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Berlin Marathon 2018

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Wow. We conquered the Berlin Marathon! What a crazy experience it was! I could write multiple blog posts, all very long, detailing the day by day events. But, it’s 9 pm on a Friday…I am worn out, sick, and have an 11 month old who may wake up middle of night! So I’m doing a small recap that’ll touch on some details I think are worth noting, especially if you are contemplating making the trek out to do this race.  update.  It is now Sunday.  I hope to finish this post today!!!

Pre-event issue…I started feeling sick on the Tuesday before the race. At first I thought it was just my body being sore after boot camp, but I think I was just wearing out. On the drive to my in laws on Wednesday, I started popping cold medicine because my nose was a running machine. Great…a transatlantic flight is upon us and I feel like trash.

I think the whole adrenaline of the trip made me feel better, because once we got to the airport I just forgot about it. But the transatlantic flight was tough. We left at 6 pm Thursday. It was my first time flying overseas and the first leg of flight was 9+ hours from Calgary to Frankfurt. Neither my husband or I slept well. But we kept pushing. By the time we got to Berlin it was 2:30 pm (8 hours ahead of home). Our only confusing transit issue in Berlin was getting from the airport to hotel. We hadn’t researched which “zone” we were travelling to, and the lineups at the machines to buy tickets were long with a lot of other confused people. We did make it to our hotel eventually…freshened up, changed, and headed to the expo.

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The expo was very easy to get to from our hotel. I booked our hotel on Priceline in December and got it at a rate of $82 USD/night. It was walking distance to the Friedrichstraße station, which could link you anywhere. And also walking to the start/finish by Brandenburg gate. We got to the expo quick, and arrived around 5pm.

I’m glad we didn’t have anything we really wanted to stop and purchase because this was the first instance we realized this event was going to a semi-organized chaos. The room to pickup your race packages were in the way back of the old airport hangers, and everywhere around you there were lines. And the lines weren’t straight, just a mosh pit of people pushing through. Luckily I had preordered us two event shirts (no shirts included in registration fee) so we didn’t have to push through people to buy them. Just had to find that line to pickup.

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We didn’t spend much time at the expo. We headed back to the hotel, went out way too late, and then slept in the next day. It was the day before the race, so in theory we should have been taking it easy. But seriously…we were in Berlin. We needed to see as much as possible.

We did a short shakeout run by the river. After changing and finding food, we then trekked around Berlin seeing all sorts of sights. Highlights included Humboldt University, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s bunker, Berlin Wall memorial, and Topography of Terror. We also had a group dinner that evening for all of us in the Runners Soul group. Ate at a fantastic Italian place called Via Nova II. By the time Dan & I made it back to the hotel we had clocked in 11.5 miles. Time to rest for the marathon!

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Marathon morning cake bright and early. But with this being a 9:15 am start time for the elites, and our hotel so close to the start, we didn’t have to get up at a ridiculous time. We had pre-bought some breakfast items the night before and I went to the McDonalds two blocks away to get coffee at 6:15 am, so we were set. The group met at 8 am for a photo and then we all dispersed.

Biggest thing to know about this race is that the Europeans “organize” things differently. 44,000 runners and I’d guess the number of pre race porta potties available were 1/10 of what was available at Boston (25,000 runners). My friend Heather waited 45 minutes to use one and missed her corral start. Dan and I stood in line for about 15 minutes and then left the race grounds to go to a cafe, pay 0.50 euros at a turnstile, and use their bathrooms. People were pissing all over the park on their way to the corrals. It was disgusting. I don’t know if the city just doesn’t have the supply of porta potties or what, but you’d think since they’ve been doing this race for 44 years they’d know it’s an issue.

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So the race itself.  Well, it was 26.2 miles through Berlin and my Garmin clocked it as 26.44 miles.  That’s bound to happen in a race this large with all the weaving going on.  Instead of going through a mile by mile recap, I want to just note some key things during the race.

