Monday, April 29, 2013

Police Half Marathon Race Report

The Police Half Marathon.  My first half marathon, 2 years ago.  A race course that beat me and left me waiting to redeem myself on it.

I made the difficult choice not to run it last year.  As a self coached athlete, I wasn't confident in my ability to blend my half ironman plan with a half marathon plan.  Plus, I knew that my tendency to favour run training over bike training had to end.  Last year, that was the right choice for me.  This year, I have a coach that believes in me and consequently a program tailored for me, rather then one out of a book.  Game on.

I arrived about 45 minutes early for the race.  This turned out to be a good amount of to find parking, use the facilities and grab a photo with the Calgary Police mascot.

This might be "Simon the safety Bear", but google was less helpful then I had hoped in identifying him.
 I also took a minute to snap a picture of the start/finish line.  Last time I did this race, the ground was white...

Prerace, I managed to connect with some friends and Team Trilife teammates.  The helped calm my nerves some as I chatted a bit before heading out.

I was nervous about this race.  Could I hold my pace?  Could I handle the hills?  Could I stay strong at the end?  Would my foot hold out for me?  I was a bit worried about that one, given I'd had trouble with it the previous week.

I had talked about it with my husband the night before.  "If I don't pull this off, I'm going to have to do this race again next year," I told him.  I didn't want to have to do this race again.  If I ever decide I want to, fine, but I wanted to lay to rest the need to redeem myself.

Before the race, I chatted a bit with Shannon, a team trilife teammate.  We'd met before, but never talked a lot.  Her need to finish this race was similar to mine.  She'd done it before and never held on, the way she wanted to, in those last few kilometers. She needed to put it to rest, just like I did.  We lined up and then headed out...

The first few kilometers felt alright.  My pace felt fine, although I had to pull myself back a bit.  It's mostly downhill at the start, so it's a matter of finding the balance of accepting the free speed without going too hard and burning out early.  My foot twinged at me a bit, up until I hit about kilometer 4, just letting me know that it wasn't quite happy.  Then it let up, and I didn't think about it again until after the race was done.

Km  1: 5:59
Km 2: 6:01
Km 3: 5:55
Km 4: 6:12

In the 5 km, I noted the point where I bailed and ended up on my hands and knees last time I did this race.  Not much risk of that this year.  Aside from a bit of wind, the weather was practically perfect.  No ice or snow.

Km 5: 6:24
Km 6: 5:58
Km 7: 6:23

For some reason, I felt like walking around 7 km in.  I did a quick self assessment and almost laughed at myself.  No pain, I wasn't even really uncomfortable.  Just my body trying to play games with me.  I carried on.  I did take a quick gel somewhere in there, during which I allowed a few seconds of walking to avoid choking.

Km 8: 6:08
Km 9: 6:26
Km 10: 6:12

It was somewhere after 10k that I started getting uncomfortable.  No pain, but this wasn't easy anymore.  The whole course is hilly, but this is the point where it shifts to far more up then down.

Km 11: 6:33
Km 12: 6:18
Km 13: 6:14
Km 14: 6:19

During km 14, I took another quick walk for a gel.  I had been planning on taking it around 1:20 into the race, and I was past that, but I wasn't seeing any garbage cans, so finally just took it.  As I took it Shannon came up behind me.  We said a few words, but I don't think either of were up for too much talking.

Weaselhead was coming up.  I always think that I might actually run it some day, but I remember in Calgary 70.3 last year, the people coming up it when I went down were mostly walking.  So, if athletes finishing a half ironman 1.5+ hours before me walk it...

Km 15: 7:26

Even walking up the hill left my legs feeling a bit toasted.  At this point last time, I felt like I had been forced into walking.  This time, I'd made the choice and I was good with it.  Once up though, it was time to run again.

Km 16: 6:16

Shannon and I were still running together, and I was totally thankful for it.  When I knew we were into the last 5 kilometers, I turned to her and said "This is where we decide if we're going to do this race again."  I needed to remind myself.  It was starting to hurt, and I needed to remember that I didn't want to spend 2 more years regretting the choices I made in the last 30 minutes of this race.

Km 17: 6:07

Angie and I had talked about countdown to hurt prior to the race.  Basically, she reminded me that it was going to hurt.  In fact, if I raced it right, it would hurt.  One technique she suggested was doing a countdown to hurt.  I am generally really good at figuring out pacing and how long it will take me to run, but I just couldn't make the math work.  I knew I was running a bit over 6 minutes a kilometer, and just couldn't calculate.

Km 18: 6:48

Frick.  It hurts so much.  Shannon's still running.  Man, I want to walk.  My calf is really tight.  I might be getting muscle cramps.  I might have to walk a bit to shake off those muscle cramps?  My legs are burning.  Keep running...

