Posts Tagged ‘honolulu’

Disclaimer: While I generally like to write my race reports immediately following, this race was the start of a 3-week vacation, including both Hawai’i and Japan. I’ve had no access to a computer until now, but that means the time has finally come!

It started on a whim – the thought that I should challenge myself to my first marathon (i.e. 42 kilometres) the year I turned 42. The Honolulu Marathon was to be held just a week after my 42nd birthday, and in January 2014 I got an earlybird notice and was able to sign up for just $50! How could I say no? I ended up completing the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May – a ‘practice’ run – but Honolulu was the true goal. #42for42

We arrived in Honolulu on a direct flight from Vancouver on Friday night. Saturday morning’s errand was race package pickup at the Convention Centre, just a block from our hotel. The expo was extremely organized and efficient – bib pickup in under 5 minutes, and multiple vendors with everything from crafts to pain relief to running gear. I kept my shopping to a minimum but enjoyed myself nonetheless. See for yourself!

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The Honolulu Marathon starts exhaustingly early at 5am. Part of our hotel plan was to be close to the start line in Ala Moana, and we had some stunning views from our hotel balcony. This was the pre-race day sunset:

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I had set my alarm for 3:30am, but awoke even before that. First I checked the weather…um, rain? And then I looked out the window. People were already gathering, lining up for the toilets, and doing their warmups. I made my instant oatmeal, drank some peppermint tea, and pulled myself together before heading out into the dark morning.

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Oh, the crowds! A total of 21,815 people finished the race, so I can only assume that a few more than that started. I found my spot, watched the crowds, squinted into the rain, and soon it was time to begin – with fireworks! Most exciting race start ever!

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Because this event is self-seeding, there were no corral restrictions. As such, while I seeded myself in the 3- to 4-hour corral, it was clear from guntime that many runners were not aiming to complete the race in 4 hours or less. Many people were running at a significantly slower pace, or even walking within the first kilometre or two. As such, I expended a good amount of energy over the first 5k dodging people (and puddles) to try to get up to a reasonable pace – I struggled to get below 6 minutes/km until the 4k mark.

The first 10k took us on a loop through Downtown Honolulu – which was fantastic due to all of the Christmas lights dotted through town – and then on to Waikiki. The main strip was remarkably crowded with spectators, given that it was only about 5:30am. There were a few drunken revellers who likely hadn’t been to bed yet (I got a very sloppy high 5 from one of them), but overall the crowd was simply there to cheer us on.

We rounded Kapiolani Park (where we would eventually complete the race) and then started the tough slog up and around Diamond Head – the ancient volcanic cone visible from Waikiki Beach (see photo below). This was probably my favourite moment of the race, and I hope I can describe it well enough to do it justice:  Diamond Head Road curves up and around the crater. All along this stretch were volunteers, mostly high school students, holding a long yellow police tape – one person every couple of metres. EVERY ONE of them was smiling, cheering, encouraging, high fiving – and creating the most positive, enthusiastic race energy I’ve ever experienced.

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Diamond Head from Waikiki during the day.

I chose to put #42fo42 and my Twitter account (@bjcjapan) on a bib on my back. Somewhere around 14km, a guy came up to me and asked if it was my 42nd marathon! I explained my philosophy of 42for42, and chatted with him about his marathon experience (he was from Oregon, currently living in Hawai’i, thought he’d give the race a go). Unfortunately, I never got his bib number, so I wasn’t able to see how he did in the end!

After a few twists and turns through residential neighbourhoods, we found ourselves at the 20km mark on Highway 1 heading east. And that’s when the real weather began – the rain started coming down in sheets, and the wind (from the east!) buffeted us. It was a tough slog. At one point, I thought I felt something really heavy in my left pocket (my iPhone was in my right pocket…), but then I realized it was just my soaking wet shorts slapping against my leg. THAT’s how wet it was!

