Monday, March 30, 2020

Race Report: Manitoba Marathon


Midrace photo at the Unisphere
My weekend began with an early morning wake up on Saturday to get dressed for a 10K. The Queens 10K is the third race of New York Road Runners' Five Borough Series, and brings more than 11,000 runners to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. I was singing "God Bless America" for Wave 2, and was requested to be there by 7:50 to sing for the 8:15am start.  I arrived around 7:30, in time to hear the national anthem sung quite nicely by Woodside Sunnyside Runners' Juli Borst, and also cheer on the runners in Wave 1!  Before long, wave 2 started to line up, and I got up to the mic to sing, before jumping into the corrals to run.  As usual, it was a warm race - I was glad to have applied some sunblock, as that sun was definitely beaming down on us, as those clear skies and 61° temps rose over the course of the next hour.
Singing "God Bless America"

Official photo by GameFace Media
I felt really great as we made our way through the park, a course reminiscent of the six loops I did only eight weeks earlier.  The flatness of the course was helpful - and in the end, I posted my fastest 10K time I've ever run, a 52:39 - enough to bring my "best pace" with NYRR down to 8:28/mile pace, which should help me move to some faster corrals with their races in the future.  It took about three minutes off of my PR, and I also ran negative splits: a 26:27 first 5K and 26:12 second 5K!

I didn't stick around for long, because I had an afternoon flight to catch and still needed to stop home so I could shower and then grab my backpack.  The flight was from Newark Airport, so getting there involved having to take the subway to Penn Station, then the NJ Transit to the airport's RailLink, then the AirTrain to the terminal.  I got to the airport with more than enough time, and my flight, headed to Toronto, boarded on time for our 1pm departure.

Excited to have a new 10K PR!
However, departing on time was not to be -- shortly after taxiing and preparing to take off, as we stood in a short line for the runway, the pilot came on the speaker to tell us that there was an aircraft incident on the runway, and air traffic control had shut the airport down.  As we saw emergency vehicles rushing toward the runway from our plane's windows, we would later learn (mostly from passengers, including myself, surfing Twitter) that a United Airlines plane from Denver had undergone a hard landing that damaged the forward landing gear, eventually skidding off the runway, and rendering the aircraft disabled.  Thankfully noone was injured, but flights slated to arrive at Newark were diverted to other airports in the area or held at their origins until the passengers on the disabled aircraft were safely deplaned, and the airplane was towed off of the runway.

The pilot shut the engine off, and we were prepared to sit on the tarmac for as long as we could (a maximum of 4 hours, per FAA rules) since we had excess fuel, though some other planes had turned back around to let their passengers off and likely cancel their flights. But luckily around 2:30pm, the pilot came back on the speaker saying the airport had reopened, and we were going to leave. We ended up taking off at 2:53pm, nearly two hours late. We landed in Toronto at 3:56pm, and taxied to our gate, needing to wait for a plane to push back before we were finally parked. Luckily the flight attendants requested passengers to give priority to those of us trying to make connections in deplaning.

My flight, per my itinerary, started boarding at 4, so in a rush, I was finally let off the plane at 4:10. I still have to go through Canadian customs, so I’m running, and I’m the first one through to the customs area. The border agent understands the situation and waves me right through. I literally sprint out of there to find my gate, which it turns out I have to be bused to. Thankfully, there’s a bus there waiting, and I get on... after a minute or two of “come on, come on, let’s go!!!”, we’re moving... slowly... and I burst out of the bus and sprint to my gate.  I get there at 4:25pm, ten minutes before the slated departure time... only to find that my flight to Winnipeg still hadn’t started boarding. All that extra running for nothing!

Arriving at YWG!
We actually are delayed leaving for Winnipeg due to a faulty lavatory in the back of the plane, but once they fix that issue, we're all boarded and get on with our flight.  We land in Winnipeg about an hour late, and Seth is there to pick me up, having landed earlier in the day (after a crazy travel day himself - missing his connecting flight the night before in Minneapolis due to a late incoming aircraft from his departure point of Miami)  We head straight for The Forks Market, a large riverside food hall featuring great local offerings and local maker and retail vendors, located at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in Downtown Winnipeg.  I enjoy a delicious flatiron steak from Simon's Steaks in the food court, as well as some local craft beers on tap from The Common. We also check out the view from above, as the market also features a six story tower with a viewing platform, featuring interpretive panels with information on the site's history.  Afterward, we decide to head to one more brewery, Stone Angel Brewing Company, before heading back to the hotel to catch some z's before the morning's race.
At a Canadian National Railroad train model at The Forks
The Forks
Inside The Forks Market
One last brewery stop before heading to bed
With Marathon Maniacs
We were up by 5:45, and out the door by 6 to get to the start on the campus of the University of Manitoba, only 15 minutes away.  Seth had arranged to get onsite parking, so we were able to get past a police barricade already up for the race, and head straight there, walking right across the street to Investors Group Field (IG Field), home to the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the stadium where the finish line and bag drop was located. We also met with members of Marathon Maniacs for a quick photo there before we headed out to the startline on the road adjacent to the stadium.

The race had corrals set up, which was odd for a small race, but we grouped ourselves as requested, and I found myself near the 4:15 pacer.  Like the previous week in Halifax, I told him that I would likely run ahead of him, but he would catch up to me at around the 25K mark.  After the national anthem was sung (with a couple lines in French, just like last week!) we were off, and on this cloudy and windless 55° day, we headed northeast on Chancellor Matheson Road, turning left onto University Crescent and past the stadium, which we wouldn't see again until our race finish. The road was super flat - and it would stay flat for the entire race, save for one climb along an onramp.

