Okanagan International Marathon – Race Report (it’s quite a read!)

First things first, the subject is a bit deceiving. The event was the Okanagan International Marathon, however, I ran the Half Marathon. BUT it was my very first Half Marathon so pardon my rambling and gushing at certain times – I’m just excited.

I travelled up to the Okanagan with 2 friends of mine Saturday morning- one running the Marathon (last year at Victoria was her first) and the other running the 10k (after having had 2 surgeries – one on his knee and the other on his ankle – and having not raced for 3 years because of these injuries).

We all had different goals in mind – Elaine (the marathoner) wanted to just finish as this was early on in her marathon career but if she finished even 1 second faster than her Victoria time, she would be ecstatic. Rick (10k) wanted to finish in 58 mins as he is just testing the waters after a long recovery. I, as most of you know, had a goal of 1:45 but if I finished in 1:50, I would still be very happy.

After picking up the race packages when we arrived, we dropped our bags off and drove the route. That evening, we decided to have a quiet dinner in – pasta and salad – and watched a very light movie. Off to bed at 10pm.I don’t normally have a tough time sleeping when I travel but for some reason, I could not sleep more than 2 hours at a time that night. I was not anxious or nervous – I wanted to treat this event like any other race that I’ve run. I was actually quite calm, surprisingly. Perhaps my body was more nervous than my mind – who knows?!

So 5:45am, I hop out of bed .. ok, maybe not hop, but crawl. I had my breakfast – 1/2 a sesame bagel and a cup of tea. After my breakfast, I put on my “favorite” running clothes and my new LGRR singlet. At 6:40am, the three of us did a light jog to the start as our warm up. We arrived with lots of time to spare but I hadn’t seen my friend Andy yet and was hoping to see him before I started. The Half Marathoners and 10k’ers started at 7:30 and the marathoners started at 8am.

10 mins til start time and no luck. I was piling into the start chute and looked over to the right and there was Andy! I scooted over and he told me to get up there close to the 1:30 pace bunny and then wished me luck. As I moved my way closer to the front, I saw Dorothy Quayle just a few people ahead of me.

Countdown .. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 .. and we were off. Weather was cool but manageable, windy depending on which direction you were running. As I round the first turn about a block into the run, I see Andy running beside me for moral support. I heard him saying something about a good pace and fast … I remember being confused and looked over at him saying “too fast?” but I didn’t hear his response. All i heard was, “ok, that’s it, i’m tired. have a good run.”

So there I go .. trying to keep a steady pace, not too fast. I wasn’t sure if the markers were kilometer markers or mile markers. The route map showed miles but the elevation map showed kms. My preference was miles.

Before I hit any marker, I hear “Go Lions Gate” behind me .. and Dorothy Quayle is right there. I quickly tell her it’s my first Half and she wishes me luck as she scoots ahead. First marker .. 1 KM. I looked down at my watch: 4:35. Yikes .. a bit fast but I was comfortable .. a couple of minutes later, there’s a mile marker! I’m at 7:29. Hmm .. still too fast. 2 KM marker – 4:43.. that’s better. Below are my km times .. you’ll quickly see that I got tired – should have started slower!

1 km 4:35
2 km 4:43
3 km 4:51
4 km 4:43
5 km 4:52
6 km 4:35
7 km 4:32
8 km 4:43
9 km 4:48
10 km 4:50
11 km I missed the marker!
12 km 9:49
13 km 4:31
14 km 5:28 mismarked??
15 km 4:59 at this point, I think I had to run past the finish line …
16 km 5:07 ok, I’m getting tired here ..
17 km 5:06 I can feel my hamstrings get tight
18 km 5:09 I’m getting thirsty but don’t want to stop for water
19 km 5:15 how much longer is it by now? Oh, there’s Andy! Look strong!
20 km 5:14 oh, I’m almost at the bridge
21 km 5:11 I can see the finish
21.1km 0:25 and down the finish chute

1:43:33 – 14th in my age group and 180th overall

So clearly not a negative split .. but yet a very positive split. I wanted to try and push it a bit for the last 3-4 kms but I was pretty tired and with my tight hamstrings starting to hurt, I didn’t want to risk any cramping.