Km 19: 6:08

Who puts FUCKING HILLS so close to the end of a half marathon?!  They didn't seem this steep going down them at the beginning.  Damn it, this hurts.  I can't feel my legs.  They've gone numb and tingly.  Run.  Countdown to hurt?  Um, 20 minutes? 12? 18?  I can't figure it out.

Km 20: 6:29

Crap.  I think I might need to crap.  Maybe I should detour to that tree.  No, that's an excuse.  It's not really that bad.  Keep running, damn it.  Shannon's still running.  If I stop to walk, she'll know.  Have some pride.

Okay, just around that building and into the finish.  DAMN IT!  It's not just around that building.  It's another building that looks so much further away.  RUN.

Km 21: 6:27

Finally, around the building.  We've done it!  Okay, not quite.  Let's finish!

Somehow, I had a finishing sprint in there.  We turned the corner, and gunned it.

Final 0.36km (as measured by my garmin): 1:57 (pace, 5:22/km)


Final time: 2:14:49

More important then the time:

The course didn't beat me.  I beat the course.


An ice pack on my foot, some time hobbling around, and bloody incredible satisfaction.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Race Day!

Usual prerace picture, but without my number because I've already attached it to my fuelbelt (775)
Well, this is it!  Today is the day.  Time to go out there and nail a challenging half marathon.

The weather is looking good.  No complaints from this department.  No blizzard this year.  A little cool, but not enough to cause any difficulty.  Clear pathways, no foot of snow.  Possibly a bit of wind, but I'll take it without complaint.

I'm ready.

It's time to rock and roll!  Look for my post race update later.  :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pain and Race Goals

Today I had a talk with my coach.  Initially, it was to discuss a foot issue that is giving me some difficulty.  Basically, I think it was from running with my laces too tight on the weekend, but it hasn't gone away yet and has been causing me some pain.  (Another post will come on that, but I think that's going to turn out alright.)

This week, we had a couple of challenging workouts.  (At least they were for most of the group. Those of us tapering for races this coming weekend got to go easy on the bike/run intervals Angie gave us yesterday.)  She mentioned that she thought everybody would hate them, but the feedback was all very positive.

To this, I theorized that triathletes are masochists.  It certainly isn't the first painful swim or spin any of us have been to, and it's not likely to be the last.  We pay to be made to feel this way.

The other main topic of conversation was race goals.  Angie asked me what I needed to feel like it was a successful race.  "I need to run the whole thing" I told her.  "I need to stay strong at the end."

"What do you need to do to make that happen?"

It reminded me of theatre classes.  Not happy with the simple straight forward, safe, answer.  I have to actually think.  I talked about nutrition.  That is one of the keys for me.  I talked about pacing.  Very important.  And I tried to find the words to describe the mental battle.

Running the whole thing isn't what really matters.  If I drop a gel and have to turn back, if there's an icy spot I feel safer walking over, even if I need to stop at a porta potty, none of those things will change how I feel about my success for the day.  I've even allowed for the likelihood of walking up weaselhead (a fairly brutal hill that I know will spike my heart rate regardless of how I approach it.)

What matters is that I need to beat this course rather then letting it beat me.  What does that mean anyways?  That sounds like philosophical meanderings rather then a true action plan...

What do I need to do to make that happen?  Isn't there a saying about goals without plans being only wishes?  Or am I mixing up my sayings?

We talked about the last 5k.  It will be a difficult 5k.  Not only is the last 5k of any half marathon tough, but this particular one is mostly uphill for those final kilometers.  It will be the same 5k that I fell to pieces in the last time I did this race.

Except that it won't be the same.  Because this time, I'll be ready for it, and I won't fall to pieces.

We talked about the hurt.  Not the "if", but the "when".  Because, if it doesn't hurt, I haven't pushed hard enough.  I haven't given everything I've got.

I don't think all of these things quite clicked with me during the conversation.  I needed a bit of time to think on it to come to some of these realizations.  The thing is, I don't feel satisfied with a safe race.  Running the whole thing was a goal for my first 5K and my first 10K.  Now, just running it isn't enough.  I need to leave it all out on the course.

If it doesn't hurt, I have more to give.

And, this is when I realized that triathletes don't crave pain.  We're not masochists.  We crave what comes on the other side of pain.  We crave it because it's an obstacle to overcome.  Because, we know, pushing through that pain is what makes us grow.  It's what brings us results.  We want to leave it all out there.  We want to know that we gave it everything we have.  That is why we like the workouts and the races that hurt.  Because it means we gave it everything we could.

So, my race day goals for this Sunday?

