Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Run A Half Marathon? CHECK!

It all led up to the moment I've been training for, been talking about incessantly, been stressing over, been spending my Sundays working hard and then recovering afterwards for, yep, the half marathon!


But, I'm being a lot more enthusiastic than I was after the race, or even today. Sometimes, my competitive nature and perfectionism do NOT do me many favours.

To start at the beginning, however, we need to go back a few days.

My friend Tania flew in from Washington State to run my first half marathon with me. Seriously! Who does that, right? Yes, she did. She's run several, and marathons, and does Crossfit and Hot Yoga and all of that kinda stuff, so she was just coming to run with me for running with me's sake.

The days leading up to the half were kind of a hot mess. I was anxious and stressed and moody. I felt like I hadn't been resting enough or drinking enough. I had run a half distance previously during my training, with a finish time of 2:32 and change, so I knew I could get the distance. That part, ironically, didn't phase me. However, because I'm a crazy person who believes in putting undue pressure on myself, I'd decided in my warped mind that I wanted to finish under 2:30 "officially" but secretly, I was hoping for around 2:15. Yes, if you do the math, that meant I'd have to shave off like 45 seconds per km. Tania asked me for my REAL goal, and when I told her, she paused and said, "that's.....aggressive."  Yes, that about sums me up. Almost kill yourself or go home!

As we stood in the corral, taking a few pictures and shaking out some raw nerves, I felt pretty confident. Trust me, that confidence did not last very long.

The cannon sounded and we were off! My mouth, for some reason, was already dry. I had thought I'd hydrated enough the days before, so I'm not sure what that was about, but I was aware of it from the get go. As we began running, immediately there was a hill. I figured that would be the only one I'd see until we hit the residential Rockliffe Park area, but I was horribly, horribly wrong.

We passed the Parliament buildings, and headed down the Parkway. At this point, you travelled down to a turn around, and then back up towards the bridge to Hull. How did I not know that the Parkway is chock a block FULL of rolling hills? Holy moly. Did I mention previously that I did most of my hill training on the treadmill and CLEARLY not enough of it? I was totally staying on pace, however, and even going faster (I know, a big no no!) several times where Tania would tell me to slow it down. I was well ahead of the 2:20 pace bunny and feeling pretty good except for the stupid @#&*!!! hills! We got up near the bridge and it was already 7k and time for fuel. I always walk 30 seconds or so to have my GU and drink some water with Nuun. I did so, as I had in training, but then we noticed the 2:20 pace bunny was right on our heels and there was no way I wanted to get behind him! Tania said "Let's sprint!" so we did, hitting 5:40 on my Garmin. From there, I was back on pace and while not feeling awesome, I wasn't feeling horrific either. I was hoping the hills were DONE but nope, they continued for awhile longer-it felt like until we hit the final 5k up the Canal! As we passed the 10k mark on the bridge back to Ottawa, I saw that my time was 1:04 and change. DUDES! I'd done my fastest 10k time! That 10k was hard won, though. I'm "known" for my consistent pace. My friends joke that they could set their watches by my pace. This race did NOT look like that. I was pushing myself hard to go faster than I ever had in training, and I was speeding up and slowing down repeatedly. Ya, not my brightest moment.

I knew that one of my "tough" parts of the run was coming up as I neared that 11k mark. I figured I'd just push on and told myself in my head that 14k was soon and I could get my next GU, which would give me some energy! We were also nearing the Art Gallery, which was lined with people cheering and clapping. I can't remember now if I walked a bit here, but I was starting to feel all of that pushing and back and forth speed/slower hitting me. When I say hitting me, I don't really mean physically. I felt tired, for sure, but the real problem was my mental game.

I made it to 14k to have my GU and walk break, and my head was a jumble of negative self talk. I felt like I couldn't do it anymore, like I wouldn't make it, and I kept repeating "NEVER AGAIN!" in my head. That said, I finished fueling and started running again, albeit slower paced now. Tania asked me if I was okay and I said, "Not at all."  She said I looked okay, and was I just an Emmy award winning actress? My reply, "YES!"  Here's where it got really ugly, folks. I was super fried emotionally and mentally. My head was telling me just to walk the stupid thing into the finish, but my stubborn nature wouldn't let me give up that easily!

