Running the Oak Bay Half, trying to keep up with Mere (to the left). Photo credit Yan Lyesin
As I shuffle around in pain in my condo today, I will think about the do’s and don’ts of running half marathons. The first being, don’t run races two weeks apart until you become a running machine; you will hit the wall a lot sooner than you expect. The second is, you know not to start out too fast, so don’t do it. I could blame that on the fact I saw a friend at about kilometre three and I wanted to run with her, so I kept up with her pace of about 5:05 for 13kms. We ended up running to the halfway point at about 54 minutes, four minutes faster than my last race in Vancouver. I told her I was going to hit the wall, probably to excuse myself if she left me in the dust, which was another mistake. By running too fast and getting myself in that mindset, I got a cramp, my legs got heavy, and I watched her fade into the distance. The rest of the race after that was a slog; I got cramp after cramp, and my legs didn’t want to move. It was interesting reading Tori’s post about her Oak Bay Half experience, because I read a similar article in iRun magazine about your brain telling your body to quit before it’s ready as a mechanism of preservation. I kept trying to tell myself my legs are fine, but the nasty hills in the last few kilometres told me otherwise.
I actually ran a decent time of 1:56:18, which I would have been elated about two weeks ago. But when you run a faster time two weeks prior, running a slower time is disappointing, but at least it made me learn a lesson: listen to the advice from training programs and running magazines, it really DOES help.
I know we all do it. Anyone who has trained for any sort of sporting event has their superstitions or rituals they practice before an event. For runners, we make sure we eat a dinner packed with carbs, keep ourselves hydrated and get some quality shut-eye the night before a race. Some of our rituals may be necessities, such as avoiding heavy or fibre-rich meals so we don’t have tummy troubles during our race the next day, or going for a short run to stretch out our legs rather than completely rest up.
Now that I’ve competed in three half marathons, I’ve noticed some particular pre-race patterns. Idealistically, I do a 20-minute easy run the night before, eat a healthy chicken/grain/veggie dinner, stretch, relax, sleep for eight hours, get up feeling like an Olympian, eat a high carb breakfast two hours before, run the race and set a new PR. But it’s never happened that way. Take my last race, for example. I shopped around Vancouver all day in uncomfortable shoes that left blisters on my heels, drank three glasses of wine at dinner, went to bed late, had a shitty sleep on a fold out couch, and, consequently, ran a great race and set a new PR. For my first half marathon in October, I had food poisoning the whole week prior and couldn’t run for six days, only managing a bit of chicken noodle soup and a 20-minute run the night before the race. I ran that race in under two hours (my goal was to run it under 2:07).
This time, for the Oak Bay Haf Marathon, I barely ran all week since I was so busy with other things, but I ate a healthy chicken stir fry dinner tonight and did a 20-minute slow run. When I got back, I did 15 minutes of runner’s yoga, ate some cereal, and now I’m ready for bed at a decent time. But I’m concerned. My best races happen when I do everything the opposite of what running magazines and training programs will tell you to do.
Should I bust out a bottle of Gewürztraminer and eat a bag of chocolate chips now? Might be just what I need.
I can’t believe I set a new half-marathon PR in Vancouver, considering the three glasses of wine I had the night before and sleeping for roughly four hours on a sagging fold-out couch in a small room with four other people. Oh yeah, it was also cold and started to pour as soon as the gun went off, despite a gorgeous – but windy – day prior.
My boyfriend Tyler and I headed to Vancouver early Saturday, did some shopping and met up with my friend Laura and her husband Jordan later on. We signed up for the race because Laura wanted to try her first half, and I thought it would be fun if we all went along. Laura ended up injuring her foot and couldn’t run, but we all went anyway – I was excited to run in Vancouver, but Tyler and Jordan probably wouldn’t have been upset if we cancelled the trip altogether. I actually thought I may have been the only one running, considering the three pitchers of beer they consumed the night before on Granville Island as we watched the Canucks pulverize the Black Hawks. But surprisingly, they all managed to get up on time on race day.
