PW. Personal Worst. I got one on Sunday. And I’m happy about it.
This marathon was unlike either of the preceding two. I had no expectations. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Things were unplanned. Things went wrong. And, while I care, I don’t care. It was seriously one of the best races I’ve ever done.
Let me explain.
I originally signed up for the BMO Vancouver marathon in the fall (to take advantage of cheap rates, of course). I signed up for my local clinic. I had lofty goals of breaking five hours, maybe even coming in somewhere between 4:45 and 4:30. And then I went and got my heart rate tested. If you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know that I was devastated. I pretty much dropped out of my clinic because I could no longer keep up. I rented myself a treadmill and focused mainly on learning to run more efficiently.
In the last two months all of my runs have been inside. I have done long runs up to 4:45, but at a pace that would constitute walking for most of you. My tempo paced runs have been few and far between. My hill training non-existent. I came to the realization that this marathon would not be any sort of goal race. Essentially I showed up on race day because I paid for it and, darn it, I was going to get that medal!
Colin and I got up at the ridiculous time of 5am on Sunday morning. Spud was at my parents’ house for a sleepover. Even so I think we only got about 6-1/2 hours of sleep. We had set out our things the night before because we knew we had to be out the door by ten to 6 at the latest. I ate my old race day standard (plain oatmeal) and made sure things were moving in the right direction, if you catch my drift…
Surprisingly for the family that’s always late we made it into the car on time. We had a 20 minute drive to the Skytrain and then about half an hour and two transfers on transit. Once we finally got to our destination it was about a five minute walk up to the corrals. We were there just in time to see the start of the half marathon. Those guys and girls were looking speedy only a couple of minutes in and they had a 5km downhill to start!
Prior to the race we saw a few friends who were running, both from run club and from work. It was nice to be able to share our race day jitters. Mostly Colin and I were concerned with getting our bags checked (it was point to point so they had to get on the UPS trucks) and generally sorted out. It was a good thing I had Colin put my phone in my pack because he discovered that I hadn’t put on my chest strap or GPS yet – oops! After a quick trip into the rec centre (where I swore to the ladies in line that I wasn’t budging) we were set. Colin and I said goodbye and good luck at this point since he was in a different corral. I chatted with some friends for a bit and then we were off.
While the half marathon got to go downhill at the start of the race the full marathon got to go up. It wasn’t huge – just steady. Of course, I went out too fast. Even though I had no pace/plan I knew it was too fast. But it was such a perfect day for a race. Taking my own advice I stopped at the very first aid station (they were every mile) for a pit stop. Nothing dire, just too much water pre-race! It was at the top of the hill so I knew I could “make up” time by booking it for a few blocks. The route headed west and the rolling hills started. Really it was average Vancouver terrain, but if you were from out of town it might have seemed like more. There were timing mats at two major intersections where traffic had to be let through. I got stopped for about a minute at the first one (thankfully not the second). It wasn’t a big deal as I knew they were deducting that from my chip time. The crowd support through this section was surprisingly good. The neighbourhoods are more affluent than a lot of Vancouver so I wasn’t sure if people would be excited to have the race close down a major street or if they’d be all NIMBY about it. Since I was just rolling along – and still going too fast – I made sure that I went a bit out of my way to high-five the little kids. Really, what’s a couple of steps out of my way to make them smile? I especially liked the Dad who was shaking one of his little girl’s toys (that we have too) since it had bells on it.
Eventually I came to the hill. It wasn’t steep (for here), but it was long. My feet were feeling off – 2nd toe on left foot was hurting – so I was smart and just walked the whole thing. That’s the good thing about not having time goals – there was no pressure to haul butt up the hill! At the top of the hill I had to stop and fiddle with my shoes. My toe was just not shutting up. And my quads were pretty mad too that I’d not paced myself at the start. Fun times! I started running again and it was a lovely shaded back street through a park. I even saw a raccoon! Once we came off that street we headed out to the University of British Columbia. I was taking walk breaks often and was generally mad at my foot for hurting in a place that’s never bothered me before. I made it to 16km/10mi before I sat down and finally dealt with my shoes. You see, I had a feeling something might go wrong. My shoes had a fair amount of mileage on them so I thought that the heels might go like they did at HTC. I randomly put a pair of Dr. Scholl’s cheapy inserts in my backpack before leaving the house just in case. Turns out it was the best decision I could have possibly made. I took the time to put the insoles in under the ones in my shoe. I made sure to loosen the laces so my toes had wiggle room (still re-blacked the same toe on my right foot though…). It didn’t completely stop the pain in my toe, but helped enough to get me back on the road. If I hadn’t had the insoles I probably would have called it a day before the half-way mark and DNF’d.
