Ok… HOW is it Monday already!? This weekend has been such a whirlwind but I’m pleased to report that Sunday’s race was a success! I’ve got a fun giveaway for you too, but first, the race report.

suitcase packed with race essentials

On Saturday afternoon I packed up all my race essentials and hopped in the car for a journey down the 403 to the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. The expo was at a shopping mall, so I met up with Jess there and we picked up our race kits. (On a side note, she had already run a 5k trail race that morning AND it was her birthday, and we figured what better way to celebrate than with another race?) Our swag bags were pretty sweet, packed full of lip balm, deodorant, epsom salts, and a bottle of wine. (I’m not much of a boozer but I know this got a lot of people excited!)

niagara falls women's half marathon 2014 swag bag

After we picked up our race kits, we checked into our hotel, went out for dinner, then made a quick stop on the way back at Dollarama because our race bibs didn’t come with safety pins. (Lesson learned: ALWAYS bring your own safety pins!) Both of us were tired so I set out my race gear and was in bed by about 9:30.

race day gear

Sunday’s alarm went off at 5:45 and I got up feeling really well rested. I had my standard pre-race breakfast of dry cereal, an apple, and water. Then on the way to the race, I shook up some Vega sugar-free pre-workout energizer in a shaker cup and sipped it while we waited for things to get going.

vega sugar free pre-workout energizer

We made a couple of trips to the port-a-potties, some photos of our happy-yet-kinda-nervous selves…

pre-race photo with jess

…and met Kathrine Switzer, which was pretty awesome. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Kathrine was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, and she’s such an inspiration to me. Not only was she a significant force in getting women’s running to where it is today, but she was SO involved with the organization of this race, it was unbelievable. Every time we saw her, whether at the expo, before the race, or after crossing the finish line, she was busy congratulating the other participants, encouraging them, and being pretty much the best cheerleader anyone could ask for.

meeting kathrine switzer at niagara falls womens half marathon

(She made me pull up my shirt in this photo to show my bib – I don’t normally wear it that way!) 😉

By 8:00, we were lined up on the start line, fingers hovering over our Garmin start buttons. Jess and I were both in the front corral when the gun went off, we set out pretty quick. I promised myself I wouldn’t look at my watch at all during the race and kept that promise, but upon looking at my splits for the first KM when I got home, it kinda looks like a bear was chasing me!

splits from niagara falls womens half marathon - garmin

The course was an out-and-back loop in one direction (along the Falls) and another out and back loop in the other direction. The mist off the Falls felt great, and I was so glad I’d opted for a visor rather than sunglasses because it was SO sunny, but I saw a lot of sunglass-wearers having to dry them off after passing through the mist. As I continued along the course, I settled into a more reasonable pace. I could see the girl ahead of me about 300m away, and didn’t bother turning around to see who was behind because I just wanted to focus on feeling good.

niagara falls

For the first 10k, there were 2 thoughts in my mind that I was trying to shake out. The first was that there were 3 girls ahead of me, and the second was that I really, really, like desperately had to pee. I’d passed a water station and was trying to spot another one in the distance, and contemplated pulling over to a tree, hoping the runner behind was far enough away not to see me doing my thing. Wondering if moving off the road would be considered going off the course and thus a race DQ, I mustered up as much strength as I could until finally reaching a set of port-a-potties near mile 8. It was the fastest pee ever and when I got out, I took off once again, figuring I was still in 4th because the 3rd place girl was about 500m ahead.

It took me about a kilometer to hit my stride again and I wondered if stopping was a bad idea. It was hot and this stretch of the route was in full sun. I grabbed some water at one of the stations and took 2 sips, threw the cup and tried to get inside my head and think as positively as possible. Luckily, the scenery and other runners made that easier. The path along the Falls and the surrounding area is gorgeous, and I was blown away by the encouragement of the other participants. Since it was an out-and-back race, I passed everyone on the way back and loved every single one of their cheers. I wanted to cheer back so badly but knew it would be hard, so I thumbs-upped a few times and smiled.

