Race Report: Manitoba Marathon
- What? Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Full Marathon
- When? June 18th, 2017
- How far? 42.2 km
- Where? Winnipeg, MB
- Website: http://manitobamarathon.mb.ca/
- Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1042888001
A+: Sub 3:00 / BQ
B: Sub 3:30
Jack Daniels’ 2Q 18-Week Marathon Plan (90-110 km per week). I wrote a summary of it in my review.
I had some vacation to use so I took Friday and Monday off around race weekend. After a big breakfast and a big lunch on Friday, I went into Winnipeg to the expo, where I picked up my racekit and talked myself into a pair of Hoka Clifton 2s. I wasn’t going to wear them for the race but I was sure tempted to do a shakeout in them on Saturday! On Friday evening, I had the most indulgent, carb-heavy meal I’ve ever seen.
Nothing particular to say about the weekend other than I ate more carbs than I’ve ever eaten in my life. During my last marathon, I bonked hard (and early), so I was determined not to let that happen again. The blood sugar swings were pretty severe, but my stomach felt fine otherwise. I did a short shakeout on the treadmill on Saturday and then had my final big meal at 2 PM. I had a couple beers that evening and ate (more) pizza. The race was an early start (7 AM) so I went to bed around 9. I couldn’t sleep until 12, which was kinda stressful, but I managed to pass out for a good 4 hours.
Alarm went off at 4 AM and I left the place I was staying around 5 AM. I had a bagel with peanut butter and coffee on the way to the park and ride near the University of Manitoba campus (the race start). I was at the football stadium (the start/finish of the race) before 6 AM, so I had lots of time to check my bag and decompress. It was cool and cloudy so I stayed inside to stay warm. Around 6:30 I went outside to do the lunge matrix and a 5 minute jog. I decided I had one too many gels in my pocket so I quickly sucked one back before the race started, which is a thing that some people say works.
Conditions were utterly perfect. Just over 10 degrees, cloudy, and no wind. I think it was raining very lightly, but I can’t remember clearly. I took off the old hoodie I wore to keep warm and threw it on the boulevard. It was go time.
My plan was to go out at 4:20 pace and adapt from there. In the first couple kilometres I feel like I’m cruising, and I even chat a bit with a triathlete who was shooting for sub-3. Marathon pace feels good. I’m excited, but I reign it in as the sub-3 aspirants pull away a bit and I’m left on my own. I briefly run with 2 half-marathoners who are already working hard and don’t say much. Around 8 km the half-marathoners split off and now all the packs are really strung out. I don’t remember looking at my watch much but I know I’m on goal pace and it feels magically easy.
We cross the bridge towards downtown and I catch up with 2 runners who are right on sub-3 pace. One of them has done this race like 20 consecutive years! He’s telling me all these stories about making it to the start line hungover and 5 minutes before the race starts. It’s the highlight of my day. It helps that marathon pace feels magically easy. This is going to be a special one.
After winding down Assiniboine Ave we move onto Wolseley Ave, which is a great place to run in Winnipeg. Coincidentally, it was also where I stayed the night before, so I chuckled as I ran by the house I left 3 hours ago. We go through one of the relay handoff points and there’s an MC, who’s on the mic and tells us “You’re halfway there boys!” even though it’s just after mile 11. I’m feeling too good to care, though, so I just keep cruising along.
There’s a two mile stretch heading West on Portage Avenue in this race, which is a main artery of Winnipeg. I’ve run this section in several races I’ve done now, and it’s always a fun time running alongside traffic. But no matter how many races I’ve done, I will never forget this moment. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. I’m halfway through the marathon at this point, and the steady clip of marathon pace just feels effortless. Race pace isn’t a struggle. All my problems disappear. All is right with the world. For the first time in my life, I feel completely in sync with my body. I have run thousands of hours in training now, but this 10 minutes is worth it. I’m so happy that I just soak it in.
I’m not looking at my watch anymore – just going by effort. After I turn onto Assiniboine Park Drive, which goes through a beautiful park in the city, those emotions dissipate and I’m back to work. I still feel good, clicking off 4:20 or faster as I chip away at the hardest part of the marathon. I’m past 25 km now, which is where I bonked in my last marathon, and I’m feeling strong. I take a gel at 2 hours. Could this be my breakthrough day?
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Around 33 km (20 miles) that familiar feeling creeps up on me. I’ve depleted all my glycogen and I can’t sustain this effort. Pushing myself does nothing. I smile. I let myself be disappointed for a tiny moment, but then I’m figuring out how to salvage a decent PR. I slow down at the aid stations so I can drink water and recalibrate my effort. I’m being passed by 3 or 4 runners at this point. I’m happy for them. One of the guys I was running with earlier passes me and he looks like he’s staying strong. I tell him “Good job!” because I know that my magical day is over and I’m hoping that he goes sub-3. Towards the end, another guy who was running with me earlier catches and passes me. I’m running 5:00 kilometres for 6k between 34 and 39, plodding along in a sadly-bonked state but determined to get to the finish line as far under my PR as my body would let me.
I get some energy back from the last two miles – maybe from the gels, which I could’ve used 30 minutes ago. I yo-yo a bit with the guy who just passed me. In the last mile, I pull away, while trying to figure out when I’m going to finish. I figure if I can run a seven minute mile that I could go 3:05 or lower. A BQ that won’t get me into the big dance wouldn’t be the worst thing.
But doing math during a marathon doesn’t quite work that way, apparently, as I’m coming into Investors’ Group Field as my watch clicks past 3:06. The end of the Manitoba Marathon is, in my opinion, pretty stunning for a race in a small city. I’m delirious but there are crowds on the street telling me I look strong. The finish line is in the stadium of a CFL football team. They call your name and apparently you’re on the big screen. I just care about the finish line. I cross in 3:07:05.
The post-race stuff for marathoners at the Manitoba Marathon is better than my previous experience at an unnamed race. First off, you get your own designated area with snacks and massages. Second, your bag (with warm clothing!) is brought down to the field for you. At the other marathon I’ve done, I didn’t even bother with a massage because I had to wait in line with the 5,000 other people who had just finished racing other distances. After the massage, I chat a bit with some people who I ran with, and then grab my bag so I can get into warm clothes. I hobble up the stairs and head to the washrooms to change. Another huge benefit of having the race at Investors’ Group Field is the availability of public restrooms before and after the race. They really chose a great venue for this and I hope it stays that way, as I plan on running this race for years to come.
I’m not very good at post-race mingling. After running for three hours, I just want to get into a hot shower and clean clothes, then relax. So I leave the stadium and do just that.
Reflecting on my race, I’m actually happy with how it went. It wasn’t quite a home run. I was on pace for sub-3 around 20 miles, which is a good place to be when you’re feeling good. But I faded hard, and fueling was probably the cause. I took 4 gels (45 minutes, 1:30, 2:00, and 2:30), but I should probably bump that up 15 minutes next time. I don’t regret running a bit faster than my goal pace. The perfect conditions were too good to pass up, and I felt good. My heartrate throughout the whole thing was very low (135 bpm, almost worryingly low). Assessing my performance, I don’t think my fitness or training were to blame for the fade.
Plus, I just had a ton of fun almost the whole way and crossed the finish line happy.