Heading to the Pembina Highway
The road curved past some underutilized field space past the stadium, with marathoners on the left lanes, and half marathoners on the right lanes.  After passing through a more residential section, the two groups merged as we were directed onto the closed off northbound lanes of Route 42, or the Pembina Highway. We then turned right, descending down the offramp, onto Bishop Grandin Boulevard, where we ran along the shoulder, crossing the Red River, then turning left onto River Road into the district of St. Vital.  The morning's cloudy sky looked quite pretty with the sun shining behind it, and while I had my sunglasses on, I knew I didn't really need them... the sun wasn't going to come out anytime soon!

Early on in the race with Budi
I had ran into my friend Budi at the start, so we ran these first couple miles together.  But it was obvious that the speed I was going was a bit tough for Budi, as I could hear him struggling for breath.  We'd gone about 20 minutes, running around 8 1/2 minute miles for the first two miles, which was likely much faster than he was used to.  Our first water station appeared about 2.25 miles in, and I quickly lost sight of him after that.  After all - I wasn't planning on stopping to take a walk break until the 29 minute mark. At the same time, Seth was running at a pretty strong clip as well, and after awhile, he asked what pace we were running - it seems, his watch was telling him he was barely getting past ten minute miles.  He quickly eased back when he realized how fast he was going.  We would actually hit the 5K mark in about 27 minutes - which made our pace just under 9 minutes a mile.

St. Mary's Road
We turned right onto St. Vital Road, continuing through this largely residential neighborhood, then turned left onto Dunkirk Drive, where before long, the road started to follow the curve of the Red River, not far from where we were running.  The road took us right next to the Winnipeg Canoe Club, and just past there, the split where half marathoners turned left, while marathoners turned right onto Kingston Row, and onto Rosewarne Avenue.  We turned left onto St. Mary's Road, continuing our way northward, and alongside the Red River, turning left then onto Lyndale Drive, as it followed the edge of Lyndale Drive Park through the edge of the neighborhood of Norwood West in St. Boniface, the centre of Manitoba's French community.
Running alongside the Red River on Lyndale Drive
River Arch on the Norwood Bridge
We'd take a tiny uphill onto St. Mary's Road once again, where we would cross over the Norwood Bridge and find ourselves with views of the downtown ahead of us.  On the bridge was a sculpture known as "River Arch," commissioned by the City of Winnipeg and was the winning proposal in a national competition by artist Catherine Widgery. The sculpture is made of stone, stainless steel, aluminum, gold leaf, and concrete, and includes an arch and two 40ft columns, each topped with golden sheaves of wheat. The arch bears a pixellated image from a photograph of a harvested field and each column bears a sculpture of the head of a bison on each side of the base.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights
We crossed over the Red River once again, hugging the single lane we had dedicated to us runners as we also crossed over the Assiniboine River, being not too far from the confluence of the two rivers.  With the distinctive spire of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights piercing the skyline, we found ourselves with Bonnycastle Park to our left, as we turned left onto Assiniboine Avenue, a key route through Winnipeg's downtown. Running by the area's highrises, we eventually found ourselves passing in front of the Manitoba Legislative Building, a neoclassical building from 1920 that stands 253 feet tall, with its dome supporting the Golden Boy statue, a gold covered bronze statue based on the style of the Roman god Mercury.  I stopped here for a quick photo as runners went by, and continued on, but before long spotted a very familiar looking shirt on one of the runners as he sped by.
Downtown Winnipeg
Running by the Manitoba Legislative Building
Entering Wolseley
I would introduce myself to Tim, who was a Winnipeg Frontrunner, and he was wearing an FRNY Pride Run shirt from a few years back, which got us to chatting for a little bit!  The course crossed Osborne Street onto Granite Way, and we followed the path as it zigzagged its way down into one of the neighborhoods forming one of the many bends of the river, eventually turning left onto Wolseley Avenue.  All the while, the 4:00 marathon pacer was right on our tail, and while I stopped to take my walk break (now down to 19 and 1 in the second hour of the race), I would end up running with them for a short period of time. We were now running through the neighborhood of Wolseley, a desirable residential area that is sometimes affectionately known as "The Granola Belt," for its largely "hippie" clientele that rejuvenated and gentrified the area starting in the 1970s and 1980s.  After catching up with Tim once again, he mentioned that with the race in June, it's usually quite warm, and with that, this particular neighborhood is overrun with canker worms and caterpillars that end up falling in water cups and dropping from trees onto runners; the unseasonably cooler weather dissuaded that from happening this year!

Running through Wolseley
As we progressed through Wolseley, I realized I was running pretty fast -- we had passed the 11 mile mark, and my Garmin was registering my elapsed time being 1:40:13.  Considering I've been running sub ten minute miles, there was a very strong chance I would run a sub-two hour half marathon time, something I've only accomplished once before, and it was at a downhill half marathon in Utah back in 2015! Having broken my marathon PR twice, and running quite fast 5Ks as of late, in addition to the 10K PR I set the day before this race, it was somewhat not a surprise that I'd be running as fast as I was. However, to be continuing to run as quickly this far into the race, some five minutes faster than even my fastest half splits from immediate previous marathons, was "uncharted territory" for me.  Tim stayed along with me as we continued the next couple miles staying ahead of the 4 hour pacer. We left Wolseley, turning right onto Raglan Road, as we began a stretch heading westward along Portage Avenue, crossing the 13 mile mark and staying ahead.  Though there was no timing mat to register my half marathon time, my Garmin registered a 1:58:10 at the 13 mile mark, even with the 13 mile sign we ran past.
Not long after the halfway point on Portage Avenue!
Assiniboine Park
Tim had warned that the second half would start off a bit boring, and he was right.  I let the 4 hour pacer and her crew pass as I stayed not far behind her over the next mile.  After running on the largely commercial Portage Avenue, we turned left through the entrance of Assiniboine Park.  Heading south now, we cross over the concrete Assiniboine River Park Bidge over the Assiniboine River, and into the heart of the park.  Snaking down the paved pathway through the park, we ran by people casually strolling through, as we passed the Pavilion Gallery Museum, home to the largest collections of works by renowed 20th Century Manitoban artists Ivan Eyre, Walter J. Phillips, and Clarence Tillenius.