Tania was chatting off and on throughout the race, and I'd told her before hand that my style is usually to be very chatty, light, laughing and joking the whole time. That was not at ALL the case the entire half. At one point I told her I was just trying to focus, which was true, but it was also because I was trying to just hold myself together.

I hate, hate, hate walking during a run. I'm not sure what my big "deal" is about it, but I find it.....weak. Not for others or anything-I'm not a total jackass, but like I said....I put a lot of pressure on myself. Pressure I wouldn't ever expect to put on anyone else. Sigh. So when I hit 16k and I felt like I just could NOT go on another step, I told Tania I had to walk. She tried to encourage and reassure me, "There's just 5k left! You got this! What's 30 minutes??" At that point though, 2 minutes felt too long! I wasn't sure how I was going to hold it together to even make it. I lost my mind, people. I truly started spinning out of control in my head and I yelled at Tania that I was DONE, okay??? DONE!!!!!!

Somehow, I managed to smack myself across the face, internally, and started running again. Ya, I was not a happy camper. My thought was that I'd just get to 18k and have another GU. That would help me get to 19k where my friend Jay would be waiting at a cheer station. I knew from there, I'd see my family shortly after, and then I'd be at the finish. I literally counted down for these moments in my head and just tried to push to get to them.

I fueled and walked at 18k, the 2:20 pace bunny having passed me. Let me tell you, folks, at this point I didn't give a rat's ass when I finished, in terms of time. All of that flew out the window and my only thought was finishing this stupid, worst idea ever, event.

I started running again, and once I rounded the corner and saw Jay, it was like all of this pent up frustration and emotion and crazy came pouring out of me in a swift flood. I literally ran into her arms like someone being chased by Zombies, threw myself on her shoulder and sobbed!!! The ugly cry sob!!! Oh. My. Jay told me to "Go, go!" and I said I couldn't. I just really didn't even care.

But, go I did. I ran on, scanning the crowd for my family, frantic to hit that next mark and see them. For some reason, 20k seemed to take forever to reach, and still I didn't see my kids or husband. I started to think maybe they were just at the finish, so I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I could see the finish banner ahead, probably 500 meters or so out, and there they were! If you thought it was bad when I saw Jay, that was NOTHING compared to what happened when I saw them. I literally spent a minute sobbing over them, with my girls telling me they were so proud, and my husband and Tania telling me to "GO! The FINISH IS RIGHT THERE!" Again, I didn't really care.

I started to run, sort of in a daze, and the best part was....my girls ran right alongside of me, crossing the finish with me at 2:21:59.

I burst into a hideous amount of tears and threw myself into my husbands arms, where I kept repeating "I choked, I choked!" I KNEW that up until that final 5k, I had 2:15 firmly in my grasp. I was mad at myself for walking, I was mad at myself for "giving up." I knew if I hadn't stopped so long hugging and crying, I would have shaved off some time as well. I'd just run my first half marathon, a year to the day of running my first 5k ever, and I felt like a huge disappointment.

It was not a great feeling, to say the least.

After much sobbing, and then seeing my friends and heading to lunch, and discussing and replaying, I felt....not better, only because I was still upset with myself, but at least more composed, and happy (always happy) to be in the company of fantastic women that always manage to lift my spirits.

Tania and I went to LeNordik the following day, which was the perfect antidote to sore legs. We spent 5 hours in hot tubs and sauna's and pools. We drank B-52's and ate yummy food. My legs are still a bit stiff, and I always bloat during a race, and for a few days afterwards, but generally, I don't feel too badly.

She headed home today, and I've had some time to digest the race and be alone with my thoughts.

Being me, this means, I've been scouring the internets for "average first half race times for women" and "post race depression."  I've been devouring accounts of bloggers half marathons, and I've seen some 20 somethings that have been ECSTATIC over their 2:44 or even 3:00 finish times! Did you know the average pace for a 40 year old woman running a half is 11:15? I'm horrible with conversion from km to miles, but I was running more like 10:30. On top of which, my "finish" during my training half was 2:32, and I finished a full 10 minutes faster than that. What can I say? That can't be THAT horrible, right?

