marked in kilometers, of course. It was funny hearing everyone’s watches beeping off the kms. Hardly any milers out there. I was tempted to switch my Garmin over, but resisted since I think in miles and it’s important to me to know how far above or below mile pace I am. I could have easily figured my km pace, but since a km is shorter than a mile, I was concerned I’d deviate too much by thinking I was closer to on pace than I really was. My Garmin had the last laugh – when I pulled up my data at home, all my lap and pace data was in km. Weird. It’s back to normal now.

The course was nice and flat. The first half featured a dip (barely noticeable) and an actual hill down into and then coming back out of the residential area. There was a checkpoint and a turnaround at the 1/4 mark (halfway through the out and back half). That was the last time I saw John until he was waiting for me at the finish! Flat is really nice for hitting a pace. This is by far the flattest course I’ve ever run. My splits for the first half were all within a few seconds of goal pace, 7:15. I went out a little hot, but not sub-7 or anything. I was 44 seconds ahead of pace at the halfway mark (well, not exactly – at the 13 mile mark). I still felt great at this point coming through the start/finish line headed west for another out and back:

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I love educated race fans, and Edmonton had them! Not that I don’t enjoy “yay” and “way to go” or “you can do it” but it’s nice to hear something a bit more specific. Now I didn’t for a minute think that these compliments were carefully crafted just for me, but they are the kind of thing a runner loves to hear:

  • “You look strong!”
  • “Great pace!”
  • “Here comes a marathoner!” and “Way to go marathoner!” (as you are passing the slower pace half-marathoners at the end)
  • “Nice form!”
  • “He makes it look easy!”
  • “Your flow is awesome!” (not exactly sure what that mean, but I enjoyed it.

There was definitely a mental hurdle to jump coming through that start/finish line at the halfway point. It was momentarily thrilling to see the RHSW and hear the crowd, but the course definitely had a “back to work” feel after getting through the downtown area. It was cool to see some blazing 5K or 10K elites come at me through this section.

I waited until halfway to start hitting my extra calories. If I had it to do over again, I think I’d start that sooner, maybe at mile 6. I have done this differently at different races. It’s hard to say what works best for me. I didn’t feel nauseous at the start like I have sometimes.  I don’t think I even made it halfway through my 400 calorie flask. I like the stuff and had tried it out before a couple of times, but it’s really hard to put anything in my gut at that point in the race.

There was a nice crowd gathered at a pinch point about 3 miles after halfway – I think it was at a college campus – we were ever so briefly on kind of a trail/sidewalk before coming back out onto the road. Not quite Wellesley but pretty good volume! The first 3 miles after halfway were pretty good, but I noticed I was starting to slow a bit around mile 17. I was about 5-10 second off pace until mile 23 – and that’s where the suffering began. I don’t want to overstate it, but it’s something you go through at the end of a race. Thanks to the cool weather, I had done pretty well, but I did have a pretty good sweat going. I didn’t really feel like I was taking in enough fluid. I wouldn’t say there weren’t enough aid stations, but the cups were tiny – and I don’t take time to stop and take several. As a result I was probably only getting a swallow of fluid every other mile. I was running for a while with a guy who had a CamelBak – maybe that was a clue. I can’t say this is a legitimate criticism as opposed to personal preference. Not everything on course is going to be tailored to your needs.

Back to the suffering. I had a really painful stitch in my side for the last 3 miles – easing up a little in the final half mile. I gritted my teeth and just tried not to let the wheels fall off. I’m not great at running math, but I know that I had enough of a buffer against 3:15 that I’d be ok for a secure BQ as long as I didn’t start letting it creep up over 8. I was 30s slow on miles 23 and 24, then my worst split was mile 25 at a 7:56. I got a boost from the mile 25 completed beep on my Garmin, and an even bigger one from 26. I then found I had a kick for the last several hundred yards. There is nothing like seeing that clock and knowing you’re going to bring it in on time! Here’s the joyful expression on John’s face as he meets his goal:

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I didn’t put up his “angry face” picture. It’s pure adrenaline. I’ll show you mine in a minute. Here’s the kick, such as it is:

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…and the finish:

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I acted a little goofy at the finish, but the lady handing out medals was the catalyst. I run through the finish line, not to the finish line. She was only a few steps beyond trying to put a medal round my neck, and I certainly wasn’t going to put the engines in full reverse to stop for her so I ducked my head and ran into it. We both had a laugh about that, but I hope she backed up a bit after me.

It was great to have the RHSW as well as John and Katie at the finish line. I’m still in the moment here:

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But then I started to get (1) cold; (2) nauseous. I thought I was going to barf, but managed to keep it in.

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I’m not holding up two fingers for “two” or “peace out” – I was about to put them up to my mouth to feign the puffed cheeks of someone about to blow. I guess the worst was past. Then we went inside the convention center for a full breakfast. I was shivering at this point and got my sweats back on and drank two cups of herbal tea, which got me back to normal. Then some fruit, ham, juice, coffee and I was back to normal. We stayed for the awards after seeing that John placed second in his age group!