Pavilion Gallery Museum
We turned left onto Assiniboine Park Drive, and emerged out of the park onto Wellington Crescent, where we began a lengthy run, first through the neighborhood of Old Tuxedo, as we ran alongside the bends of the river, then into the street's namesake neighborhood, one of Winnipeg's wealthier neighborhoods - and it showed; a sizeable grassy median separated huge homes on both sides of this street.  We ran along Wellington Crescent for about 2.5 miles, from when we exited the park, until we finally turned onto Guelph Street.  The monotony managed to make my split times lag a little, and I recorded miles closer to ten minutes, including what would be my slowest mile split the entire race, a 10:14 at mile 17.  I was slightly annoyed by a guy on a bicycle clearly riding alongside his wife who was near me and running the same pace as me, and he had to be asked by an official race marshal (also on a bike) to move off to the sidewalk a couple times.

One of the regular spectators
along the route
We now began our southward route back toward the finish line, first on the narrow Guelph Street in the neighborhood of Crescentwood, then along the slightly wider Harrow Street cutting through the neighborhoods of Rockwood and Grant Park.  For maybe the fifth or sixth time, we were cheered on by a few spectators who were wholly committed to cheering for us runners at multiple spots in the course - I'm sure they had a specific runner who they were cheering for that was running right around the same pace as me but was not far behind (or in front of) me - but they were noticeable in their Winnipeg Jets "hockey sweaters."  So as I ran by, I made sure to take a selfie with one of them who was eagerly giving out high fives to runners.  We were now getting close to three hours into the race, and that's when the rain started.

At first, it was pretty light... just a few drops here and there.  The forecast had originally called for rain throughout the morning, but as Sunday drew near, the rain looked like it would be reserved for later in the day, with a slighter chance around the 10 o'clock hour... exactly three hours into the race.  Thankfully, with the temperate weather and lack of wind, the rain, as it started to come down a little stronger, wasn't much of a nuisance. In fact, my pace managed to quicken a little, and I hit the 19 mile mark in a 9:29 pace, my fastest since the halfway point, and 2 1/2 minutes before my Garmin hit the three hour mark. I realized that if I managed to run 10 minute miles between that point and the finish, I could run a PR at this marathon.

So that's what my modus operandi was for the remaining 7.2 miles of the race.  Manage to do this all in 70-75 minutes, and I'd have yet another PR on my hands. The road curved slightly as we ran past the Manitoba Electrical Museum, then we turned right onto the Pembina Highway and the area of Fort Garry.  After passing underneath the tracks of the Canadian National Railways mainline, we found ourselves on the first and only significant "uphill" that I could remember in the entire race... a barely 1/4 mile circular onramp that quickly came right back down as we continued along the opposite side of the Pembina Highway continuing to head south.   After passing the 20 mile mark, we veered left onto Point Road, where we ran into yet another largely residential neighborhood known as Wildwood.

Oakenwald Avenue
The rain was coming down harder as we pushed our way down Oakenwald Avenue, turning right onto North Drive, then following the edge of this area on South Drive, once again hugging the bends of (this time) the Red River.  At Stratford Road, we ran through Crescent Drive Park, where we hit the 23 mile mark, and at one point, passing a spin class positioned right alongside the roadway pushing us runners through the last few miles of the race.  The miles ticked by, and I stayed true to my goals... in fact, a few of the mile splits I was hitting were just under 10 minutes per mile!  With two miles two go, I knew I was going to PR.

The 40K mark!
We turned left onto the Pembina Highway, just as the rain started to dissipate. We were left to run along the shoulder of the road, which at times was filled with puddles, but I continued to push on through, even cresting the slight hill at the 40K mark and shortly thereafter the 25 mile mark.  My Garmin read 3:58 as I passed it, and then we were led back to University Crescent as we made our final push to the finish line.

Getting close to the finish at IG Field
I kept a strong pace, as IG Field came into view.  I wondered how much I could manage and how many minutes under my current PR of 4:16:00, which I made only two weeks earlier, I could run. The finish line was inside the stadium, with runners appearing on the jumbotron as we make our final dash on the turf field to the end of the race.  This was a change made in 2017, as runners used to finish on the outdoor track located next door. We turned left as we ran down the seemingly endless road that took us through to the entrance to the field.  I heard my name on the loudspeakers as I sprinted my way to the finish line.  4:11:02.  I had managed to beat a PR that stood for only two weeks by nearly five minutes.  It would be the THIRD time I had managed to break my marathon PR this year.

Thrilled to have a PR and my bling!
Overjoyed, I came through the finish chute and grabbed my medal, and instantly got my photo taken by photographers.  Out of breath, I managed to mention that this was my 108th marathon, and 17th this year, and ended up getting interviewed by a journalist about my thoughts on the race.  Marathoners were led into the field, where we could get some food, and I stuck around while waiting for Seth, who would finish about twenty minutes later.  Starting to get cold from being soaked from the hour of rain, and knowing he had a flight to catch, I had him take my headstand photo inside the stadium, before we left to get to the car so I could get my backpack and a warm change of clothes.  Thankfully, the shirt that came with the race entry was longsleeved, so I pulled that on, then went back into the stadium to find Wally from the Winnipeg Frontrunners, who Budi was staying with, and also offered to drive me back to the airport after brunch.
Victory Headstand inside IG Field!
Celebrating with fellow Front Runners
I found them staying warm inside one of the stadium's heated rooms, where I also met another one of his teammates, Andrew, and we chatted for a bit before realizing Budi was close to finishing.  We went down to the stadium to cheer him in, but somehow missed him, so after finding him, we all made our way to the shuttle buses that took us to Wally's car located offsite.  After dropping Andrew off at his home, Wally took us to The Tallest Poppy, a restaurant in the neighborhood of West Broadway, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. We had an hour to eat, and while it nearly took the entire time for our food to come out, we chowed down pretty quickly and closed our checks before heading out so that I could make my flight.
Enjoying brunch at The Tallest Poppy 
My chicken fried steak in the shape of Manitoba!
Wally took me to the airport, and with only a few flights that afternoon, I got through security fairly quickly, and to my gate just before we started boarding.  After a flight back to Toronto, I made it back to New York that night, thrilled to come home with a new PR... in fact, two from the weekend.  And it was also my 14th weekend in a row for a distance race - my last marathon before a well deserved three week break!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Race Report: Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon

