Monday, May 14, 2012

Race Report: Starbucks Run for Women 10k

Also known as "a very humbling 10k".

On Saturday morning when I woke up, I was not ready to be out of bed at all!  We had driven from Ottawa to Toronto the night before and went out for dinner.  We stayed about 30 minutes from the race site but wanted to leave a buffer for traffic and finding parking.  I showered and got dressed, at which point my stomach started churning.  I've been known to have a nervous stomach (I used to throw up on the first day of school every year) so I brushed it off as race day nerves.

I didn't think I could eat anything but knew that I couldn't run 10k on an empty stomach either.  I grabbed my nuun and the Cheerios from my race kit, hoping the promises of free Starbucks at the race site were true.  Luckily they were and I got some caffeine once we got there.  It was a little chilly at first so I stayed warm with my coffee and my hoodie.

Hmmm maybe need a black or pink hoodie...
 Standing around in the sun warmed me up pretty fast so I started rocking my race outfit.  My stomach continued to act up but I kept brushing it off, sure that I would feel better once I started running as that's how it usually works with my tummy issues.

Go Team Sparkle!
One of the features that attracted me to the event was a motivational keynote before the start by Canadian Olympian Catriona Le May Doan.  She did not disappoint.  She spoke passionately and eloquently about her Olympic experiences, from falling and finishing last to winning three Olympic medals.  She ran the 5k that day as well, and stayed around afterwards to sign autographs and speak with the runners.  I wish I had stayed but my stomach had other ideas!

Catriona Le May Doan is up there!
The race took place in a pretty small town outside of Toronto.  The route started by going up Main Street.  It was lined with lovely shops and they even brought out the ladder truck!  The American took this picture of one of the leaders in an awesome pair of tights:

There were no corrals and I was running a little late to the start after a last minute bathroom break.  I stuck myself into the crowd and ended up near the front of the pack.  If I had performed anywhere near my expectations for the day, this might have been a good thing.  In the end, it resulted in 300 people passing me and telling me how much they liked my skirt.  Loved the compliments; hated being reminded that I was being passed every five seconds.  I felt strong at the beginning and kept up a good pace for the first couple of kilometres.

After Main Street, the majority of the race was actually around local running/cycling trails.  Overall it was really beautiful, through woods and parks and over a lot of pretty little bridges.  The first 2k were good.  Around the 3k mark the sun was really beating down on me and my stomach was acting up again.  I lost my stride and started walking more.  I had to "pull over" a few times because I thought I was going to be sick.  I picked things up in for the last 750m or so of the first 5k because we went back down Main Street so the 5k runners could go to the start/finish line.

I was seriously considering cutting my race short.  I felt physically terrible and mentally spent.  I felt like every single runner had passed me, including all the 10k runners I had started with and all the 5k runners that had started 5-10 minutes after me.  I was finished.

Luckily I saw The American near that point.  I grabbed my fuel belt and nuun from my bag hoping it would help.  Some encouragement from him, a quick kiss and a reminder that I was on pace (I had finished 5k in about 35 minutes) was what I needed to hit the road for the rest of the run.

Photo source: My Sports Shooter

I started to find my pace again after that, and found two lovely women to run with for a few kilometres.  They were doing 10:1s as well and we chatted a bit and encouraged each other.  I decided to just enjoy the race because I knew I wasn't going to hit my "A" goal after falling apart for such a long stretch.  I began to realize that while I wasn't in last (maybe my worst fear), I was in the back of the pack.  I began to accept it and settled in to running as well as I could.

I was trying to stay hydrated but kept telling the ladies I was running with that I knew I was dehydrated - I was so thirsty and my lips were dry - but I was afraid of drinking anything because my stomach was still acting up.  I sipped water and nuun when I could, and decided against eating the Honey Stingers I had in my belt.

At about the 8k mark I looked at my Garmin and saw my time was 1:05.  I knew I wasn't going to hit 1:10 (obviously) and I probably wouldn't even hit 1:20.  I was okay with that.

Throughout the race I just kept telling myself that I was strong and I run this body, I own this body, I can do this.  Then around the 8.5k mark my worst fear - even worse than coming in last I would say - came true - I had to pull over and I was sick.  Crazy sick.  I can't remember the last time I threw up that much (sorry for the TMI, folks).  So many runners asked if I was okay and a course volunteer on a bike stayed with me until I was sure I could keep going.  It was not a pretty sight.

I felt terrible but somehow I felt better after, like I just needed to get it all out.  I knew I had around 1k to go and I rallied to the end, taking another short walking break and running in to the finish.  The last 1k might be my best other than the first couple.  I haven't checked my splits yet to know for sure.  The American found me near the finish and got another shot:

I have never been so happy to finish a race.  That, combined with finishing so close to last that the finish line was clear, meant for an awesome finishing photo:

Photo source: My Sports Shooter

The ladies I had run with had kept going when I was sick (don't worry they offered to stay like awesome runners) but were at the finish when I came through.  I don't know if they stayed and waited on purpose, but one came over to make sure I was okay and apologized for leaving me behind.  I really appreciated that.  

I got my finisher's bracelet (so adorable!) some water from the awesome volunteers, and made my way back to the staging area (a short walk from the start/finish) for some quick food and stretching.  My stomach was still a little off - turns out it wasn't just nerves after all because I spent the rest of the day in bed with some sort of stomach flu that I hope never returns.  

My poor performance has me a little mentally down for the half coming up, but I'm writing it off as a sick day race and telling myself the half will be better.

Overall the event was great and I would participate again.  I hear they may be expanding to other cities next year, including Ottawa, and I hope that's true!

Things I liked:

  • An amazing keynote speaker 
  • Great swag, including the shirt and the finisher's bracelet
  • Amazing volunteers directing you where to go and cheering their hearts out 
  • Amazing runners who were supportive and gave me kleenex when I was sick 
  • Beautiful course
  • The layout of the course meant you ran by the central part with the crowds and your support team a couple times

Things I would change:

  • Even in a small race, some sort of corral system or "line up by your expected finish time" system is nice for organization
  • Having food at the finish line so you go past it right away instead of having to hunt for it
  • The layout of the course also meant you didn't see any support people or spectators most of the time

The stats:

Time: 1:22:55
Pace (per mile - provided): 13:21
Pace (per km - my math): 8:17
Place: 313/343
Division Place: 23/24

Event photos were taken by My Sports Shooter.  They were available the same day as the event and indexed by the following morning.  I was really impressed with their pictures as well as their service, from what I saw of it as a runner.


  1. Congrats on finishing! Time is just a number, you are a winner for finishing. If they have a race next year in Ottawa, I will be there too and I hope we both have a great run.

  2. OMG! I can't believe you finished after being sick. That is AMAZING! Proof of how strong you are.

  3. You are awesome for getting sick and still finishing strong. Plus your skirt is adorable. I think a sparkle skirt is going to be my motivation reward for doing my first 10k.

  4. Wow that's amazing that you ran after being sick. I don't know if I could mentally do it. We're going to be awesome at the half no matter what!

  5. Congrats for finishing despite being sick. I think I would have just sat down at the side of the road after that. Great finish photo!

  6. Sorry to hear about the tummy issues - those suck! At least you pushed through and finished - congrats on that!