At the 200m-to-go mark, I tried to pick it up a bit to ensure that I finished the race with nothing left in the tank. Amazing spectators lined the last 100m and although I was tired and my legs and lungs felt like they were being pushed to their max, glancing up at the clock to see that I was coming in sub-1:30 made me feel SO excited. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:28:30.4, and the first person I saw was Kathrine Switzer who gave me a huge hug. (Kathrine, if you ever read this, I apologize that I probably smelled terrible and wasn’t very coherent!) They had firefighters (hot ones!) giving out finisher medals, as well as cold towels which I appreciated immensely.

post-race medal photo

I cheered Jess over the finish line as she PR’d as well, then we grabbed some water and food and headed for the massage tent. I wasn’t feeling hungry at all but knew I had to eat, so I drank 3 bottles of water, 1 shaker bottle full of Vega recovery accelerator, about 1/3 of a Vega Performance Protein bar, and an apple. Hunger set in when I got home in the afternoon though, where I demolished #ALLthethings, including but not limited to a huge salad with grilled fish, 1/3 of a watermelon, 1/2 pint of strawberries, an apple, a 2lb bag of baby carrots with salsa, some Mary’s Gone Crackers, and a stir fry later for dinner.

Everything felt good post-race except for my quads which were a bit tight, so back at our hotel, it was all about showers, stretching, rolling, and legs up the wall!

jess with legs up the wall

me rolling my calves post race

Upon checking out Sportstats.ca when I got home, it appeared I’d placed 4th out of 1978 runners and miraculously, won my 25-29 age group. (I was sure that the girls ahead were all in my category and was shocked to find out that none of them were!) Even with the pee stop at mile 8, I’m really happy with the race, and so, so thrilled that my sub-1:30 half marathon goal has finally been reached. This goal has been on my vision board for 2 years now, and after all of last year’s iron deficiency issues, my level of thankfulness for being able to PR again is through the roof.

finisher medal for niagara falls womens half marathon

Running is a funny thing in that it spills over into every part of my being. The discipline, stamina, physical strength, mental state, ability to cope with discomfort and the prospect of getting better. I’ve got a lot of goals that have to do with running, but I think the lessons learned from training and racing so far are helping to make me a better person in other areas of life too.

This brings me to the giveaway you’ve probably been waiting for since the beginning of this post…

Fuel Your Better

I’m picky when it comes to the fuel I put in my body, and I promise that you will not see me singing the praises of products that I don’t 100% stand behind. Vega’s entire line is entirely plant-based, free of artificial crap, free of gluten, dairy and soy, and a pretty key important part of my nutrition strategy. You may have already heard about the #FuelYourBetter campaign, which helps people (from the total newbie to elite athlete) overcome obstacles to their training.

vega sport products

Whether it’s sore muscles, lack of stamina or motivation, overtraining, or hitting the wall that’s holding you back, this initiative offers up some expert advice to help you through it. Not only can you find answers to help you excel in whatever sweaty endeavour you choose to pursue, but you can also create your own custom nutrition strategy to ensure those problems are a thing of the past. It’s all totally free, and you can check it out here.

The super generous folks at Vega are letting me give away a prize pack of my favourite Vega Sport goodies to help one of YOU #fuelyourbetter. One lucky winner will receive:

As usual, there are heaps of ways to enter:

  1. Mandatory entry: Comment on this post telling me about one thing you’re working to be better at this year. It doesn’t have to be fitness-related – it could be absolutely anything!
  2. Bonus: Tweet about this giveaway. Something like “I want to win some @VegaTeam goodies from @eatspinrunrpt! #fuelyourbetter” – click here to Tweet this!
  3. Bonus: Follow @VegaTeam and @eatspinrunrpt on Twitter
  4. Bonus: Follow @Vega_Team and @eatspinrunrpt on Instagram, and re-post the photo below (you’ll find it in my Instagram feed). Be sure to tag me and hashtag #fuelyourbetter so I can keep track!

vega fuelyourbetter giveaway - instagram

This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US, and will close at midnight ET on Thursday, June 5th. I’ll announce the winner first thing in Friday morning’s post.

If you trained or raced this weekend, I hope it was absolutely fabulous! And last, thank you so so much to all of you for your sweet comments on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as texts and emails over the weekend. You are truly the best and I appreciate each and every one! 🙂