Running in all the Canadian provinces wasn't an immediate decision on my part, but when slots began to open up in my 2019 calendar to fit a few of them in, I decided why not.  The Blue Nose Marathon in Halifax, Nova Scotia, traditionally occurs over Victoria Day weekend date (the weekend preceding May 25th), but this year was pushed back by three weeks because of Halifax hosting the Canadian Hockey League's Memorial Cup at the Scotiabank Centre.  Organizers had to consider the demands on volunteers as well as the flood of visitors needing hotels and restaurants; the annual race and its related events draw more than 13,000 participants across the multiple distances offered. So, the 16th edition of the race was moved to the second weekend of June.

The course was experiencing some changes as well; from 2004 to 2015, the full marathon course crossed over the MacDonald Bridge, the older of the two bridges crossing Halifax Harbour, into Dartmouth. Construction on that bridge left the route without the Dartmouth portion of the race in 2016 and 2017, with the 2018 edition returning back to a section of the course in the "City of Lakes." This year's edition would remain on the Halifax side of the harbour, as repairs on the other bridge, the MacKay Bridge — two of the bridge’s four lanes will be closed most weekends from spring to fall — would keep the MacDonald Bridge open during race weekend and restrict the race to peninsular Halifax.  For marathoners, it would be a double loop course starting and ending in downtown around the Halifax Citadel.

I flew out of Newark Airport on Friday evening on a direct flight to Halifax, which was delayed by an hour due to a late inbound aircraft.  It was a quick hop to the northeast, and we made up some time in the air, landing only 45 minutes late, but still just past midnight to a very foggy Halifax.  So foggy that we could barely see the lights of the city below the clouds until probably 20 seconds before our plane landed on the tarmac at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) outside of the city center, in the rural community of Goffs. After deplaning, it was pretty quick to get through immigration and customs, as we were the only plane arriving internationally at the time. I quickly got to the rental cars area and got my vehicle from Hertz, a snazzy black Cadillac sedan, which was waiting for me when I arrived.  It was super dark leaving the airport, as there was not a single streetlamp lighting the highway as I left the area, and paired with the fog rolling through, I was a bit nervous at the wheel; however, the closer I got to Halifax (only thirty minutes away), the better lit the roads became.  The quickest route took me over the MacDonald Bridge into the city center, costing $1 CAD, and I made it to my Airbnb at around 1am, parking on a side street since "tow-away zone" signs for race weekend were plastered up and down Agricola Street.  I laid out my clothes for the 5K then quickly got to bed to get some rest, since the race would be starting only seven hours later.

With Tina at the 5K start
I woke up a little before 7, and got out the door fifteen minutes later to walk down to the start, roughly 1.5 kilometers away.  With the temps in the low 50s and a light breeze, I donned my Front Runners windbreaker and a pair of sweatpants. It was actually a beautiful morning, with the sun shining - as I walked down the street, police cars were accompanied by tow trucks, actively removing vehicles left on the street... talk about being serious about their tow-away zones! I got to the start area on Sackville Street, just south of Citadel Hill, at 7:30, and met up with Tina, a new friend who I had just met two weeks prior at the Calgary Marathon expo.  Tina's also a longtime member of Team Nuun, and was manning the Nuun booth at the expo when I came up to introduce myself, and after a brief conversation, we both found out that we were going to be in Halifax for the Blue Nose Marathon weekend (she would be working the Aftershox booth at the expo).  We decided to keep in touch, especially since she was going to be in town early for the expo, and for some reason, there would be no expo on Saturday - so she volunteered to get my bib for me. We were unsuccessful in finding bag drop (not realizing it was INSIDE the Scotiabank Centre), so I ended up tying my windbreaker around my waist and keeping the pants on.

After a bilingual "O Canada" was sung by a young local person, the 5K went off right at 8am, heading west on Sackville, before turning left onto South Park Street. Making our way around the Halifax Public Gardens, we veered north onto Summer Street, contuing onto Trollope Street.  We made our way around a roundabout, taking Cogswell Street west, before turning right onto Robie Street, and making our way around the perimeter of the beautiful Halifax Common, known as Canada's oldest urban park. Now halfway through the race, we made our way around a second roundabout, heading north along Agricola Street through the historic North End of Halifax. We turned right onto Charles Street, giving me an opportunity to pass right by my parked car (thankfully still there!), before turning right again onto Gottingen Street, taking it back to the downtown area.  A steep downhill along Cogswell Street took us to Brunswick Street, where we turned right and headed uphill with the finish line in sight.  I ended up crossing the finish in a fast 26:11, a few seconds faster than the previous week's Stockholm High Five 5K, and feeling like I hadn't pushed myself too hard.  Somehow, I was getting faster, hitting an average pace of just under 8 1/2 minutes per mile!

