The Bermuda Triangle Challenge

It is what it is.

This past November, mom and I made plans for a visit to see her in Bermuda. She wasn’t making it home for Christmas, so we figured a mid-January trip would be good timing for a trip. Being the race lover that I am, I googled Bermuda races and was delighted to find out that the Bermuda Challenge was happening the third weekend in January.

Perfect! This challenge consisted of a 1-miler on Friday night, a 10K on Saturday morning and a full or half marathon on Sunday. That cold November day I was feeling optimistic and committed to the challenge, including the marathon. This would be my second marathon and although I didn’t have the allocated time to train, I wanted to get the full Bermuda race experience. At that moment I decided doing marathons in different countries would be my goal, starting with Bermuda. (And hopefully Chicago would also be in my future!).

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One of the many beautiful beaches we visited in Bermuda

The ten-weeks passed with many runs, but unfortunately my long runs consisted of one 15K in November and one 18K on Christmas day. I was beginning to feel pressure – which is not what I should feel leading up to my vacation, the exact opposite is true in fact! I emailed the race director on December 23 to change my distance to the half, without a hitch.  Ahhhhh.

I kept up with my runs, but my average distance was 7K. Not ideal for the weekend training, but I wasn’t feeling pressure to reach any PB’s and I was focused on the experience. It would be so great to have my mom and David to cheer me on, and even better that I would be racing – correction – running in tropical conditions. Score.

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During the Bermuda Challenge 10K

The Friday night before I took off, I joined my friends for the annual Halifax Triathlon Club Resolution evening. We like to meet over beers and talk about races and gear and all things triathlon every new year. This night was no exception.

I hadn’t really chatted much about my race but over beers it came out. I noticed a few of my friends were on their smart phones quickly after I mentioned my race…I didn’t think much of it, except that maybe they didn’t seem overly excited for my race…that’s cool as everyone has their own things going on. These friends have travelled all over the globe for some of the coolest races around, maybe Bermuda was no big deal. I quickly realized that they were searching airfares. For real. Before the end of the weekend both Ron and Stacy were booked on a flight to Bermuda and registered for the Challenge. I was ecstatic to have friends to share this experience with. I knew we’d have an awesome time…I’ve completed quite a few races with Ron, and I knew Stacy was a blast to have around.

And off to Bermuda….Fast forward to Friday’s race pick-up. I was still registered for the half…but knew that Ron was planning on the full. I won’t say Ron pressured me into the full – not at all, and I can say that Stacy was trying to talk me out of it…but with the upcoming Ironman, I decided for a confidence boost I wanted to try the full. Somehow it would make the starting line on Aug 16th seem more manageable and less scary. Somehow. (My race logic is not always sound, I realize this but “it is what it is”).

Our vacation wasn’t entirely about our runs. There were rum swizzles, wave jumping, and city exploring times too. I enjoyed hosting two first-timers to Bermuda, and did my best to fit the highlights in. I heard Stacy say many a time “We’re in BERMUDA” and loved that they were both having a great time.

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Playing in the waves at John Smith’s Bay

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I had one of my most inspiring moments on Thursday evening at the Bacardi Rum pre-race event, when I got to meet some incredible runners and hear their stories. I learned about what motivated them to get into running in the first place, some of the amazing races they had taken part of all over the world, and soaked in their joie de vivre. Running is not just about running for me. It’s about the runners that surround, inspire, teach and care for me too. This was paradise.

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Post-race Partying with Bart Yasso (!!)

About those races though. The Friday night 1 miler was surprisingly challenging. I’d never run that race distance before and told myself to take it easy. Ha. Yeah right. I was in the first heat of runners and the entirety of Front Street had spectators cheering us on. Like almost every race I’ve ever been in I wondered “Am I in last place? The people in front of me keep moving further and further away from me. I must be in last place.” And I felt so slooooow. It turns out my pace was a record 4:29/km. That’s insane. Lesson learned for shorter distance racing.

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Wearing pink for #PacinginPink to raise awareness for Breast Cancer on Friday night

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Trevor interviewing me for Bermuda Broadcasting News.

This link to my newscast is here!