Even before reaching the halfway point, the lead runners came towards us, on their way back from the out-and-back loop around Hawai’i Kai, a good 15km ahead of me and those around me. Though dripping wet, they looked like they were flying – simply amazing. I love it when a race route allows you to see what the true professionals look like when they’re doing what they do best!

The Hawai’i Kai loop (kms 25-29) took us through some more residential neighbourhoods, where the locals were out in full force, and offering up pretzels, snacks, oranges, and the like. The community spirit was amazing – and while the weather continued to be very damp, I couldn’t help but smile (or grimace? Hard to be sure).

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Hawai’i Kai – and rainy mountains all around

And then we were back on the freeway – and now we were seeing all the runners and walkers coming from behind. Costumes, great enthusiasm – even a couple who ballroom danced the entire route (it took them 11 hours!) – followed by one of the best rainbows I’ve ever seen! Turning towards the ocean, we ran by some beautiful homes and estates – at this point, a woman approached me about #42for42 – again assuming that this was my 42nd marathon! I guess the Americans can be forgiven, though, as they would see the marathon as 26.2 (miles, of course)!

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A ray of hope!

At 39k the return ascent over Diamond Head started, and I truly thought I wasn’t going to make it. My reserves were very low, despite having stopped at every water and gel stop along the way. I had long since given up on the idea of improving on my Vancouver Marathon time, but suddenly it occurred to me that I might not make it to the finish line at all. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to bursting into tears during a race, and probably the longest 2 kilometres of my life. At this moment, I determined I would never again run another marathon.

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And then I was there. Finish line. Cool shower. Puka shells. Sweet treats. Finisher T-shirt. Medal. So happy. Wearing my Honolulu Marathon finisher shirt around town and having total strangers congratulate me – and likewise congratulating others wearing their shirts! This is what it’s all about – and why #42for42 was an unequivocal success!

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And will I run another marathon? We’ll just have to wait and see…

Final results

Chip time: 4:14:24
Average pace: 6:01 min/km
Place overall: 2188/21815
Age category place: 259/1302

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The Honolulu Marathon has been updating their Facebook page daily with the ongoing countdown: 2 weeks…10 days…and now just one week!! How did this happen? This showed up on my Twitter feed this morning:

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When I signed for for my #42for42 race back in January, I was wide-eyed and innocent in the ways of the full marathon. It was a spur of the moment decision, combined with an earlybird special that made it cheap enough to allow me to bail if things didn’t go my way. Plus, I’ve never been to Hawaii before!

I thought about doing a post today on lessons learned – but with only one marathon under my belt (and a previous post of a similar ilk), that didn’t seem very honest. Rather, I’ll just talk about my thoughts – and, most assuredly, my fears about this race!

The Climate
I’ve done most of my training in mild weather, with the occasional dabble in miserable and/or below zero. Due to my post-BMO injury, I did very little training during the warmer summer months. And even if I had – the warm, dry summers in Vancouver hardly compare. As such, I’m completely unprepared for a tropical run. Heat? Humidity? No idea how to deal with those, or how my body will respond.

The Time
5:00am start. That means I’ll need to be up and ready before 4:00am. What? Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a morning person. Never have been. My two saving graces are: we got a hotel just 15 minutes’ walk from the Start, so less anxiety about getting there; and due to the time difference (Vancouver is 2 hours ahead of Hawaii), it won’t feel as early. Right?

The Training
I kept to a pretty consistent training schedule before my first marathon in the spring. This time around, life has thrown a few wrenches into the works. In particular, work has been manic since Labour Day, limiting my ability to train at lunchtime like I did in the spring. I’ve been taking a college course as well, which forced me to prioritize study over sport a few times. And, due to an unexpected trip to Ontario for family matters, I might have peaked earlier than intended and started tapering before I ought to have. So while I’m pretty confident I can do the distance, how well I can do it is in question.

