Sheryl Jesin


3 Comments

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon Race Recap

Back in October, I participated in my second half marathon, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon.

Why has it taken me three months to write this race recap? I don’t have a good excuse. It has been a combination of procrastination, and wanting to write the “perfect” race recap. I’m letting perfection go, and here it is. Better late than never.

Pre Race Thoughts

My training leading up to the race felt strong. I found it a lot easier to train for this race than my first half marathon that I ran in May 2012. Each long run for my May race was really hard. It wiped me out for the rest of the day. I was sore for days after. This time, the long runs were no big deal. I knew how to properly prepare for them. I knew how to tackle them, and I knew how to recover.

I was feeling fairly confident in the weeks leading up to the race. But then the week before, as I checked the weather forecast, my confidence started to wane. They were predicting rain, and a lot of it for race day. I had run in the rain before, but never a long run. I started to psych myself out. I didn’t know what to wear. I was worried about being freezing cold and wet and soggy and chafed all over. I even thought about dropping out of the race. Then I remembered all of my friends and family who had generously sponsored me and helped me raise funds for La Leche League. There was no way I was going to drop out! Here’s a post explaining how I tackled the rain.

The Race

Morning of the race it was 10 degrees Celcius and pouring rain. I was not pleased! I sucked it up and headed down to the start line. It was quite well organized with properly marked starting corrals, and lots of available porta-potties. I wore a Lululemon Pacesetter run skirt and a Lululemon Swiftly v-neck short sleeve T-shirt. I covered myself in a makeshift raincoat made out of a garbage bag and brought along a throwaway umbrella. I wanted to stay as dry as possible before the race. In spite of my wish for dryness, my shoes and socks got soaked. But, my clothes and hair stayed dry before the race started, and this was quite nice. I saw lots of soaked runners at the start line, and they looked pretty cold and miserable.

When the race started at 8:30 am, the pouring rain had slowed down to a very light drizzle. This made me very happy. My feet stayed wet for the whole race (it was hard to avoid puddles) but my clothes never got wet.

The race started at University and Dundas. The route took us through many nice areas in Toronto. I ran past the hospital where I gave birth to both of my kids. I ran past the dorms I lived in at the University of Toronto when I did my undergrad. I ran past the corner of King and Bay, past a tall office tower in which I worked before I had kids. It felt awesome knowing that I am currently in the best shape of my life, better than I was as a student in my 20s, and better than I was before I had two kids.

My splits for the race were as follows:

Mile 1 – 11:39

Mile 2 – 11:07

Mile 3 – 10:26

Mile 4 – 10:50

Mile 5 – 10:50

Mile 6 – 10:59

Mile 7 – 11:06

Mile 8 – 11:07

Mile 9 – 10:58

Mile 10 – 10:54

Mile 11 – 10:52

Mile 12 – 10:43

Mile 13 – 10:11

Chip time – 13.1 miles – 2:26:25

Overall, I am quite pleased with my time. I kept my pace steady during most of the race and I love that my last mile was my fastest. During the race, I was trying to psych myself up and kept repeating positive thoughts to myself, such as: “I trained perfectly for this race. I am wearing the ideal outfit for these conditions. I love running. This is a great day to run! No one said this would be easy. It is a challenge and that is why I love it.” Perhaps these thoughts sound cheesy to you. They are a bit cheesy, but thinking positive thoughts helped me make it through the race. I believe that distance running is 90% mental, and 10% physical. You obviously have to put in the time training your body, but you also have to really use your mind to make it through a race, and you need to use your mind to push your body through the pain.

OK, back to the race. I didn’t want to start out too fast. I felt great through the first 6 miles. At around mile 6, my legs got a bit tired and my muscles started to ache a bit. Once I got to mile 10, I knew I only had 3 miles left (5k). My legs were hurting at this point, but I sped up a bit, knowing I was near the end. The crowd was quite large during the last mile, and it felt great to hear all the cheering. The last 500m or so were slightly up hill. That was not fun. But I pushed myself right until the finish line. I really wanted to finish under 2:30.