One thing I didn’t expect for the BMO Marathon was the hills. Heading through town, I felt a little slow through the up and down sections, and I saw Tyler pass me a few times; I tend to slow down a lot on hills and fly down the other side, but the rain made the downhill sections a bit slippery so I avoided going too fast. The rain really started to pour around kilometre four, and I tried my best to avoid manholes and grates.
It was really neat running through town in the rain; to pass the time I pretended I was actually running the NYC marathon. Homeless folks stood scattered on the sidewalks on Hastings; some of them were cheering, others pretended to jog alongside on the sidewalks, but most just stood watching (probably thinking, why would you want to run that far in the rain?!)
There was one part near the beginning where you enter up on the bridge, and you could see all the rest of the runners snaking down from the starting line, a sea of spandex bobbing along the road. Runners stayed fairly close together for the whole race; there wasn’t a lot of space to pull ahead until you reached the downhill section in Stanley Park.
Ah yes, Stanley Park.
I did not expect that long, drawn-out hill. It felt like one of those dreams where you are trying to run, and you think you are moving your legs, but you aren’t getting anywhere. At that point I was thinking to myself, there is no way I am going to beat two hours. Just before that point, I crossed the halfway mark at about 58 minutes. I thought maybe if I can run the last half faster, I’ll do 1:56…but not after that hill. I saw some lady powering-up ahead of me, all muscular and fit with her hydration belt on, pull over to the side to throw up. Oh no, I thought, that’s not a good sign! Thankfully, what goes up must come down, and I forced my legs to make up for lost time by flying down the hill, not caring if I slipped and fell.
After a Cliff Shot, I felt loads better and kept up a good pace, refusing to check my watch until 20km. One thing that I really appreciated was the frequent water stations; the plastic cups sucked, but it was great to have water every two-and-a-bit kilometres. All of a sudden I was at kilometre 20, and my watch read 1:48. No way! I saw the dome of BC Place (or was it GM?), blasted Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True”, and crossed under the clock at 1:55. My chip time: 1:54:16. Beat mt PR by almost 6 minutes!!! I really was getting faster! I also beat my boyfriend by four minutes, which was a first as well.
The elation I felt after beating my PR turned to pain and suffering as I stood freezing in the pouring rain for 20 minutes waiting for Tyler, Jordan and Laura in our designated spot. The food tent was too far away and I could barely walk. When they finally found me, my hands had turned white (I have Reynolds Syndrome, so even the slightest bit of cold is extremely painful), and I was moving at a turtles pace. After we all had a laugh at my boyfriend’s bleeding nipples and my corpse-like fingers, we slowly made our way to the SkyTrain to get back to the hotel. Laura had to help me up on the counter to put my hands and feet in the sink so I could soak them in warm water to get my blood flowing again. We were all total messes for the rest of the day; I didn’t even bother changing!
Right after the race I was thinking, why did I sign up for the Oak Bay Half on May 16? Now, even though I’m still very stiff, I’m excited for it. People can run marathons consecutively, so I should be able to run another half two weeks later, right?
Had my first TC10K experience yesterday. I didn’t break 50mins, but I did beat my 10km PR by about a minute, so I was happy! Despite waiting in the cold and the throngs of people, it was a great run. My boyfriend, his friend and I made our way up to the 40-49 category because we noticed a bunch of 60+’ers where we were standing; I had never run this race before, but my boyfriend told me it’s slow going at the start, so if I wanted to run it fast we should probably move up. And slow-going at the start it was! Thirteen thousand runners made their way alongside Beacon Hill Park and out onto Dallas Road. It’s funny where you run in a crowded race – I had no idea where I was until we hit the turnaround around the 4km mark. The runners spaced themselves out a bit, but it was honestly shoulder-to-shoulder right until the last 2km. I did manage to stay within a few metres of my boyfriend the whole way, until the last km when he decided he wasn’t going to let me win this time; he only beat me by about 15 seconds though!
