I’ve joined the big leagues! I ran my first half marathon! I have been running for many years and have run lots of 5, 8, 10, and 12K races, but not one with a “marathon” in the title, until last weekend. What took me so long? I’ve participated in 2 marathon training clinics, but opted for the shorter 8 or 10 race during the same race goal weekend. Was I scared? Did I not feel I was ready?
Perhaps it was because I’m currently co-coaching a half and a full marathon clinic that made me run my first half. I’ve always felt like a bit of a charlatan saying I was coaching that clinic. How did I have any credibility? How could I tell the students what it was like to run that race, or to prepare for it? At least I could motivate, cheer and organize! Well, now I can say with conviction that I can speak from experience!
I’ve been running all the races in the Vancouver Island Race Series since January this year (5, 8, 10, 12) plus coaching and training. My training has been going really well, actually. I’ve done a few long runs, 16, 19, 15K in the weeks leading up to the race, so I felt I could go the 21.1K distance. And speaking of distance, my weekly distance was climbing up in to the 55K level. It is so important to have training time on your feet. Plus the clinic training had covered lots of hill repeats and I’d hit the track for speed work the last few weeks. I think it just all came together, so why not give it a go?
I felt good the morning of the race – I’d had my 3c’s – as I jumped on my bike to head off to the race. Driving across the water in my boat helped me stay calm as I admired the beautiful morning scenery. As Ross drove the highway up to Comox (Courtenay, to be precise) he reviewed the race course with me. It is essentially uphill on the way out and down hill on the way back. I like out and back courses as you can see the leaders as they come back down the course towards you. They are inspiring! I cheered Craig on as he lead the pack. I’m getting ahead of myself here…
Warming up for the half doesn’t need to be as vigorous as for the shorter distances – at least that is what people say. However, after I met up with some other friends and we pinned our race bibs to our Bastion pinnies, we headed out for a short warm up run and to find the start line. That is always a good thing to locate. There were lots of runners out there on the course and after running a few of the other races in the series and running in my community, I knew a lot of people at the start line. That is always inspiring.
The gun was fired and us non-elites shifted across the start line. I tried not to go out too fast, but I noticed that my first three K were all sub-5 minutes. Then the hills started… the K splits were not so fast then. However, I was under the one hour mark at the halfway point, which totally stoked me as I knew that I could rock the downhills on the way back. But could my legs and body handle the distance? I did not “fuel” before the race, other than my typical pre-race breakfast of toast with nut butter and coffee; nor did I fuel during the race. I’m not a huge gel fan, so I didn’t take anything like that. I do not wear a water belt either… after all there are water stations along the way, which I used twice – just for sips.
The scenery was beautiful, so I kept plodding along, picking up the pace on each major downhill component. I passed ladies wearing t-shirts with something like “Even though I’m slow, at least I’m lapping everyone on the couch” on the back, who had started an hour ahead of me. I shouted out encouragement! I also thanked race marshals who cheered (with a “thank you, thank you” – that’s two quick out breaths). And then there was this couple of fellows who were chatting to each other when they passed me. One of them, who obviously read my running pinnie, began asking me questions about Nanaimo and about the Bastion Running Club, etc. OMG, I answered in short quick sentences, then surged ahead of them to get out of their talk range. We kept going back and forth like that for a few K and the guy kept talking to me. I finally passed them both and jokingly told them that if there were talking they were not going fast enough. I think they shut up after that and one of them silently passed me again a bit later. I saw them both after the race and thankfully we had a good laugh.
On the run back, most of my K splits were around the 5:20 mark, with quite a few under that. That made me very happy. At the 2K mark I really picked up the pace and at 1K I was really pumping my arms and legs and passing people. At 100m to go, I crossed that timing bar and flew home. Just before the end, I saw that my time was under 2 hours (1:54), which made me so excited that I lept across the finish line. How does one know what to expect during a race like that? How did I still have energy to nail that last 100M? I ended up placing 10th in my age division over all, but 2nd in my age division in the 100m sprint. Mixed thoughts here… maybe I should stick to sprinting… I used to do that very successfully in high school.
The first friend that I saw after I crossed the finish line congratulated me for completing my first half marathon. We hugged and I burst into tears. Where did that come from? Pent up emotion for finishing the race and under 2 hours (my race goal)? I don’t know, but they were very, very happy tears! Will I do another half? Maybe. Will I graduate to the bigger leagues and run a full marathon? At the moment, no!
I was concerned with post-run soreness. I implemented my favorite post-run stretches for my hamstrings, IT-bands, calves, quads and Achilles tendons. To my surprise my back was not sore, which I had anticipated. Perhaps it was because prior to the race, I had taken advantage of a station that Dynamic Spine, Sport & Wellness had set up in the gym. I had implemented a few yoga back stretches and used their rollers on one of my hamstrings. A big shout out to them for providing this! I also had a lovely warm soaking bath upon returning home and an excellent leg-centred yoga class the next morning at OmTown Yoga. I would say that I was fully recovered within a day and I think I can attribute that to regular racing, which really pushes my body, plus consistent training. So maybe I could do another half… Oh, did I mention the toes on my left foot? They are not looking too good. Training and racing will do that!