We woke up to crazy wind on Saturday, our 10K day. I was warned the course was hilly and since deciding on completing the marathon I told myself to take it easy today. I’m weak on hills and I expected to slow down. I promised myself that I would be happy with a time of 1:00, and I could live with 1:05. I had fun with the run, and stopped to take photos throughout the race…I also pushed myself up those hills and let the legs fly down them (Thank you Stacy for the advice). I didn’t bother bringing my garmin to Bermuda and surprised my mom, Ron, and most of all myself with a 55:51 run time. We celebrated our 10K success with a trip to dockyard via the high-speed ferry. Oh what fun!

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Our exhilarating high-speed ferry ride to Dockyard post 10K

Sunday morning. 6am. There’s no turning back now. The temperature was cool and slightly cloudy. I tired to stomach some breakfast and we made our way to the start line. I try not to feel too worked up and silently repeat this weekends mantras: We are in Bermuda & It is what it is. Stacy has given me a lot of great advice over the weekend…but one tidbit stands out – likely because is scares the crap out of me – the real race doesn’t start until mile* 20. And she was right.

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Laughing off some pre-race jitters with Stacy

I was lucky enough to have Stacy pace with me for the first loop (13 miles) and we were going at a really good clip (2:04 for the first half) and when Stacy veered right, and I went left I got a little emotional. I can’t quite articulate why this happened. Perhaps because I had to do it all again and was scared. Perhaps because I had to do it all again and I knew I could do it. The weather cooperated and so did my stomach. I had 2 sleeves of blocks and that’s all I used throughout the run. Although my mom was prepared with carbs, fruit and water at nearly every mile (Thanks Mom & David).

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Scenery along the race route. I almost forgot I was running. Almost.

The scenery was mind-blowing. Seriously, the views of the water, the pastel homes and palm trees didn’t hurt the hours of pavement pounding. Volunteers and locals were at every turn and vocal with their cheering. Even for that lonely second loop. I couldn’t have asked for a better race and tried to thank every volunteer and supporter out there. I even noticed locals supplying Champaign flutes near the finish line, and one Scottish local was handing out candy and offering supportive words to runners. Amazing.

I seemed to have blacked out between mile fifteen to eighteen (what on earth I was thinking about, I’ll never know) and true to Stacy’s word at mile twenty I noticed a definite decrease in pace. But I was still running. I tried to math about my finish time and struggled, but I knew unless something drastic happened, I would beat my first marathon time (4:49:59). You know, the one that I actually trained for in 2013.

My mom must have read my mind late in the race because she shouted out “You’re close to the middle of the pack Boo!” Never have I been so happy to be average! I was certainly having those thoughts of “Am I in last place?” “Where is everybody?” but I had to remember that this was my own run, and my time was going to be good compared with my past and training. However, things were getting a little bit lonely. And then I passed a few people and started giving myself pep talks. Only X more minutes until I’m done, if I keep running. I was grateful that my hips and knees were surviving (thank you hips & knees – thank you!). They were my biggest concern in going for the full distance.

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My supportive mom making sure I didn’t need any snacks

 And then the finish line was in sight. I saw my crowd head to the finish line to meet me and I heard Stacy first. Her voice was booming and calling my name, pushing me across the finish line. I’m guessing my pace for the last 200M was outstanding and I can’t tell you where that last bit of energy came from. But there it was! My mom, Ron and Kim greeted me with hugs at the finish line. I did it.
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The beer and chips post race were the best things I’ve ever tasted. I even turned on football for full effect. I could now completely relax and enjoy the final 48 hours in Bermuda. And we certainly did. The sun came out on Monday and it was down right hot.Beaches, swizzles and swimming, yes please!

I knew Bermuda would be fun and I knew the race would be great. I had no idea how much fun we would have as a group and I really hope we can have a Halifax crew for 2016.

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As I check in at the airport to begin my journey home, I have tears in my eyes for missing my mother already. Heading through security I heard the clink of the race medals on other runners and smile. We share run stories as we wait for our flight and I changed my focus. Although I have much training to do for Ironman Tremblant (can anyone say bike trainer?) I’m feeling more confident about our August race. First, recovery. Then back to the training plan. 

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Recovery.

*The races are measured in miles in Bermuda, which is something I’m not use to. I originally thought that I would hate this…I love counting and the more the better, but somehow during the marathon that wasn’t the case. After all there were less miles to run 🙂