I crossed the finish line and felt amazing! I also felt freezing and was quite thankful for the mylar blankets they were giving out. The area after the finish line was quite crowded. It probably took a good 15 minutes to walk through the area where I collected my medal and some food before I could get to the post run party, which was held in Mel Lastman Square at City Hall. The area where they designated for us to walk was far too narrow for the amount of people. This was probably my only complaint about the logistics of the race. My parents and brother were there to greet me at the party and snap a few pics. My husband and kids stayed home because of the inclement weather. I missed them, but it was nice to have some time to recover and enjoy the party, rather than chasing around two little ones.

Happy!

Happy!

Post run thoughts

My second half marathon was a phenomenal experience. I was amazed how much easier it felt than my first half marathon, and I know that with more training and more miles under my belt, I can easily improve my time. I know that there is a 2:15 half marathon in my future, and maybe even a 2:00. I also know that there is definitely a marathon in my future, but probably not until my kids are a bit older.

Since my half, I have kept up my running. I try to run 2-3 times a week (which is not easy in the middle of winter!). I haven’t kept up my distances – I think the farthest I’ve gone has been 7km. I’m OK with that – it has been good for my body to recover from the distances and I’ve enjoyed some cross training, including spinning, cross country skiing and some weight training.

I’m planning on taking a break from racing for the next little while. I will stay active and run – not because I’m training for something, but because I truly love running. I love what it does for my body, mind and soul. While races are a lot of fun, every day that I run is a good day.


1 Comment

Running in the Rain

Today’s contribution to Marathon Week will be about running in the rain.  For two weeks prior to my half marathon, I obsessively checked the weather app on my iPhone many, many times each day.  Each time I checked, the forecast remained the same – RAIN!  The good news was that the prediction was that the day would be warm (high of 18 degrees Celsius, starting out at 10 degrees at 8:30 am, when the race began).

I have run many times in the rain, and I actually find it quite enjoyable.  The rain keeps you cool when running.  You feel like a real runner when you run in the rain, not just someone who jogs occasionally on the weekend if the weather is nice.  So, I had some experience with inclement weather, but I had never completed a long run in the rain.   21km in the rain terrified me.  I worried about blisters on my feet, staying warm enough (it was expected to be a windy day), and I worried about chafing from my wet clothing.

In the end, the rain was not a problem at all.  It was pouring when I left my house, and it continued to rain while I waited in my corral.  The rain slowed down to a drizzle as the race started and luckily pretty much stopped after the first 15 minutes of the race.

Here’s what I did to tackle the rain:

  • I slathered my feet with vaseline in the morning before I put on my socks.  My shoes were soaked within minutes of getting out of my car before the race.   They stayed wet for the next 3.5 hours, but I didn’t get one single blister.
  • I put coconut oil on my body in areas where I was worried about chafing.  This included my arm pits, and a number of areas under the edges of my sports bra.  I didn’t chafe at all!
  • I kept warm and dry before the start of a race by bringing a large throwaway umbrella with me, and by wearing a garbage bag, which I took off just before I crossed the start line.  My clothes barely got wet and I stayed warm.
  • I didn’t worry about puddles.  My feet got soaked as soon as I stepped out of my car.  It would have been very hard to try and run around puddles, and it likely would have wasted a lot of energy.  My feet were wet, and I just accepted it, and enjoyed splashing through puddles.
  • I wore a running hat with a brim, which kept the rain off my face during the first part of the race when it was drizzling a bit.
  • I wore a running technical t-shirt and a running skirt.  I did not wear a waterproof running jacket, and I did not wear pants or capris.  The fabric of my clothes was wicking and quick- drying (gotta love Lululemon!)  I knew that the high of the day would be 18 degrees and any extra layers would have overheated me.  I saw a lot of people with jackets on at the start, and pretty much everyone took them off.  I saw a lot of people wearing long sleeves and long pants and they were sweating profusely.  They were really overdressed.