I've been kind of moping around today, my legs are still sore from pushing and I just feel generally emotionally and physically tired. I'm starting to come around, though, and I'm starting to let it sink in that I RAN A HALF MARATHON!!

I learned a lot from this run. I learned some things I shouldn't do, and I have a better understanding of what works for me. I don't know what's next for me, running wise, or even other activity wise.

Right now, I'm just glad that I did it, that I can check off the 'ol bucket list, and that, for a 40 year old lady running her first half, I didn't do "half" bad. I pushed, I persevered, I rallied when I didn't want to....and I finished.

In future, for any goal, I need to learn not to put more pressure on myself than I'd ever put on someone else. Life.....always more to learn....just like running. Let's hope it doesn't take me another 40 years to finally get this into my brain! You know, it's hard to "unlearn" stubborn.

Tania and I, above, before and after the race!

                                      My Girls. They pushed, cheered, talked down from ledges!
                                                                Finishers, ALL!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It's My......Party?

I have a "big" birthday coming up very, very soon and the question always arises about how I plan on celebrating.  If you'd have asked me several years back what I wanted to do for my 40th, I can guarantee I would have said a huge bash with all of my friends.

Yet, the closer I got to the actual date, the more that idea didn't seem to really be "me."

Some of my friends did the whole big, surprise party thing-and it seems it never *quite* turns out how they'd hoped. There are either people left OFF of the list that they wanted there, or others ON the list they didn't really expect. There's also the other issue that a party that size, with that many friends from all walks of life, ends up feeling like a wedding where you don't really get to delve deeply into any one conversation, as you're trying to be polite and get to small talk with everyone.

I quickly vetoed that idea. I want to be able to truly connect with the people that matter the most to me, on that day. I see my birthday as setting the tone for the year ahead, and I like to share it with individuals that I know are going to reflect and support where I see myself going.

I know other friends that did wild and crazy trips, like Vegas. Again, to each his or her own, but that's really, really, not me. I'm a Mom, too, and my birthday wouldn't feel right if I didn't celebrate with my kids as well as my friends.

Honestly, last year I felt like I had the most incredible birthday I'd had in as long as I could remember. I celebrated with different groups of friends on different days and it made it seem like my birthday was a week long. Claire surprised me with front and center Celtic Thunder tickets, and then we hilariously waited in the shadows of a back entrance and met them and got autographs! How can you top that, really?

Here's the real crux of it for me, on my birthday, I just like to be remembered, and it's nice to have people in my life that want to do things that they've put some thought into and that they think are "me" or that they know I'd love, but would never do for myself. It doesn't have to be anything "big deal" and in fact, I specifically told my husband that I don't want anything expensive or extravagant. For me, really and truly and not just to be a cliche cheese ball, it comes down to the thought that went into something-even the smallest gesture can touch me if its meaningful.

That said-a weekend away with my husband is at the top of my list sooner than later!

I was talking to Claire about my birthday and about not wanting anything over the top, but still wanting to celebrate in a way that will stay with me. I was saying it didn't have to be anything grand, but I just want to mark the occasion, because this last year for me has been literally, life changing.

She made a great point. She said that I definitely SHOULD mark this birthday, not just for the sake of my turning 40, but for the fact that for the last year, I've set a bunch of goals for myself, monthly scary challenges, and big obstacles (emotionally and physically)-all things I've wanted to accomplish "before 40"-and I DID every single one of them. I met every goal and created new ones along the way. So, in more ways than just my date of birth, this turning 40 thing is kind of a big deal.

I've really been at a launching point of a whole new me, and 40 symbolizes how far I've come and the wide, open future where I'm going.

What does that celebration look like, then?

Well, last year made my heart burst with happiness....So I'm looking at more of the same. I have plans with my different groups of friends, my Mom, and my family. One of my girlfriends in the US just had a "big birthday" and decided to make it a month long party. I like that idea! I think my September is going to be a great, big, "intro to 40!"  I think it's going to be great to set the tone for the blazing journey ahead!

I'm doing 40 MY way!