Bluenose Marathon 2010 The Night Run

25 05 2010




It’s difficult to believe that knowing my personality; I can approach anything at all with caution and restraint.  Somehow in running I can.  I suppose its something to do with the “Trial of miles” as they like to say in the book “Once a Runner”.  The thousands and thousands of miles I have logged over various courses, at various times in all types of weather and all levels of conditioning have nurtured a sort of sense of trepidation in approaching any long run which has some unknown variables.  Ultimately in running anything over 25 km or so there are unknowns.

Another part of my personality which can be a positive although sometimes a negative, in the sense that I can be let down, is I am a hopeless romantic.  You say ‘France” and I envision a boy on a bicycle in Province with a baguette under his arm.   I see the picture on Trail Runners magazine of a fresh looking fit runner bounding down a mountain side in his spotless shoes on a perfect day and I buy into the complete peace, beauty and elation of it without much thought for the pain and suffering a 50 miler through the mountains is capable of doling out!

So with this in mind let me tell you about this marathon.

The infamous Bluenose!  Well infamous in our family at least.  I ran the inaugural one 7 years ago with my sister Ava (who got me into this whole distance thing in the first place).  It was a fairly tough course and the weather was unseasonably cold.  We did a 3 hour 50 ish I recall and felt decent.

Each year after Ava ran these without fail, regardless of her level of training or work load at that time.  Every year the weather was terrible….cold, windy, stormy, snow, rain, hail……one year they even changed the course at the last minute so the runners wouldn’t need to cross the 1.5 km span of the MacDonald Bridge for fear of a runner blowing over the side. 

It was that same bridge in 2003 that I experienced the worst run of my life in the last 3 km of a 21km run when I was running into the wind and snow as hard as I could and barley moving forward…….but that’s another story.

So this year things were looking a bit tough as Ava had qualified for Boston and was going to go down and run hard for a decent time.  Unfortunately 8 weeks prior to the race at the peak of training she developed a rather bad case of Planter Faciatus.  The dreaded PF, a runner’s worst nightmare!  On top of all this Boston was one month before the Bluenose.  Ava asked if I would come down and run it with her and I immediately said sure.  It would be a great training run for me as it was exactly 70 days out from the Death Race.  I even secretly started planning and scheming that I would get up at 5 AM the day of and bang of a steady 21km PRIOR to the starting gun so I could really put in  hard over distance day where I wouldn’t have to run alone.  At this point id already done a 62.5, a bunch of 40-44’s and at least 5x 32km runs since the beginning of the New Year.

Of course for me making long term personal plans is sketchy at best due to the nature of my work as a consultant, so there were bound to be pitfalls.  Sure enough 4 weeks out im confirmed for a trip to Paris the day before the Bluenose!  Dam!  This was disheartening news to Ava who was suffering terribly from her foot pains and missing tonnes of quality runs in her program. Even with all this she not once even considered dropping out of Boston. She went down and iced her foot heavy the night before and went out and ran a steady, all be it, painful 42.2 km to complete the Boston marathon.  Right around this time I had “issues” developing in my foot from running a 60 plus run on a slightly sprained ankle.  My ankle dislocated slightly causing my already pathetically, flat arch of my over pronating foot to fall even flatter.  This further flattening of my foot stretched my Planter even tighter causing the first signs of PF!!  I re-acted immediately by taking some time of my feet, and getting medical help with it in the form of massage, physio, chiropractic and icing.  I worked hard at the gym and on the bike and in the pool to remain fit and felt after 3 weeks even better and stronger than before.  Guess I needed a break.

Since I was to miss the Bluenose and wanted to get an organized run in I signed up for Mississauga Marathon and my wife Diana the half.  Well with in a couple days of that my trip to Paris got cancelled.  When I told Ava she said “oh you’ve got to come down and run with me” So I signed up!

OK there is another curve in here but im not sure of the sequence of events, but somewhere in this whole 5 week confusion I ended up signing up for my first Ultra Marathon of 50 miles at Sulphur Springs near Hamilton Ontario.  This was to take place 6 days after the Bluenose.

One more tidbit of info is my sister was co-chair of the Bluenose and needed to be at the finish line to assist the volunteers…………………..okay.

I get an email from Ava, which I see is written in the middle of the night.  It is entitled “Crazy Idea”

“Why don’t we get up at 230AM and run the Marathon so we can get back in time for the Start of the official marathon? Take your GPS so we can show the officials and get an official time.”

Now this sounds like my type of plan….remember my romantic thinking……Ava and I jogging serenely around the course in the middle of the night, headlamps beaming arriving fresh at the finish as the others are lining up!  Hmmmmm not quite.

I ran Mississauga in 416, exactly what I promised Stephen, my coach, I would.  I felt fresh after wards.  Diana pulled a nice 2 hour 3 minute half.

The night before I leave for Halifax I cant sleep at all which happens to me from time to time, so I roll in to Halifax already a bit fired.  Of course that night I attempt to go to bed at 9 which turns out to be 1115 and we wake at 115 AM for breakfast.  Ava and I are both pretty trashed!  Im so wasted with fatigue im giddy.  For some strange reason out of the blue I look at her and say “maybe we’re cut out for this type of thing!” this causes some laughter. Its 11C outside with promises from the weatherman for a blue sky sunny 21 for race day.

 We munch down the normal pre-run portion of oatmeal and banana and off we go to the starting line……………..its right across from THE PALACE nightclub which is still rocking hard at 220 AM.  A few drunken people give us a second look as take a line at the start and click on our headlamps and start our watches at precisely 230AM.