It was at this point that I picked up a running partner. I was running alongside a girl who had just found $5 in the gutter (someone probably wondered where their bus fare went later) and we got to chatting. I asked if she wanted to run together for a while. It was her first marathon and she seemed up to having company at that point. We ran together down the hill out of UBC and eventually came to the 21km mark. This part was a little weird. We were shifted off the road into a large parking lot, taken past an aid station, turned back to run over the timing mats, and then out the entrance we just came in. I know they probably had to add distance to the course at some point and that it’s an odd area to put an aid station on the road (not very wide), but it was awkward. And kind of demoralizing since forward progress was detoured… I said goodbye to the girl I was running with at that point since my legs were so tired and I didn’t want to hold her back. I hope she had a good second half!
I can’t say too much about the next few kilometres of the race. It’s the same route that a summer half marathon runs along so I’d done it before. I knew what to expect in terms of hills, etc. I walked a lot of it. There were a few runners I kept leap-frogging along here and a few that looked like they might want to give up soon. I had a nice conversation with a guy on a bike. Crowd support was sporadic, but the people that were out were still awesome and supportive. I came to the Burrard bridge (slight incline, nothing like the hill at UBC) and walked. I knew there would be a photographer at the end of the bridge so I made the effort to at least look like I was moving at more than a walking pace. I ran to the next aid station out of pure vanity. My legs hurt with every step, but only one lane was closed so there was oncoming traffic. Someone cheered for me by name, which freaked me out a bit because I wondered if I knew them
duh, name on bib remember?. Finally I was at the turn down onto the seawall and I knew that I only had about 10km left.
The last 10km was flat and winding on the seawall around Stanley Park. The problem was that there was always just one more corner… It’s beautiful, though, which at points was it’s only saving grace. I was again leap-frogging the same runners. I chatted with a few; I asked if others were okay. I knew that I would have no problem getting my medal since there was an 8 hour time limit. I tried to do a jump for a photographer at one point, but only one leg lifted off the ground – my brain obviously kept the other one firmly on the ground out of self-preservation! Even though I was moving so slowly I was thrilled when I came to the final stretch (not so thrilled that it was slightly up hill). I knew that I was close to 6 hours (chip) and I really didn’t want to go over. A woman came up behind me and said she’d been trying to catch me for a while. She passed me by a few steps and then I decided that I couldn’t let her beat me. I’m sure I looked ridiculous trying to hobble-sprint, but I did beat her as there was a very tiny downhill to the finish line. Apparently Colin cheered for me at that point, but I didn’t hear him. I cheered for myself with my hands up because I finished my 3rd marathon!
Once I was over the line I got my medal, had a couple of pictures taken, and grabbed my bag lunch (so NOT hungry). The bike guy from earlier stopped by to say congratulations. I met up with Colin and asked how he did. While I may have ended the day with a PW I’m proud to say he finished in 3:42:11 – a 10:42 PR!! We celebrated by going out for appies and drinks. We recapped our races for each other and bemoaned the fact that the restaurant’s bathrooms were upstairs…
- Winging a race is a stupid idea. Had I lined up with the 5 hour pace bunny I might have been able to keep up. If I’d fallen behind, though, I would have become very discouraged. So it worked out well for me in the end because there was no pressure. However, I can’t recommend it and I don’t think I’ll ever do it again (for a full – see you in 6 weeks RnR Seattle 1/2!)
- My form has changed substantially and my Asics don’t work for me anymore. It’s the end of an era! I think that running in my Vibrams so much really made me more of a midfoot runner. I think my toe problem on race day was due to me blowing out any padding the Asics had left in the forefoot. I’m getting a pretty pair of Saucony Mirage’s tonight.
