4 bruised ribs? No problem.
After a mediocre winter and a late-budding spring bout of marathon training, I wasn’t planning on a PR at Vancouver this year. Add to that 4 bruised ribs from the Spartan Race 1 week before Vancouver and, again, not the focus. So, let’s start there, a week before.
A few days after the Spartan I was dealing with rib px, and trying to decide what to do. I had tried a few short runs since Spartan and they were semi-painful but really okay. However, I didn’t want to risk running 13.1, let alone 26.2 if there was a fracture. Wouldn’t be worth it. However, I really wanted to run 26.2. It had been 8 months since my last marathon, and even a running race for that matter, and I so wanted to toe the line.
Mulling, mulling, mulling.
Time to see the doc. Luckily, I was able to get in the next day to my doctor (hello, still accessible American healthcare! Please no gov’t run healthcare, ever!). The LNP checked me briefly, spoke with me kindly, and referred me to radiology for preventive medicine. And, to my surprise, while I wasn’t speaking with my normal MD, this LNP didn’t specifically tell me not to run a marathon in 4 days. Wow. Cool. She also gave me Rx for the px, which I promptly went next door and picked up. After reading the potential list of side effects including “discomfort, stomach bleeding, and/or heart issues in patients who have or who have not had heart conditions,” that scared me enough to completely abstain. 1) I didn’t want to ever take a med like that, unless it was the only option to save my life, and 2) I really didn’t want to add any potential side effects or px or symptoms mid-race when I would already be pushing myself physically with bruised ribs. So the med was out! A day later I got the call from the doc office: no fracture! At that point, I knew I would at least run the half, and possibly the full. I would pray and leave it ’til the time of the expo, the day before, to decide.
It felt great to be back in Vancouver (hello, annual tradition!) with my buddy Alex. As of Friday night before the race, I determined, though some discomfort still on a 6mi “easy” run the day before, I would be fine to do the full. And I wanted to do the full. The full distance challenges me in a way the shorter distances do not. That’s not to say one can’t be equally exhausted by pushing a faster pace in a shorter distance. But I like the distance. It’s hard.
Okay, let’s get to it…
I went to the start area with Alex this year. He was running the half (7am start), and I of course, the full (8:30am start). No start line debacles like last year. Stayed at a bnb about 1.5mi from the start – also a bonus. The sun was out so waiting around was comfortable. I met a few peeps while I was waiting in the start area. One older woman who’s ran many destination marathons. One younger woman who was from Lativia and visiting Canada. This was her 2nd marathon. Then, after a quick trip to the portable urinal area (yeah, first time I saw this at a race – so easy for guys, in and out, no waiting in toilet lines), it was time to jump in the corrals.
They called us forward. I chucked the Gatorade I had been sipping on in the bin, and walked to the start corral. The hype was on, and this race start, like most races of course, but not like my race last year, felt normal. I took it all in, and geared up for what would likely not be a comfortable race, but one I had been looking forward to running all winter.
It felt good to get out of the chute and onto the course. Even though I normally start in the first corral, the one thing I quickly notice is how many people are ahead of me on the course. Humbling. As if I needed to be humbled with marathon running. Really, I try hard but I’m not up front with the elites or anything. But it is fun to start in the first wave.
So, over rolling hills, things were feeling good. A little creaky with the bruised rib injury and all, but not bad. I focus now on running the first 3 miles slower than normal so that I don’t spend too much energy too early. 8 years of running, and still learning.
Things didn’t start to get funny, and by funny I mean interesting, and by interesting I mean sweaty, til mile 6. And things stayed that way. I felt good. The rib injury seemed to affect me minimally though, in hindsight I know it affected my breathing and my body performance overall. I focused on maintaining good form to maximize breathing, and running a steady pace.
Pushing into the University area around mile 10 was when things started to feel tiring. The sweating continued and I thought it a little unusual because it wasn’t that hot and I didn’t think it that humid per the forecast reports I had viewed up ’til race morning. But I think the air was more humid than I thought. I focused on running steady, and not backing off.