The Diet
I have the best intentions for cutting out certain things, for eating more of other things. But with the holiday season in full swing, and my chip addiction somewhat unabated, I fear I haven’t been adhering to the ideal marathon training diet. OK, I did have a kale salad last night, but then we went for dim sum this morning. I really lack the discipline of a true athlete. Thankfully, the race is at the beginning of our holidays, so if I can just hold off on the indulgences for another week…

The Expectations
This race has been on the calendar for nearly a year. A lot of people know I’m running. It’s a hashtag goal! So although I’m trying to be realistic in what I hope to achieve (given the factors above), I have set certain expectations for myself. I won’t reveal them until I either meet them or fail to do so, and tell you all about it in my race report. So stay tuned!

Am I overthinking things? Probably. I tend to do that. In fact, this pretty much sums up my general state of being:

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I’ve signed up for several half marathons in 2015. No matter what happens in Hawaii, I’m going to keep running, and blogging about it! Whether or not I do another full marathon depends somewhat on how this race goes, how my body responds, and how the new year plays out. Regardless, I hope that by this time next week I will have completed my second full marathon, and made #42for42 a reality!

See you in Hawaii!

Have you ever had one of those times when it’s the perfect storm of work, school, family all culminating in so much stuff going on that suddenly almost a month has gone by and you haven’t written a blog post?

Ya, that’s what happened.

2 weeks from today, I will run (or, by this time of day, have completed – I hope!) the Honolulu Marathon. And just to make sure I hadn’t forgotten, this arrived in the mail last week:

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But what’s been happening in the meantime?

The Long Run

I probably should have peaked last week, but I got my longest run in about 3 weeks ago. It also happened to be the longest solo run I’ve ever done. It started with an early jaunt to Forerunners, where I joined up with the clinic for the first part of their run. I then continued my loop around False Creek and on to Stanley Park, where I captured a bit of the local scenery.

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I’ll admit I also stopped along the way to vote in the municipal election!

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After circumnavigating Stanley Park, I finally reached Coal Harbour at 33km, where I stopped for a coffee. The barista said: “Lovely morning for a little jog.” I just smiled and nodded.

Running Barrie

I went back to Ontario for a week to help my dad out following a minor surgery. And for the first time, I took the opportunity to run the beautiful Barrie Waterfront – an out and back around Kempenfelt Bay.

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And had intended to get in a long run, but with some housework to manage, plus juggling working from home – I waited too long and woke up to this:

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Winter in Vancouver

I arrived back in BC just in time for…well, no snow yet, but a bit of below zero. Another False Creek/Stanley Park loop, and managed to reach a little more than a half marathon distance. I should have run further, but I ended up at Starbucks instead.

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But then yesterday, winter had truly arrived!

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I ended up taking a bit of a tumble en route, but thanks to the cold my glove took the brunt of my fall! I’ve got a bit of a sore hip, too, but no war wound to show off!

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So here’s what it looked like yesterday in all my key locales – including my upcoming vacation destinations!

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My #42for42 goal is fast approaching – the birthday (on Friday) arriving just over a week before the distance. We’ll then be off to Japan for 2 weeks, where (after some recovery) I hope to run some more!

Stay tuned!

Remember when I told you that I was a fan of running in the rain? Well, for the first 10k of this morning’s run, I was very much ready to retract everything I said before.

Last week, I asked Coach Carey what my training should look like in the lead up to Honolulu (now a mere 10 weeks away). 27k this week was the answer.

We gathered at Forerunners on Saturday morning – those of us not running Victoria or Chicago. (NOTE: expect a guest blog on Chicago coming soon!) Today was a true hodge-podge, depending on what each individual was in the midst of training for. We had people running all of these distances: 15k, 18k, 25k, 27k, 33k, and 36k. So while I wasn’t running quite as far as some…

Until February of this year, I had never run further than a half marathon distance (21.1km). The first time I ran 27km was March 1, 2014. Each long run after that, leading up to the BMO Marathon, was a ‘furthest run ever’. This spring was truly an era of firsts. But after that first marathon (May 2014), my distances dwindled. So this training run of 27km was, once again, a bit of a first; it was the first time I’ve run 27km in over 5 months. And as part of a comeback from injury, I’m pretty proud of that.