Another little factor is we aren’t perfectly clear of the rather complicated route ( not so bad when manned by over 1000 volunteers and race marshal’s in daylight) and need to periodically consult Avas crib notes to make the right turn.

On entering Point Pleasant park we get a surprise as my Mom drives up to cheer us on and take up a post at the exit to ensure we have safe passage.  We do and we are feeling pretty good.  Im taking in a lot more gel, and Gatorade then normal as im feeling week and worried about bonking from sleep deprivation.  As we leave Halifax and head across the afore mentioned MacDonald bridge over to Dartmouth and into Shubie park.  We don’t take the extra large can of Bear Spray I have stashed near the entrance as it’s already 530 and the sun is coming up.  We are well below pace which suits the both of us fine…………both fatigued, and both trying not to be completely trashed at the end of this.  Shubie was great and nice on the feet, but upon leaving and turning back toward the final 10km we both feel a bit sad and wiped.  Our cheerful banter diminishes and we are both lost for lengthy periods to our own thoughts and meditated by the rhythmic almost perfectly synchronized footfalls and easy breathing.

Along this next part of the course we are pleasantly surprised by some of Ava’s wonderful friends who come out and support us by cheering us on and even running off to bring us back cold water as we both are dangerously low.  Amazing people these runners, depriving themselves of a few extra hours sleep on race day to show us support.  Of course I feel all emotional (I get a bit wonky after 5 hours sleep in 72 hours and 32 km into a run).

This part of the race is never easy.  It’s the gap you need to fill between, the exciting beginning to an adventure, through an excellent 20-25 km run, but before the final 1 km of the run.  32-39 for me is a tough stretch.  I know its only 6 and I can run a 6 in 3o with ease and in 36 in pain but it just seems tough.  Having our very own cheering section certainly brightened the way.  

We both have some fairly serious foot pain going now from the PF and some rather massive blisters but neither of us is telling the other.

As we approach the notorious  Maple ( a nasty double humped 700 meter incline with the first at a 10% grade and the second about 18% I can promise you I have no more romantic notions going through my head

  I can think of only a few thoughts.

 Id like to shower and sleep now and maybe not in that order.

 I want to stop running and ice my foot!

I want to eat a steak!  Maybe even cooked!

Am I a NUT to think I can run a 50 miler in six days!!!!!!!

I can usually kill this hill without elevating my heart rate past 75%….this time it’s at 85% and I am jogging, walking and jogging it.

After maple I know we are home and only need to suffer a bit more.  Across the bridge and along the final 1.5 to the finish.  Our loyal fans pop in a few times to the end to bring us home.  It was so awesome to have them there.  We cross the finish line rather unceremoniously and high five amid the workers and volunteers setting up for the REAL run which takes place in a couple hours.

Im pretty spent.  I mean im not down right wasted, but im a long freaking way from the guy who crossed Mississauga in 416 just 7 days before.

We do a 438 (more like a 4 25 if you factor in the dark, the crib notes, the stop for a few video and photo ops and visit with my Mother……………but who cares.  I ran this to see what ive got putting in the big mileage week after week and Ava maintains her unbroken record of running every Bluenose.

We stumble home to eat and shower.  Ava goes back to work an 8 hour day as a Volunteer and I sit with my family and contemplate my sanity in wanting to run further than this already crazy distance.

I follow my wife back to the starting line where Diana, with her runners strained cyatic nerve on fire goes down and polishes off a 2 hour 2 minute half with about 6000 other runners and arrives home looking as fresh as she left!

It’s such a big learning experience.  It really humbles me and gives me pause thinking about the 50 in 6 days and the 125 km run in 60 days!………………..I eat a few times and im in bed by 9 for an 8 hour nights sleep.  My first in many many months.

Waking at 6 I feel great.  A bit of fatigue in my quads, ankle twinging here and there?!…….PF….All but gone…….Ava’s PF….gone.


I eat homemade Rhubarb pie for breakfast….why the hell not I burned over 5000 calories the day before. 

To be honest what I really would like to do is get out for a run on those amazing Bluff Trails ( see previous blog) and start to break in my new Brooks Cascadias…………….I dismiss this thought which boarders on insanity seeing as in 6 days I will run the hardest run in my life to date and I am way overdistance……………………..I opt for a 1.5 hard workout at the Gym where I focus on core……………………after we head to Lawrence town beach where I lay on the rocks in the sun and soak my foot in the icy waters of the Atlantic…………just in case……………… can never be too cautious!

I re-read “Once a runner” and immediately start a romantic notion of my run through the Sulphur Springs 50 next week……………………..I ll let you know next Sunday at what point I woke up from that dream!!!!!!

Goal………….9 hours 34 minutes……………


Stay tuned




2 responses

6 01 2011
Cheryl Davis O'Neill

I am looking for stories of inspiration & motivation for a book I’m publishing surrounding the Blue Nose Marathon. The fact that your sister ran the full marathon prior to start time and then stayed to volunteer shows the kind of heart alot of Blue Noser’s have. Would I be able to get her contact information so I could interview her for the book: email, phone, whatever you feel safest with.
Cheryl Davis O’Neill

8 01 2011

Hi Cheryl, sounds good. Very cool indeed. Ava certainly is inspiring. after our run through the night i went back to her house and went to sleep and she worked all day!! Of course it was my 3rd marathon in 3 weeks and the following Saturday i ran a 50 miler! lol……………….i ll send you Avas number via email…………….mine is in case i cant reach you for some reason
Looking forward to the book!

This year im running Bluenose and then the following saturday running a 100 mile race….Yahoo!

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