Peggy's Cove
After picking up our medal, we were directed into the Scotiabank Centre, where I reunited with Tina after she finished.  We went to grab coffee at a nearby coffee shop she had already hit up during the couple days she'd already spent in downtown, then headed back to her hotel so I could grab my t-shirt and bag before heading back to my Airbnb for a shower.  I'd return to pick her up, and we would head out to Peggy's Cove, a popular tourist site just outside the urban area. Peggy's Cove is a small fishing community located 45 minutes west of downtown Halifax on St. Margaret's Bay. Founded in 1811, this vibrant community became a prominent tourist destination as artists and photographers began to flock to it, enamored by its iconic lighthouse, still actively keeping watch over surging ocean waves and working lobster boats. It sits on giant rocks worn smooth by the tumultuous sea. Now internationally recognized and considered one of Canada's most photographed sites, it receives more than 600,000 visitors a year.  We staged a couple fun photoshoots on this beautiful sunny day (which at this point of the year can still be mostly full of rainy and cloudy days), before the omnipresent wind got the better of us, and we escaped back to the temperate confines of our car.  We stopped at Shaw's Landing, a popular restaurant on the road between Halifax and Peggy's Cove, for a late lunch.
The charming fishing village of Peggy's Cove
Lobster roll and chowder from Shaw's Landing
Listening to Betty at the Pier 21
By that point in time, it was nearing mid afternoon, so I pointed our GPS back to Halifax, to take us to the Halifax Seaport, an up and coming arts and culture district on the waterfront stretching from Piers 19 to 23.  We got there just as the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market was closing at 3pm, but with enough time to at least do a quick walk through; the farmers' market is the oldest, continuously operating farmers' market in North America, with over 250 vendors. Ultimately, we were there to go to Pier 21, home to the Canadian Museum of Immigration, housing both a physical artifact collection and a vast oral history collection. Often compared to Ellis Island in New York, Pier 21 operated as an an ocean liner terminal and immigration shed from 1928 to 1971, processing over one million immigrants to Canada and is the last surviving facility of its kind in the country. Its primary permanent exhibit is the “Pier 21 Story” exhibition, showing visitors what it was like to immigrate through the terminal, from the harrowing voyage on a ship across the ocean, to disembarking the ship and waiting in the assembly hall, to the colonist car taking immigrants to their final destinations across the vast country. Taking us on a 45 minute guided tour through the exhibit was Betty, a recent immigrant who came to Canada in October 2018 from Nigeria, who did an excellent job taking us through the experience of someone who would have come through the facility.

Ellie the Corgi!
After some time at the museum, we walked across the street to Garrison Brewing Company, to make our first "beer tour" stop.  On the sidewalk, catching me by surprise was a woman carrying a 14 week old corgi puppy named Ellie, who I of course had to take a picture with!  Barely an hour later, and another corgi walks into the brewery, Ruby, a six month old.  It seems Halifax is a corgi hot spot!  We took advantage of another "show your bib" benefit, getting $2 off of a flight from the brewery, and befriended some locals at our table who gave us recommendations of other places to enjoy while we were in town.

Fortune Doughnut
Satiated, we headed to the North End, making a quick stop for donuts at Fortune Doughnut, who was having a 2-for-1 sale since they were closing half an hour before we arrived.  Ultimately, we were heading to brewery stop #2, Good Robot Brewing Company, which I had researched in the days prior to my weekend as a brewery having some awesome beer names, plus two stouts on tap.  They did not disappoint at all! As the sun began to come down, it got chillier, so after having our fill at Good Robot, we went to get food at Chain Yard Urban Cidery, enjoying our rather late pre-race dinner over some delicious ciders - one in particular that was quite good was "Highway Stroberry," a blend of their popular Foundation dry cider and a strawberry wine.  Both of us tired from a long day of touring around, I dropped Tina off back at her hotel, before I headed back to my Airbnb to catch some much needed z's before the morning's race.
Ruby the Corgi at Garrison Brewing Company
A flight at Garrison Brewing Company
With the Blue Nose mascot
Sunday morning came soon enough, with the sun already shining strongly when I woke up at 6:45am.  I threw on my race clothes, and was out the door to head down to the Scotiabank Centre by 7:15.  As I walked down Agricola Street, there weren't any cars being towed - instead, there were runners already out doing the race, as the early start for slower runners had begun at 7am!  Policemen were already manning the route, directing or diverting traffic as needed.  The weather was about the same as the day prior, perhaps even just a bit sunnier. I dropped off my gear check bag inside the building, then headed out to the startline, lining up with a pacer wearing 4:15 bunny ears (the pacers here were "pace bunnies" and stayed with the theme as such, along with sticks for runners to self-seed), as the start time began to near. I mentioned to him that I'd probably stay out in front of him for the first 25K of the race, but by that mark, he would catch up to me and pass me.
Startline of the Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon
Oland Brewery
After the anthem was sung (by the same young man as the day before), we were off, heading west on Sackville Street like the day before, but this time, taking a slight right along Bell Road northward, as we skirted the eastern side of Citadel Hill along Ahern Avenue.  We made our way around the roundabout to Cogswell Street (where the pacers discarded their signs to a volunteer), then took a right on Robie Street, and then a right on Cunard Street, making our way around Halifax Common just like the day before.  Another pass around the roundabout, and we began to run northward along Agricola Street into the North End.  The atmosphere was quite celebratory, with runners really enjoying the good weather and the spectators who were out and about cheering.  I passed my Airbnb, local shops, restaurants, breweries (small and large - including Oland Brewery, Nova Scotia's largest brewer), galleries, as well as many rowhouses that made this neighborhood remind me of areas in South Philly. We had some great entertainment along the way too -- of note was an ensemble of French Horn players playing "Chariots of Fire."  The road heading north was rolling but largely uphill, but I took it strongly and still managed to keep a fairly consistent pace around a 9:15 mile.
Running alongside Halifax Common
Running alongside Halifax Common
We veered slightly right about 4.6 kilometers in onto Hillside Avenue, continuing northward along Rosemeade Avenue, then turned right onto Leeds Street, where we crossed the timing mats for our 5K split, and I registered a time of 28:36. A nice, even pace! We turned right onto Leaman Street to begin our route southward.  Barely a few blocks in, there was a short diversion for half marathon runners, as they turned right on an out-and-back up a hill, while marathoners continued on.  We continued down Leaman Street, as the road dead-ended onto Drummond Court, and curved toward Isleville Street, the route continued southward - and on a nice downhill slope.  This was a much more residential area - it was nice to see a lot of residents out supporting the runners as we made our way through their neighborhood.  At Hennessey Place, we turned left, running up the block to Novalea Drive, where we turned left and ran down a nice downhill along the edge of Fort Needham Memorial Park. I quickly wondered if I was going at half marathon PR pace, as I was running alongside the 2:00 half marathon pacers, but then remembered they had that little extra out-and-back.

