I had been wanting to do the Edmonton marathon for a very long time. Ever since my mom’s brother and family moved there and I started running marathons nearly 30 years ago years ago I have told them I would visit and run the marathon. For one reason another it didn’t happen until this year. I planned everything as I had thought about it for years. We would fly to Edmonton visit family then drive across the rockies to Vancouver Island and stay in a place I had stayed at during a trip out west for my cousins wedding nearly 26 years ago. Tigh na Mara (http://www.tigh-na-mara.com/) , I never forgot how beautiful it was and vowed to get back there some day. I would follow all that up with visiting my cousins in Vancouver. As an added bonus we stayed in Revelstoke and went white water rafting!
This year was a good year to do it for two reasons. I really wanted to qualify for Boston this year. You see the last time I ran Boston was in 2008 the year of my 40th birthday. Logically (to me) I should be able to qualify and run Boston in 2018 the year of my 50th birthday (oh that is so painful to type). My thinking was that if I can qualify 10 years later then I must be in similar shape as I was when I was 40! Makes total sense. I also wanted to work on getting some speed back in my run which in turn would help me with my ironman in November. You see, not training for a stand alone marathon i.e. a marathon without the swim and bike beforehand has made me a slow(er) runner than I once was. Either way training to qualify would help me.
Qualifying for Boston was not going to be an easy task it never is but not only had my running got much slower in the past few years but my training window was short. I spent most of the spring to June training for Dirty Kanza a 200 mile gravel race in Kansas which was on June 4th DIRTY KANZA #4. Two weeks later I was in Leadville, Colorado running (it was actually a hike not a run as it took me 8 hours) the Leadville marathon on no training. By far one of the hardest thing I have ever done. After Leadville recovery time this left me with less than 7 weeks to train to run a Boston qualifier. At my ripe old age that means running it in just under 4 hour time. It is all relative, for some that may seem like a lot of time and for others it may seem like an unreachable goal.
I made up my own training plan. I incorporated speed workouts, long runs and some tempo runs as well as maintaining some cycling. As time got closer I really wasn’t sure if I was even going to get close. My long runs at best were 9:30’s but more often closer to 10 min miles. Mind you there were some really hot and humid days. My longest run was at waterfall glen which was hilly and humid and I managed to squeak out 10 min miles. Edmonton condition would be very much in my favor both flat and cool.
A few weeks prior to the marathon I decided it was time to hire a coach, Jon Fecik to get me through to Ironman Arizona in November http://jonfecik.blogspot.com/. I needed the direction from someone vs making it up as I went along. He had the task of making my last 3 weeks before marathon day count. Jon is a professional triathlete who I had met at Diabetes Training Camp in 2016. He was one of the coaches there. Although it was only a week I really felt like he understood the balance of training and working full time and on top of it he has experience with training diabetics.
So here I was finally in Edmonton. I had my Aunt, Uncle, cousin, mom, dad, sister, brother=in-law and BF cheering for me. Oh and I can’t forget Karyn Brown Pancreasskicker/Diabadass who had flown in from Colorado for the weekend. They were expected to be around mile 16- which would be perfect!
On the diabetes front for the race I set a new basal pattern on my pump 5am – 9am at .425 units per hour 9am – 11:30 am at .3 units per hour. I was going to eat 1 cliff block per 10 minutes. Of course what I forgot was that I hadn’t adjusted the time for MT vs CT so 5am was really 4am which may have contributed to my demise. I had been struggling with the right basal settings for my long runs. It appears that my insulin requirements had gone up since my old marathon days. I used to require hardly anything. Of course once in that mindset it is hard to lose it. I am running therefore I will go low!!! Not so much.
My brother -in-law and Tom woke up at the crack of dawn to drive me the half hour to the Shaw convention center in downtown Edmonton where the start was. It was a cool morning but perfect for running a marathon. The course was an out and back and an out and back so essentially 6.5 miles one way then 6.5 miles the other way with the start in the middle. That broke it down nicely for me. There were only 800 runners so would be a different experience from 40,000 runners in Chicago.
