Tuesday, June 18, 2013

That Time, 3 Weeks Ago, That I Ran 21.1km

Way back in March, while on skype with my little brother, we chatted about school and my kids and his plans for the fall and running. I threw out there possibly running the Calgary half marathon and I was wondering if he maybe wanted to run it with me. He was extremely enthusiastic about YES! He would love to! And right then, while still on skype, he signed up. Obviously, I couldn't back out once he did that, right? So a few weeks later I signed up, googled training plans, commited and never turned back.


For 12 weeks, four days a week, save for one Monday, when I decided to go to Vernon for the day instead, I ran. I read my bookmarked training plan that told me how far to go, I tied my shoes, turned my gps on and ran. My first "long" run was 4 miles. I was pretty certain I wouldn't make it. It was the day of Brians 30th birthday party. It was long and slow. By the end, that very same route was my short and fast. It is so wild to see progression.
I made a major rookie mistake and didn't replace my shoes in the beginning (or *ahem* in the last four years despite fairly consistent short runs). For weeks and weeks and weeks I ran through horrendous blisters all over my feet - toes, the bottoms, the balls, all over.

(the shitty shoe culprits, from wayyy back in the fall)

I thought they would eventually become calluses and everything would be fine. I was wrong. Two weeks before the race, after a particularly rough day on my feet, I had a choice to make - keep running through the pain, or replace my shoes and hope for the best. I opted for the latter and thank baby jesus, it was better than I ever could have imagined. It was like my feet were at the spa, even while on an 8 mile run. My blisters are just now healing.

14.5 km (1) resized
photo credit: Shanon Maksymich. Thank you. For real. 
The little reading that I did about running long distances totally overwhelmed me - carb loading, gels, pre-run drinks, post run nutrition, optimal nutrition, calorie intake, pace setting, hill training. I stopped reading and just kept running.

I quickly learned that running is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. If I could keep my head in the game, I had a great run, but if I was distracted or negative, it was awful. One Saturday morning, I had 10 miles to do, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get some mid-race nutrition without eating a gel - which, just the thought of totally grosses me out - so I had picked up a single serving "sustain powder" , mixed it in a plastic water bottle and set out with plans of drinking it at the halfway mark. Those first 5 miles were hell. All I could think about was how annoying the sloshing water in my hand was. It grated on me. I couldn't think of anything other than the swish swish swish. I could hardly keep my eyes off the bottle.  Also, it made me have to stop and pee in the bushes. Twice. In the first half. I was agitated and annoyed. I thought of turning around atleast a dozen times. I was on the verge of tears and walking every five minutes or so. No matter what I tried, I couldn't focus, I couldn't get my head in the right place. I did end up turning around half a mile earlier than I should have so I was going to be short a whole mile in the end. I was trying to concentrate on figuring out how to make up the mileage but all I could think about was peeing. I had to stop in the bushes AGAIN. My feet were cramping, I was more tired than I should have been and plus, I was so annoyed at myself.


I was about half way home when Brian and the kids were suddenly there in front of me. They had come to cheer me on and I was so freaking thankful that I welled up. I needed them. The kids clapped and cheered and Brian told me to keep going. Not quit. I was doing great. I did keep going. But it was awful. The drink did not agree with my stomache and it was all I could do to make it home..... I'm not going to say it, you can guess. It was so so so bad. I thought what the hell am I thinking? Why am I doing this? It's awful. No one needs to run that far. I layed on the couch, cradling my crampy tummy and feeling sorry for myself for the rest of the day. Sunday was a day off and when Monday came around I was better. I was ready to keep going and my four miles that Monday morning was one of my best runs ever. The next Saturday, sans mid-run drink but armed with delicious gummies (honey stingers. yum!)  I ran 11 miles effortlessly. I focused, I filled my head with positive thoughts, I was ready to use last weeks run as a lesson to where I did not want to be and this weeks as where I did want to be. The honey stingers also didn't agree in the end, but at the suggestion of my amazing marathon running friend, I carried a nutrigrain bar in my arm band after that and it worked awesome.

Race day came and I wasn't even nervous, I was super excited.