But I digress. We were gathered at Forerunners, getting prepped on the various routes to reach out goals, and the rain was pouring down outside. Not just a light drizzle – coming down in buckets. I had my iPhone wrapped in a Ziploc to keep it dry. It’s true we’ve been spoiled for the last few months with almost perfect weather, but that seems to be over. So off we went, and within minutes my shoes were squishing and I was drenched.route

Our route took us along Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks, up the UBC hill to where Coach Carey was waiting with his water stop and beach umbrella at kilometre 9. To get my distance in, I had to do a loop around the campus, and back to the same spot where Carey waited for us. And somewhere along the way, the sky turned blue. Given that my phone was wrapped in plastic, I didn’t take a photo – but you can imagine a huge puddle on the sidewalk, reflecting fluffy white clouds against a sunlit sky. That’s what it turned into.

For about 15km of the 27km, I was on my own. Because we weren’t a big group, and since everyone had their own goal distance, we were all slightly at different paces. And since I had to make a bathroom break (OK – two bathroom breaks), I was a bit out of sync with the others. I didn’t have any music, and it didn’t matter. I just enjoyed the scenery, thought about this and that – and enjoyed my run.

Happily, I was able to run with Bob for a few kilometres during my UBC loop, and I also ended up with some company on the last 5km or so back to the store, although I had to tack on a couple of extra kilometres at the end to get my numbers. I completed my running drills and finished feeling – energized! Still damp, to be sure, but happy.

And then I bought a Garmin. Stay tuned for more reports on my new toy!

Honolulu, here I come!

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Last week I did something I’ve never done before – I ran around Stanley Park.

OK, that’s not entirely true. I mean yes, I did run around Stanley Park, but it wasn’t my first time. I do have some experience…wait, let me explain.

If you’re not familiar with Stanley Park – other than my passing references to trail runs, or the fact that it’s been voted ‘the top park in the entire world’ – here are a few fun facts:

  • The park is (on?) a peninsula
  • It was created in 1888
  • It is just over 4 square kilometres in area (1.56 square miles) – about 10% bigger than New York’s Central Park
  • It has about half a million trees, a few of which are hundreds of years old
  • The Stanley Park portion of the Seawall (totalling 22 kilometres in its entirety) is 8.8 kilometres

And it’s that Seawall I’m talking about today.

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Obviously not my photo…

Yes, I’ve been around Stanley Park before. It’s part of the First Half Half Marathon (counter-clockwise); the Modo 8k loops a good chunk of the Park, cutting off Brockton Point to the east; most memorably, I ran the last 10k of the BMO Vancouver Marathon in the rain around Stanley Park (clockwise – and never-ending…). And multiple Forerunners training runs have looped the Park (usually counter-clockwise).

But, after all of that, I’d never done it solo. Until now.

Due to a prior commitment, I couldn’t attend the usual Saturday morning clinic. And as I’d just had a reminder that the Honolulu Marathon was a short 11 weeks away (now just 10!!), I knew I had to get some more mileage under my belt. So at 7:15am, I headed out all on my own – to circumnavigate Stanley Park!

I’m not a morning person, but I am a morning runner. And being out before sunrise is something special. I decided to do the clockwise route, heading along the seawall to English Bay, and heading past Second Beach to the point of no return…

And it was beautiful. A few other runners, who smiled as they passed. A couple of cyclists. But mostly just me and my thoughts (no music today), and the amazing scenery. Rounding Prospect Point, with Lions Gate Bridge spanning high above, the sunrise came into view. Fog in the distance, a lone fisherman in silhouette, and this blog post forming in my mind.

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When I reached Brockton Point, I realized that I had finally conquered Stanley Park. No longer that gruelling punishment at the end of the marathon – but something I could truly enjoy. I savoured the victory of closing the loop at Second Beach – and headed home, another 15k in the books.