  1. I was in the second wave of runners, in corral E.  You could just jump into any corral with no one checking your bib…I didn’t have an issue with people around me being in an incorrect corral (up too far) and I was able to weave myself pretty close to the start of our corral.  I was about 10 deep to the left of the start area.  It was an awesome feeling at the beginning with thousands of runners being let off at once!
  2. I kept on perfect pace through the half marathon point.  I actually had a 1:47.30 once I crossed the timing mat, which if I were to have replicated that exactly in the second half I would have had my goal of 3:35.00
  3. My legs started to cramp and tighten in my hamstrings and quads around mile 9.  I am guessing due to transatlantic travel and the ridiculous amount we walked the days prior while touring
  4. Water stations were plentiful, and were also stocked with gels (which I heard tasted disgusting) and fruit later on.  The issue I had with these water stations is that it was not like when you run a race in North America….no “excuse me” or “sorry” or people being aware of those around you.  I got smashed into by no less than a dozen sweaty men during the course of the race as they plowed into the water stations.  Even when I would raise my hand up once getting water to signal I was walking someone would plow into me.  The etiquette I am used to was not present here.
  5. On the website, they said there were 40,775 runners representing 133 nations who finished, with 12,332 being women and 28,443 being men.  So while we are used to races in North America being pretty closely represented by women and men, this european race was not.  Also, while all of Berlin seems to speak English, the race participants I was around did not.  There was no one I could have a conversation with when I started to struggle at mile 16.  Everyone was so serious.
  6. Once I got to mile 16, I knew I needed to slow up and try to just enjoy the last 10 miles.  That’s when I started getting more frustrated with the lack of people around me who I could talk to while running, and all the pushing and shoving by the water stations.  I will say that the course is shaded pretty well in areas throughout, with no long stretches of blazing sun.  This was important because it was actually quite warm compared to what I would be used to doing a marathon in.
  7. For better or for worse, I stopped at the bathroom after mile 20.  Then, lo and behold, Marissa from our Runners Soul group came up behind me.  She was having frustration also and just wanted the race to be “fucking over.”  I now had my person to talk to the last 6 miles!
  8. We had a ton of fun in the last stretch, stopping for water and fruit when we could.  Just past mile 25 someone had a makeshift beer station so we stopped for a beer too!  Finishing as strong as we could in the final stretch through Brandenburg Gate was awesome, because each of us started to just pure on race one another to try and beat the other person.  Marissa’s chiptime came out on top by about 3 seconds.
  9. The finishing area was pretty well organized compared to the whole mess getting to corrals.  I wish I had selected “Poncho” instead of “bag drop” because the poncho that people got was nice.  And I was getting chilled in the shade as we waited for people from Runners Soul to finish.
  10. My husband came in about an hour later.  He started in a farther back corral than me.  I am so proud of him! He finished his second marathon with a 4:00.35 run, beating his first marathon by over 4 minutes.  Since the course ran long, he could have been under 4 hours if it had been less crowed.  And he also, along with four other guys, helped a Brazilian woman across the finish line.  And by help, I mean they carried her because she was passing out.  They just wanted her to finish.

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Below are a selection of the professional race photos (which I bought).  I will say that these photos are of higher quality than the Marathon Foto ones I am used to from North America races.  I wish I had seeked out more photographers for pictures before and after the race so I could have had some with Dan.

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And we are off!

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Somewhere in Berlin between miles 20-26.2 🙂

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Focused on finishing

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Probably my favorite photo, having an on course beer with less than a mile to go.  The tossing of the cup totally captures how we feel.

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Brandenburg Gate in the background and coming into the finish!

 

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Berlin Marathon finisher!

THIS WAS AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE!  My husband and I would have not been able to take part of this if it wasn’t for Runners Soul in Lethbridge putting together a travel group.  Also, if I was not still on my sweet 1-year Canadian maternity leave (sorry Americans) then we could have not left the country during this time of year…teachers have a great amount of days off, but you can’t just take time off at random times!  Oh, and if my in-laws couldn’t have watched Andy for a week then this trip would have been impossible..We want to do more races overseas, particularly finishing the Abbott World Marathon Majors.  We have New York (yeah, not overseas), London and Tokyo left for myself.  Dan still needs Chicago and Boston too.  We hope that Runners Soul does more travel groups to these races and that we are able to attend.  Dan still does not love running.  However, he loves these experiences of seeing new places and being with friends.  On our drive back to Lethbridge we talked about races in the future we want to travel to.  It is awesome that we have a common hobby that we can enjoy together. Until the next race…..Auf Wiedersehen!

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My next World Marathon Major

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So, since I’ve been so scattered with my recaps and blog posts, I am not even sure of when the last time I mentioned the fact that I am training for a full marathon.  Not just any marathon, but the Berlin Marathon in Berlin, Germany.  Yes, this is one of the six Abbott World Marathon Major events.  The others are Chicago (completed in 2006), Boston (completed in 2016), Tokyo, London and New York.

I was not planning on running a full marathon this year.  When I was pregnant with Andy, I had told myself that the first year after having him would be just focusing on getting back with running and try to do some decent half marathons.  Fast forward to November 2017, approximately one month after Andy was born.  Dan comes home from race team and tells me that Runners Soul would be doing a travel group to the Berlin Marathon next September and that we should do it.  That’s right—my husband was the one who said we should do it (mind you he hadn’t ran a full marathon yet at this point…)  I would still be on maternity leave, so really…..we couldn’t say no!

