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2022 Petit Train Du Nord

Short Version: 
First time in 4 years, a marathon I care about how fast I run.
First time ever to have a coach for running.
Different marathon’s training schedule.
Training was hard most of the time because of the heat.
Enjoyed training with people after over 2 years of being active mostly by myself due to Mrs. Covid. Thanks RunK2J.
My 1st goal was to qualify for Boston, 4:30 hours, 2nd goal under 4:35, 3rd goal to finish.
Ended up escaping DNF with 5:27:54.
Sportstats shows only finishers.
You wine some, you lose some.

Length Alert!

Long version.
After running Boston in 2019, taking photos and enjoying the experience I ran two more marathons in Israel, both were very challenging, but I did not care about speed.
Running a race, where the main purpose is to enjoy the experience is so much different when you race a marathon with time purpose in mind.
I also ran the Ottawa Marathon in 2020, virtually. By then The Pandemic had already changed everything.
I have decided after my 6th Boston in 2019, to try once more, my last hooray, to qualify again for Boston at the ripe age of 75.
So, when time got closer I registered to run the Petit Train Du Nord in 2022 and to try to qualify for Boston 2024. 

I trained hard and raced the half Marathon in Ottawa in May. I was very slow during training but at race time I managed 2:09:24. Thank Jennifer.

The Training

Most of my training thus far was solo. Covid was still a risk.
Later on, Annette, who decided to try to qualify with me for Boston 2024, joined me. Unfortunately she got injured and had to stop.
When time got closer to start training for my marathon I decided two major things. I’d get a running coach to watch over me and I would run only 4 times a week. Both decisions came mainly from the fear of getting injured. Most years I would push myself hard and the last 3-4 years I got injured too close to race time.
I knew of RunK2J and Judy for a long time. We got together in mid June and in the last week of June, marathon training started.
Judy’s schedule for long runs is different from what I followed in my prior 23 years of marathoning. Long runs are 3 sets of 23, 26, 29, 32 km runs. 32 km is the longest.
Before I ran 3 long runs of 33-36km. Interesting to note that Judy’s schedule ends up around 15km total of more kms, so close enough. Some think a longer run is needed for the psychological and physical effect. Writing this, the jury is still out.
One thing for sure, if I ran 35 km in my pace, I would be out running 4 hours and 20 minutes, very close to the time I hoped to run my actual race.
My schedule had all along hill training on Tuesdays. Before I had 8 weeks of hill training.
Speed work was also different. Thursday, a day that the whole group met in the Track in Barrhaven was the speed work. Not the usual one km repeats I used to do, but a mix of 400/800/1,200/1,600 meter workout. Another difference, no 5km repeats. A workout that I disliked the most. You know why, don’t you? It’s very hard.
My speed was nowhere to be found at the beginning. At the track I was the last to finish, but everyone was very supportive.
I did not run my long runs with anyone. I wanted to control my pace and not to worry about getting others to run slower because of me.
It was very hot and my pace at some runs was 7:30min/km, but it didn’t bother me.
At my first 26k run, Michael Robern, asked me to join. On my 1st run with somebody, guess what. At 2 km from my place I tripped myself, still not sure how, and landed on the asphalt.
I hit my left ribs, left hand and then my face, teeth and nose met the hard road.

the hit on the nose and mouth

I got up and right away and felt that one of my front top teeth was not in place. I showed it to Michael who is a doctor, no, not a dentist. He looked pretty horrified. Insinctivitally I held the tooth with my right hand fingers and pushed it back where it belonged. Michael also told me that the top of my nose is bleeding. I had nothing to wipe it with, so I pulled some leaves from a nearby bush. It did the trick. After a few minutes, feeling ok, I decided to finish the scheduled long run. I usually like to finish what I start if I can, only 24 km more.
There were two other runs worth mentioning. On a 32k run, Michael was there, we had difficulties after 22 km. Michael called his wife to get him. At 25 km I started walking. I was offered by Michael’s wife a ride which I declined. It was stupid. Marching 7 km in heat and humidity after a 25 km run/jog is no fun. I was out on my feet for that 31.3km run 4 hours and 16 minutes.
There was another 29km run where I had to walk 4 km.
Running in heat and humidity equals a bad run.
Toward the end of the schedule, temperatures got cooler, my fitness increased and I was happy to run my 15km run a week before the race, a tad faster than my race pace.

