Monday, April 29, 2013

18K And The Floodgates(it's long folks!)

         (After the 18k. Sweaty, grit and dirt on my face, and super PROUD)

On Sunday morning, after a largely restless Saturday night's sleep, I rose with the sun to prep for an event that I had been getting ready for literally for weeks, months, in advance. My nerves were rattled, I had butterflies, and the day before I'd been nauseous with the thought of what lay ahead.

I tried to self talk, reassuring myself that I was well prepared, and that I'd just treat it like any old Sunday Run Club long distance run. Besides, I was running with a big gaggle of my run club buddies, so having them there would definitely make it feel less scary!

I had laid out all of my washed and ready clothing the day before (PS the running capris are definitely too big. Very slippy for the first 10 minutes!) along with my bib, my charged ipod, my Gu for fuel and my water bottle. (Yes, I only bring one) and my ball cap. I drank my 16 oz of water an hour before I was leaving, to hydrate and umm, get it out, before the race. I had my light but protein filled breakfast (1/2 cup cereal, blueberries, almond milk, a few almonds) and hit the road with my friends Jay and Leigh.

Once at the event, we met up with the rest of our group and did some pre-race photos. Everyone was doing various distances, some 5k, some 10k, several 18k. I literally started to feel supercharged. As the 18k call came, I felt the need for some team RAH RAH so we all put our hands in on top of each other and did a "GO TEAM" kind of thing. I was PUMPED UP!

I was concerned about having people who run my pace to stick with because I didn't know the route at all, plus, I run much better when I can just chat and pretend it's no big thang. We headed out, me hitching up my pants and holding them for the first stretch til they stuck, when my Nike app chimed in at 1 mile in with our distance and my pace. Woah. I knew we were going too fast and I was aware that I should slow it down. There's always this adrenaline surge where everyone is running around you and you just want to GO. It's hard to settle into a sustainable pace with that going on. At least, it's hard for me. We were running a 9:43 minute/mile pace, and my last 16k I had run comfortably at 10:10. I KNEW that was going to be too fast. However, I figured I'd just keep going until I felt like I needed to slow down. The first water station was around the 3k mark, at the top of a HILL. We got to the top and I paused to walk 10 seconds or so while I chugged my water. As I picked up again, I saw my friends were still walking. I kept running, figuring they'd catch up with me in a second. I never saw them again.

I kept on trekking, hovering between 9:43 and 9:50. I wanted to just get the 10k section DONE and the racers doing that distance out of my way. I completed my 5k time in 29 minutes, and then my 10k around 1:05 hours, based on what the girl beside me said. I had spaced on hearing what my Nike app reported. In that time, I followed the rest of my plan I'd decided on pre-race, which was to walk through every water station, and to have my Gu around 50 minutes into my run. I had these older women runners around me, hilarious women, they were doing 10:1's so sometimes they'd be behind me, then they'd be with me, then behind me. At least for the 10k distance. After that, it seems, I lost everyone that had been with me up until that point. I had told the women they were my pace bunnies, but now I was literally on my own.

Can I just mention a moment here how FRIGGIN HILLY this run ended up being? Seriously people. It was challenging. Once I got past the 10k hills, we had to loop around and do the whole thing over again. I've got to say, I'm not a fan of the loop around. It was also starting to get HOT. It felt very warm, and I was wearing all black, including a hat and a tech hoodie. At one point I realized that I was no longer sweating, which I KNEW was not a good sign. Meanwhile, other than the water drinking breaks, I was keeping my pace and still running. I kept a girl in neon pink in my sights for several km's, until I caught up with her and saw she was struggling. I tapped her shoulder, and when she took out her headphones, I told her that I'd been trailing her, and she had to keep going to keep ME going! She nodded with teary eyes, but didn't speak. A French speaking couple behind me chimed in that they, too, had been following her. The man added in, "We (he and his partner) will run beside you, and she (me) will run in front of you! We'll get you going!"  I felt a rush of ......I don't even know....just emotion, swell in me. I told her, "Let's get to the water station, we can get our water and walk a bit."  Up the hill we went, we got our water, walked maybe 30 seconds, and took off again. The couple ran ahead and we lost them, but I stayed in front of her for a little while longer until I turned back and saw her walking again. At this point, I was heading to the neighbourhood section for the second time, and I was struggling myself. I climbed the second hill and turned into the neighbourhood, and saw the same woman waving from her driveway. She gave me some encouragement and I kept running. As I saw more people in driveways, I kept running. Then, I felt my legs like lead and the sweat stop, and I decided I had better walk a bit.

I can't even tell you how emotional this whole, entire event was for me. A volunteer on a bike raced by me (Thank You redhead dreadlock girl!) and said, "You're FANTASTIC!" and I started crying. Not just little crying, more like, ugly cry. I contained it, but my head was an inner debate of "I AM fantastic!" to "HOW am I going to FINISH this?" The hills, the heat, my was all coming to this moment. I kept my walking to 30 seconds or less, and started to run again, a bit slower now. Into this internal dialogue for some bit, a man ran by me and said, "You are SO strong! You've been doing incredible! You've got less than 3km to go! You GO, girl!" Cue waterworks #1000. That "less than 3k" seemed very far at this point, my head was all over the place, but I kept just....going.