Have you ever run a race in the rain?  Do you have any tips to add?


Leave a comment

Half Marathon Nutrition

As part of marathon week, today I will be writing about how I tackle the half marathon from a nutrition standpoint. I remember when I first started running, I was very confused about what to eat before and after a run. The night before my first 5k, I ate a huge salad and the morning of I had a big green smoothie. While healthy,this combination led to a very upset tummy before the race. That being said, some runners might find that the above mentioned foods are fine before a race. The key with race nutrition is to try everything out many, many times during training – especially before long runs. Through trial and error, I’ve learned a lot about what agrees with my stomach and what does not.

The day before the race

Before my half marathon, I ate lot throughout the whole day. I focused on carbs, and tried to avoid greasy foods. Breakfast was a big bowl of oatmeal with fruit. Lunch was hummus on rice cakes with cut up veggies. Dinner was a big bowl of gluten free pasta with tomato sauce and beans. Snacks were fruits such as apples and bananas, and some gluten free dairy free muffins. I was sure to drink a lot of water the day before. In fact, I drank lot of water the whole week before the race so that I was adequately hydrated.

Morning of the race

My breakfast on race day was Oh She Glow’s overnight oats. I ate this two hours before the start of the race, so that it had time to properly digest. I also drank 500mL of Vega Sport Electrolyte hydrator when I woke up, and tried to finish it one hour before the race. I was feeling a bit hungry before the start of the race and ate two medjool dates.

During the race

I carried a fuel belt with me during the race. In it were three 8oz bottles. Two of these bottles contained Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator and one contained water. I also carried with me two Vega Sport Gels.

My plan was to drink one bottle of the hydrator at 5k and one at 10k. My plan was to eat one gel at 8k and the other at 16k. I followed this plan, but found that I didn’t really want the second gel at 16k. I had about half of it and then threw the rest on the ground. I also had sips of water at each water station along the way.

I know that a lot of people don’t like to be weighed down by a fuel belt in a race. For me, it is comforting to know that I have my own electrolyte drinks and gels, and water, so that I can drink when I am thirsty and refuel with gel when I’m feeling like I need a boost of energy. Gatorade, which is provided at aid stations along the way – grosses me out. It is full of artificial coloring and flavors and sugar, and is not something I want to put in my body. I love the Vega Sport products – they were developed by a vegan triathlete, Brendan Brazier. They are plant based, all natural and made with whole foods. I find them very easy to digest. I’ve practiced with them all through my training and I know that my body reacts well to them.

After the race

After my first half marathon in the spring, I did not eat or drink adequately and ended up with a horrible headache for the rest of the day. I was determined not to let this happen again. I had a banana and apple right after I crossed the finish line. I had a Vega Smoothie Infusion (chocolate flavoured, yum!) during the car ride home. I sipped on water for the whole day. I also ate a lot of food, starting with a huge smoothie as soon as I got home. I managed to avoid the-post race headache and actually felt quite good for the remainder of the day.


Leave a comment

Training for Half-Marathon #2

It’s official! Training for my second half marathon, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, began last week. Only 14 weeks til the big day – Sunday, October 14, 2012.

I’ve been running, biking and dabbling in some yoga since my first half marathon, which was almost 2 months ago. I’m excited to get back into some serious training. I had some fun working out my training plan. It is a bit more intense than my first plan as it involves more mileage, and more cross training. I plan on running 3 days a week, biking 3 days a week and resting 1 day a week. I know I need to do some upper body strength training and core work too – haven’t quite figured out when I will do that…maybe on my rest day and one of my bike days?

I want to improve upon the time I achieved in my first race, 2 hrs and 36 mins. However, I worry about pushing myself too much and getting an injury. Then I remind myself that there are athletes out there training for marathons and even Ironmans, and a half marathon is really not such a crazy endevour. So I’m going to throw it out there. I want to finish in 2 hrs and 15 minutes. I will re-visit this goal as I work my way through my training plan and adjust as necessary.