Getting there

Annette, who was registered for the race but got injured, joined me as a support crew. The drive was uneventful beside the fact that the Queensway was closed, New bridge installation, so getting to highway A50 was somewhat a hassle. It took longer but we made it.

Race kit pickup.

Race kit pickup was tad further away from St. Jerome, the  Décathlon sports store,  in Boisbriandstore, some extra mileage to drive, but not too much. The expo was, actually it was not. The store was a big one, and if one wanted you could stroll around with all this endless sport merchandise. Got my race number and the race shirt in a very short time and we were on our way to the hotel.

The Hotel.

At check in I tried to talk about late checkout time and the response was; “absolutely impossible”.
Oh well. From what I’ve heard from others, it was the same in most of the hotels. Remember this last sentence. I think it affected some of the race organizer’s decisions. You’ll have to read to the end to find out what I mean.
The hotel fee for the day included continental breakfast. Covid created a new kind of it. At check in you get a piece of paper with choices of what you want for breakfast and you get a box in the morning with the food. Coffee and drinks you can take by yourself.

Bill booked dinner for some of us, so after settling in the room, we headed to the restaurant.
It was nice to sit with 5 other participants in the race, eat and chatt. A forgotten ritual in the last 2 years, thank to Mrs. Covid.

Back to the hotel, organizing what’s needed for tomorrow’s race and around 9:30 into bed.
My bed was comfortable enough, but stretching my left foot to the side I felt cold. It didn’t make sense. I tried to feel the left side of the bed with my hand, it was cold and dumpy. Annette, who was half asleep on the other double bed, realized that something was wrong and OKed me to open the light. I took the blanket off and saw that the left side of the sheet was wet. No, it was not yellow wet, I didn’t pee the bed. I called the service to explain and she is asking me: “what do you want me to do?”. Dah. Come and change the sheet. She came fast enough and discussing it with her, I felt that she had experienced it before. Her explanation was that sometimes the sheets come from the laundry not totally dry and the staff doesn’t notice it. Hmmm…. Whatever.

Dry sheet is been installed

After all this was over, back to trying to sleep. As in most races, the night’s sleep before is iffy, and so was this one.

Early Morning of

When we first got to the room, the clock radio’s time was way off, so I corrected it to the right time.
I did put the alarm on my watch, but since I didn’t sleep much, at what I thought was 5:30 on the clock radio, I got up. I wanted to get up at 5:50. I shaved, got washed and then looked at my watch. The clock radio was speedy. That’s a second point against our lovely hotel.
We went downstairs around 6:20 and ate our breakfast. 

Around 7:20 we got to the car and Annette drove me to get one of the latest buses heading to  the start.
I was all ready and happy to tackle the coming challenge, this picture is proof. You’ll have to read to the end to see how I looked at the end.

The plan was for Annette to meet me at all the cheering points and she did it successfully. On the bus I sat near a young guy from Montreal. I had a funny/scary chat with him. He told me it will be his first Marathon. I asked him about his nutrition’s plan and he got out of his pocket a bar, as of one bar. OK, I didn’t respond and asked him about his long runs. His answer: “I had one 25km run”. At that moment I couldn’t hold it anymore and kind of lectured him about a need to respect the distance, and to find a running room store or another venue to train with others who know what they are doing. I wonder if he was one of the over eleven hundred runners who DNS or DNF.
We arrived at the start after a 36:30 bus drive. No, I did not cycle it.

40 minutes to my 8:50 wave 11 start. It was around 2 Celsius but I was OK with a throw away shirt and my running shorts. By that time most of the runners started already and only waves 11 and 12 were there with the last Bunny, the 4:30 one. The Bunny was a lovely young lady, very chatty and at 8:50 the Bunny with around 15 humans crossed the start mat. There were others around but apparently not interested to run with the pacer.

