My first race of 2016 was the Vancouver First Half Half Marathon on Valentine’s Day. A while ago my friend Ashley suggested I run it in preparation for Boston, to test my race pace. I couldn’t argue with that, especially since Vancouver is beautiful and it’s hard to pass up a run through Stanley Park! We’ve had an excellent winter in Calgary, not *that* many cold days but in January it had been getting so warm in the days that the remaining snow was melting and dripping on to the pathways which froze into ice at night. So there was a few weeks when the pathways were really slippery, and I even fell (no problem, nothing happened thankfully). I was very much looking forward to ice-free running in Vancouver.
My training for this race and for Boston had been far from ideal. I was not hitting the paces I wanted to be or thiugh I should be hitting at that point. I think largely it’s because I don’t really care. When I was training for CIM to get my BQ, my goal was very well defined (3:30 marathon) with a big reward at the finish (a BQ). And when I qualified, my first reaction was that I want to run Boston for fun and really just enjoy every single aspect of the race experience. But of course ego always has to get in the way of good intentions and I started thinking I wanted a PR and 3:29 or faster. So that’s what I started training for and my mind and body were just not having any of it.
Three weeks into January I fell deathly ill (seriously) with the worst flu I can remember. I have never missed a day of work, ever, and I had to cut 3 days short because I couldn’t function properly. I couldn’t keep any food down high fever, high heart rate, chills, and absolutely zero energy. Anyone who knows me knows I’m up and moving/working/training/busy ALL the time and for 2 weeks all I did was sleep 14+ hours a night and feel like shit. It was insane. I thought I was never going to get better. I couldn’t even walk around the block and I couldn’t even imagine running a marathon at some points. My birthday came at the end of the second week of the flu of hell and that involved a few days in Mexico so I think the warmth and humidity zapped the last little bit of virus out of my body. But that flu knocked me back a solid three weeks of training and once I returned from Mexico (surfing, drinking beer and margaritas, relaxing in the sun, so NOT training) I had 10 days before the half marathon which meant I was heading in super under-trained.
I made the decision to alter my goals for Boston, back to having a really fun race, and deciding I really want my last 3 miles of the marathon to be my best, to not slow down or at least slow down less than I did at CIM. Once I removed the pressure (self-induced, admittedly) my running started feeling better and I went to Vancouver just looking for a catered long run on pathways that weren’t icy.
I wasn’t expecting much. I wasn’t even sure I could break 2hrs. I thought 1:55 would be a good time, at this point. Ashley got me into drinking beet juice so the day before I did something (*gasp!*) you’re not supposed to do and tried something new the day before/on race day! And involving my GI! Fun!!
I woke up race morning and it was pouring rain. I don’t have a lot of experience running in rain, it doesn’t rain too much in Calgary so I get confused about what to wear. I also prefer to sleep in rather than see the sunrise so at 8:20am I finally left my hotel to run the few blocks to the start line at 8:30am. I was wearing a full sleeve rain jacket and after running the 4 blocks to the start I was already too hot so I ran back to the hotel and changed into a Betty vest and made it back just in time for the national anthem!
I started off very conservative, running around 5:20/km (except for km #2 which was a little hot at 4:52). There were a lot of runners and space on the road was pretty tight. I was feeling really excellent and just enjoying the race.
Somewhere before 10km I heard two guys saying something like “a skull and a butterfly… That’s not something you see together every day…” So I looked around and chatted for a while with them about Betty Designs (how it means girls can look good racing and still kick guys’ asses) and Ironman Canada (they saw my tattoo) until I decided I was still feeling good so I should turn up the pace a bit!
I picked it up to 5:00/km or faster just to see if I could. And I could. My last 6km were all under 5:00/km. No girls passed me, and only 2 guys passed me, and I kept picking people off one by one which is a game I love playing. I kept checking with myself to see if I could hold the current pace and it just kept feeling easy.
The biggest thing was that my legs were not sore or tired at all! I have been weight training with a personal trainer since September, once a week with her, once on my own, and since January I’ve been doing heavy squats on Wednesdays. Since September I have spent more time in the gym than in my whole life combined and this race was the first time I was able to see what a big difference this extra work was making! It was really cool. I kept expecting my legs to get sore or feel like they wanted to crumble and they never did. Originally I had planned to lift only until race season started but now, after seeing such a big benefit, I’m going to keep up with the weights.
The last kilometre had the biggest incline (of course) but I powered up and raced into the finish line, thoroughly pleased with my finish time of 1:48:22. Far away from my PR (1:41) and further away from what I think I’m capable of (I think 1:37-1:38 is very doable and I have my eye on sub-1:34 which will be a biggest task!). But at this point, with this training, I was very pleased. It taught me that I need to give myself more credit and believe in myself more (applicable to most aspects of my life!)