I will update you, dear readers, as my training progresses. It’s hard to believe that just around this time last year I was just starting to run, training for my first 5k. So much has changed in a year.

Are you training for any fall races?


4 Comments

Lessons learned from a half marathon

It’s been a month since my half-marathon.  Sometimes I still can’t believe that not only did I run 21km, but that I also found time to train properly for it.  I’ve been trying to keep up with my running, but I find that it’s not the same without a race looming in the future to motivate me to get out there.  I bought a new pair of shoes which got me running right after I bought them, but their lure is waning.

I’ve been experimenting with other forms of exercise, and went to my first Zumba class, which was a lot of fun.  It was a great cardio workout and I liked that it could be as high or low impact as you want.  I’ve also gone to a few free classes at my local Lululemon.  I’ve enjoyed their BOGA class – 1/2hr boot camp and 1/2hr yoga.  I realized by going to these classes that I have really increased my fitness level astronomically in the past year through running.  The Zumba class and the BOGA class were quite easy for me and I felt so happy about that!

I miss the burn and the feeling of exhaustion that I felt after my half marathon.  I miss the sense of accomplishment that I felt after the race and that I felt after my long training runs.  It’s hard to find time to go out for long runs.  I am definitely going to sign up for another half marathon in the fall.  I know that I can increase my speed and lower my time dramatically.

My half marathon was an amazing experience, and I learned a number of lessons that I would like to share with you.  They are as follows:

  1. Chafing happens – I always read on other blogs that runners experience chafing during long runs.  I never experienced this during my training and thought that I was immune to this problem.  However, at about mile 11 my armpits started to burn from my shirt rubbing against my skin.  The pain was real and I did my best to not think about.  Mind over matter, right?  However, for future races I will be using BodyGlide.  There is no need to experience the pain of chafing.  The burn in my legs at mile 11 was pain enough.
  2. Refueling after a race is not optional – I knew that I needed to eat after the race and packed up a few things for Jake to bring down to the finish line.  This included a scoop of Vega One and some water and a shaker cup, and some ShaSha Buckwheat snacks.    However, with all the excitement in finishing the race, I neglected to eat either of these things.  I had a banana, a couple slices of orange and that was it.  I didn’t even drink water until I got home a couple hours later.   This was a terrible idea.  I had a splitting headache for the remainder of the day after the race, and I attribute this to not drinking and eating properly right after the race.
  3. Employ babysitters post race – the only thing harder than running a half marathon is taking care of little kids after running a half marathon.  Jake had a full morning taking care of the boys, and bringing them down to the finish line, and was understandably done with them once we got home.  In hindsight I should have asked the grandparents to come over and watch the boys in the afternoon so that I could have a nap and veg out for the rest of the day.  Instead, I ran around with them outside, and did other things that did not aid in my recovery.  This did not help with my splitting headache.
  4. Start out A BIT faster – I wish that I had started out faster.  I was so worried about beginning too fast and burning out that I ended up running with people who were….slow.  This slowed me down.  For example, there was a girl near me wearing long yoga pants, a sweater, a very unsupportive bra, and her long hair was loose.  I didn’t get it.  It was so hot out.  Needless to say, she wasn’t very speedy.  I have no idea how she finished 13.1 miles like that.  I wish I had run with people who were faster (and dressed properly), so that I would have been motivated to go faster.

Have you run any races?  Have you learned any lessons from them?


2 Comments

Race Recap – Half Marathon – The GoodLife Toronto Marathon

I did it! I finished my first half-marathon on Sunday in 2 hours and 36 minutes. This of course is a personal best for me (by default, since it is my first half) and I am proud of myself. It was long, hot and sunny and painful at times, especially near the end. I still can’t believe that I did it!