The race

This race was the first time I made a decision to run with a pacer. I usually set my own pace, which in most races is too fast at the start.I didn’t want the pacing burden in this race. Another benefit was not the run alone. It’s always fun to run with a group. The little I knew at the beginning was that they were all Francophone and destined to chat the whole time in, guess what language, right, French. The pacer, as I mentioned before, was very talkative. I guess part of the pacer’s job is to encourage the runners and talk, talk, talk, so the runners wouldn’t think too much of the pain. At one point I told her, if I only knew what you’re saying. From that point, here and there she repeated what she had said in English. At the first cheering spot, I saw Annette from afar and when we got closer, I hugged the pacer while running and Annette took the shot. I told her after that I hope she didn’t mind. Her reply: “No, I love hugs”. I repeated this two more times. Why I didn’t do it in the finish line you’ll find out pretty soon.

The first 6km to my surprise were asphalt covered and later on I found out that the 3-4 last km were asphalt covered also. That was new from the last time I ran this race in 2018.
We were on time all along. I felt good running with this small group who had stuck with the pacer. They were all under 50, at least half under 30. They were chatting to each other and most of the time I was clueless of what was said. At one point the pacer said something and picked up her pace by a lot. I started chasing but the rest of the group didn’t. I asked one of them what’s going on and his answer was:” She has to pee”. Go figure. She obviously caught up with us.
I kept my nutrition’s plan and every 30 minutes I drank my Gu.
Reaching half way 21.1 km, all looked rosy. Our time was bang on, two hours and fifteen minutes.

I was running all along with the groups without any sign that the next half wouldn’t be the same.
At km 24th at the water station I stopped to drink and chased the Bunny. I caught her with no problem but after a few hundred meters I started to feel that I have to labor much harder to keep the pace.Two kms later, km 27, the cruel truth hit me, 4:30 marathon is not to happen. Nothing was hurting at that point but the needed pace was not there anymore. I thought to myself: Let’s try to finish it in 4:35. That’s the actual qualifying time for Boston, I wanted 5 minutes spare. Ha what a sad joke. I ran km 27 at 6:47 pace when the unpleasant pain in my right calf showed up. I had to walk a bit, stopped to massage it, and tried to run again, succeeding to run/jog km 27 at 7:12 pace. Next two kms, 29 and 30 were mostly walking. Every time I tried to run, my right calf was getting worse. At that time a pain in my right glute and hip joined the party.
Obviously I realized by that time that qualifying to Boston at this race is out the window.
I knew I could only walk, not sure at what pace. It was around 3 hours and 17 minutes into the race. I remembered that the cut-off time for the race is 5 hours and 30 minutes.

From the Runner’s Marathon Guide:

TIME LIMIT The course will be closed to traffic. The time limit to complete the marathon is 5h30m. Runners will have priority at crossroads.

Can I walk the last 12 km fast enough to avoid DNF? 

DNF is not in my DNA.

 I know, sometimes you have to. The big thing is to know when. Some are into DNF easier than others. Some, at least I believe so, would rather have a DNF than have a bad race. The phrase “It’s on Sportstats Forever” scares some. I always tried to finish. No one will care, nor remember your time a week after the race.

Talking about Sportstats, looking at the result at home on Sunday evening they did show the 2,909 registers, 1,144 women, 1,764 men. With 44 pages of those who finished and the rest of the names of those who DNS or DNF.
If you look now you’ll see: 1751 Participants  655 Women  1095 Men. I wonder what’s behind that. No DNF or DNS on Sportstats anymore? Well, in Oct. 2nd Petit Train Du Nord there were 1,163 DNS and DNF. 

I had to decide; Do I stop at that moment with a sure DNF or try to walk and have a chance to avoid a DNF. I had under my belt two walks in two long training runs, when I was unable to run anymore. One was around 7km, the other around 4km. It was hot and hard to run on those days.
So there I was with the obvious decision, at least for me, the decision to keep marching to the finish.

12.2 km in 2 hours and 13  to get to the finish in 5 hours and 30 minutes. I was in pain but I found the gait I can move with the least pain. 133 minutes for 12 km.