I did my winter and spring running, getting my legs back at it and began to feel more confident in my postpartum body.  The training for Berlin would begin a week after the Red Deer Marathon weekend.  I decided to roughly use my same training calendar that I used when I ran Vancouver 2015 and qualified for Boston.

Pushing the running stroller is no joke.  It is definitely helping me with resistance training!  I usually run with the running stroller 3 times a week.  On my speed workout days, I try to wait until Dan gets home from work and then do those runs on my own.  And when we do our long runs on the weekend, Dan and I run together and alternate every mile or two with the stroller.

Berlin is less than 2 months away.  I feel ready, yet I don’t.  The reason why I didn’t want to do a full marathon in my first year postpartum was because I knew I would be hard on myself with the actual result.  Yes, I realize I had a baby less than a year ago, but I don’t want to go out there and be a shell of my former self.  My dream goal is to qualify for Boston again.  The weekend Berlin falls can count for the 2020 Boston Race, and at that race I am 35 and will be up an age group.  So the fact that I get an extra five minutes to my qualifying time makes me think there actually is a sliver of hope that I could do it.

I need a sub 3:40 to qualify.  My personal best is a 3:24.56, which was a 7:49 pace.  I am setting my sights on a sub 3:35 in Berlin, which would be a pace of about 8:11.  I can run 20 seconds slower per mile than I did back in 2015 and be able to qualify for Boston.  Seems doable, right?

But I also need to mentally prepare myself for if it doesn’t work out.  I can’t let potentially not qualifying ruin the rest of the trip.  I also do need to keep telling myself that YOU JUST HAD A BABY IN THE LAST YEAR and the fact that I am even going out there to do this event is pretty bad ass.  I am just going to keep picking away at my training calendar and hope that all the running I did while pregnant and all the running I am doing pushing Andy in his stroller will help me achieve the dream result-a return to Boston.

Final Thoughts on 2017

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To say that 2017 was a crazy year is an understatement.  I started the year off in Walt Disney World with my mom and best friend.  I was pregnant and participated in the Marathon Weekend events.  Then, shortly after coming home, I found out I miscarried.  An immense amount of anger took over me.  But things have a funny way of working out.  No less than 6 weeks after my D&C I discovered I was pregnant again.  We had many early ultrasounds and blood tests to confirm the pregnancy.  We went for the 1st trimester screening test and were able to see a clear image of our growing baby.  At 20 weeks we found out we were having a baby boy.

All during this time I continued to run, using it as a coping mechanism from when I first found out the bad news, and then as a stress reliever to help keep some normalcy in my life. How much did I run this year?  Not as many races as I had in years prior, but quite a few.  I did three 5km races, three 5km virtual races, one 6km, one 4 mile, one 8km, two 10kms, a half marathon relay, two half marathons and one full marathon.  I am most proud of the 10km I ran at 35 weeks pregnant, which I completed in 1:02.50!

It was shortly after that race that I found out I had pre-hypertension.  This was discovered at my 37 week appointment.  I was done with work immediately, and one week later I was induced and gave birth to our son, Andrew Allen Pottage.  Labour was the most pain I’ve ever been in.  It was worse than any race I ever competed in.  But making it to this finish line was oh so sweet.

I have now pretty much fully recovered from not only the pregnancy and delivery, but also from my surprise appendectomy that I had at the beginning of December.  Now that I am ready to take on 2018, I have some big plans.

I will be joining Runners Soul marathon club for my 6th season.  I will be training for the half marathon distance, where I’ll run the Red Deer Half over May Long weekend.  Before May Long, I will do Moonlight Run 10km, 10 mile road race and the Walt Disney World Star Wars Half Marathon weekend, with both the 10km and half marathon events.  That will be an exciting trip, as it will be our first time on an airplane with baby Andy!  I can’t wait to take him to Disney World, and even though he won’t remember a damn thing, the memories  and photos will be ones to cherish.

The biggest running news for 2018 is that my husband and I will be heading to Berlin, Germany, in September to run the Berlin Marathon!  The opportunity was presented to us through our local running store Runners Soul, and there is a group of us heading out there to run in this World Marathon Major event!  And did you notice I said “my husband and I”?  YES, Dan will be running a full marathon!  He actually will be doing the Red Deer Full Marathon in May as his first full, in order to figure things out and see how much pain he is in afterwards.  But this is going to be such a memorable race-cation for us!

I’ll still blog in the new year, though, it may not be as often as I used to.  With the baby and all, things are a little different.  I will always do my race recaps, but also hope to talk about how training postpartum is going.  I am sure there will be some frustration as I try to get back to where I was before baby, and I hope to share how it is all going.

2017 started off really sour.  But it ended oh so sweet.