St. Albert Fall Challenge 2014.

Let’s just pretend I went into this race wanting to treat it as a training run, ok? It wasn’t that I wasn’t “ready” for the race, I just didn’t do as much post-marathon recovery and pre-half marathon tapering as I probably should have and I know for sure that what happened on the course today was 100% my fault. Well, it was hot… so 97% my fault. I can look back at it now, a mere two hours later, and understand why I was slow and exhausted by mile two but I really thought I had a shot this morning at getting a decent time in. Oh well, I finished and that is all that counts!

I didn’t sleep very well last night, but who ever gets a good sleep before race day? The race didn’t start until 9 so I laid in bed for a while, then dressed, braided my hair, and ate my chocolate chip Clif bar and banana. I drove down to the start and had about half an hour to spare when I arrived. I forgot I only had a 6 minute drive to get there! It gave me time to say hi to my neighbours who were running their first 5K today, hit up the bathrooms one more time, and meet up with my friend and personal photographer for the day!

I started out too fast… obviously. My first mile was 7:33, a sure sign that this was not going to go well. My heart rate seemed abnormally high and I couldn’t catch my breath at all, even when I slowed down. I could feel my quads burning and I regretted my Wednesday leg workout at the gym and my daily wall sit challenge. I cursed the at how much of a gorgeously sunny day it was… and this was mile 2. Oh lord.

This is a pretty small race, so only a couple hundred people are on course. The course, like last year, is two 10K loops. Last year I loved it, this year; not so much. When I crossed the finish line for the first time, signalling the halfway mark, I just wanted to stop running and lay on the grass. The first loop was terrible and I think I said that to Shawn (my race photographer 😉 each time I saw him on course. He was super encouraging though and I loved having him there!

I stopped at each and every water station, grabbing a cup of water and slowing to a walk to make sure I drank it all. I didn’t wear my FuelBelt so I took advantage of all the on-course water. It was a really warm day, reaching over 20 degrees Celsius while we were running. I didn’t drink any water in the morning before the race; mostly so I didn’t have to pee on course; but I was dehydrated going in so that didn’t help matters!

Once I had begun the second loop, my quads stopped burning and I surprisingly felt a little better. I hovered around an 8:20 min/mile pace which looks slower in my splits due to the water station stoppage. There were times I thought I was running close to 10 min/mile and I would look down at my watch and see 8:10. Those moments were huge confidence boosters because even though I was exhausted and really ready to be done, I knew my body could finish the race. 

It is such a small race so there aren’t a ton of spectators. Most of them are around the finish line because the 5K runners and 10K runners are all there hanging out at the post-race BBQ. A lot of the time I was by myself running. I kind of wish my mom had cut her trip a couple days short and come home to run with me… reasonable request right? 😉

I think this photo is really artsy and cool. I really can’t complain about the race course, it is GORGEOUS at the this time of year. The trees were all golden, the leaves scattered the path, and you could almost tell it was fall… except for the HOT temperatures.

The one good thing about a double-loop course is that once you are on the second loop you know you are more than halfway there. Also, every water station can be anticipated and once I got to the turn-around for the second time (~15km), I knew I only had a little more to go. I didn’t pick up the pace or anything, don’t be ridiculous, I was barely maintaining 8:30, but I did keep it steady and just focused on getting to the finish. I think the struggle in the photo tells more of how I was feeling than words can!

The final 100m or so is UPHILL. That is just mean. Due to the nature of this course, you actually have to run up this hill THREE times. No wonder my heart rate started out really high. I saw the number change from 49 to 50 just as I was coming up the last part of the hill. Damn. No sub-1:50 today. 1:50:11 will have to do!

Now that I think about it, that is an eerily similar time to the Banff Half Marathon in June… the one I ran three weeks after the Calgary marathon. Maybe running another race a few weeks after a full marathon isn’t the best idea for me? Ha. 

Guess who showed up at the finish line?! STUART!! He ran down from our house to see me cross the line and I didn’t even have to bribe him or anything! I am so grateful for Shawn’s photography and most of all his support today… running friends are the greatest friends ever. It wasn’t my best time, it wasn’t my favourite race, but it was overall another wonderful experience full of lessons and maybe just a little bit of fun (like when I crossed the finish line and got to stop running and eat orange slices :).

I got home and refuelled with the most delicious protein shake in the world. I had about 5 orange slices and half a banana at the finish line, but the rest of the food was not appetizing at all to me. They have a BBQ at the end, but hamburgers and cookies at 11 am? No thanks! This smoothie was much better! 

Chocolate protein powder + chocolate soy milk + a spoonful of peanut butter + a tablespoon of chocolate chips + ice.  

Having protein (most likely in a fail-proof smoothie) within that two-hour window after working out has made a noticeable difference in my recovery. I am less rungry all day and it really helps my muscles. I don’t like to “eat” after a long run so a smoothie works perfectly because I am getting calories, protein, and fluid all at once without upsetting my stomach!

I hope everyone is having the best fall weather like we are (minus the snow last week)! Let’s call this race a training run and move on. No matter how it went, I have a medal that says I finished, and no one needs to know how long it took me! Half marathon #8 in the books!

If you want to read about the St. Albert Fall Challenge last year, check out my race recap HERE


  1. I just found you from your link on the Facebook page. Great photography! I too felt like stopping after one loop. Great job especially after running a marathon no that long ago.
    Fellow St.Albert Runner

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