I met Annette when I started to slow down and she knew I would not be at the finish line at 1:20 pm. She took a photo of me marching and I started the long walk.
At that point I didn’t even try to run. It was too risky, possibly affecting my ability to walk for my calf, seizing on me completely.
I was passed by some runners. At that point there were not too many behind me. At times I tried to walk faster, some kms under 10min/km. Toward the end It got slower.
I was contemplating at the end to slow even more and try for once to be the last, closing the race. I did not know at the time that the cut-off time was actually 6 hours. I am not sure if they changed it on race day. 14 runners finished after me between the 5:30 to 5:56. 9 runners were after me to finish at what was under the 5:30 hours cut-off time.

Yeh to all the finishers and those who started and were too hurt to keep moving.

When I got about 100-200 meter from the finish. walking my funny gait, I got lots of applause. I was happy to be there. Avoided the dreaded DNF.
A volunteer, seeing the way I walked and my face tried to tell me something in French. I told him I don’t speak French. I am not sure how his English is, but all he said was: “medic” and pointed with his finger. I kind of smiled and told him I was fine. It was a big fat lie, but I didn’t need any medical help. 

Here, you can see my face right at the finish. Thanks Annette, great shot but why do I look so awful?

A young volunteer put on my neck one of the hardest ever medal I’ve earned.
There, it was over. 

The organizers and volunteers of the race were great.
I am sure the race kit pickup location was somewhat far because the major sponsor of the race is Décathlon Sport Store and they are at Boisbriand. Oh well.

If you got so far reading, it’s time to find out what I wrote at the beginning. No late checkout, no shower after the race, means: travel back home stinky. 

The goodies bag we got, beside food and drink, guess what else was there? You will never guess. First time, at least for me, we got deodorant.

Marathon #42 was done. Qualifying for Boston #7 was not.

You win some, you lose some. I can live with this kind of a loss.

OK I still owe you the W5. What, when, where, who, why.

What?  Failing to achieve my goal in the Petit Train Du Nord marathon race.

When? October 2nd, 2022, 8:50-14:18.

Where? Saint-David Quebec to St. Jerome Quebec.

Who? Well this story is about me but it involved many more people. 2,909 runners who registered, 1,746 finishers, hundreds of volunteers and organizers, thousands of runners’ family members who were part of their loved one training and the few hundreds who were out there cheering.

Why? This is the most difficult W. I had over two hours, while I was walking to the finish line, to think why it didn’t happen for me, achieving my 1st goal.

It was a perfect day for a race, so it cannot be an answer to the why.

I trained hard, did almost 100% of the scheduled workout. I felt ready. 

So WHY?

Possible Answers:

  1. I ran 4 days a week, my choice, instead of my usual 5 days a week runs. 
  2. I didn’t follow, as I should have, with my strength training and at the beginning of August I stopped it altogether.
  3. As I mentioned before, over 1,160 runners who have registered DNS (Did Not Start) or DNF (Did Not Finish). So here is possible #2 to the Why.
    For the last two years people didn’t race. We all know that racing a few races before your A race helps a lot. Mrs. Covid took that away from us.
  4. Many of us, me included, got a visit or two by Mrs. Covid. I had it twice. Some had it easy, some had it not so easy. Mine was fairly easy in both cases, yet nobody can tell if some long term effects stay and affect performance.
  5. OK, I hate to put this one in writing, but that is what Carol, my dear wife of 50 years coming April, thinks: “You are too old for this extreme effort.” Hmmm… You are as old as you think. Well I think I am 63. Why 63 you wonder. Well, at 63 I had my PB in this 42.2 distance. It was 3:26:09. So why was I unable to run it on Sunday at 4:30:00?

Lesson learnt:

  1. Race at least three races before your A race.
  2. Cross training. I did very well at the time I was racing Triathlon.
  3. Strength training is to be religiously done.
  4. Check your bed’s sheet right after checking in. 
  5. Put it in the clock radio in the drawer if they have one.
  6. Accept what race day brings you.

Thank for reading

 Ben

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