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On this week’s clinic run (another unexpected half marathon!) took us yet again around the park (counter-clockwise…I’m getting dizzy). This time, there was rain, but I was with my people and the conversation kept my spirits up – and we conquered the park yet again!

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Incidentally, after last week’s run, I went out on a tugboat up the Fraser River. That was pretty cool.

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No-Running

You haven’t heard from me in a while because, quite honestly, I’ve been in somewhat of a blue funk. At the behest of my physio, I took time off after the Scotiabank Half Marathon in June to recovery from a lingering injury. I was meant to start running again after ’10 days pain free’, but 10 days stretched to a month and the pain hadn’t quite gone away.

Last week, I decided to give it another go. I managed two short (3 and 4km) runs. Finally, today, I did a 7km and – fingers crossed – I still feel pretty good.

During my ‘run-free July’ (and I don’t mean that in the good way like ‘pain-free’ or ‘carefree’ – more like ‘love-free’ or ‘happiness-free’, as in lacking the things you want/need), I had a lot of time to mull, and to be a bit angry. However, I also  learned a few things:

1) I’m addicted to running
When I was able to run without pain, there were certainly days I didn’t want to run. But once I was told not to, that’s all I wanted to do. I felt frustrated and anxious. I wanted to be out pounding the pavement. When I saw other people running, I was envious (and in a city like Vancouver, that happens a lot).

Last weekend, we took the train down to Seattle, and then drove out to Central Washington. As the train headed south, I saw folks running in the fields near Delta. In Wenatchee, the path along the Columbia River beckoned me, despite the 35+ degree weather. Even in Seattle itself, I wanted to run those hilly streets. But I couldn’t.

2) Core shorts are emasculating
My physio recommended Under Armour ‘core’ (compression) shorts to help with my groin injury, and provide support while running. They hold everything in – tightly. I guess they work. But they’re certainly not the most comfortable item of clothing I own.

This is not what I look like in core shorts

This is not what I look like in core shorts

3) Wine does not promote a flat belly
Without the promise of early morning runs every Saturday, and with Vancouver temperatures soaring, a cold glass of wine on a Friday night – followed by another – becomes very easy. That, combined with the lack of regular cardio workouts, has taken a toll. Plus, I have a weakness for potato chips and assorted crunchy, salty snacks.

4) I miss my running friends
There’s a degree of envy, too, when I see posts on Facebook highlighting the athletic achievements of my Forerunners cohorts. And I feel a pang of something…regret?…when I get the weekly Forerunners newsletter. The weekly training sessions have been such a part of my life over the last couple of years, and those people so integral to the small successes I’ve had during that time, I miss them all immensely. I hope they’ll take me back when the time comes!

5) Pilates is a life saver
My injury (which I won’t get into here) is definitely core related. I had never tried Pilates until a couple of weeks ago, when my friend finally convinced me to go with her to the YMCA. I’m a convert. I believe that the work I’ve done in that class has given me the physical strength and healing needed to get me to today – my longest run since the end of June. Coupled with weekly yoga classes, I feel like I’m making progress.

Where do I go from here?
I’ve made up my mind about a couple of things.

1) I will run the Honolulu Marathon, come hell or high water
I refuse to give up on my #42for42 plan. Honolulu is booked, and I will run it. I don’t expect to better my Vancouver Marathon time, but I intend to finish it regardless. I believe with steady, careful training, I can still make it happen.

2) It’s time to cut back and pay more attention to my diet
I’ve been lazy. I’ve allowed the dog days of summer (not that I’m complaining!) to lull me into a sense of recreation where another beer doesn’t hurt. But I know it can. So while I won’t be teetotaling through August, I’ll be a lot more aware of what I’m consuming – both food and drink.

3) I will continue cross-training
Pilates – check. Yoga – check. Some strength training at the gym – not my favourite activity, but an area to concentrate on. Swimming – I’m a clumsy swimmer, something I’m not confident about – but another activity I want to explore. Cycling – I don’t own a bicycle, and the aggressiveness of Vancouver biking terrifies me, but I’m thinking of trying out some spin classes…

Most runners face setbacks at some point during their training – injuries, illness, and serious life events, to name a few. I know my experience has been mild compared to what others have been through. But I would certainly welcome comments, encouragement, suggestions and the like on getting back into the game. Because that’s what I’m ready and eager to do!

