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Friday, September 30, 2016

Canada Army Run - Race recap

I have completed a half marathon, the Canada Army Run to be exact. It took me 3:33 to complete it, but I did it. It's been almost 2 weeks and I don't know if it's fully sunk in yet.

Let's take a step back shall we. I've been remiss in providing proper running updates on the blog, so I'll attempt to provide it here.

Training Plans (ha!)

Before we went to England in June, I was working towards being able to complete a 10k. When I say complete, I wasn't aiming for speed records, because I'm not at that point yet in my running life, but I needed to be able to complete a 10k with the same ease as I complete a 5k. I knew completing several 10ks would be helpful when I started training for the half. And, my plan was to start half marathon training the weekend after we returned from England. Except, I came home with a cold, and then came down with strep throat, so I didn't really start training until July.

For the most part, training went well. I was steadily increasing mileage and sweltering in the humidity until about mid-August. My shin splints reared up again and it messed with my spirit a bit. The fear and doubt started creeping in. I scaled back my runs and focused on stretching and foam rolling, and doing whatever I could to keep the pain at bay. I was able to get in a 17k training run, which gave me some hope - despite coming down badly on my right knee. I knew then that if I could make it to at least that distance, then the last 3k would be easy - even if I had to scale back and walk to finish it. I knew it was doable.

With two sets of injuries now, I scaled my training back as far as I could. I stopped the runs during the week and concentrated on the remaining long ones on the weekend. During the week, I stretched, did weights, rolled, anything to stay in "fighting" form. The fear and doubt grew further. With the breaks I had to take and the delays back in June, I wondered if I'd be ready. I didn't feel ready. So, I pushed the voice away and put my energy to getting things ready for race day.

I readied my race outfit. I organized and then re-organized my race day playlist. I taste tested energy bars. I looked at countless running motivation memes on Pinterest to assail the fears in my head.

It didn't make me feel any better.

Race Day

On race day, we were up early, on account of paranoia on arriving late to the start line. Mike and I took the bus from our friend's house, which dropped us off on one of the side streets adjacent to the start line. YAY! We arrived in time to see the 5k runners leave before we headed to our corral. Mike was registered with the disabled wave, which meant he would start first. I was in the last corral, which departed about 30 minutes after the disabled wave. He decided to start with me and we headed to corral red.

Here, I believe I made my first mistake. I stood for about an hour or so while waiting for the 5ks in red corral to leave and while waiting for the half marathoners in faster corrals to leave. In retrospect, I should have sat on the curb, on the street, somewhere. (More on this later).

From our vantage point, we could see in the distance the first wave head off, but we still had to wait. Eventually, our rope dropped and we walked to the starting line. We didn't have the luxury of a starter's pistol or any noise really, the rope dropped and we were off.

The Half!

Because of my troubles, I opted to stay with the interval I had been using all through my training sessions - run .5k/walk .3k. It's not fast, but I needed something familiar and I knew I could stay with that interval for a good portion of the race.

The first 5k seemed to take FOREVER. I think it was the way the course was laid out - we were on a highway for a portion of it with little to see. I felt the same way when I did the WDW 10k in 2015 so I figured it was nerves. On one of my walking intervals a large dragonfly came into view and he stayed ahead of me for a few minutes before he flew off. (I've never posted about it, but I lost my cousin in 2004. His favorite animal was a dragonfly. A dragonfly always seems to appear when I need it.) Coming to the first turn around, there was a cheer station and one of the spectators had a sign:

I pointed to him, smiled and nodded, and he gave me a big cheer.

I continued on for a couple kilometers until we turned to cross the bridge into Gatineau/Hull, Quebec. By this time, the sun was high in the sky and the humidity was rising... ugh. We were only 3 kilometers in Quebec before we headed back across to Ottawa, but those 3k seemed to fly by. There were several cheer stations here with teenagers and I had a good time with their signs and giving high fives. However, in the midst of all this revelry, I started to feel weird. I chalked it up to the heat and the sun and I started taking more walk breaks. Eventually after a couple kilometers, I decided to walk the rest of the way, which was about 9km. I had passed some runners in the medic van and I didn't want to be pulled from the race. At that time, my objective finalized to finishing in one piece.

For kilometers 11 - 17, it was a tough slog. There was a slight incline northwards towards Rideau park, through the park, then back south along Sussex Dr. The breeze we had been enjoying thus far, disappeared while in the park and those 2kms were languid. From my training, I knew this was the first place where I'd struggle so I added a few songs to make me smile, laugh, and just take my mind off the race. And struggle I did - out of nowhere my feet started to hurt. The sole, all 10 toes it seemed, and I could feel a blister forming on the inside of my heel. Remember when I stood for about an hour pre-race, I think that contributed to it.

Not posing, it's called walking :)

By the time I got to about 18 or 19 km, I could see the finish line across the river and I knew it wouldn't be long now until I made it. What I didn't realize was the path along the river stretched 3k, but a neverending it seemed, 3k. It took forever to get to the bridge where we could turn around and head to the end.

As I reflect now, from about this time onwards things become fuzzy. My playlist turned to the following:
- Overkill by Motorhead
- Creeping Death by Metallica
- Movin' Right Along by The Muppets
- The Imperial March - Star Wars
- Headstrong - Trapt
- Almost There - The Princess and the Frog
- Dig a little deeper - The Princess and the Frog
- O Fortuna
(Yes, I sang for each of these!)

And every landmark, tree, side street was a finish line, then the next finish line and so on until the actual finish line came into view. I felt a cramp at the back of my knee, because at this point, what else was left to hurt? I stopped to rub the back of my leg and then the theme song from Rocky came on.

Friends, I didn't know if to laugh or cry. But I started up again and made it past the 21k marker. A handful of people were left on the sidelines, but there was one finisher who stood proudly applauding all of us as we crossed. I made eye contact, nodded and plodded on.

Normally I run across the finish line, but this time, I walked across. There will be other times when I will run across. I was finished. I'd done what I set out to do: complete a 1/2 marathon.

So what did I learn?

  • Never again will I tire out my feet pre-race.
  • Some training runs have to be done midday or at the very least mid-morning. I was unprepared for the sun beating down. And I have the tan to prove it!
  • Take all liquid they offer. I know there are different schools of thought on this, but you do you and you do the current conditions. Every water station, I took a cup and sipped as I went along. I also had my reserve hand water bottle, which they refilled for me.

Am I going to do it again?

Yes. I'm going to be stronger and faster, but I will do it again.... and maybe more times afterwards ;)

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