The run itself went great; I managed to keep a 5:40 pace for the first few kms then picked it up to a 5:15 half way through. After the hill at Cloverpoint, I ran about a 5:00 right until then finish line. I actually ran a negative split, which I can NEVER seem to bring myself to do. I usually want to gun it right off the start, because I’m afraid I won’t have the energy to finish strong if I’m too slow at the start. But I did it (mostly because you couldn’t even move fast through the crowd of people even if you wanted to), and it worked. I’m definitely going to try it for the half in Vancouver next week. I didn’t feel at all fatigued by the end, although my knees started to bug me a bit. If I didn’t have the half next week I might have pushed myself a little harder, but I’m happy with that time for now. Overall it was a great race, and I can’t wait for next year!
I think it was this past Halloween when a friend came up to me in a bar, both of us in costume (me as a cat, her as a Greek goddess), and told me that I was an “inspiration” because I ran a half marathon. It was funny because we were on a pub crawl, well on our way to inebriation, and running was the last thing on my mind. But it was on her mind, and we must have talked (or slurred) for a good 20 minutes about running; how she used to run but kind of lost interest in it, and how she wanted to get back into it and I inspired her to try it again. I was flattered, of course, since I didn’t really consider myself a ‘runner’ at that point. I only really got into it last summer, and the RVM Half was my first event ever. I would post updates on my Facebook page about my run times, and get the “Likes This” thumbs-up from the majority of my girlfriends, my Greek goddess friend included. Six months later, she is about to compete in her first 10km, and it’s my turn to give her the thumbs-up – I couldn’t be prouder that she stuck with it.
This upcoming TC10k event will be my first TC10k – I’ve wanted to do it forever but I’ve always had to work on Sundays. I know I shouldn’t be racing, since I have the BMO Half to do next weekend, but I want to be out there with everyone – from the fast and sinewy elites to the nervous and excited first-timers. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, and I wish everyone (including my fresh-outta-the-running-clinic girlfriends Ashley and Kristy) good luck and a great run!
Well, I tried to keep up a blog while in school. No dice. But that’s ok, because I’m all finished school until September as of Thursday last week!
I hope to write about running more again; I managed to complete a half marathon in Maui in January with very little training (wasn’t my PR, that’s for sure!), and I have TWO coming up next month in May. I’ve been running a lot, but not as much as I should be. The final few weeks of school takes up too much of my time and sucks the life out of me, so running can go on the back burner for a while. I ran my first 20km distance since January last week in 1:53, so I’m right where I was when I did my first half in October. I’m hoping to do a sub 1:55 for the BMO half marathon, and even faster for the Oak Bay half two weeks later. I’m also running the TC10k next weekend…might be overdoing it with the racing, but I just love love love racing events so much that I feel I need to be a part of every single one! Maybe I should just volunteer next time.
In February, my bf and I moved out together into a condo. So far so good! We had the parents over for dinner last night to meet for the first time, and everything went great; even the food turned out ok! (I’m not a cook, but I do love to bake!)
Other exciting news: I’m finally getting a puppy! If you don’t know already, I’m a huge animal lover. When I was little I had stuffed animals, not dolls; I couldn’t go to sleep at night unless I had about 20 or so stuffed dogs and cats lined up along the side of my bed. We had a standard dachshund, Fritzi, who died when I was 12, and two cats, one of which is still alive and kickin’ at 19 years of age. I’ve also had various lizards and rats and fish in my life at one time or another. Anyway, it’s hard for me to not have an animal in my life, so my bf begrudgingly let me get a puppy. Ideally, I would like a bigger dog (for running and hiking), but the condo we live in only allows small pets. He wants a bulldog, but I’ve had my heart set on a dachshund, just because Fritz was so awesome when I was little. They are funny little dogs, and while I know they aren’t the best running partners, they love to be out with their people, digging at the beach or hiking winding trails with their nose to the ground. And have you ever seen a dachshund run? They bound, or “pronk” as my dad calls it, ears flapping like they are trying to use them as wings to fly!
I found a great breeder in Ontario, and just received an email today letting me know the puppies were born! Hopefully I can write in a Marely-and-Me-esque style about the puppy in this blog; it’s always nice to have something like that to look back on.
My body was *this* close to quitting on me last week. On Wednesday night, I started to feel very ill, and woke up the next morning with some sort of food poisoning. I called in sick to work, missed classes, the whole shebang. Thankfully, the stomach problems only lasted 3 days, and I was able to eat normal food again and go for a quick 20 minute run the day before the race.