Exactly four weeks from today, I will be running my first marathon. Four weeks. From today. What have I gotten myself into?

Race Motivation

Prior to 2009, I had never run. Maybe I had rushed to catch a bus, or participated (unwillingly, of course) in the odd sport that required me to move faster than a shuffle. There was that one time in college where I thought I should try ‘jogging’, a venture that was quickly abandoned.

After my first race in 2009 (read about how I started running here), I realized something…I am one of those people who studies because there is an exam.

That’s not to say I was someone who crammed the night before. In fact, I was a pretty good student (some might call me a ‘teacher’s pet’), but I studied and worked hard to get good marks, and because I knew that at the end of it there would be an exam to write. Apparently, this carries over into my running – I will keep training when there’s something to train for.

So I started registering for more races.

Moving beyond the 10k

While shopping for shoes at Forerunners during the 2009 Christmas break, one of the staff mentioned the running clinic they hosted. I thought, “Hmm, it might be good to have some people to run with,” and decided to join. I showed up for my first run in mid-January, expecting a leisurely 10k or something similar. As it turned out, the clinic was in training for the First Half Half Marathon in February, and were hitting their peak of training before tapering.

Me to some pleasant-looking strangers outside of Forerunners:  Hi, I’m new this week.

Pleasant-looking strangers:  Oh, that’s great! Have you been running long?

Me:  No, I’m kind of new – I just started last year.

PLS:  You’re welcome to run with us! We’re the slow pokes, but we have a lot of fun!

Me:  Great! Thanks! How far are we running today?

PLS:  20k

Me: …

And so it began. By the end of 2010, I had run 8 races, and racked up about 300km (in training & racing). And one of the main inspirations for my amped up running was my participation in the Forerunners running clinic, led by Coach Carey, and those pleasant-looking strangers who became good friends.

The Half Marathon

First Half Half Marathon 2013

I decided that 2011 would be the year I tackled a half marathon, and finished the First Half in 2 hours 15 minutes. For various reasons, including a very rough year career-wise, I managed only 4 races in 2011, and my total run distance was just shy of 500km. In 2012, I completed 2 half marathons, finishing both in 2 hours 7 minutes. My total running distance was about 550km.

As mentioned in a previous post, I lost my mom in the spring of 2013. In spite of that, it was a year of surprising success in terms of my running:

  • 7 races
  • 3 half marathons – including my first sub-2-hour marathon (1 hour 52 minutes:  a full 23 minutes faster than my first half 2 years prior)
  • My first sub-40-minute 8k
  • My first 50-minute 10k
  • A total of over 1000km run

Which brings me to 2014. And that darn marathon.

#42for42 – Yes or No?

In December of this year, I will turn 42. I’ve been pondering the theme for a while, pretty much since my 40th birthday. Wouldn’t it be cool to run a full marathon (i.e. 42km) tin my 42nd year?

In December of 2013, about a week after my 41st birthday, I emailed Coach Carey to ask his advice (permission? blessing?) regarding my #42for42 plan.  With full credit, I will quote his response:

I think it’s perfect timing. You’ve improved a lot over the last two years and you can build off that base. It’s basically the same except you run extra distance on Saturday. Why not go with the 42 theme and run the marathon.

So I signed up for my first marathon – the Honolulu Marathon – and will run it just one week after my birthday!

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Hey look – this race is almost as old as me!

“But wait, what? Didn’t you say you had a marathon in 4 weeks?”

Yes, well…when the earlybird reminder for the BMO Vancouver Marathon hit my inbox in January (I’m also motivated by saving $$$), I thought…maybe I should get just one marathon under my belt before doing a destination marathon.

And so…Sunday, May 4 it is. Four weeks. From today.

#42for42