I had put in the time, I had meticulously organized my stuff, I was ready. Brian, Maizey and I stayed in a hotel downtown Calgary to make the morning of the race easier. My parents kept Jace and were going to come down to be at the finish line when I crossed. My brother ended up having to back out due to his new job, but he came down to the expo on Saturday afternoon with us to pick up race packages and then spent the evening with us, going out for dinner and hanging out downtown. Sunday morning I woke up an hour before my alarm. I tip toed around the hotel room, making a peanut butter and banana sandwich with no knife and taking pictures of downtown as the sun was coming up off our 15th floor balcony. It was calm and awesome.
Mark, Vanita and I took a taxi to the race site and my excitement grew. It was a beautiful day, the other 10,000 people seemed happy and excited, the atmosphere was filled with electric anticipation. I had no idea what to expect, but it was better than I could have guessed.


 We lined up for bathrooms, we checked my bag, I lost my sunglasses in the taxi, I drank my pre-run drink and in the crowd of soooo many people, I picked out a friend whom I had never met (Hi Jen!). She was in the same photography course that I was in over the winter, so we were internet friends. We had chatted about the race (she's the superstar marathon runner!!!) and she gave me awesome advice. It was so totally random and so cool to meet her in person! I peed again and lined up with all the other runners.
My fear was that I would get caught up in the excitement, run wayyyyy too fast in the beginning and then not be able to finish. I chanted in my head check your pace, check your pace, check your pace. It was a great day for a run. I listened to the chatter around me, I read the spectators signs, I focused on breathing, I checked out the cool neighborhoods that we ran through. I smiled through the whole damn race. Even when I needed to pee so so so so bad and there were  no bathrooms in sight. (I finally came to one, like, 5km's later) (I had to wait 5 minutes for it) (so gross) (I'm taking 5 minutes off my time).
I have the most amazing family and friends. Brian and Maizey figured out the c-train (us small town folks are unfamiliar with such things) and made it to cheer me on with the sign Maizey had coloured the night before in tow.


My parents got Buddy and themselves down to finish line with time to spare despite Jace coming down with the flu and throwing up in the car on the way into the city (This was the beginning of the end of all of us getting the flu). My friend Shanon sent me a text at 5:40 the morning of the race saying her and her family would be somewhere along the way to cheer me on. They made it to two vantage points AND the finish line, as well as took some photos of me doing it! Cartwright and Hummel also made it to the finish line to cheer for me. The support, truly, I can't even put into words what it meant to me. It was so unexpected and amazing. Also, as I was trying to read the signs along the way, I was squinting at a tiny little sign across the street from me when the person holding the sign says "AMY??? OH MY GOD" - it was my friend Kelsey!! I ran across the street and gave her a running hug and then kept going! Her and her mom and sister were there to high five me along the last tiny bit before the finish line. How fun is that?

*ahem* it feels suuuuper weird posting pictures of myself. just saying.

Race day atmosphere? Well that right there is reason to do more marathons. It is so uplifting, inspiring, fun and intoxicating. When I crossed the finished line and I should have been laying on the ground, crying in pain, I was instead still running on high, searching the crowd for my family and feeling like I really just wanted to celebrate the awesomeness of crossing that line.

 Love this picture Full Emotion resized
Photo credit: Shanon again. What a moment to capture - I had just found my mom in the crowd and she pointed to my dad and Jace, and they were waving to me!
 I wanted to hug and/or high five everyone around me.
It was a wild sense of accomplishment, pride, happiness and relief. I did it. I had done what I set out to do. I had two goals, one was to stick to my regular pace and finish in 2:10 and the second, much loftier and probably more important, was to finish and not die. I did not meet my time goal but I did accomplish the other. I'm not sure setting an actual time goal is for me anyways. I never want to finish something that is an amazing achievement like that and feel disappointment rather than happiness.
Will I do another one? Yes! For sure! In fact, there are three races in the fall that we are looking into (I'm looking at you Shanon and Cait!). I took the first week after the race off. Then I forgot my runners at my parents house. I'm back at it, in my old shitty shoes, but still, it's good to be out there.


I am a marathon runner. Wow. What a thing to be able to say. It really is something to be proud of.

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