- I’m not ready for a fall marathon. Colin and I had a constructive grown up conversation about it and I realize that I can’t focus on heart rate based training and marathon training at the same time. Right now it’s more important for me to get better running in zone 1 than it is to pay for and only finish another marathon.
- I ran this race because it was paid for, it’s a gorgeous route, and I knew that I’d be able to finish regardless of time. Simple as that. I want the next one to blow my 5:07:18 PR out of the water.
Sometimes the race gods look down and give you a perfect race. On Sunday they gave me the perfect worst race.
That’s right. I have no race plan for Sunday. It feels weird and liberating at the same time.
Any other training cycle would have found me printing off pace bands and stressing about where I would be when. This time I’m just winging it. I don’t mean that I’m coming into the race totally un(der) prepared running wise. It’s just that my training has been kind of unorthodox and I have no idea what to expect. After my heart-rate test I completely changed the way I was training. The vast majority of my runs have been on a treadmill. Most of my runs have been zone 1 with only a small amount of zone 3. I haven’t done hill training – although I know spinning has made my legs stronger. I did a lot of runs in my Vibrams and now my Asics feel so different (and I will be running the marathon in them). BMO Vancouver marathon is no longer my A race for the year. To be honest if I hadn’t already paid for the entry I probably would have sat this one out.
So here I find myself, three sleeps away from race day, with no clear idea of how I’m going to tackle the route. For once I don’t have a time goal. Yes, part of me wants to PR. But I don’t think I’ll have the same huge letdown that I did last year if it doesn’t happen. In the past I’ve done run/walk of 20:1. I know I’m not up for that this year. So do I do 10:1s? 5:30s? Walk at the aid stations that are every mile? Walk when I feel like it? It’s a quandary.
It sounds blasé, but I really think that I’ll be making it up as I go along. And, oddly, that seems to suit me just fine.
presents for him to open each day we were gone. Once we were on the road it was a quick 45 minute drive to Tsawwassen to catch the boat.
Know how we do before we do…
Because my June isn’t busy enough with training for the Vancouver Scotiabank Half Marathon at the end of the month as well as starting my marathon training clinic on the 10th I thought that I would add in a little fitness challenge too!
Courtney over at Run, Courtney, Run! is hosting
- Exercise every day. This should be easy as I will already be running approximately 4-5 days/week and only have to throw in some cross/strength/core training to make up the last couple of days.
- Blog about exercising every day. This might be harder since I’m likely to forget if I don’t write myself a note or mark it off on my calendar.
At the end of June I:
- Might be selected for a prize.
- Will be more fit that I have been in a long while.
If you think that this sounds like fun (c’mon, you know it does…) you can sign up too.
I have wanted to write about my “running journey” for a while, but since it seemed long and involved I hadn’t yet gotten around to it. It seems appropriate that I kept putting it off because when I finally sat down to write I discovered that I have been running for a whole year. It seems crazy that this time last year I was having pre-clinic jitters about even going out to run (which, to call it what it was, was more of a shuffle). So here is the real beginning of my journey to The Marathon…
I started running in May 2009. I had gotten to thinking around my birthday, in March, that I needed to do something for me. I’d had a brief encounter with running in my early twenties, but it didn’t stick. However, it was something that I had enjoyed; obviously enough to try again. The main reason for signing up for a learn-to-run clinic was to have some time away from M, who was 18 months old at that time. That and I was thinking ahead to my “I’m turning 30 midlife crisis” the next year and decided that I would work up to being able to run a marathon by the time I was that age.
When I signed up in March I was asked if I wanted to start that night, but I just couldn’t bring myself to commit since it had taken me so long to even voice the long term goal. I had a month and a half to stew over it and in May 2009 I started running. Well, walk/running – with the emphasis on walk. Looking back I remember feeling really self-conscious about it (and being there by myself too, introvert that I am). But everyone was there for the same reason. We worked our way up to 10 + 1s (run 10 min/walk 1 min) and at the end of the clinic we were prepared to run a 5km race. Instead of paying for an entry fee, I got ambitious and put the money toward a 10km clinic).
