Monday, April 30, 2012

Half Marathon Crasher

I arose bright eyed and bushy tailed on Sunday morning with my running snack pre-packed and my ipod loaded with a new podcast from This American Life. The sun was shining through the windows, Patch and Cooper had waggy tails and I knew that I would be embarking on a 29km journey solo (the boys can't run that far…). How did I know this, you ask? Well, you see, in my 'poor me' state last week, I didn't take the initiative to arrange any running buddies to meet up with. It's a sure fire way to set yourself up for 3 hours of 'in your own head' time. But then again, perhaps there was a part of me that wanted to be by myself so I could reconnect with that bliss I felt a few weeks ago in my previous 29km effort. 

My saboteur was a strong mofo last week. It was pulling me in all kinds of confused and negative directions and it's power was really occupying a lot of the space inside my mind. I tried desperately to access that superhero version of myself, but the Kryptonite inside my body and mind had spread fast and needed to run it's course. I knew that the only way I was going to overcome the negative forces was to buckle down, set my expectations of 'epiphany moments' low and grind through it. I needed to keep my emotions in check and not judge or obsess over the fact that I wasn't feeling like I came from planet Superstar. Good ol' fashioned STFU and get through it was going to have to be good enough. I had to trust that I would eventually see the bright side again.

Kelly, my former gymnastics coach, used to always remind me of my ability to bounce back quickly after a bad day or a bad week. He used to always say, "Slumps happen - it's how you react when you're in them that really defines you and your character". 

Trusting the fact that nothing is permanent is something I've been working really hard on recently in my life…

So, I ate some breakfast, smooched my hunny and the dogs, strapped on my bottle carrier and headed out the door. Time: 7:52am. 

Things started off pretty slow and arduous. My legs were heavy, but I knew that they would wake up after a few minutes of finding my stride. I was debating what route to run and kept asking myself, "should I run a familiar route so I can gage the amount of suffering I have left or should I switch it up and run something completely new to keep it fresh?" Eventually I decided that familiarity would probably be my best bet so that I could just go through the motions and not wind up at home with 7 extremely painful km's left to go (nothing is worse that making it home and realizing you STILL have longer than 30 minutes left to run). 

At 3km's, I got a very special gift from the universe. I'm thinking it knew that I needed some support this week…

I turned the corner to run towards the Glenmore Reservoir and low and behold, there were more than 1000 people clumped together, many of them wearing a similar shirt. This could only mean one thing: A race was happening! And I found myself smack dab in the middle of the pack.

I debated whether or not this was illegal or cheating or disrespectful to be an impostor in a race. I didn't pay the registration fee, I didn't have the shirt, I didn't help find any volunteers. Hell, I didn't even know what race it was until I looked really close at one of the hundreds of blue shirts that read: Police Half Marathon. I was only 3km's into my 29km run and all of these fools were 3km's into their 21.1km's race. After some internal debate about the repercussions of continuing on with the pack, I decided that I had every right to run my planned route (I pay my taxes) and it just so happened that these 1000 people were crashing MY training run :) I also decided that if I stayed out of people's way when they wanted to pass, I didn't take any water or Gatorade at the aid stations and I didn't accept a medal at the end, then it would be A-okay and the Police (of whom, may I add, were the sponsor of the race) wouldn't arrest me.

At certain points during the race, I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. I felt like a total party crasher and I kept chuckling to myself and asking, "Is this actually happening right now?"

It felt awesome to be in a race mentality. My pace was nearly 30 seconds faster per km than I had been doing in my long runs. I was powering up the hills and getting extra momentum when I zipped past people who, based on their grimaces, I could tell had punked out on a few of their hill training sessions. My mind felt strong and my legs felt swift. I could really feel that my previous training was paying off. I also loved the fact that 21.1km's seemed like a short distance. I knew that I was still going to bust out 8km's once I crossed the finish line and there was something about that that gave me a lot of pride. 

I ran the half in about 1:56 (9 minutes off my personal best of 1:47), but it didn't really account for much because I wasn't aiming for a time. Heck, I didn't even know I would be racing when I left the house in the morning ;) What I was most proud of was the last few km's that I busted out. I felt a renewed sense of energy and strength. Something I was hoping to find when I left the house at 7:52am.

When I walked through the door, I felt satisfied. My knees were pretty achy, but my sense of purpose felt refreshed. I felt reconnected to my goal and it felt awesome to cross off April 29th/29km's on the calendar.

To everyone who raced the Police Half, thanks for letting me join. It's just what I needed.



Neil Zee said...

Exact same thing happened to me 3 years ago. Was running from Glenmore landing, climed the hill and wow, thousands of runners! I blended in and just went with the flow. I didn't finish the race tho, as my route came back to Glenmore.

I remember how cool it was to be a part of that, unexpectedly. I was in the race yesterday this time. We didn't mind you there.

Kyle Shewfelt said...

Thanks Neil ;) Much appreciated.
Will you be racing on May 27th as well?