Chimneys at the Generating
Station in the distance
The route then curved along toward Kenny Street, with its grassy median, and past an Hawaiian-themed aid station with grass skirt, coconut bra, and neon-colored wig wearing volunteers - a memorable sight just over 7 kilometers into the race!  We turned right onto Devonshire Avenue, and then began a nice long downhill section, with views first of the Tufts Cove Generating Station's three distinctive red and white striped chimneys across Halifax Harbour in Dartmouth, then one of the MacDonald Bridge dominating our line of sight as we continued southward. The long downhill along Devonshire Avenue definitely helped my pace, as I registered an 8:39 average pace and a 5:22 kilometer split on my Garmin as we passed the 8th kilometer of the race.

Devonshire Avenue
Devonshire Avenue then merged with Barrington Street, and we began the first tough section of the race.  For some reason, we were forced over to a single, maybe barely two meter wide section of pothole-filled road, bounded by a concrete barricade to our right and a section of black gravel filling an area between the curb and a chain link fence.  With such a narrow road that fit barely two people running side by side, some faster runners (which turned out being some of the faster runners in either the 15k or 10k that started after us -- I couldn't see their bibs to find out) were using the gravel section to get by.  Add to the fact that it was getting warmer and the sun was shining quite brightly made for a frustrating experience, which gladly only lasted for roughly half a kilometer.
Running past the Royal Canadian Naval Base
Under MacDonald Bridge
We finally made it out of that narrow section, passing underneath the onramp to the MacDonald Bridge, beginning another downhill section, a rather steep S-curve descent down Valour Way, past Her Majesty's Canadian Dockyard, home to the headquarters of the Atlantic Fleet and part of the Royal Canadian Navy's naval base, CFB Halifax.  We continued along Valour Way southward, as it passed several naval buildings, which many runners decided to run next to since the morning sun had cast a slight shadow on that portion of the road, offering a respite from the rays. After passing a group of Army members from the 5th Canadian Division supporting the runners in the shade of their tanks parked on the side of the road, we came out to a super open stretch of road as we approached the 10K split mat, crossing it in 56:04 -- impressive enough that I ran a faster second 5K, but over a minute!  Of course, right after that mat was the ramp up Upper Water Street, which I managed to run up to the top of. I slowed down and walked about twenty seconds to catch my breath as the road flattened out again, then followed Barrington Street back on the downhill as it made its way to Hollis Street to begin our run through Downtown Halifax.

Hollis Street in Downtown Halifax
After a bit of time in the sun, it was nice to run through Downtown, as we were surrounded by highrises, casting shadows onto the road.  It was relatively flat as we ran down Hollis Street, passing Province House, seat of the Nova Scotian legislature and Canada's oldest house of government (completed in 1811), to our right; the Halifax main branch and Atlantic Regional Office of Scotiabank in 1709 Hollis Street, a beautiful authentically Canadian building built in 1930 by pre-eminent Canadian architect John M. Lyle, to our left; as well as Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia built in 1800, to our right.  We left downtown behind as the road widened slightly and curved around Edward Cornwallis Park, with the Halifax rail station, completed in 1928, to our left, as well as a massive Atlantic Superstore grocery store in front of us.  We turned left to take Barrington Street southward again, now running through this largely residential area of Halifax's South End, the road curving to Inglis Street as it rose uphill slightly. We turned left onto Young Avenue, running along the northbound lanes of the median-divided and beautifully treelined avenue, leading up to Point Pleasant Park. On the southbound lanes, runners (conceivably the speedy half and full runners) were coming up the road, having completed their loop of the park, and were some 6 kilometers ahead of me.  A volunteer holding a 15K turnaround sign stood positioned at the head of a street crossing.

Hollis Street, further south.
Now some 13 kilometers in, the sun was shining bright, so it was good to have a little bit of shade as we passed underneath this grand boulevard's leafy trees. The spectators here were plentiful, cheering to runners passing through their tony neighborhood - tony, because many of the homes here were mansions, I'm sure holding a lot of history.  We crossed over a concrete bridge, erected in 1917 when the railway cut was made to the terminus at the Halifax rail station, then ran two more blocks to a set of ceremonial golden gates, the entrance to Point Pleasant Park, which were put up in 1886. Unfortunately, the gates haven't been used in decades to allow free flow of cars, but one could tell that Young Avenue was meant to be the formal entrance point -- rather, an extension -- of the park.

