Race Reports

Niagara Falls Marathon

Once again, I had to work at the store from 6am-12pm before I was able to head off to Niagara Falls for my next marathon.  I was just in time to pick up my race package and Race Bunny gear from the Running Room at the Expo as it was winding down.  

I was able to stay with Carolyn, a great friend of mine that I met while doing the Moksha Yoga Teacher's Training in India last March.  It was great to be able to catch up with her and practice some yoga in her very own home studio!!!  Carolyn even went through the trouble of preparing a wonderful pasta dinner for me and a couple other friends the night before the run.  

Sunday morning came fast but we were blessed with some wonderful weather to run in.  The buses that would take us to the starting area over the border in Buffalo, NY, left around 7am.  As per usual, I made a friend on the 40-minute bus ride over, sharing stories of other races and anything run related.

Because it is an international race, we had to clear Customs while crossing the border, and there always seems to be at least one person that has problems on race morning. 

After a short wait at the bridge, we were dropped off at the Art Museum in Buffalo, which was open for all the runners to look around before the start of the marathon.  They had some incredible works of art in there and I made a few more friends inside as I suited up in my Pace Bunny costume.  

You see, when I run as a pace bunny, I like to really dress the part, wearing a full fur (fake fur) bunny suit.  

I assembled a bit of a following of people that were on target for 3-hour and 40-minute finish time, as we all lined up for the race to start.  There was a good group that managed to stick with me, all the way up until about 32k when some dropped off.  It is around that point when you fall behind if you have started off too fast.

I was trying to ignore a sore ankle, and I struggled to keep my pace towards the Falls.  Near the end of the race, I matched up with a couple of other experienced marathoners and helped them give it their all in the last few minutes of the race.  

I finished strong and was within my one minute of pace bunny tolerance.  With a sore knee and ankle, I knew I was starting to wear myself down.  I’ve only got one more race left before my season is over, at least for a little while.  

Toronto Half-Marathon

In hindsight, it was rather ambitious to do two big races in one weekend.  After finishing the Vulture Bait 50k in London, I headed straight to Toronto, but due to three separate traffic jams along the 401 and QEW, I missed the marathon expo altogether.  

I was still in time to make the last class of the day at Moksha Downtown, so I took the opportunity to check out a different studio.  This was the first time at Moksha Downtown and it was a great to stretch in the heat after finishing the 50k only a few hours earlier. 

I stayed with a fellow Moksha teacher, Pierina, at her place downtown and arranged to pick up my race kit in the morning from the Team Diabetes crew. 

The morning was clear and crisp and the weather forecast looked perfect for running.  The sun was just beginning to rise as I drove up Yonge Street to the starting line at Mel Lastman Square.  It wasn’t long before I found a couple of Team Diabetes runners who I have been coaching over the web for the last four months.  It was my job at the race, as the team trainer, to make sure they all got to the finish line feeling great.  

Since I won my age category in the marathon in 2008, I was granted free entry into the half marathon for this year’s race.  I figured since I already raced 50k the day before, I would be happy doing the half for Team Diabetes. 

As the field made its way towards the downtown, I came across a few other team runners and ran with each of them for a bit making sure they were doing all right.  

I ended up running the last few kilometers with Savanah, a nurse and mother of four, who was running for her son, who has Type-1 diabetes.  We finished in just over 2 hours and I chilled out at the team tent near the finish area, greeting all the other runners as they came in.  

The Team Diabetes tent was set up right next to the Lululemon tent so I had the pleasure to meet several educators from the Toronto stores as well as Natalie, one of the designers from Vancouver. 

I had to leave the race before everyone had finished, in order to make it back to London in time to lead the UWO Triathlon Club long run.  By this time, I had had enough with my running shoes and finished the last 16km of the weekend in my Aquasocks.  They take a lot of force away from the major joints in the body.  

When running this much, its very important to be running in a way that lessens the impact on the body, otherwise, you will definitely get injured.  As you could have guessed, I slept like a baby that night.

Vulture Bait 50k

This was the weekend that I had been training and preparing for, for the last four months.   I had done some pretty tough races before, but never two races on the same weekend. 

Saturday started off a little easier than most races, since it was only about a 20 minute drive from my house to the race site at the Fanshawe Lake Conservation Area in London.  I had enough time to pick up my race package and mingle with a few other runners I knew from the Ontario Ultra Series as well as a few Running Mania members that I have ran with before.  

If you are a runner in Canada, it is worth checking out Running Mania.  It is the biggest online network of runners in Canada and is a great resource for training tips, race reports and overall support from the other members on the forum.  Ultra-runners also have a very close community of their own, within the larger running circle. 