No need to line up too early so at 6:50 I went out and tracked down the 4 hour pacer. I’ve never used a pacer because I tend to start out slow. It was a very surreal start as I heard the Oh Canada being sung instead of the Star Spangled Banner. I will admit a lump grew in my throat as I watched the Canadian maple leaf flapping in the wind and sang the anthem with pride. It had been a while since I was able to do this.
At 7am we were off I had 3 packs of blocks with me some jelly beans and of course my insulin pump. My plan was to start off around 9:40’s for the first 2 miles. For a 4 hour marathon I needed to maintain a 9:10 min mile. My blood sugar at the start was a nice 150 I felt good. So much so that I didn’t start out as slow as I thought and pretty much kicked into marathon pace right away. Nothing wrong with getting some time in the bank if you feel good but still being cautious. For the first 6.5 miles I kept with my nutrition plan. It was then that things turned for the worse I slowly watch my blood sugar rise, I kept telling myself to be patient and stick with my plan. I thought soon it will turn around and start to drop. Being patient and watching your blood sugar rise is very hard. I wanted to turn up my basal or give myself a mini bolus (small amount of insulin). Finally, at the half way point as my pump sensor graph maxed out at 350 or so I decided that this wasn’t going to fix itself. I have my self a small amount of insulin. By then it was too late. I was feeling nauseated I wanted to throw up and nearly did several times. I wanted to just quit but this trip was so many years in the making and I had trained really hard to just give up. It was mind over matter. I had stopped eating. I had my family to look forward. I first saw Karyn and gave her “the look” she knew that things were not going well with the old ‘betus. As promised I saw my family a few miles later cheering and hollering and hugging. It gave me a bit of a push to keep going. I told Tom that my blood sugar was a mess. After leaving them with 10 miles to go the high from seeing them wore off pretty quickly. I also had been experiencing pain and numbness in my right arm and so needed to keep stretching it out. At miles 21,23,24 I let my body win the mental game and walked the water stops which led to 3 miles at 9:45ish pace. Finally my blood sugar started to drop I hadn’t even been tracking my time. I just looked at each mile pace and hoped for the best I knew I was doing the absolute best I could. When I knew I was close I managed to squeak out a final mile of 8:45 but in the end it wasn’t enough. My final finishing time was 4:00:58. I missed my goal by only 59 seconds. Although I didn’t meet my goal I was still happy with the progress I had made with my running overall.
My family, Karyn as well as Tina, my friend from Chicago who decided to run the ½ marathon at the spur of the moment and her cousin were there at the end. It was neat to see my friends in Edmonton.
We all went to my cousins house and ate fried chicken it was so good! I could barely move my right arm afterwards. I thought for sure it was the start of frozen shoulder on my right side. Eventually it went away and luckily enough my Aunt is a retired Physical Therapist so she worked on me when we got back to her house. It really must have helped because I had very little “marathon” pain the next day. A bit of soreness but nothing like I would have expected. Which was nice because we were about to get in a car and drive to Revelstoke for the next leg of our trip!
I could take up pages and pages of all the amazing pictures we took of family, mountains, trees and sea… but suffice to say my heart was full for the love of my family and the scenery. All of a sudden all the crap stuff that I deal with day to day at work did not matter. I am also very excited to be raising money again for riding on insulin a not for profit which provides kids and teens with camps geared towards those with T1D just like me. At the camp they meet other individuals with similar interests and with similar diagnosis. Its a frustrating disease to have as an adult and it never stops I honestly can’t imagine being a teen and dealing with it. My goal this year is to raise $2,000. I am just over $300 away! Please visit my page here: https://www.classy.org/fundraiser/984735
Qualifying for Boston is an incredible feat for people without diabetes. It boggles my mind – and inspires!! – that you’ve done it before, came so close this time, and will do it again I’m sure despite all the extra layers you have to cope with and manage. So proud for you, Gillian.