As I crossed the finish line, I realized that I had not only reached, but surpassed my goal of 1:45. I was so happy and my friend Rick was there at the finish line to greet me.

I asked him how his race went and he was so happy .. he managed 52:24 – a PR for a 10km for him. He is well on his way to recovery.

Water! I head into the food/water tent and grab some water and a little bit of food.

Water! Now I’m slowly taking my shoes and socks off and head into the Lake… relief! Then I get on the phone, wake up Dickson and tell him I did it! He tells me I’m amazing and then we hang up so he can go back to sleep.

After a few minutes, I’m back out of the lake and Rick and I are hobbling, run/walking back to the condo for a rest.

Fifteen minutes at the condo and I realize that I have to go back .. Andy’s going to finish! His goal was 3 hours and I had about 15 minutes to hobble back. So run/walk back to the finish line. It was about 2:52 when I got back and I waited by the finish chute. 2:56 and no Andy so I run to the other side of the chute so that I can get into the finish area when he finishes. 3:01 and no sign of him .. i’m worrying that he had cramped up again as he had in previous marathons so I run to the pathway that leads up to the finish and park myself on a bike rack with camera in hand. A few minutes later, I think I see him .. oh, wait, it is him! I snap shots and shots as he is running down the path and he looks tired but still strong. As soon as he passes me, I run as fast as I can (which is really not that fast) to see if I can get him at the finish but he’s too fast for me. He didn’t get his goal of 3:00 but he reached his goal of qualifying for Boston with 3:09:18 – finishing 27th overall and 2nd in his age group!

I get a few more shots of Andy and his family and one of the two of us and then I hobble, run, walk back to the condo to get Rick so that we can run Elaine in. We had promised her that we would run her in the last 2 miles. Clearly, I was not thinking properly when I promised this as I thought I would not be hurting!

I walk into the condo and Rick is no where to be seen. Instead, there is a note and Rick has gone back already as we did not factor in the time it would take us to get to the final 2 mile mark. So I drive back to the finish (i had enough of the run-walk). Then I start to run/walk backwards on the course to look for Rick. A mile into it, I see him ahead so I start to run up to him .. I closed our gap by about half and was spent. So I just yell. He doesn’t hear me. So I try to run but can’t. Then I yell again. By the third yell, he turns around and sees me. We meet up and start run/walking to find Elaine. We finally see her around the final 2 mile marker and she’s tired but happy to see us.

We cheer her on, telling her that she looks so great, so strong. We don’t ask her anything, we chat amongst ourselves while giving her small words of encouragement.

After a mile, Rick turns to me and asks if I would be able to run ahead to the finish and see if I could get a few pictures and of course I can! kinda …

I run up ahead, get back into the park and pull my camera out, thinking I would have a minute or two to compose myself. I turn around and I see them coming towards me! I fumble a little bit and only managed to snap one shot. Then I race to the finish chute ahead of them and managed to get three more shots. She finished 6 minutes faster than her marathon in Victoria last year.

The experience was painful and hard and exhausting but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I had so much fun and although I’m hesitant to commit to another one .. who knows?

Of course we managed to hobble, limp, and groan our way to a few wineries in the region a few hours after the race and even to one more on the way back on Monday afternoon.

We had a minor hitch on the drive back as there was an accident on Highway 1 in Langley, causing us an hour delay. But during that hour, i was able to sit and reflect. I was happy with my results but as I sat, I was completely elated. Everyone had a PR at this race. Everyone had a huge accomplishment. I have to say that I couldn’t have done this at all if it weren’t for the support I had received from everyone .. Roger, for coaching me; Carlos, for training with me on Tuesdays and keeping me at a good pace; Leo, for our training runs on the weekends; all of the Thursday crew – Rene, Mark, Al, Rae, Robert, Paul, Ingo, Stephanie, Horace, Darryl, Jeanne, Harry, et al; and everyone else from the club who have constantly encouraged me .. Hans, Willi, Nick, Christine, Mark Hyder, Lara, Sara, Geoffrey, Frank .. plus many others! Too many to name!

I’m fortunate and proud to be a Lions Gater. Thanks to everyone! I never would have thought I would run a Half Marathon ..

(Now, aren’t you scared about how much I’ll write if and when I do a full marathon??)


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