Race Preparation

As I learned during my prep for my 10k two weeks ago, a gluten free, dairy free and soy free diet works really well for me. I’ve been diligent about the diet for about 3 weeks now with no slip-ups and my stomach has been feeling great. As a bonus, my eczema is also almost completely gone! The week before the race was my taper so I only ran twice, two miles each time. I felt blah, tired and lazy all week – I really missed running! The day before the race I headed down to the Direct Energy Centre with my mom and Benjamin to pick up my race kit and visit the expo. The expo was fun – lots vendors, lots of samples of various protein drinks and bars. I stayed away from most of them but enjoyed the Gidi Yoyo chocolate and Sha Sha buckwheat snacks. We didn’t stay long at the expo as I wanted to rest my legs. I tried to eat a lot of carbs the day before, and drink a lot of water. I attempted to go to bed early, but of course it was very difficult to sleep.

The half-marathon began at 8:30 am. I woke at 5:40 am so I would have time to eat my pre-race breakfast, vegan overnight oats, and drink some Vega Electrolyte Hydrator. This breakfast works really well for me. My stomach felt good, and I felt full, but not stuffed after breakfast. I left the house just after 7 and I drove up to the start at Mel Lastman Square by myself (there was no way we were going to get the kids up and ready to go by 7am!). I got there quickly and parked on a side street. I ate one Vega Sport Endurance Gel about 30 mins before the race. Luckily I arrived in time to make a quick portopotty stop – the lines were long but went quickly. It was a lot warmer out that I expected. It was probably about 12 degrees at the start and quickly went up to 18 degrees. This doesn’t seem so hot, but the sun was blazing down and there was little shade. I had on my throwaway jacket, but discarded it before the race even started. I wore my Lululemon Swiftly Short Sleeve T, and my Lululemon Inspire Crops. I also had on a Nike running hat and sunglasses. And of course my trusty Mizuno Wave Elixirs. I was SOO thankful to have both my hat and sunglasses. Really needed them both!

Race Time

I lined up in my corral just before 8:30. The corrals weren’t organized very well. I situated myself somewhat near the back and before I knew it, it was time to start. I knew I had to start out slowly or there was no way I was going to finish. Here are my splits:

Mile 1 – 10:57

Mile 2 – 11:15

Mile 3 – 12:46

Mile 4 – 12:07

Mile 5 – 11:18

Mile 6 – 11:43

Mile 7 – 10:48

Mile 8 – 11:34

Mile 9 – 11:35

Mile 10 – 12:30

Mile 11 – 11:31

Mile 12 – 8:52

Mile 13 – 7:59

Mile 14 – 11:27

A few things to note about my splits. I’m happy that I was able to keep most of my miles faster than 12min/mile. I attribute the ones higher than 12 to either hills, or water stops where I walked a bit. I’m not sorry that I slowed down on hills or walked while drinking as it was important to get fluids in because I was HOT. As I mentioned before, it was really hot and sunny. It was the kind of day where it was cool and beautiful in the shade, and hot in the sun. 95% of the race was not shaded, and I really felt the sun beating down on me. After training through the winter, I wasn’t really prepared for the heat. Should I have worn shorts? It was warm enough, but I really like the support that the Inspire Crops give me. They hold my tummy and thighs in and prevent jiggling, and they are really lightweight. So I think they were a good choice. I was also glad that I applied sunscreen before I left the house in the morning.

I was so thrilled to see my parents around mile 5, Jake, my brother in law and my kids at mile 6 and at the finish line, and my brother at mile 7. Knowing that I would see them helped me push through and, they also snapped some great pics.

I was feeling good with no aches or pains until about mile 5. At mile 5, my left ankle started to hurt. This pain went away around mile 7. Mile 7 was beautiful, down Rosedale Valley Drive. Finally there was some shade and it was cool and breezy. Miles 8-10 were brutal. They were down Bayview and River Street. There was no shade. It was hot. There were no spectators. The scenery was ugly. My stomach started to rumble and I started to feel sick. Earlier that morning, I had received an inspirational tweet from my cousin who was also running the half marathon. She is an accomplished cyclist who races (and wins!) a lot, and she wrote:

It’s all in your head. Just tell your brain to push through and you will kick butt.