My next class started in September. I had anxiety at the start again, especially when I found out most of the class was coming up from the 5km clinic. I discovered very early on that I was slow compared to everyone else. Looking back on my training log there are a lot of clinic-night entries that say “at back of group”. I definitely went through a phase of feeling like I wasn’t good enough and doubting myself because I couldn’t keep up with the faster runners. Of course, I hadn’t quite gotten that it wasn’t a race with anyone but me. This class introduced me to steady runs and hill repeats – I’ll let you figure out which one I liked better. I never got much faster, but the class really helped me get my base up. At the end, my last long run was 16km. It took my 2 hours and 15 minutes which I was thrilled with then, but I’ve gotten so much better.
In keeping with my plan of eventually training for The Marathon I actually began my half marathon program 3 weeks before the 10km class was over. It was really nice to get away 2 nights a week for that time! As with the other classes I was a fairly entrenched “back-of-the-pack”-er. I had all of the same feelings as before and was actually pretty intimidated. A lot of the other people had run halfs or fulls before and I was a little lost. My first run was at tempo pace and even though my log says “felt really good” I know that I had no idea what I was doing. At that point all I understood was that tempo = go fast.
Everything was moving along well until a month in when I had to have my wisdom teeth extracted. I didn’t run for 2 weeks and that first run back really stunk. It was a 10km run that took me almost an hour and a half. My brain wasn’t getting that I had taken time off to recover – all I could concentrate on was that I was the last one back. It was incredibly demoralizing to find out that everyone else had gone home and just the store staff were there. Hindsight tells me that this made me stronger emotionally as a runner (perseverance, what doesn’t kill me…, etc), but that day was probably the worst one I’ve ever had running. After that, though, things started to get better. Quite a few of my entries say how proud I am of myself.
At Christmas I got my heart rate monitor – a perk of my staff discount was that I could get one that had all the bells and whistles that I wanted – and it changed my running. Before I was pretty much all over the place and it helped me get more consistent. I was introduced to more training techniques: hills (more repeats, so thanks Mum and Dad for babysitting), fartleks and a little speed work, which I gave up after one week so I wouldn’t hurt myself.
After floating around in the group and mainly running on my own I finally decided to see if I could keep pace with the 2:15 pace group 2 weeks before my race. Surprisingly I was able to do it. It was a big confidence booster and I really wish I had gotten up the guts to join them earlier. At the end of the clinic I ran my first race – The Historic Half Marathon in Langley, BC. It was a hilly course (my practice run notes call one hill “evil and long”), but I felt really well prepared. It was a warm February day and a great day for a run. I lost C right at the start (on purpose as he’s faster; Mr. 1:55:07) and I just ran for myself. I had my ups and downs, but never really felt like I was out of it – however, I never should have taken my last walk break… I almost didn’t start running again. I’m not sure where I found a burst of energy on the home stretch – most likely it had something to do with picking off a woman that was older than me who I’d been pacing for half the race – but I crossed the line in 2:16:58. Since I was aiming to complete, and I thought 2-1/2 hours would be nice if I tried really hard, getting a decent first PR was awesome.
I’m training on my own now for my second half marathon, but I know I’ve been blessed with good, supportive instructors. Big huge “Thank You”s to Diane, Jenn and Darren!
My next clinic starts 10 June and then I’m on the final road to my ultimate goal. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s not as difficult as I had expected. Thanks so much for your support – please keep sending kind words my way… I’m sure I’ll need them!
There, I said it. I am planning on running a whopping 42km in October, although “running” might be stretching the truth. A good time would be nice, but isn’t necessary. I think I’ll just be happy with crossing the finish line of my own accord.
This blog/journal/online accounting of my journey to The Marathon (capitalized to give it the respect it deserves) is going to be my way of holding myself accountable. Please, please sign up or bookmark this site to follow my journey. You don’t have to check in often (unless you are really that interested in my progress), but I figure that the more people out there who will ask me how my training is going the better.
There won’t be much activity on here for a while as my marathon clinic doesn’t begin until 10 June 2010. I’ll post infrequently about my half marathon training (which my husband C is doing with me) and my foray into bootcamp (which he is not and makes fun of me for). I’ll write more about why I thought running The Marathon would be a good goal to have – something about turning 30… I’m sure that there will be ramblings about things that seem to have very little to do about running as well as my love-hate relationship with the sport.
So, for now, this is me.
In about 6 months, I’ll be a marathoner.