1. Race smart - nail the fuelling and pacing
2. Race hard - give it everything I've got
3. Beat the little voice that tells me to slow down when it hurts towards the end.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sometimes you should run alone

I love to run with other people.  Particularly for long runs, or easy runs where you can just run along and chat.  I even like it for faster runs.  Sometimes I think I can't run a certain distance at a certain speed, but a quick running partner suddenly makes it possible.  There are all kinds of benefits to running with others.

But sometimes, it's even more important that you run by yourself.

Saturday I had my first long run in what felt like a long time.  Really, it was just a couple weeks, because I had been sick, but somehow, a week off of training makes me feel like it's been ages.

It was a hard run.

The weather was yucky, but the pathway conditions were perfectly fine, so nowhere near bad enough to do 2 hours, 15 minutes indoors.  No ice.  Almost no snow.  And, it was cold, but not horribly so.  There was an ice fog though, and as I ran, it felt like constant little prickles on my face.  It also snowed and sleeted while I ran, plus there was a wind that made it feel much colder then the actual temperature.

The first hour or so wasn't too hard.  I was running in an easy aerobic zone and it was nice to just run.  It was also nice to discover I still had endurance, despite the recent plague.  (Logically, I always know that I do, but for some reason, I always feel totally out of shape after any sickness.)

After that, it started to get challenging.  I can't even say exactly what made it hard.  Just a combination of everything: I was uncomfortable, it was cold, the ice fog was yucky, my legs were tired, etc.

I wanted to quit.

And this, is why it's important to run alone sometimes.  Because sometimes, that's what a race feels like.

When I run with friends, I almost never want to quit.  The rare times that I do, the thought it easily and quickly squashed.

Running alone though, that voice persists.  Nobody will know if you cut your run short. Just a little bit.  Just run for 2 hours, not 2:15...  You're tired, your legs are tired.  You're getting over being sick, after all, you still have the sniffles...

As I squashed one thought, another would quietly surface in my mind.  Until I hit the 2 hour mark.  Once I passed that point, it was like my mind gave up the fight.  I was past the compromise point it had been fighting for, and I was still going.

There are reasons to shorten workouts.  I've had to cut some short due to my kids.  Concerning niggles or pain are quite legitimate reasons to cut things short, as it's more important to avoid injury then finish a workout.  I didn't have any reasons on Saturday.  I had excuses.  So, I kept going.

Those last 15 minutes weren't all that important for me physically.  Logically, cutting 15 minutes off of one run would have had minimal effect on my overall fitness.  But, they mattered mentally.  They mattered a lot.  Because if I had stopped, I would have trained my mind to quit early.  And, every time you let yourself quit, it feels a bit easier to do it again.

This is one of the reasons I will always do some of my runs alone.  Because when race day comes, and I feel alone on a course full of people, I'll have experience in telling that little voice to shut up when the going gets tough.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Listening to my coach, taking more time off

I have an admission to make.  I lied in my last blog post.

I finished that blog post off by announcing, with some bravado, that I was going for a run.  Right after finishing it, a new email came in, from Angie, my coach.  Right before blogging, I had sent Angie a quick email explaining that it had been a rough week and I'd been sick for most of it.  "I need help figuring out where to go from here", I told her.  "I'm going out for an easy run, but what next?"  Then I proceeded to throw up that quick pre-run blog post.

She didn't email me back quite quickly enough to beat my blog post going up, but almost immediately afterwards it came in.  It was very short.  "Can you call me. Now?"

She didn't leave much room for negotiation.  No run.  "Listen to your voice," she told me.  "Is it in your head or your chest?"

"Yeah, I guess it's still kind of in my chest," I admitted.  If I was ready to be honest with myself at that point, I'd probably have admitted that it was very much lodged in my chest and in addition to that scratchy voice Angie heard, I was wheezy and walking across the room left me winded.

The message that came across in the conversation was that now is not the time to push myself.  My fitness was not going to evaporate in a puff of smoke.  Pushing through this was just going to make it last longer.

This was hard for me to accept.

I'm pretty good about taking rest when I'm good and truly sick.  What I'm not good at continuing to take rest when I'm starting to feel better - but still sick.  Part of it is that fear of letting the old me sneak back in.  The fear that if I stop training, I'll stop wanting to train.  No excuses, right?  But, there's excuses, and there's reasons.

I chose Angie as a coach because not only because her style clicked with me, but because I felt she had the education and experience to know what she is doing.  So, when it comes down to it, I'm going to listen to her.  Even when she doesn't tell me what I think I want to hear.

So, two more days off training.  Today, I'm really feeling better.  Not just in comparison to barely moving out of bed.  I'm actually feeling relatively good.  I'm still not going for a run though.  I'll be doing a spin, on the trainer, so that it's controlled.  Because my coach told me to and I'm listening to my coach.

These girls have to wait a little longer