at the races I choose joy.

I choose joy.

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I completed my 20th marathon, 19 years after my first. 

Travelled to a safe race, amidst a pandemic. 

Finished my 21st healthy and injury-free build (I have one DNF). 

Running my fourth world major marathon and placing fifth masters. 

Loving every day of the training build. 

Completing every component of my training program—every stride, strength session, drill, run. Continuing to learn, be motivated, push myself, set appropriate goals, and love the work. All of the supportive messages, wishing me the best. 

All of the kind messages, congratulating me on what wasn’t my best. 

A wonderful family, group of friends, coach, community, country, home, and church. Following along with Rachel Hannah as we prepared to compete in NYC. A weekend away with my husband of 20 years. 

Grandparents for our children while we’re away. 

Knowing I can and will race (well) again. 

Opportunities gained during my running career—public speaking, broadcasting, and coaching.

I will choose joy. But it won’t always be easy… 

Yet, a week after the New York Marathon, I’m still feeling “meh.” I’m not devastated. I’m not overjoyed. I’m somewhere in between. It doesn’t really even bother me that I didn’t meet any of my goals. I didn’t have specific time or placement goals anyway, but I knew approximately where I should be, and it certainly wasn’t where I was. 

I think I’ve done a decent job of seeing the bigger picture, ageing gracefully, and balancing life while staying positive, realistic and optimistic. But I’m also human. I can be disappointed.

I can keep fighting to choose grateful over grumpy. 

Looking back at my 20 marathons, I’ve only had two with stomach issues. Not a bad record. I think one thing that bothers me though, is that each of these times I could “control the controllables” and I didn’t. It wasn’t something I unknowingly ate that caused the problem, it was: a) In London 2017, a concentrated beet juice shot I failed to dilute and b) In New York City 2021, a carbohydrate rate I failed to adjust.

I think that what I could consume for nearly 10 years at ~3:35/km pace I can’t at 3:45/km. Likely in a few key training runs this build, it wasn’t the iron pill or late dinner or curry from the night before. And because of this I raced far from my fitness. I had mantras and thoughts prepared and saved to use and repeat when digging in the later and most difficult parts of the race. But I didn’t get the chance. I had a perfect build and was ready in every way for that tough New York City Marathon course. It suited me. I was so ready. This is the most disappointing. 

The other part I’ll briefly mention about my time in NYC is that I had some things I was dealing with over the weekend. I don’t believe they directly affected my race, but it was a lot at one time. I hoped for a good race performance to better balance the emotions of the weekend but that didn’t happen. Sigh. That’s life.

Thank you, Jonathan, Kate G. and Michael C., Josh C., Tina P., Rachel H. and Joe C.for helping me through. Like every other struggle, I know I’ll someday be sharing more about this chapter. 

Although I could go out and run another marathon to prove my fitness, I won’t. I had reason and motivation to do so three times in my running career (2009, 2016, 2019), but will call it a wrap for 2021. I’ve already got goals for 2022. I’ll just have to wait. I can. I will. 

A big thanks to each and every one of you who’ve supported me along the way. I am grateful.

Taking my own advice to, “Smile and celebrate as you cross the finish line, no matter what.” 

By the Numbers 

I quite enjoy looking at the summary of each training build. When I’m preparing to start the build for my next marathon (yes, of course I have one planned), I’ll gain confidence by looking at these numbers, knowing I get to do it all over again. A big thanks to Reid Coolsaet for such an excellent training plan. 

Weekly average mileage: 166 km (10 weeks) or 170 km (top 8 weeks) 

Peak weeks (3 weeks): 180, 180, 185 km/wk 

Weekly elevation average (~6 weeks, not including treadmill): ~700 m 

Complete rest days: 1 every 7 days 

Workouts/long runs: 1 every 3 days 

Running doubles: 2-3 x/week 

Strength, drills, strides: 1-2 x/week 

Core and swim spa: 15 min, 5 x/week 

Peak workout: 27 km at 3:43/km 

Average of longer runs with quality (5): 35 km at 4:21/km 

Motivation and enjoyment: 7 days/week 

A few people to thank: Josh Cassidy 

When I was preparing for the Canadian 10 km Championship broadcast in October, I got to know this incredibly accomplished athlete. Josh had just completed the Boston Marathon, placing fifth, six days before he planned to race the 10 km, provided his wife didn’t go into labour. Their baby boy was born a few days after he raced the 10 km. He then raced the New York City Marathon. He hadn’t had a full night’s sleep for three weeks, but won an outstanding fourth place finish. I quite enjoyed seeing him throughout the weekend and at our small table of Canadians at the post-race dinner event. He had an early flight home the next day, but was looking forward to seeing his newborn baby and catching up on his share of diaper-changing.

Kate Gustafson and Rachel Hannah 

These two wonderful people (pictured above, minus their equally wonderful partners) were a pleasure to spend time with over plates of pasta and rice at the pre-race dinner, and on the morning of the race. They are such kind and talented women who successfully balance marathon training with busy careers. Kate was third Canadian at 2:45 and Rachel was second Canadian at 2:39.

I will choose joy. It’s worked so far.

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