Her words helped me push through miles 8-10. I wasn’t going to give up because of a tummy ache, and some hot weather. I told my body that I had to keep going and I wasn’t going to stop. I willed that stomach ache away. By mile 11 we were in the downtown core and there was a breeze, some shade and I was feeling good again. I pushed pushed pushed through those final miles.

Another thing to note – according to my GPS, I ran 14 miles and crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 36 mins, but a half marathon measures in at 13.1 miles. I really tried not to weave this time but I still inadvertently added 0.9 miles to my race. Oh well! I am thrilled that I ran mile 12 in 8:52 and mile 13 in 7:59. I really gave it my all in those last two miles, as I tried to make it in before 2 hours and 30 minutes. However, once I got to 13 miles I unexpectedly still had one mile to go. That last mile was BRUTAL. I couldn’t wait to see that finish line. My legs felt like they were going to break off and when I finally saw the finish I was absolutely thrilled.

This was taken right near the finish line. Why do I look so happy? I’m in a lot of pain

As for race nutrition and hydration – I ate a Vega Sport Endurance Gel at mile 5 and mile 10. I drank a full cup of water at every aid station (and also poured one down my shirt or on my head!). I had my Amphipod Hydration Belt on and I filled one bottle with water, and 2 with Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator. They gave out Gatorade along the way, but there was no way I was drinking that nasty stuff! I drank my electrolyte drink intermittently throughout the race. This worked for me, as I had practiced drinking and eating on my long runs. It is so important to practice race fuelling and hydration to figure out what works best for you!

I could barely walk when I was done the race. My legs felt like lead blocks. They were so stiff and it was hard to lift them. I got my medal, picked up a banana and called Jake. I was not impressed with the post-race party. It was in a parking lot, there was a fence around it and there was a lot of confusion because the 5k was starting at noon. So there were a lot of runners milling about aimlessly and I couldn’t even find water. Jake and the boys weren’t allowed in the party (or were they? I’m not sure. There was someone guarding a small entrance into the fenced in area and they didn’t allow them in). I was exhausted and didn’t feel like hanging around and couldn’t wait to get home.

I earned that finisher’s medal!

However, the only thing harder than running a half-marathon, is taking care of small kids after running a half-marathon. It’s not like I could go home and have a nap or sit on the couch for the rest of the day. The kitchen counter needed to be wiped, the kids needed to be fed and diapers needed to be changed. That is life as a mom and of course I’m so grateful for my wonderful kids, but next time after a half I will employ the help of babysitters or perhaps grandparents.

If you had asked me immediately after the race if I would do another one, I would have said NO WAY. I’m already changing my mind. I’m slowly forgetting the pain of the last 3 miles and already plotting my next few races.

Final Thoughts

A half marathon is hard. Perhaps this is obvious. (Perhaps if you run 100 mile ultramarathons, a half marathon is easy…I guess it is all relative.) A half marathon requires dedicated training, knowledge of your body and fuel requirements. You feel like crap after a half marathon. My whole body ached Sunday and I had a splitting headache. I forgot about my ankle pain because that was nothing in comparison to the pain in my hip flexors. I could barely roll over in bed Sunday night. I felt better Monday, and feel almost back to normal today. I really didn’t expect it to hurt so much.

My mom asked me after the race – what is the point of running a half marathon? I think she just didn’t like to see me in pain, which is understandable. The point is I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something hard. And why not do it? I run because I can. I’m thankful that I have the health and the ability and the time to run. I saw this quote yesterday, and it sums up the way I feel about running:

Don’t ask me why I run. Ask yourself why you don’t.

I love that Dylan watches me race. He brought in my medals and a cow bell from the race to school for show and tell. I’ve already decided that I’m going to do the Oasis Zoo Run in September. It is a 10k through the Toronto Zoo. There is a 1k race for kids and Dylan wants to do it. I’m so thrilled!

I’m already plotting my next half marathon. I know I can go faster! I have been bit by the long distance running bug. The pain of a race is fleeting, but the memories of pushing my body and my mind will last forever. Perhaps there is even a full marathon in my future…