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John’s in the ORFB hoodie. “Indiana Football” guy is not from Indiana – John and I were the second and third Americans, and this is his age group podium, all faster than me. The race winner hailed from Chicago, although he’s Latvian. Does anything about this quote make you want to root for him? Not me:

“(Sunday) was sort of a training run for me, I’m getting ready for the Frankfurt marathon,” [he] said. “It was a good effort to practice and run close to – about five minutes off – of what I’m trying to do in Frankfurt, so it was OK. I think it was right about 22K. We were all running together, and then I felt like the pace was slowing down a little bit, so I picked it up a little and I just kind of cruised the whole way. I was in full control. If somebody was to come up, I could respond if I had to, but there was no need, I just wanted to enjoy the training run.”

Humility is a way better PR move.

Here are my final stats and splits. I don’t see a 21.1 (km) split, which is the one I would have liked to see the most. That was the start/finish line – maybe they didn’t have it set up because of the other races coming back from the other direction. Who knows.

My average pace was 7:20.5 min/mile (or 4:33.7 min/km to continue the metric theme). Just another 5.5s per mile and I’m at 3:10! I was thrilled with the time – a pretty safe BQ-2:39. Not as much buffer as I had for last year, but well above the BQ-1:38 last year that was the toughest cutoff in Boston history.

If you’re going to print up t-shirts… that talk about a BQ you’d better hit it! So glad John and I both did.

A final note on gear before the numbers. I can’t say enough good things about the Skora FIT. Just my favorite road distance shoe. Light, zero drop, and just enough cushioning to take the edge off of the crummy uneven pavement that’s inevitable on any road course.

Thanks Edmonton! On to Chicago!

Place Name Residence Bib # Time Chip Pace Category Cat. Place Gender Place 10 km 21.1 km 35 km
36
Theodore Kardis Olathe, KA, USA
323
3:12:24
3:12:21
4:34
Male 40-49
7/66
34/322
44:23 2:37:49
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What (Not) To Eat Before A Marathon

I’m running the Edmonton Marathon this weekend (August, 2014). As the day approaches, I find myself going to the usual multiple locations to review my pre-race regimen. Then I thought to myself, “Self, you have a blog! Why not post it all in one place?” Unsurprisingly, I think that’s a great idea, so here it is.

I’ve used the so-called “Western Australian” carb-loading regimen for all but one of my eight marathons (the lone exception was my ketogenic marathon – check out my blog posts from last fall if you’re curious). Having never tried the traditional pasta-binge method, I don’t have a baseline, but I believe it accomplishes the two purposes which I consider the whole point of doing something different: (1) feeling fueled for the race; and (2) zero porta-potty stops during the race.

So first, what is it? It’s a method of carb-loading that aims to max out your glycogen stores in the minimum amount of time. Why? Well, when you’re tapering, if you up your carb intake for several days, your body is just going to turn those unburned carbs into fat. How do you do it? Basically, you do a short, near-max effort workout 24 hours before your race. This primes your body to start producing glycogen when you feed it carbs. So, then you cram down a bunch of carbs beginning right after you finish the workout. Here’s a link to an abstract of the study:

Fairchild et al.

I’m not a cyclist (that’s not out of context if you clicked the link) but many have applied this to marathon carb-loading. So here’s what I do:

The workout:

Ideally, 24 hours pre-race. Start with a brief warmup (I usually do about a ½ mile); then 2 ½ minutes at hard effort (roughly your 1-mile pace); then a 30 second all out sprint. That’s it. Commence carb loading. Coach Kyle  suggested a slightly longer warmup of 1-2 easy miles; and a 1-2 mile cooldown. I’ll probably look to stay on the 1 mile side of both of those.

The carbs:

The general formula for how many carbs you need for your body weight is “Consume 12 grams of carbs for every kilo of lean body mass spread over the next 24 hours.” That’s actually more complicated than it sounds. “Lean body mass” isn’t just your mass (what most of us call “weight”) it’s your mass  that isn’t fat. So… what you need to do is figure out your percent body fat and subtract that percentage from your total mass to get your lean body mass. For example, if you have 10% body fat, your lean body mass is 90% of your total body mass. Figuring out your body fat % is beyond the scope of this blog post, but there are ways to estimate it (pinching yourself, calipers, electrical currents) as well as accurately measure it (submersion in water is involved). Using myself as a simple example, if I weigh 165 pounds with 10% body fat, I weigh 75 kilos, of which 67.5 kilos is lean body mass. So, I need 810 g of carbs in the 24 hours before the race. It’s actually pretty hard to cram that many carbs down. Here’s how I do it.

Marathon carb-loading drink recipe

This recipe is based on Gatorade G Series Pro 01 Prime Carb Energy Drink; 82g carbs, 330 cal. per 12 oz.   However, the G doesn’t supply potassium. I added that. Their newer Endurance formula does, but it’s an on course formulation, not a pre-load. I have my own recipe for that in a previous post (here: MEFF72) but in order to achieve the higher concentration of sugar, you’d have to use the powdered formula and add more scoops than it calls for. Sounds salty, which you don’t really need when you’re pre-loading. Anyhow, for the same level of carbs/calories as the Carb Energy Drink, you need 20.5 tsp of dextrose or sucrose for each 12 oz. serving. Feel free to check my math. I’m not a chemistry teacher but my dad is. No, we never had a meth lab in the basement.