Just before 16k, there was the last water station. I was hurting, mentally struggling and just wanting to be DONE already. I started to drink and walk and as I threw my cup, I saw the volunteers ahead cheering me on LOUDLY. The one female volunteer was saying, "I SEE you, GIRL. You are almost done! Don't you give up now!"  I laughed and started my run again. As I passed her, she high-fived me and said, "Tracey (on my bib) You are AMAZING for doing this. Get it!" It instantly cheered me up and gave me some renewed energy. So, female enthusiastic volunteer, THANK YOU so much. YOU WERE AMAZING.

At 17k ish, an older man volunteer ran a bit with me, his hand on my back. He said he was a heart patient, and my running was for him, and he thanked me for doing it. Again, sob sniff sob. On I went, to the last bend  for the end, and then I saw it....the last and final HILL. At 17.5k, there's a huge hill. I almost cried again, I kid you not!

I moved my legs slowly up that hill, just wanting to be DONE already, when my final race angel came up behind me. I had slowed to a walk, and she said, "I've been trying to catch you since 11k and haven't been able to until now. You were FLYING. You CAN'T walk now!" We laughed about the "stupid hills!" and I ran to the top. From there, blissfully, thankfully, it was all downhill to the finish.

As I ran into that final stretch, I heard my name being shouted from various places and I cried with tears and a huge smile. I saw my run buddies and high fived them, got my medal and food and then, the floodgates opened once again and I was a total mess of emotion.

I'm sort of spacey when I finish an event, I'm just decompressing from what just happened and the fact that I DID IT, so I forget to ask everyone else how THEIR runs went for a few moments! Between the crying and the emotion of my friends all having fantastic runs, it was a huge day. I saw Steph and Janice come in and rock their runs, and then I saw Jay and welled up again. Sharing this made it all the more sweet.

We did pictures from there, and waited to watch friends do their 2k and 5k runs, cheering on strangers and our peeps alike. Jay's crazy acute eyesight had her calling out names on bibs, as people sped by to the finish, some with confused looks on their faces. We laughed and kept shouting encouragements.

I have to say, the volunteers made a HUGE difference for me on this run, and I want to thank them whole heartedly. I also need to thank my friends for supporting me all through this crazy adventure, those at the event and those in my heart. Many days and nights, I wouldn't have gone out to run without their pushing and inspiration. Last but not least, I have to thank my family for encouraging me to do this, for putting up with Run Club nights and Sunday long distances, which usually make Sunday a write off with eating all the food and napping!

Honestly, this was one of the best days of my life, SO monumental in scope personally I can't even put it adequately (or apparently succinctly) into words. It was a huge challenge physically, I really pushed myself over distance and obstacles and heat, but also mentally. I don't want to bore you with my crazy cheesy moments(well, any more than I already did, that is!) but I had some very real epiphanies out there on that long, hot run, and despite the sunburn and the sore hips, it was totally worth it.

My time, for those tracking these things, was 1:59:35, including those walks and hills, and I'm uber happy with that.

Now, the training commences once more, for my next challenge, and I have no doubt it will be an incredible journey from here to there.


  1. OMG - you are so AWESOME!!! Mwah!

  2. I loved loved reading that:). I laughed at how much we are alike when you said you started out fast thought hey I should slow down and then thought will wait till I need to :) I love that you put your hand to that girl to encourage her that you while running are you doing what you do best making people feel better. I loved reading about all the emotion on this run because that's what running is for me emotion... So much emotion :). I am so proud of you :) so so proud :). Way to red!

    1. It was SUPER emotional! It felt like I opened some repressed floodgates of emotion! And one aspect I LOVED about the run was all ofthe encouragement-people supporting and cheering others on! Had to do my part! It makes a huge difference when you're struggling!

      And ya-my brain says "faster, faster!" Whether my body complies is a whole other matter! :)

  3. I knew I was going to cry! I'm at work! Now my eyes are all blotchy! Tracey, you are totally amazing. I can remember when we first "met" (online) and you were just running a 5K and joking about a half marathon. NOW look at you!!!

    I used to run races and LOVE them. I haven't been lately, but reading this has made me re-think this and perhaps sign up for a race in the fall. I agree, the volunteers are awesome! And you are awesome, congratulations on a fantastic race.

    1. Do iiiiiiit! You totally could! 10K, Half? Nine Run Run? Army?

      I cant believe the difference a year has made! Now to figure out what is next on my Buckt List! :)

  4. I remember when you wrote your first run. Look how far you've come! I am so unbelievably proud of you and happy for you. Also, you totally made me cry.

    1. I'm honoured you still read and follow! You're constant support and encouragement has been amazing!

      Once I complete a half...I'll be seeking a whole new adventure/challenge! Hmmmmm! :)

  5. Congratulations on running and completing such a great event. You gave me chills remembering my own experience. Distance running is emotional. When I ran a 1/2 last year the volunteers and fellow runners were what kept me going. I love the community of runners.

    1. Thanks so much! A half is next-and I have no doubt I'll be a mess. :)

      The community is TOTALLY what keeps me running! Without my support network-I definitely wouldnt have done it!

  6. Right on, Tracey! You are so inspiring. I love how supportive the racers are to each other - it's awesome. You're awesome!

    1. Thanks Mel! The other runners, the volunteers, my Run Club-all paramount in getting me through! And all of YOU, that put up with status updates and tweets and blogs! :)