There’s an out-and-back sidestreet in this area and after I turned the 180 and ran against runners again I sang out “Hello from the other side…” I don’t get that it was well-received. Oh well. I knew this wasn’t gonna be a PR so I was gonna have some fun. One girl next to me got it and said, “I don’t think they got it.” I smiled.
About halfway, around Point Grey, the course drops a few hundred feet and I was cruising. That’s the best. Running fast! The sun was out, the sky clear blue, and I was still sweating. Not like Nashville, not like Texas, not like Florida. That’s a whole other level of sweating. This was moderate. But it was there. I was glad to have my S!Caps supplements in my shorts zip pocket (took 3 on the course – would’ve taken 4 but the other one got smashed somehow, BTWs it doesn’t taste good if opened).
I was hitting water for sure, and Ultima, and I brought a few gels. Aid stations are a funny animal. They’re more than every two miles. Some advice recommends hitting every one. The first few on the course are always packed so I avoid those. My regular plan includes aid stations less at the beginning, more in the middle, and, of course, when thirsty.
By the time I was down near Kitsilano beach, things were getting tough. The body’s ability to push as the mind wills is an incredible thing. And the body definitely was pushing. I think the mind was willing (ha).
The climb over Burrard St Bridge is always an interesting one. You see some people walking before the incline to the bridge, you see the bridge claim some victims as they’re climbing, and you see some running the whole way. This is also one of the only heavy traffic routes where vehicles are passing and honking at runners. So it’s quite the scene. And, if you can run the whole way over the bridge, you’re rewarded with downhill on the other side and the grand entrance (i.e. A lot of peeps cheering, welcoming you) to downtown Vancouver. Oh, baby, was I tired by here. And thinking back to last year, when, though also tired, was having one of my smoothest marathons yet.
The sea wall
You see, the sea wall, picturesque to tourists, a fitness playground for locals, and the walking location for a social afternoon, is a beast to the marathoners late in the race. 6 miles to go. Kind of, yeah, a suffer-fest. And yet Vancouver’s one of my favorite races. Make sense of that.
The dehydration was pushing here. But, TBH, I thought, due to the amount of sweating I was severely dehydrated. However, I found at the end of the race, I was just “normal dehydrated” for me in the marathon. So there were other forces at play. And as much as I wanted to stop, I pushed myself on the sea wall. Occasionally, I would walk, but it was rare. I was dealing with fatigue and just feeling blah since the injury.
I was thinking intently during the sea wall how much better I was feeling last year at this section. Man, last year’s race was fluid. Not my PR but a fluid race. Conversely, though, when I look back on it, my PR times were PRs because I went out faster and pushed harder, even if I burned out in the final miles – still was my fastest times. Something to think about.
The final mile into downtown was a challenge, but as you would figure, I kept telling myself, “it’s only a mile.” Go. Lucky for me, the last 1/2 mile is uphill. Gradual, yes, but still uphill. Go!
Charging up the final stretch I kept things steady, and, considering how hard this race was, I was so happy it was almost done. I was looking around to see if I’d see Alex. But there were a lot of people cheering on the street. I didn’t see him. Then I was through the chute and it was done.
I don’t know how I looked this normal considering how I felt. But, it was a great weather day! Or maybe that metal tasted like coffee! (Ha. It didn’t). And look at orange-shirt guy chillaxing with an energy drink. Looks like he had a good race. TBH I don’t remember who finished first between us.
Later that day, on a whim, Alex and I decided to drive to Whistler b/c I’d never been and it’d been forever for him. We saw the incredible Whistler Village, debated on where to eat, Alex picked, the burger was terrible. That aside, Whistler was cool.
You can’t really see it in this photo, but I’m wearing the Saucony RUN VAN shirt from last year. And we’re at Whistler Village in the ceremonial area. Very cool. Never made to Whistler/Vancouver during the Olympics in 2012. So wanted to catch a competition or two. But being next to the rings was inspiring.
Overall Rank: 1122/4911
Cat. Rank: 128/390