The Running Librarian

In 2004, I ran my first marathon in 4hrs36min. 12 years later, I'm going to attempt my second marathon. I just hope to finish it...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Should you compete in a marathon when you are sick?

No. Yes.  It depends on a few factors. 

I thought I would write a mini follow-up post to my marathon post because this was a question that weighed heavily on my mind leading up to my marathon.  I spent a few hours googling trying to read other experiences, so I thought I would share mine. 

Most of what I have come across talks about the "neck" rule. If it's just a cold in your head, then it's safe to run, but, if it's below your neck, in your chest, then it's not a good idea. 

My original plan this year was not to run a marathon at all. I was registered for the 30k Around the Bay race in Hamilton. I developed a nasty chest cold leading up to that race and after reading about the neck rule and the dangers of racing when sick, I decided to sit the race out. I couldn't let all my training go to waste and so that's when I looked for the next closest race to enter - the Niagara Ultra. 

I thought for sure I wouldn't risk begin sick in June, but alas, the day before the race, I broke out in chills, body aches, fever, headache and sore throat.  I decided that for me, taking on the risks of running would be worth it. I am pretty good at listening to my body- which is partly why I almost didn't finish the marathon. 

It turns out that the cold I thought I had is actually strep throat. I'm glad I got it diagnosed because that one can be dangerous, left unchecked.  Hopefully, I didn't wait too long- and hopefully, racing with strep didn't cause any damage that I just don't know about.

So, for me, getting the race over with was important. I would have been very depressed to have to have missed another race due to illness.  I couldn't foresee myself running another race in the Fall. I was burned out from training and wanted my time back with my family. 

If you choose my course, here are my tips.  Be prepared for a terrible finishing time.  Your time will probably reflect your level of illness.  Listen closely to your body- especially heart- or any other organs. You can do serious damage to them.  In the end, your life is more important than finishing a race.  There are always races to do next time. Yes they cost money- but so do medical bills.  If you race,  be prepared to be the sickest that you've ever been after the race. If you can't afford the time to be sick, don't race. Lucky, for me, my workplace allows for sick days.  Marathons beat down your immune system.  You will need lots of rest to recover. If you have any acute symptoms, get them checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. 

So, as you can see, my first instinct is to say no- don't race. I opted out of the Bay race.  Second instinct- if you know you will be plunged into the depths of despair having to miss the next race, do the pros and cons and then decide.  I hope this helps! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Marathon Experience at the Niagara Ultra 2016 (42.2k)

As I head into the marathon weekend, on Friday I start to realize I'm getting sick. Aches, chills, headache. My kids have had a bad cold all week and I've been going to bed early trying to avoid this at all costs. The virus found me...

Despite feeling lousy, I travel to stay with my amazing friend, Kate who lives near Hamilton. Kate is going to be my support and cheerleader for the race. We go to bed early because we have to be up at 5:15am to get to Niagara-on-the-Lake by 7am to pick up my race kit and start the race at 7:30.  Kate gives me two heavy blankets since I'm feeling chills. My body continues to try and fight this virus all night. At 2:00am I get up to use the washroom and decide to take an advil. I Had researched about taking meds during a marathon and most of what I read said not to do it. I think it's my only option at this point. 

At 5:08 before the alarm goes off, the birds wake me. We rush through breakfast and make our way to Niagara.  We get there just after 7.  I'm not really feeling very nervous- which is probably a bad thing.  The Niagara race is very small. It's a nice change from other races, though I could have used more fan support- which I will get to later. I knew heading in that there wouldn't be fans along the route to cheer me on because I had read a race review prior to signing up. 

Once the gun goes, we are off. I'm feeling good. The advil has done wonders and I almost forget that I'm coming down with a cold virus.  All the runners immediately begin making worried comments about how hot it's going to be. It's 7:30 in the morning and already quite warm.   Early on in the race I commit a classic newbie mistake - though I know I'm doing it- my pace is too fast.  I realize this while running with a nice gentleman from Ottawa who is a seasoned marathoner and aiming for 4hrs 30 min.  He tells me the pace is too fast for him.  