Both the Vulture Bait 25k and 50k races start at the same time and it is a fairly low-key event, with only a couple hundred people participating.  The course has a range of surfaces including grass, gravel, single-track dirt trails, rocky terrain and a little bit of asphalt.  

The Dirty Girls 30k has been the only other trail race I have done before, so I was actually quite nervous for this one.  I wanted to just run this one slow, enjoy myself and not get hurt.  

I spent most of the first lap (the course is a 25k loop around the lake) running with some other runners that I knew from the other ultra I did earlier this year.  

As always, Ron Gehl was out racing.  He has got to be one of the most experienced ultra-runners in Canadian history and is quite a character at 65 years old.  

I also ran with Laurie McGrath for about 15k, chatting to pass the time.  I spent just over an hour running with Laurie in the Niagara Ultra back in June and she is a true inspiration to me.  She is a teacher and mom, who finds the time to train and compete as a top national level ultra-runner.  She recently represented Canada at the 100k world championships in England, helping her team to a podium finish.  The time just flew by having someone to talk to. 

Just before finishing the first lap, I slipped on a rock while crossing a small creek and stepped into the cold water, soaking my foot.  I was initially upset, but there was nothing I could do so I just kept on running.  I ran the second lap mostly solo, as the runners had either spread out or already finished after 25k. 

The one thing that really helped me get through the second lap was the snacks at the refreshment stations.  Like I said before, ultra-runners are a whole different crowd of people.  They enjoy all types of goodies while they race.  

Throughout the whole race, I had jelly beans, nibs, jube-jubes, pretzels, M&M’s, gummy bears, two bite brownies, mini cinnamon rolls, chocolate mint patties, Pringles, not to mention the gels and Gatorade and other essentials like bananas and oranges.  Now if that’s not a little inspiration to want to run an ultra, I don’t know what is. 

My ankle was really starting to bug me for the last few kilometers and I just wanted to finish.  I finally made it after about four and a half hours on the trails.  

After a quick plate of pasta, a few cookies and a chatting with a couple more runners I was in my car and headed to Toronto for my next race! 

Ottawa Fall Colours Marathon

The next stop on my Fall marathon tour was the Ottawa Fall Colours race.  After working from 6am-2pm and feeling the onset of a chest infection, I had to drive seven hours to get to Ottawa.  This is a perfect example of how not to relax before a big race.

Something I have learned, is if you do have a long drive by yourself, you might as well make it a productive one.  I have started listening to some audio books while in driving to races my car.  I listened to most of The Science of Getting Rich by Bob Procter, which is one of the best personal development programs I have ever heard on my way to Ottawa.  Upon arrival in Ottawa at my friend’s house, I almost immediately crashed.  

I woke up early, with my chest feeling much better than the day before.  I had a nice light breakfast, and then hurried off to the race site.  The weather was brisk and windy but was much better than the rain that had been forecast.  I decided to wear my new run tights as well as some gloves because of the cold.

Early on in the race, I bumped into a guy I had run with at a race with in Kingston earlier in the year.  Then after a few kilometers, I caught up to a guy wearing a shirt that read, “Today, I am 100 Marathons old.”  Naturally, I wanted to chat with him a bit about goal setting and which races were his favourites. 

Then another guy came up to announce that he was running his 1st of 100 marathons.  I liked his attitude and we ended up chatting as we ran along.  We passed the 25km marker before I even thought to look at my watch.  Having great company always makes time fly by. 

My new friend, also named Brian, told me to go on ahead without him, as he needed to slow down and walk a bit.  From there, I turned on the reserves and made for a speedy finish. 

After a very hilly and windy 42.2k, I came running down the final stretch in just over 3 hours and 37 minutes, where my friend Kim was cheering me on.

I was happy to be done, but I wanted to stick around and see Brian finish.  When he did come through, roughly 30 minutes later, he had that look on his face like it was a combination of celebration and accomplishment mixed with pain and defeat.  I went to shake his hand after he crossed the line with his two small children.   Instead of extending his hand, he threw his arms around me, for a great big hug.  He wanted to thank me for helping him through most of the race and being a great motivation. 

It was a great reminder of why I love to do these events so much.  The people you meet are absolutely amazing.  Both the ones I help inspire and the others that inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing. 

I was able to stretch and hang out with Kim for the rest of the day.  We checked out the Rideau Centre and did some shopping.

After another pleasant night’s sleep I made the seven-hour drive back home for a turkey dinner at mom’s house. 

Rest is the main priority this week, as next weekend, I will attempt to run a 50k trail race in London on Saturday, and then the Toronto Half-Marathon with Team Diabetes on Sunday. 

© Brian Groot 2020