Example for 8 servings (96 total oz. of fluid) – supplies 672 carbs

  • 3 ½ cups dextrose (aka corn sugar)
  • 2 cups lime juice
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 tsp. sea salt (sodium chloride)
  • 1/2 tsp. NuSalt or NoSalt (potassium chloride)

Tip: Sugar goes into solution easier if you use hot water from the tap. Then chill. Unless you like things that are warm and sickly sweet.

Dextrose (sold as corn sugar) and sucrose are very similar chemically. Dextrose is as simple as it gets. One sugar molecule, it’s the same as glucose – blood sugar. Don’t let that gross you out though, it’s plant-based, usually made from corn. However, it’s not simply extracted, it has to be produced from a starch, usually corn – by an enzymatic process. Sucrose (what you get when you buy table sugar at the store) is a glucose molecule connected to a fructose molecule, but still considered a simple sugar. It’s also plant-based, usually extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets, via a more natural process.

I’ve still got some dextrose left over from the last time I did this:

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As you can see, homebrew folks are the main consumers for this. I bought it at a local homebrew store. Of course you can easily find it on the interwebs as well, but typically you’re not going to find it in your local grocery store.

It takes the body a bit longer to metabolize sucrose, which I suppose is why I settled on dextrose. However, this time around I think I am going to experiment with sucrose, to try to slightly even out the blood sugar spikes. I’m also going to try to drink smaller amounts more frequently instead of pounding 12 oz. every hour or hour and a half or so. For future reference though, I think the use of dextrose on course is probably the way to go. By the way, Smarties candies are almost 100% dextrose, ok, a little food coloring and citric acid. Probably the fastest sugar hit you can get.

[September 2016 EDIT: Recently, my thinking on sucrose and especially its fructose molecule has continued to evolve. While I have settled for sucrose a few times when I didn’t have dextrose, or enough of it handy, I think I will stay away from it while carb loading given the slower liver metabolism. I’ll be doing some additional research on this, but I am concerned that the liver metabolism pathway that leads to fat production may not be getting as much to glycogen stores as dextrose/glucose. So, I’ll deal with the blood sugar spike of the dextrose in favor of more glycogen – at least that is my hypothesis right now.]

As to salt, as I said I toss in some potassium chloride. You can buy this stuff anywhere – it’s marketed as a salt substitute for people on a low or no sodium diet.

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Bananas sold separately. I think “No Salt” is a stupid name, since potassium chloride is “a” salt. It’s just not “the” salt – sodium chloride.

Finally, there’s really no performance reason to throw in lime juice, I just do it for taste. It makes it taste a little better. You could use lemon juice. If you decide to leave it out, just remember to replace the fluid with water, or your solution will be even more concentrated. You could add in some of those water flavoring packets I suppose, but that stuff is nasty. I prefer the more natural taste of lime juice, specifically key lime juice – this is the best:

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Photobomb courtesy of my son, Cole.

I know this recipe isn’t going to be featured on the Food Network any time soon, but it gets the job done. As you know realize, this is 8 servings worth and it still doesn’t get me all the way to my target of 810 grams of carbs, so you’re drinking a lot during the day.

What else do I eat during the 24 hours prior?

I follow a low-residue aka low-fiber diet during the last 24 hours. The purpose of that is to make sure my GI tract is as empty as possible when the gun goes off. If you haven’t run across the pictures of people who don’t do this, I don’t recommend you go looking for them. Eww. I think this is the way to go. Don’t even think about an enema, I don’t speak from personal experience but I’ve read they are dehydrating, which is not really the direction you want to go a couple of hours before your race.

My typical race day minus one diet is 3 eggs at each meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner. Usually with cheese, for a little fat. Meat is pretty low-residue but not totally devoid of fiber, so I stay away. Full fat Greek yogurt if available, with honey. Some ice cream for dessert at dinner, topped with maple syrup. Certainly no fruits, vegetables, grains.

The morning of a race I will eat three more eggs just to have something on my stomach. Then I’ll put down one more serving of the carb-loading drink, about 300 calories worth, two hours before the gun, if possible, to avoid the blood sugar spike. If you can’t do that, just really nurse it. Once you get into the ten minute window before the gun, you can do a gel if you can stomach it. I’m going to use a product Coach Kyle recommended for my on course fueling – again, I’m going to nurse it instead of trying to gag it all down at once. I practiced this on a long run recently and it’s pretty tasty as far as I’m concerned. going slow is also a good reason because the really high sugar concentration in gels and the like is a little hard to get down without coughing unless you take it easy.

Here’s the magic potion for this race, in a nice little bottle that fits your palm pretty well:

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Mmm! Kona Coffee!

Here goes! Off to the Great White North in less than 24 hours!