Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Undertrained and Unafraid: My BMO Half Marathon Experience (Guest Blog Post)

Christina (R) with her running buddy Irina (L) before
the race. Already completely soaked, but okay with it.
Guest blogger: Christina! (Author's note: the running advice contained herein is not necessarily endorsed by Angie.)

When Angie asked me before my race if I wanted to write a guest post, I had momentary commitment issues. How could I say yes, when I wasn’t fully confident I would even end up crossing the finish line?  Such indecision! But this, in itself, seems like a good idea for a blog post.

Having signed up for the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on January 2, along with thousands of other New Year's Resolution-makers, I had one goal in mind: improve on my finish time from my first half marathon in November. So I joined a Running Room clinic as I’d done before, and then promptly never attended. Well, maybe ‘never’ is a strong word. I likely attended 25% of all training runs – which is a solid way to achieve a running goal, amirite?

You see, somewhere between setting my goal and getting to the start line, life in general got in the way. I prioritized many other things over running – including more time with my family when they needed me, and I have no regrets now about slacking in my training. But when it came time to decide on whether to race BMO or not, my thought process was simple: “I haven’t trained enough….this seems like a bad idea….I’ll do it anyway!” 

Why, you might ask? Because I knew I could do it. This may come as a shock to you: I wasn’t planning on winning the race, so it really only mattered if I could finish it. And as many friends pointed out to me, the distance of the race doesn’t change depending on how fast you might go. So, I decided to go for it. Slowly.

Pre-race nutrition. Obviously.
To get in the zone the day before my race, I did what all great athletes do: I went for afternoon tea and ate tiny sandwiches. Also, ice cream. And pasta. Clearly, I was not really focused on pre-race nutrition. But I slept like a baby and woke up feeling no pressure, and was going to run just for the fun of it.

My decision to go ahead undertrained and unafraid was perhaps the best decision I’ve made about any race. I was relaxed, I didn’t really care about the pace, and I was running one of the most beautiful (and completely rain-soaked) courses you can find.  I loved the rain, I loved the atmosphere, and I loved that the course took me right past my own apartment – where I stopped for a bathroom break between kilometres 10 and 11. Take that, nasty port-a-potties! 

Runners huddling under the awnings before the race.
In the end, I finished at 2 hours 38 minutes 51 seconds. That’s 10 minutes faster than my first race, without even timing myself or caring about my pace. Woohoo! Must have been those tiny sandwiches.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, I don’t think it’s in my excellent nutritional advice. I would remind any non-runners or almost-thinking-of-starting-to-be-runners reading this that running only SEEMS difficult until you try it a few times, and realize that training really does work.  I was taught in training to break down any race into units of time: each unit consisting of ten minutes of running, followed by one minute of walking. The idea of running 21.1 kilometres can be a little intimidating, but breaking it down can help – and it certainly helped me yesterday.

Next year’s BMO Half Marathon is scheduled for May 3.  It’s on my calendar. Who wants to come for tiny sandwiches with me on May 2?! 

Done, delirious and happy to have a warm 
sweater courtesy of Chelsea!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Non-Race Day Blues a.k.a. Do I Need to Change My Goals?

I'm sad about not being able to run #5 today. But given that I woke up with a sinus headache, a sore throat and not being able to breathe out of my nose -- in addition to not having trained well enough -- I think I made the right call. It was just a disappointing one to make, is all.

Still feeling unwell and unhappy enough about missing out on today's BMO Vancouver Marathon to start thinking about which full I should aim for next. I really had my heart set on finishing up this journey in Vancouver which makes me wonder if I need to re-evaluate my Five by 35 goal. After all, I know I can run a marathon; I've done four. Things I need to ask myself: What are my priorities? Have they changed? What's most important? What am I looking to achieve by setting these running goals for myself? 

Questions I need to ponder in the next little while. Decisions to come. Stay tuned.

Goal setting: is this still working for me? Need to figure that out.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

So. Much. Mucus.

It's race weekend in Vancouver! I hit the expo yesterday to pick up my bib and race kit and wander the kiosks.

I've deliberately been keeping mum as I've been trying to decide whether I'd be actually running #5 tomorrow, given that I had to resort to some last minute cramming in my training. A few weeks ago I'd reasoned that I could give it a go, as long as I was okay with running a slower than normal marathon.

Of course, I didn't bargain for the nasty cold I caught which left me exhausted on Tuesday, with no voice on Wednesday, and mouth-breathing the rest of the week. Running a full marathon being undertrained is one thing, but also while not 100% healthy? Tricky decision.

Being at the expo yesterday I felt that familiar race excitement in the air: runners verifying their bib info, checking their race chips are working, talking about their training. Which makes it all the worse that I've decided to forego tomorrow's race, after all. Marathon #5 will just have to wait.

In the meantime, good luck to everyone running this weekend! Have a great race, enjoy, and see you at the finish line.

© 2013 Vancouver International Marathon Society