Point Pleasant Park
After passing the gates, we turned left, to head downhill along Point Pleasant Drive, curving its way around the eastern side of the park, with the rather industrial container terminal to our left.  Soon, that went away, and we were led onto the crushed gravel paths of the park, and some incredible views of the mouth of Halifax Harbour.  The path, officially known as Sailors Memorial Way, led us around the park's perimeter - along rolling hills past Black Rock Beach; Sailor's Memorial, which commemorates members of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Merchant Navy and Canadian Army who were lost at sea; the anchor from the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure, which serves as a monument to the men and women who died while serving the Canadian Navy during Peacetime, and the fenced off and deteriorated remains of Point Pleasant Battery, a coastal gun battery established in 1762 during the French and Indian War.  We would pass over the 15km mat as well, which I crossed in 1:25:04, a 29:00 5K split.  Still doing pretty well.
Running along a gravel pathway at the edge of Point Pleasant Park
Inside Point Pleasant Park
The route, then took Arm Road, along the waters of the Northwest Arm, an inlet part of the harbour defining the western side of the Halifax peninsula.  Here, the gravel path undulated up and down, then we took a right on Serpentine Road and Maple Road, where the path started to ascend pretty sharply, leaving me to walk large sections of this inland road to the center of the park.  We reached Cambridge Drive, cutting straight through the center of the park, and headed northward, where we passed a relay exchange station.  Marathoners were strangely directed left, while half marathoners got to continue straight ahead, as we were led out of the park to do detour along the steep residential roads on Chain Rock Drive, Crows Nest Drive, and Balmoral Road.  We turned right onto Francklyn Street, the northwest edge of the park, as we ran an out and back to the 18 kilometer point, before turning left onto Point Pleasant Drive, taking us back up a hill and toward Young Avenue, where we turned left to head back north toward Citadel Hill.
The wildlife of Point Pleasant Park. Hello little squirrel!
Running up Young Avenue was fine, as it was generally flat, but the further north we got, the harder it was to run.  Conceivably, the road rose toward Citadel Hill, so we were ascending as Young Avenue turned into South Park Street.  Now close to two hours into the race, residents trying to drive around with all these street closures and long waits for runners to pass were probably growing impatient - at one point, a taxi driver followed closely behind a public bus crossing the street during a large gap between myself and some runners about a hundred feet in front of me, and was met with an angry policeman berating him for trying to get past the street so recklessly. I, of course, had to let a little New York out and gave him the finger as I passed, and continued on northward.

Cogswell Street, quite quiet.
Eventually, we were back to Sackville Street, and it was time to start the second loop of the course.  There we were back onto Bell Road, turning onto Ahern Avenue and Citadel Hill's western flank.  I passed a pacer standing on the side of the road wearing 4:30 ears, when knowing I had just passed the two hour mark only a few minutes before, and remarked to him, "way under pace, huh?" while he just laughed.  I would cross the halfway mark of the race over a timing mat moments later, clocking in a 2:05:23 split.  The half marathoners split off to the right, taking Cogswell Street east to the finish line, but almost immediately, the route got lonely and depopulated as the marathoners and relay runners officially began the much more quiet second loop, taking the roads around Halifax Common to Agricola Street northward.

With far less people on the street, the sun shining bright overhead, and the lack of shade being ever present, it was my opportunity to focus on my breathing and even out my pace. It also led to the opportunity to chat with fellow runners in for the long slog. After taking a swig of lemonade from a young girl along the street (with a young boy not too far in front of her collecting finished cups), I got to talking to Haligonians Leah and Zen. We made our way up the street strong, eventually reaching Hillside Avenue just before the 25K mark.  I took a walk break, and what do you know, here comes the 4:15 pacer running by! I predicted it just perfectly. We made it to the furthest north part of the race along Leeds Street, when I noticed one of the residents cheering for us runners 2 1/2 hours into the race was the guy sitting next to me on the plane from Newark to Halifax on Friday night!

Leaman Street
As we made our way south on Leaman Street, Leah mentioned to me some of the history of this particular neighborhood.  Known as The Hydrostone, the neighborhood was created to provide housing for working-class families displaced by the Halifax Explosion, a maritime disaster that occurred in 1917 when two ships in Halifax Harbour collided, causing a large explosion on one of the explosive-laden vessels. The resulting blast killed approximately 2,000 people and injured 9,000 who were within a half mile radius, which mostly comprised of the Richmond district in northern Halifax, which was left completely devastated.  After many of the wood-frame houses collapsed on their coal stoves and furnaces and caught on fire, non-combustible hydrostone, concrete block that was finished with granite, to minimize the danger of fire, was used to rebuild buildings, and also gave the name to the neighborhood. The streets in The Hydrostone were built as boulevards with treelined, grassy strips (which serve as communal outdoor space for the neighborhood) and are also served by back lanes, a feature characteristic of Western Canadian cities, but not usually found in Eastern Canadian communities.

Near the tanks on Valour Way
We continued over the next several kilometers enjoying the steady downhills that took us down toward the MacDonald Bridge, still utilizing the narrow strip of road, but far less crowded. We took the S curve down Valour Way, and then ran alongside the naval base, this time with no shade at all since the sun was shining directly over us. I took a walk break and bid adieu to Leah and Zen, as I figured from that point I wouldn't be able to catch up to them when I started to run again. A spectator with his van parked by the road had a sign promoting "Blue Nose Beverages" which was actually chilled beer pre-poured halfway in solo cups - I took advantage of the refreshing swig, despite the need to belch for the next ten minutes.  The servicemen with the tanks were still there alongside the course, which was nice to see... it had been over two hours since I was last here, and they were still out here in the hot sun.

Upper Water Street ramp
Not far in the distance was a fire hydrant that was let open to have runners run through; at first, I was hesitant, since I wasn't a fan of getting my shoes and socks soaked, but with the heat roasting me, I decided, "oh, what the hell..." and ran right through... while water puddled in my socks, at least I had a walk break ahead with the ramp up Upper Water Street to Barrington Street. Soon, we had a downhill again, and then the run through downtown Halifax, and I got back to running.