This race is an out and back.  I see my friend Kate at the 17k mark and this energizes me a little. She walks with me for a bit and then we part.  Just after the 20k mark I begin to get excited about turning around to finish the second half.  I would not say that I was feeling good at this point. I had already begun walking at this point and the heat was getting oppressive- despite many saving tactics I used with water. I constantly drenched myself in water, whenever I could. I also was smart about taking in lots of fluid and eating food along the way. 

Finally, I meet the 21 turn-around point, on the edge of the city of Niagara Falls.  I'm excited because I recall that most of the first half seemed like uphill-- and so the second half would be downhill all the way. Unfortunately, my legs feel heavy. I walk fairly often- about every 2-3k. 

I get re-energized at the next aid station when I realize they have ice that I can put in my water bottle! It's the little mental things that happen in a race that can sometimes make or break you.  I plunge onward. 

Around the 26k mark, I suddenly start to run into problems.  This next bit might be too much information (TMI), so for those of you who know me, and would rather keep things professional, you can skip this paragraph, if you like.  Anyway,  because I was more worried about getting as much sleep as I could the night before the race, I did not build enough time in the morning after breakfast for a BM.  This was part of my regular routine with my long training runs, so I wasn't used to the "fullness".  Also, because I was consuming more than normal (because of my virus and the heat), I started to get bloated which then turned into nausea.   I had to stop drinking so much, despite really wanting to.  I had to start walking or I thought I was going to throw up. 

I start to give up mentally.  Unfortunately, during my training there were too many long runs that I ended up making shorter than planned. This is a dangerous habit that was about to play into my race mentality.  I decide to text my friend Kate, but I almost feel too sick to even focus on this task. I manage to type some lines that indicate I don't think I'm going to make it to the finish line.  Kate immediately calls me and offers me two choices. She tells me that she can come and pick me up, or she can try to encourage me, and which did I want?  I tell her to try the encouragement, full well feeling like it was useless at this point.  She gives me a few strategies and then tells me she is going to come and find me.  I continue shuffling along, looking for Kate's Subaru, but the more I don't see it, the more discouraged I start to get again. 

I finally make it to the 30k aid station.  Once I stop moving here, I think it's all over. I'm exhausted. I can't imagine possibly doing 12 more km.  Psychologically, this was a tough spot for me. I was feeling horrible, and this was the point of my furthest training run. I needed to sit down, so I find a bit of shade and sit for about 10 minutes.  Finally, a lady in her sixties who is also in the race stops beside me and says a little gruffly, "Everything ok?"  I glance up at her and say, "I feel really sick".  I am about to tell her that I don't think I can go on, but she gets this angry look on her face, looks toward the path and says, "I have 10 more km to go. If I have to walk, then that's what I'm going to do! I'm going to get my frickin' medal!", and she turns suddenly and marches off.  I know to those of you who are reading this, this might not sound like much, but to me- this was the inspirational speech I needed. She wasn't being all soft and warm, and "you can do it...", she was giving me a kick in the ass and it worked! I thought, "yeah, dammit. I can walk the rest, if I need to. I just must finish this bloody race that I've trained so hard for, taking valuable time away form my family".  I see the lady who will be forever known to me as, "my marathon fairy godmother", speed-walking away and I jump up.  I want to keep her in sight as long as I can because I know that she just gave me a second wind.  Then, a couple of more km down the road, I see Kate, and this adds to my morale too.  She walks with me for a couple of km and tells me to check my phone.  Texts are coming in from a few close friends and family and I begin to cry.  Dan sends me two adorable videos of the girls cheering me on and my sister also has her boys cheer for me in a video.  This all helps so much and I'm so grateful for Katie's quick thinking, and my sister's help in spreading the word out to others who text me words of support. 