This was not part of my training plan for the week, which consisted of a 13km, a 10km and some intervals. Instead I lay in bed and ate crackers. I bet if that didn’t happen MAYBE I could have run faster? I am happy with my time, though – my goal was first to run it in 2:20, which turned into 2:15, then 2:07, and finally I decided that if I ran it in under 2 hours, I would be happy.
My first half was an awesome experience. I actually got really jittery and nervous heading downtown at 6:30am for the race, jumping out of my dad’s car and into the street while stopped at a traffic light (we couldn’t really get any closer) to join the throngs of people excitedly heading down to the Parliament Buildings. My feet were numb, and I ended up spending about 20 minutes in line at the porta-potties, JUST making it out about 2 minutes before the gun went off. The course was packed with runners for the first bit; it must have looked bizarre to anyone facing down Johnston street to see a wall of people in spandex heading towards them. I started out fairly strong, then lost momentum on Johnston street, only to regain it again heading down Cook. Heading into Beacon Hill park, the lead runner was making his way out with a police escort; he must have had a good 3km lead at that point.
After exiting Beacon Hill, I found my pace (and my 45 minute running track, which I thought got erased and panicked because I love it). It was so great to see people out on the street watching and cheering you on. I was a little confused when people were yelling “Go Bri!” – I would look back thinking maybe my friends had come to watch, but I didn’t recognize the people at all. Everyone was so supportive and awesome up through Oak Bay, and at the turn around point I had a second wind (or maybe the Cliff shots kicked in) and ran at a 5km pace. Coming up Clover Point, I began to hurt a bit, but was distracted from the pain by watching the wheelchair racers, the first pack of the marathon runners heading out onto Dallas road, the folks dancing in ’50s-style garb, the “coach” in his plastic Elvis hair, the strange man standing alone watching in a fedora and trench coat I noticed earlier (creepy), and the encouraging signs near the end telling me that “hills are my friends”. I was looking at my watch every two minutes by this point, and was kind of unsure where the finish line was; I saw flags, but nothing that said “finish”. It was only until I was 100 meters away that I realized I was almost done. I looked at my watch one last time, 1:59:36, and sprinted as fast as I could over the timing mats. I ran under the clock at 2:00:36, so I knew it would be close. I thought I might have passed out from running so hard at the end, but managed to shuffle along to get the timing chip removed and have the metal placed around my neck. I spotted Tyler, (my bf) who was beside me for one second at the start of the race until he took off and ran a respectable 1:44:02.
Tyler said he won’t be doing that again, but I think he will. I know I will – what a great experience. The volunteers and race organizers were amazing and did a spectacular job. Next year I’m going for the full 42!
I’ve already signed up two more races: the Bear Mountain 10km in November, and the Maui Oceanfront Half Marathon in Maui in January. I’m going there anyways for a holiday, how could I not do it! I’m hoping to run it in 1:50, although I’m concerned about training in the cold and snow and racing in the humid, hot sun. I’ll be spending a lot of time on the treadmill this winter, I guess.
Two weekends in a row of being confined to my small twin bed, propped up with pillows and an elderly tabby cat at my feet, outdated lap top whirring away and keeping my legs warm. I go from my awesome Friday morning lakeside runs to feeling like a paraplegic. Ugh… homework I hate you.
One more week until my first half marathon ever. I’m feeling pretty confident I can keep a good pace, and maybe, just MAYBE run it in 2 hours. I put down on the registration form that I would run it in 2:30, and so far clocked myself at around 2:07 for 21.2km. Yesterday, I ran 20km in 1:50 – beat my personal best by about 8 minutes! Insane! If I can keep that pace from next Sunday, I’ll be pretty happy. But then what? I really look forward to those Friday runs, training rather than just getting exercise. Cocincidently, my mom and I were talking about going to Maui again this January around the time of the Maui Oceanfront Marathon…how amazing would that be to do? Would it even be possible to train in Victoria’s crappy winter weather for four months to run for a full four hours in Maui weather? I almost feel like a half would be too easy for me in four months if I kept up this training pace. Maybe…just maybe.