Treelined Young Avenue
The next few kilometers were a bit of a blur, as we progressed through the southern end of the downtown into the residential area of the South End, and then alternated between running along the street and the sidewalk as we made our way up Inglis Street to the turn on Young Avenue. By then, some of the roads were partially opened for runners, including this one, and I jumped up onto the concrete when semi-trucks began to barrel down the road. But try as I must, I avoided the concrete, since running on the asphalt felt much better on my knees.  We turned onto Young Avenue, which was thankfully still closed off to traffic, but now with far less people running down its length; I stayed as close to the curb as possible to take in as much shade that the trees along this stretch could.

A memorial at Point Pleasant Park
At Point Pleasant Park, I enjoyed the downhill, and then made my way through the park as best as I could with my tired legs.  The heat of the day made it a bit tougher going up and down the hilly trails; the steepest and highest section of the park marked the 37K mark of the race, giving us only 5K left before the finish, so with the mile and change of straightaway plus the marathoners' detour and out-and-back along the edge of the park, we were back to Young Avenue for the final 3 kilometers of the race.  Strangely, I struggled mightily over these last few miles, reduced to walking most of its length, all the way up South Park Street to  Sackville, where we turned left and proceeded up the western flank of Citadel Hill for the third (!!) time. That same 4:30 pacer I saw on the side of the route before the halfway mark of the race had caught up, and I ran with him for a little bit, realizing he had taken over for another 4:30 pacer at the halfway mark, hence him just waiting there earlier.  I managed to keep up just for a little bit before I needed to take a walk break; then finally pushed it as best as I could to the end.

Victory Headstand on the Grand Parade
We turned right onto Cogswell Street, which was a nice steady downhill, until we turned right onto  Brunswick Street for the finish line, knowing full well I had an uphill battle ahead of me to get to the finish, just like the day before's 5K. I came across the mat in 4:30:21, thrilled to have gotten another fast finish, at the time my sixth fastest, on a pretty hilly course. I grabbed my special medal for the race, for having done the Tim Horton's Double-Double running the 5K on Saturday, and then proceeded to cool off inside the Scotiabank Centre, where I took advantage of the free massages offered to runners.  I found Leah and Zen, too, and they joined me outside to help me get my headstand photo taken in Halifax's Grand Parade, giving us an unfettered view of the Halifax Town Clock along Carmichael Street.
Looking up at the Halifax Citadel
Inside the Citadel
 But before heading home, I took advantage of my time already near Citadel Hill by making my way up the stairs to the Citadel itself for a visit.  The hill was first fortified in 1749, the year that the English founded the town of Halifax. Those fortifications were successively rebuilt to defend the town from various enemies. While never attacked, the Halifax Citadel was long the keystone to defense of the strategically important Halifax Harbour and its Royal Navy Dockyard. There have been four iterations of the fortification over the centuries, with the current star-shaped fortress built from 1828 to 1856. After World War II, the fort began to deteriorate, and recognition of the fort's historical significance and tourism potential led to the fort's preservation and gradual restoration. By the 1990s, the Citadel was restored to its 1869 mid-Victorian period appearance. The fort is amongst the most visited National Historic Sites in Atlantic Canada. It is notable for the Noon Gun, a local tradition since 1857, when each day at 12 noon (except for Christmas Day), gunners dressed in the 3rd Brigade Royal Artillery uniform of 1869 fire a cannon (a reproduction 12 pounder, smooth-bore muzzle loading gun used during the reign of King George III.) The cannon fires a one-pound charge of black powder, its detonation synchronized with the atomic clocks at the National Research Council in Ottawa.
Looking down onto Brunswick Street from the Citadel
Wearing a Highlander uniform!
After getting my fill of touring the Citadel (as well as trying on an authentic Highlander uniform, complete with wool kilt, red wool Highland “doublet,” and a feather bonnet!), I made my way back to my Airbnb for a much needed shower, then headed back downtown to meet for a celebratory post-race drink with my friend Barb (who ran the Blue Nose as well) and her sister Robin, who arrived earlier that afternoon. After a nice walk along the waterfront, I took advantage of yet another "show your bib" benefit, by taking the ferry across the harbour to Dartmouth for free, where I hit up a nearby brewery, New Scotland Brewing Company, for more brews.  With the Halifax side becoming more developed, some of this investment has crossed the water to Dartmouth, updating the downtown and surrounding areas from its grittier past. In recent years, it has grown into a vibrant, trendy community with a plethora of amazing things to do. As day turned to night, and I took the ferry back to Halifax, I was treated to beautiful nighttime views on both sides of the harbour, before heading home.
Meeting up with Barb after the race
Taking a ferry across to Dartmouth
Halifax Donair
Of course, it wasn't my last stop.  I couldn't leave Halifax without trying some quintessentially Haligonian cuisine. The Halifax Donair, a variation of the Mediterranean cuisine-originated döner,  was named the official food of the city of Halifax in 2015 and was first introduced in Halifax in the 1970s by a Greek immigrant selling Greek-style gyros. The distinctive dish uses spiced ground beef (shaved off of a rotating spit), Lebanese flatbread, and the unique sauce made with condensed milk, vinegar, garlic, and a fairly liberal amount of sugar, optionally topped with tomatoes and onions. It is most definitely a post-“night-of-drinking” food! Everyone has their own favorite spot, and the one I went to, Tony's Donair in the North End, was highly suggested by many!  It was a great way to cap off my trip to Halifax.

Medal haul for the weekend...
I went to sleep relatively early that night, not only because I was exhausted after a long day of running and sightseeing, but because I had a VERY early morning flight out.  And with the airport a fair distance away, I needed to be on the road by the ugly hour of 4:30am. Security was fairly quick, if not slightly crowded, since it seemed three US-bound flights were leaving at the same time, and only two CBP officers were working.  I caught up on some sleep on the quick flight, and was back in Newark by 7am, groggily making my way back to NYC via train.  I even had time to stop home to drop off bags and take a shower before heading into work.  A fun weekend, and a lot to see in a new part of Canada I hadn't been to before... it makes me excited to return to that area for races in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island in the future!