When I say goodbye to Kate again, I decide to try running again. It's not so bad.  Although I'm an atheist, I send a little silent prayer to Terry Fox asking him to help me finish this race.  My stomach pains and nausea go away for a while.  The heat is quite bad for the rest of the race. Many participants around me are walking. I can't even believe that there are some people running 100km today.

Once I make it to the 35km aid station, I know I can finish.  It's tough and I'm walking more than running at this point.  The last 5-6 km of the race are a bit surreal.  The time just kind of passed and because I had accepted walking, it seemed easier.  I finally see the finish line about half a km away I jog in the last 800m.  They hand me my medal and it feels amazing in my hand. I put it on immediately and Katie takes me inside to recover. 

So, if it hadn't been for my good friend, my family and some stranger I've never met, I would not have finished this race.  I looked around for my fairy godmother, but she was gone (probably finished an hour before me, or maybe she just poofed back to fairy land). 

I don't have any plans to run anymore marathons anytime soon. I won't be surprised if I wait another 8 years to tackle this again.  If you don't see any posts from here on in, it's just on hiatus. If Blogger is around in another decade, come back and check for updates, once in a while. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

One week

Just a few days away from running 42km. I can't believe it is almost here. I'm so happy that this will be behind me after this weekend. I'm feeling burnt out a little and I think I need a break from running. This is probably not the right mindset to have, heading into a marathon.  Marathon training is a big time commitment, so I'm looking forward to giving that time back to my family. 

I think I'll be ok, mentally with the marathon. I think, physically, my body can do this too. It might take me 5 hours, but I am sure I can get through this. My only fear is that I'm going to be heading into the race with a bad cold. My two little children both came down with horrendous snotty colds last weekend. I've been hand-washing like crazy and taking lots of vitamin C tablets. I've been trying to go to bed early, but unfortunately, both children had me up multiple times in the night. I'll try to catch sleep where I can. 

Here is a pic of me heading into my last long run on the weekend. Can you tell how exhausted, yet happy I am to be doing my last long run?  It was just 16km. My legs felt sluggish for the first 3km, but then I hit my stride which has me feeling a bit more confident about the marathon.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


I did an experiment tonight and timed my 10k run. I've never really worried about my times but now that I'm heading into the race in a couple of weeks I've been thinking about my finishing time.  I tried running the 10k at what might be a race-pace. It felt fast but comfortable. My time was about 1 hour 4 minutes.  I found a table online that helps you predict your race time based on other races. If I use this 10k time I'm looking at finishing the race in 4hrs 50 min. Not great. I should probably listen to my friend's advice and just focus on finishing the race.

Here is a pic from tonight's run. This is the coolest tree sculpture I've ever seen.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Long slow run (22k)

I'm starting to get nervous now. Nervous about how close the race is and how slow my times have been for the long slow run. I can't imagine ever making my goal time of 4 hrs 15 min (I'll be happy with 4 hrs 30 min).  I'm too embarrassed to even post how long it took me to run 22km this weekend. I guess I should have asked somebody or googled the long slow run to find out exactly how different this is from your planned race time.  I'll do that now. 

Anyway,  In order to combat these neurotic thoughts, I've been telling myself that the training run is supposed to be slow and that your body is also dealing with all the runs from the week.  I'm heading into the tapering two weeks and very excited about this. I hope the taper does some kind of magic and let's my body build up steam to get me through the 42k I'll be running in a couple of weeks. 

I'm going to miss my next soccer game because I don't want to risk injury at this point. I guess I'm lucky so far that I haven't had any injuries. I've been good about listening to my body and just taking an extra day off when I need it. We will see if that has been beneficial or if it just created a lazy-ass.

Here is a pic from my run...and I guess when I think about it, stopping to take pictures of flowers is probably not something I will do on race day. Note to self: do NOT stop and smell the roses on race day.